Will self-driving cars spontaneously reboot?

A common rebuke to self-driving cars are thoughts about cars behaving like computers – like freezing or rebooting while driving. Those make amusing sound bytes or twitter comments, but there is a grain of truth to it. Self driving technology has come a long way, but while computers and software can follow programmed instructions, and can learn over time, humans are still better at many things.

An article in the New York Times entitled Why Robots Will Always Need Us does a good job of putting this in context, in part by the experience of aircraft.

Author Nicholas Carr points out that:

Pilots, physicians and other professionals routinely navigate unexpected dangers with great aplomb but little credit. Even in our daily routines, we perform feats of perception and skill that lie beyond the capacity of the sharpest computers. … Computers are wonderful at following instructions, but they’re terrible at improvisation. Their talents end at the limits of their programming.

and

In 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration noted that overreliance on automation has become a major factor in air disasters and urged airlines to give pilots more opportunities to fly manually.

That’s not to say that we should smugly dismiss automation or technology. Lawyers, for example, who dismiss the ability of software to replace certain things we do are in for a rude awakening.

In general, computer code is never bug free, is never perfect, and is not able to do certain things. (You can say the same for us humans, though.) For example, the aircraft industry spends huge amounts of time and money testing the software that operates aircraft. On the other hand, the types of things computers can do well are increasing, and will increase over time. At some point there may be breakthroughs that make computers more reliable and better at the things us humans are more adept at. But we are not there yet.

Cross-posted to Slaw

March is fraud prevention month – let’s be careful out there

Let’s be careful out there.  We have all received fraudulent emails or phone calls.  To reduce the chances of being a victim, here is a Global News article on the Top 10 scams to watch out for this Fraud Prevention Month, and Tips to Protect Yourself from Fraud from the Competition Bureau.

MasterCard offers the following tips for credit card security:

Today 88% of face-to-face transactions in Canada are Chip & PIN or contactless, and thanks to the layers of security built into the MasterCard network, Chip & PIN and contactless are safe and fraud rates for Canadian face-to-face transactions have sharply declined.

While consumers should feel safe using their card all the time, they can further protect themselves by remaining diligent and taking precautions. Here are a few simple tips:

 1>     Don’t underestimate the strength of strong passwords. Make them complex with upper case, numbers and symbols and change them from time to time.  Use different passwords for different purposes and ensure you have a means to recover passwords, where applicable, such as a separate registered email address.

2>     Shop with confidence online and visit reliable websites. eCommerce makes shopping more convenient than ever, but consumers should do their homework. Look for the SecureCode symbol  from MasterCard at checkout, which adds a layer of security and ensures you are who you say you are online.

3>     Be skeptical of unsolicited phone calls, email, text messages, or social media messages if they request credit card data or personal information such as passwords, date of birth, social insurance number etc.

4>     Do not click hastily on links contained within emails or on any email attachments sent by an unknown or un-validated source no matter how harmless or familiar the title appears. Instead delete the message unless you can confirm the sender.

5>     If you followed an email link to a website (or a text message to a voice recording system) and provided card data that later seemed suspicious, contact your card issuer immediately so your account can be protected

6>     Always use Chip & PIN, and tap to pay where applicable. You should be the only one with knowledge of your PIN number, and shield it from sight at checkout.

7>     Keep an eye on your card statement. Sign up for online/e-statements and check regularly to make sure an unauthorized purchase was not processed. If you notice something, call your bank immediately. The number is always on the back of your credit card.

8>     Be informed; know the facts about the layers of security built into your card’s payment network.

Cross-posted to Slaw

Smartwatches still in the running

I’ve written about smartwatches before. So far they have not been selling as fast as some expected.  The marketplace still hasn’t sorted out the right combinations of features and price.

Apple’s iWatch is arriving in April.  It will no doubt sell well – if for no other reason than it’s an Apple product.

The first real smartwatch was the Pebble, which broke Kickstarter records in 2012.  They announced a new version of it yesterday, called the “Pebble Time”.  They launched a new Kickstarter project yesterday morning – but this time just to take pre-orders at a discount for May delivery, rather than for funding development.

If nothing else, it proved that there is tremendous interest in smartwatches.  They achieved their $500,000 sales goal in about an hour, and the last I checked they were over $9,100,000, which translates to around 50,000 watches.

Cross-posted to Slaw

Big Brother in your TV? 10 “freaky line” things to think about

There has been a big kerfuffle in the last few days over the thought that Samsung smart TV’s are listening to and recording TV watcher’s conversations via their voice command feature.  That arose from a clause in their privacy policy that said in part “…if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.”

Samsung has since clarified this language to explain that some voice commands may be transmitted to third parties to convert the command to text and make the command work.  Also to point out that you can choose to just turn that feature off.  That is similar to how Siri, Google Now, Cortana, and other voice command platforms work.  Some voice commands are processed locally, and some may require processing in the cloud.  How much is done locally, and how much in the cloud varies depending on the platform and the nature of the command.

While one should never reach conclusions based on press reports, the probability is that this issue was way overblown.  But it does show how challenging privacy issues can get when it comes to technology and the internet of things (IOT).

Issues to ponder include:

  1. The importance of designing privacy into tech – often called “Privacy by Design” – rather than trying to bolt it on later.
  2. How complex privacy is in the context of modern and future technology where massive amounts of data are being collected on us from almost everything that includes things like fitness trackers, web browsers, smartphones, cars, thermostats, and appliances.  Not to mention government surveillance such as the NSA and the Canadian CSE.
  3. The mothership issue – meaning where does all that information about us go, how much is anonymised, what happens to it when it gets there, and who gets to see or use it?
  4. How difficult it is to draft privacy language so it gives the business protection from doing something allegedly outside its policy – while at the same time not suggesting that it does unwanted things with information – while at the same time being clear and concise.
  5. How difficult it is for the average person to understand what is really happening with their information, and how much comfort comes – or doesn’t come – from a trust factor rather than a technical explanation.
  6. How easy it is for a business that may not be doing anything technically wrong or may be doing the same as everyone else is to become vilified for perceived privacy issues.
  7. Have we lost the privacy war? Are we headed to a big brother world where governments and business amass huge amounts of information about us with creeping (and creepy) uses for it?
  8. Are we in a world of tech haves and have nots where those making the most use of tech will be the ones willing to cross the “freaky line” where the good from the use outweighs the bad from a privacy perspective?
  9. Are we headed to more situations where we don’t have control over our personal freaky line?
  10. Where is your personal freaky line?

Cross posted to Slaw

FTC report – Internet of Things – Privacy & Security

The US FTC just released a report entitled internet of things – Privacy & Security in a Connected WorldIts a worthwhile read for anyone interested in the topic.  It should be a mandatory read for anyone developing IoT devices or software.  A summary of it is on JDSupra.

The conclusion of the FTC reports reads in part:

The IoT presents numerous benefits to consumers, and has the potential to change the ways that consumers interact with technology in fundamental ways. In the future, the Internet of Things is likely to meld the virtual and physical worlds together in ways that are currently difficult to comprehend. From a security and privacy perspective, the predicted pervasive introduction of sensors and devices into currently intimate spaces – such as the home, the car, and with wearables and ingestibles, even the body – poses particular challenges.

In essence, the FTC states that security and privacy must be designed into the devices, data collected must be minimized (at least in respect to consumer data), and people need to be given notice and choice about the collection of data.

These are laudable goals, but will take work to attain.

Cross-posted to Slaw

Happy Data Privacy Day

From the Privacy Commissioner of Canada: “On January 28, Canada, along with many countries around the world, will celebrate Data Privacy Day. Recognized by privacy professionals, corporations, government officials, academics and students around the world, Data Privacy Day highlights the impact that technology is having on our privacy rights and underlines the importance of valuing and protecting personal information.”

Privacy becomes increasingly challenging with new tech such as big data, the internet of things, wearable computers, drones, and government agencies recording massive amounts of data in the name of security.  Sober thought needs to go into balancing the advantages of such things with privacy rights, creating them in a privacy sensitive way, and giving people informed choices.

dpd_englishprivacy sample

Cross-posted to Slaw 

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Red Tape Awareness Week

January 19-23 is the CFIB’s (Canadian Federation of Independent Business) 6th annual Red Tape Awareness Week.

During the week the CFIB will make several announcements, starting off by announcing the winner of its annual Paperweight Award, citing the most egregious example of government red tape on small businesses.  My guess is that CASL will win that.

My personal view is that government does a better job of talking about reducing red tape than actually accomplishing it.

(Cross posted to Slaw.)

Smartphone vs tablet vs phablet vs ???

I recently traded in my iPad for a Nexus 9. It has made me look at the phone/tablet thing a bit differently.

When I had an Android phone and an iPad, they felt like very different devices, each with a different role. But now that my tablet and phone work the same, and seamlessly share information, they don’t seem so different anymore. For example, if I make a note on google keep, it instantly shows up on the other device.

The only real difference is the size of the screen, and that the tablet can’t make phone calls or send texts. (Actually that’s not really true as you can make free calls over WiFi using google hangouts.)

That’s why phablets are growing in popularity. For those who can put up with carrying around a larger device, they are the best of both worlds. I want a phone I can put in my pocket though, and phablets are too big for my taste.

So what we really need is a modest sized phone with a screen that appears to be several times the size of the phone. Or better still, are we that far off from a full-fledged computer the size of a smartphone with a holographic display the size of a monitor, and a virtual keyboard? Would that be a complet? – a comphone?

Cross posted to Slaw

CASL Software provisions explained – Sort of…

I’ve had some time to reflect on the CASL software provisions as interpreted by the CRTC .  As I’ve said before, the CASL software consent provisions are tortuous and unclear, and if taken literally could cause huge problems for the software industry.  The CRTC has tried to interpret them in a way that aligns with the intent of stopping people from installing malware on computers.  While the CRTC interpretation may not line up with the act, we basically have to work within it for the time being. (Lawyers advising clients would be well served to include caveats that we can’t guarantee that a court would agree with the CRTC’s interpretation.)

Software providers should review CASL with their legal counsel to determine how they fit within this labyrinth, but here is my take from a simplified high level on how it applies to the installation of software on a device I own.

I acquire the “Sliced Bread” software by Softco.  It doesn’t matter how I get it – could be an app store, download, CD, etc. I install Sliced Bread on my computer – or my phone, tablet, car, drone, thermostat, fridge, server, router, etc.

Since I’m installing it myself on my own device, CASL doesn’t apply.

BUT IF Sliced Bread does one of the things CASL deems undesirable – things like collecting personal information, changing or interfering with data / operations / control, or sending information to someone;

AND IF those things are something I’m not reasonably expecting Sliced Bread to do (this expectation issue is a huge grey area and will vary depending on what Sliced Bread does);

THEN Softco is deemed to be installing it on my device, and Softco has to obtain my express consent outside of the EULA as detailed in the act.

Cross posted to Slaw.

CRTC provides guidance on CASL software provisions

The CRTC has just published their thoughts on the interpretation of section 8 of CASL that requires consents for certain types of software installations.

They also discussed them in an IT.Can webinar.  Their interpretation is helpful, and addresses some of the uncertainty around the provisions.  But some aspects are still unclear, and some of their interpretations may not be entirely supported by the wording of the act.  That may be fine so long as the CRTC is enforcing it, but a court does not have to defer to CRTC interpretation.  I suspect there will be further clarification coming at some point given some of the questions that were being asked in the webinar.

They are interpreting it with the philosophy that the provisions are to prevent the installation of software that does perhaps undesirable things if they were unexpected by the user.  More detail to come after we digest their thoughts and how they might work in practice.  Anyone in the software business should consult their counsel to find out how section 8 might apply to them.

Cross posted to Slaw.

http://harrisonpensa.com/lawyers/david-canton