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Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

Smart TVs Just as George Orwell Envisioned

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You Are Being Film
You Are Being Film. 

As I mentioned recently, I’ve been immersed in dystopian novels. George Orwell would mutter I told you so about these latest Smart TV revelations if he was still around.

Careful what you say around your TV. It may be listening. And blabbing. A single sentence buried in a dense “privacy policy” for Samsung’s Internet-connected SmartTV advises users that its nifty voice command feature might capture more than just your request to play the latest episode of Downton Abbey. “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party,” the policy reads.

Samsung’s privacy policy notes that in addition to voice commands being transmitted, information about your device, “including device identifiers,” may also be beamed over the Internet to the third-party service, “or to the extent necessary to provide Voice Recognition features to you.”
McSherry called that bit of qualifying language “worrisome.”

“Samsung may just be giving itself some wiggle room as the service evolves, but that language could be interpreted pretty broadly,” she said.

(click here to continue reading Your Samsung SmartTV Is Spying on You, Basically – The Daily Beast.)

Samsung eventually admitted the 3rd party:

Samsung has confirmed that its “smart TV” sets are listening to customers’ every word, and the company is warning customers not to speak about personal information while near the TV sets.

The company revealed that the voice activation feature on its smart TVs will capture all nearby conversations. The TV sets can share the information, including sensitive data, with Samsung as well as third-party services.

Samsung has updated its policy and named the third party in question, Nuance Communications, Inc.

(click here to continue reading Samsung warns customers not to discuss personal information in front of smart TVs.)

Lonely Zenith
Lonely Zenith

Hmm, sounds familiar. Remember this from a few weeks ago:

Consumers have bought more than 11 million internet-connected Vizio televisions since 2010. But according to a complaint filed by the FTC and the New Jersey Attorney General, consumers didn’t know that while they were watching their TVs, Vizio was watching them. The lawsuit challenges the company’s tracking practices and offers insights into how established consumer protection principles apply to smart technology.

Starting in 2014, Vizio made TVs that automatically tracked what consumers were watching and transmitted that data back to its servers. Vizio even retrofitted older models by installing its tracking software remotely. All of this, the FTC and AG allege, was done without clearly telling consumers or getting their consent.

What did Vizio know about what was going on in the privacy of consumers’ homes? On a second-by-second basis, Vizio collected a selection of pixels on the screen that it matched to a database of TV, movie, and commercial content. What’s more, Vizio identified viewing data from cable or broadband service providers, set-top boxes, streaming devices, DVD players, and over-the-air broadcasts. Add it all up and Vizio captured as many as 100 billion data points each day from millions of TVs.

Vizio then turned that mountain of data into cash by selling consumers’ viewing histories to advertisers and others. And let’s be clear: We’re not talking about summary information about national viewing trends. According to the complaint, Vizio got personal. The company provided consumers’ IP addresses to data aggregators, who then matched the address with an individual consumer or household. Vizio’s contracts with third parties prohibited the re-identification of consumers and households by name, but allowed a host of other personal details – for example, sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education, and home ownership.  And Vizio permitted these companies to track and target its consumers across devices.

(click here to continue reading What Vizio was doing behind the TV screen | Federal Trade Commission.)

Continuous Video Recording in Progress
Continuous Video Recording in Progress

You didn’t realize that your habits were worth so much money to the corporate surveillance world did you? Too bad the data mining industry doesn’t share in any of the profits they’ve harvested from your habits and propensities.

Plus the whole listening to you every second might not always be in your own best interests:

Upon further investigation, however, police began suspecting foul play: Broken knobs and bottles, as well as blood spots around the tub, suggested there had been a struggle. A few days later, the Arkansas chief medical examiner ruled Collins’s death a homicide — and police obtained a search warrant for Bates’s home.

Inside, detectives discovered a bevy of “smart home” devices, including a Nest thermostat, a Honeywell alarm system, a wireless weather monitoring system and an Amazon Echo. Police seized the Echo and served a warrant to Amazon, noting in the affidavit there was “reason to believe that Amazon.com is in possession of records related to a homicide investigation being conducted by the Bentonville Police Department.”

That warrant threw a wrinkle into what might have been a traditional murder investigation, as first reported by the Information, a news site that covers the technology industry.

While police have long seized computers, cellphones and other electronics to investigate crimes, this case has raised fresh questions about privacy issues regarding devices like the Amazon Echo or the Google Home, voice-activated personal command centers that are constantly “listening.” Namely, is there a difference in the reasonable expectation of privacy one should have when dealing with a device that is “always on” in one’s own home?

The Echo is equipped with seven microphones and responds to a “wake word,” most commonly “Alexa.” When it detects the wake word, it begins streaming audio to the cloud, including a fraction of a second of audio before the wake word, according to the Amazon website.

A recording and transcription of the audio is logged and stored in the Amazon Alexa app and must be manually deleted later. For instance, if you asked your Echo, “Alexa, what is the weather right now?” you could later go back to the app to find out exactly what time that question was asked.

(click here to continue reading Can Alexa help solve a murder? Police think so — but Amazon won’t give up her data. – The Washington Post.)

Luckily, my “dumb” tv still chugs along…

 

Update: the Samsung story is from 2015, the Amazon and the Vizio stories are more recent. Main point still stands however…

Written by Seth Anderson

February 16th, 2017 at 9:54 am

Breaking Bad’s Walt Whitman fixation

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Poetry of the night
Poetry of the night

Fun and informative discussion on Breaking Bad and Walt Whitman in the Poetry Foundation’s Poetry Magazine:

Had Walt Whitman, an occasional proponent of Prohibition, lived today, he might have been horrified to discover that he in any way inspired a TV series about a murderous drug lord named Walter White. And stunned (though perhaps pleased) to find his magnum opus employed as the smoking gun leading to the man’s undoing. But after a smattering of Whitman references throughout its four and a half seasons, AMC’s Breaking Bad—which is wrapping up its final chapter beginning August 11—has done just that, drawing an unlikely parallel between the two men who share a monogram (W.W.) and, for all intents and purposes, a name.

So how does Walter White compare to Walt Whitman? And what cynical commentary on our times, on humanity, does series creator Vince Gilligan make with this subversive pairing?

(click here to continue reading Leaves of Glass by Kera Bolonik.)

And for reference…

When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer

When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

Written by Seth Anderson

August 7th, 2013 at 7:27 am

To Neil deGrasse Tyson, Siberia Meteor Showed Value of Science

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Smirnoff
Smirnoff in Space

Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of those rare scientists who also has the gift of explaining complex scientific phenomena in clear language. I’ve long been a fan of his Nova shows on PBS. Granted, it is a little strange that his new show is going to be broadcast on climate change denying-Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Network, but maybe it will be informative despite that constriction. I’ll certainly watch it.

He also makes a good point about the trend of Christian Taliban slowly taking over our government, escaped 12th century residents like Rep Paul Broun, who we ignore at our peril…

These days, Dr. Tyson is less focused on the planetarium than on creating a new iteration of “Cosmos,” the hit PBS series featuring Carl Sagan, which was first broadcast in 1980. This sequel, for the Fox network, is planned for early next year.

One of its producers is Seth MacFarlane. Yup, that Seth MacFarlane, the “Family Guy” guy and (to some viewers) the cringe-inducing host of this year’s Academy Awards show. Whatever one may think of his brand of comedy, “Seth MacFarlane is deeply committed to science literacy in this country,” Dr. Tyson said, and the two of them share a goal: reinforcing the idea that “science needs to be taken to people’s hearts in a way that they become better citizens for it.”

Is he saying that we treat science and mathematics shabbily in this country, where many people are all too proud to admit to a fear of all sums? Actually, Dr. Tyson said, “I don’t think the country’s less literate in math and science than ever before.”

…Pop culture, too, is part of “a positive trend line,” given science-themed blockbuster films like “Avatar” and the durable “Star Wars” series, and popular television programs like the “C.S.I.” and “NCIS” franchises and “The Big Bang Theory.”

“There was a day when we didn’t have science at all in television programming,” Dr. Tyson said between sips of his soda. “Now it’s there, without having to stereotype the lab-coated, wire-haired character.”

Here’s the real problem, as he sees it: “You have people who are not scientifically literate who have risen to positions of power and control,” whether on local school boards or in Congress. He mentioned Representative Paul C. Broun, a Georgia Republican (and doctor) who sits on the House Science Committee and who says the world is 9,000 years old and was literally created in six days.

Voters, Dr. Tyson said, need to grasp the consequences of their electoral choices, especially if they produce officials who “undermine the source of creativity for tomorrow’s economy.” Meddle with the citizenry’s understanding of science and technology, he said, and people “will emerge on the other side incapable of making the discoveries and innovations that the nation requires in order to stay economically competitive.”

When it comes to the Creation, “if you use the Bible as your science textbook, you will go astray — there’s no question about it,” he said, adding: “Galileo understood this. He can be credited with drawing a line in the sand with his famous quote that the Bible tells you how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.”

(click here to continue reading To Planetarium Director, Siberia Meteor Showed Value of Science – NYTimes.com.)

Carl Sagan US astronomer SP
Carl Sagan – US astronomer, hero

 

I’ve said often I’m a film school dropout, but the truth is, I’m also a physics student dropout1

Footnotes:
  1. I was accepted at UT-Austin as a physics student, but was daunted by the lack of electives available to me, so eventually switched to the Liberal Arts college. I did continue to work for the Physics Lecture Demonstrations Office support staff for three years though – and would have continued working there if I could have. []

Written by Seth Anderson

March 12th, 2013 at 9:36 pm

Posted in religion,science,Television

Tagged with , ,

Stephen Colbert on Papa John’s “Obamacare” price hike

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Stephen Colbert agrees with me regarding the asshole CEO of Papa John’s cardboard that resembles pizza:

President Obama’s health care reform law is wreaking havoc in the most unexpected places. This week, Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter predicted that the cost of providing health care to his employees will result in a 14-cent hike on pizza prices. It’s a wake-up call Americans will finally pay attention to, Stephen Colbert said Wednesday.

“That’s three times the value of a Papa John’s pizza,” Colbert said. And he doesn’t believe customers will swallow the price hike.

“Because when you order a Papa John’s pizza, it’s only after you’ve reached a state of such desperate, gnawing hunger that you would eat the ass off a raccoon that drowned in your bird bath. And even then, only after making absolutely sure that you’re all out of drowned raccoon ass. And now Obama expects you to shell out almost three extra nickels for this hot turd pie? Fuck that, eat the nickels, you have your dignity.”

(click here to continue reading Stephen Colbert on Papa John’s “Obamacare” price hike | TPMDC.)

Full clip here 

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Seth Anderson

August 10th, 2012 at 8:15 am

Arrested Development’s 4th Season

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Fox canceled “Arrested Development,” about an absurdly dysfunctional family, in 2006 after three seasons. But it developed a vocal cult audience. Netflix has taken it over and is producing a fourth season as original programming. The twist: As with the company’s other original series, all 10 new “Arrested Development” episodes will go up for streaming at the same time. Mr. Hurwitz is sure some fans will devour the entire five hours in one sitting. “It’s throwing me,” he says.

His solution was to build each new episode around one character. The stories in all 10 episodes unfold simultaneously, overlapping here and there. Unlike writing a traditional sitcom, Mr. Hurwitz says, “we’re sort of driving into the next episode rather than wrapping things up.”

(click here to continue reading Binge Viewing: TV’s Lost Weekends – WSJ.com.)

Can’t wait. 

 

Steve Holt!

Written by Seth Anderson

July 14th, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Posted in Suggestions,Television

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Viacom versus DirecTV

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No Viacom For You
No Viacom For You

This is what is currently being broadcast on Comedy Central on my DirecTV box

www.directvpromise.com/

VIACOM WANTS YOU TO PAY OVER 30% MORE to get back the same channels you were already receiving.

That’s over $1B on top of what you were already paying for not only MTV and Nickelodeon, but also all of their other channels that you might never watch. You should be able to decide which Viacom channels you want and which you don’t.

To thank you for your patience until Viacom channels are returned, all 8 Encore Channels (including Encore Family) will be made available to all of our Residential customers thru July 31st.

!

Luckily for me, both The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Colbert Report are on vacation for another week. If this negotiation drags on as long as the AMC vs. Dish Networks dispute – which still isn’t settled – I’ll be annoyed. Stewart and Colbert are nearly the entire source of my televised news information – despite neither show being really a newsshow.

Sam Thielman of Adweek:

Viacom and DirecTV have split over carriage fee negotiations, with 17 million DirecTV customers now without Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and VH1. The faceoff got very public yesterday, and today is looking to hit in a much more extreme way, with both companies poised to roll out advertisements across multiple platforms taking their respective cases to the public.

“We proposed a fair deal that amounted to an increase of only a couple pennies per day per subscriber, and we remained willing to negotiate that deal right up to this evening’s deadline,” said Viacom in an unbylined statement on the company blog earlier today. If that sounds suspiciously like “you can feed a starving mega corporation for only pennies a day,” it probably should.

Per subscriber, most cable companies pay an average of $1.21 per month for a high-rated cable network like TNT; if “a couple” literally means “two,” that means Viacom is asking for about a 60-cent bump—basically half a TNT—from DirecTV.

DirecTV called it a 30 percent rate hike, estimating its total cost to the company (and eventually the subscribers) at $1 billion. Its ad to consumers, however, scolds Viacom for taking “an all-or-nothing” approach to carriage, requiring the MSO to keep all the Viacom networks rather than just the popular ones. That’s not exactly dirty pool, by carriage negotiation standards; no network conglomerate would ever see growth if it were.

(click here to continue reading Viacom and DirecTV Split Over Carriage Fees | Adweek.)

Discarded
Discarded

TechCrunch adds:

The latest spat between a pay TV provider and a content company has gotten ugly, with both DirecTV and Viacom taking to the web, pointing fingers and calling each other names. That’s to be expected, in this day and age, as cable and satellite subscribers become innocent bystanders in the big fight over how much money these corporate behemoths make.

Usually, though, these fights only matter to the subscribers who pay a certain cable or satellite provider, and only really when their favorite channels go dark. In the case of DirecTV and Viacom, however, the carriage dispute has a lot more collateral damage, as it affects pretty much anyone who enjoys watching select MTV and Comedy Central shows online.

Like some other pay TV providers before it, DirecTV has taken the unusual approach of telling subscribers that they can easily access a lot of the shows that have gone dark on the web. And in a counter-move, Viacom has begun playing hardball, by taking down that very same online programming. There’s only one problem: It’s not just DirecTV subscribers who can’t watch those shows online — the takedown applies to everyone else, as well.

As spotted by BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield earlier today (free registration required), Viacom has begun blocking access to certain key shows online, including The Daily Show and Jersey Shore. (Interestingly enough, the takedown doesn’t appear to affect Viacom programming that appears on other sites — like, for instance, The Daily Show episodes on Hulu. A Hulu spokesperson declined to comment on whether its licensed programming would also be affected.)

(click here to continue reading DirecTV Spat Results In Takedown Of Full-Length Viacom Shows For Everyone Online | TechCrunch.)

The WSJ reports on some of the root cause of the dispute:

The disappearance of Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central from the TV sets of 20 million American homes on Wednesday marked a line in the sand drawn by one of the biggest pay-TV distributors in a dispute over programming fees with a major entertainment company.

What might once have been a run-of-the-mill spat has taken on heightened importance because it occurs at a pivotal time in the TV industry. Low-price or free online video outlets like Netflix, Amazon.com  and Google Inc.’s  YouTube are emerging as serious competitors to traditional cable-TV services, putting the spotlight on the relatively pricey nature of cable TV.

Viacoms channels-including Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central-went off the air for DirectTV subscribers overnight after the two sides failed to come to an agreement on programming fees. William Launder has details on Markets Hub. (Photo: Nickelodeon/AP)

That issue is particularly acute in this dispute, where Viacom is seeking an increase in the fees it is paid by DirecTV  to carry its channels. Viacom licenses many of its shows to outlets like Netflix and Amazon, prompting industry executives to worry about cannibalizing traditional TV. Several top Viacom channels, particularly Nickelodeon, have recently seen ratings declines.

DirecTV has said Viacom is asking for a 30% increase in fees; Viacom says it is asking for a fair deal. The entertainment company says it has been paid below-market rates for its programming under a contract negotiated seven years ago with the satellite provider.

DirecTV said the lack of an agreement forced it to stop carrying Viacom channels late Tuesday, just before midnight. As of Wednesday evening, with social-media outlets like Twitter and Facebook ablaze with complaints about the dispute, Viacom and DirecTV executives had restarted negotiations.

Some Wall Street analysts say DirecTV might have more leverage than usual in this case because Viacom’s best-known channels have seen ratings declines and the media company doesn’t have the advantage of a sports or broadcast network to bolster its negotiations. Viacom points out Nickelodeon remains one of the most-watched channels on the dial. Many other Viacom channels, though, are much less-watched, according to Nielsen.

On Wednesday, Viacom TV personalities were tweeting their hopes for a quick resolution of the dispute. “Let’s all pray this Viacom/DirecTV beef gets squashed by next week,” tweeted Daniel Tosh of “Tosh.O,” a show on Comedy Central.Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, a reality-TV personality on “Jersey Shore,” tweeted a sad face emoticon and “Wah” as she quoted a fan’s tweet lamenting the loss of MTV on DirecTV.

(click here to continue reading Viacom, DirecTV Restart Carriage-Fee Talks; Web Video Inflames Fight Over TV Fees – WSJ.com.)

Written by Seth Anderson

July 12th, 2012 at 7:30 am

Posted in Business,Television

Tagged with ,