Annalee Newitz

Small pieces unjoined

What if they're un-Googleable?
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annalee@techsploitation.com
TECHSPLOITATION I think ubiquitous digital surveillance and searchability have given me a weird new sense of entitlement. I feel like I should be able to find anybody on the Web, and if I can't — well, why not hire somebody to search the databases I can't access? I caught myself having this exact bizarro train of thought the other day, when I was trying to locate an old friend of mine from high school.
I did all the usual things that generally yield results and have helped me find out all kinds of useless things about lost childhood friends. Read more »

Hip buzz phrases

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annalee@techsploitation.com
TECHSPLOITATION Usually I don't let the PR e-mails get to me. My standard procedure is to review and delete these missives from alternate marketplace universes where people care about incremental changes to the graphic user interface in a piece of useless software. Read more »

Chumby!

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annalee@techsploitation.com
TECHSPLOITATION On a shelf above my fireplace, snuggled next to a Totoro stuffed animal and a stack of books about movies, there is a puffy, tan creature about the size of a Nerf football that has a three-and-a-half-inch computer screen for a face. If you squeeze the creature's body, a menu pops up on the screen — from there, you can log on to my wi-fi network. Read more »

Death by satire

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annalee@techsploitation.com
TECHSPLOITATION In honor of George W. Bush's efforts to stop torture by setting up secret CIA prisons and promote freedom by expanding government surveillance powers, I think we should spend a few days contemputf8g another great thing this administration has done for the world: it has reinvigorated political satire.
What was The Daily Show before the USA PATRIOT Act? And where would international pranksters the Yes Men be today without this administration's asshattish policies?
Thanks to the Internet, satire can be instant and lethal. Read more »

Weaponizing data

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annalee@techsploitation.com
TECHSPLOITATION I was in front of a computer when the Twin Towers went down. The morning light flooded Charlie's tiny studio apartment kitchen, where she'd parked her computer desk in a spot that another person would have used for a breakfast nook.
"Holy shit," she said. "Look at the Washington Post!" I stared blearily at the monitor, coffee mug in my hand, and saw pictures of smoke. Charlie continued clicking and clicking on news. It was everywhere: live streams and up-to-the-second photographs of the towers as they burned.
One had fallen. Read more »

Pwned

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annalee@techsploitation.com
TECHSPLOITATION Last night, for about the 30,000th time, I pondered whether I should be shredding the stubs of my phone and cable bills before throwing them away. I always keep my credit card statements for a year or two. That shit just seems too scary personal to toss. But what about the other stuff? If someone were to root through my building's trash bin and find my (unshredded) cell phone bill, they'd know the numbers of everyone I'd called during the past month. Read more »

Snakes in vain

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annalee@techsploitation.com
TECHSPLOITATION I'm the only geek in San Francisco who didn't go to the drunken flash mob event at 1000 Van Ness where Snakes on a Plane played in dangerous proximity to cartloads of extremely stiff, free drinks. My sources tell me that outrageous costumes were worn; somebody brought a real live snake; and there were many inebriated screams that included the epithet "motherfuckin' snakes on a motherfuckin' plane!" Was it glorious dork anarchy? Read more »

Fun with AOL data

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annalee@techsploitation.com
TECHSPLOITATION Last week AOL did another stupid thing, but at least it was in the name of science. The giant Web portal released a data chunk containing three months’ worth of queries to its search engine taken from roughly half a million users. Gathered during the months of March, April, and May, the data shows queries, their date and time, and which Web sites the user ultimately visited. The idea was that this information might be of some use to researchers.
To protect user privacy, AOL replaced the log-in names of searchers with numbers. Read more »

Blog menace

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annalee@techsploitation.com
TECHSPLOITATION Last week at the infamous computer security conference Black Hat in Las Vegas, Bob Auger announced what should have already been obvious: reading blogs isn't safe. A security engineer with SPI Labs, Auger quietly revealed (www.spidynamics.com/assets/documents/HackingFeeds.pdf) that the mere act of checking out somebody's RSS feed could allow bad guys to steal money from your bank account, post Web spam from your computer, and snoop on everything you've written anonymously in that online porn community you secretly visit. Read more »

The nice rats

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gpr54@techsploitation.com
TECHSPLOITATION OK, here's my plan: genetically engineered, super-tame, super-skinny, super-long-lived, nonbreeding rats. Or humans. Science says we can do it!
I have this problem where I read two or three articles about so-called recent discoveries and start mixing and matching them, trying to piece together the ultimate überexperiment that will end the world. Read more »