Conversations

Conversations is an umbrella category of posts containing the full versions of the interviews and other guest spots I do for other people’s media products, including radio, podcasts and television. RSS Feed

ABC logoA few weeks back, I had a conversation on Twitter with Natasha Mitchell, presenter of ABC Radio National’s Life Matters, about smartphones and just how much data they’re handing on to, well, all manner of organisations. This morning we came back to that conversation live on national radio.

Do you know what data you’re really sharing, and with whom, when you download and use smart phone apps? Companies are collecting as much as they can get away with, says Stilgherrian.

We spoke for 20 minutes and covered a lot of territory.

If you want to know more, then you can listen to my guest lecture at University of Technology Sydney (UTS), and then follow the links to more than 30 references.

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The audio is of course ©2014 Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and it’s served here directly from the ABC website.

ABC logoAnother day, another Heartbleed-related radio spot. This one was on ABC Radio 774 Melbourne, 720 Perth, and local stations throughout Victoria and Western Australia.

This conversation with presenter Prue Bentley was a straightforward explainer. It contains the current state of play in terms of what we believe, so if you only want to listen to one then make it this one. Unless there’s a more recent one on the site somewhere.

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The audio is of course ©2014 Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

ABC logoThere’s something rather cool about being introduced with the Mission: Impossible theme, and that’s precisely what happened when I did a spot for ABC 702 Sydney on Friday morning.

The Heartbleed security bug was one topic, obviously, but I also spoke with breakfast presenter Robbie Buck about another story in the news that morning, about radio presenter and activist Vanessa Powell, who’d complained that Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) had been, as she put it, spying on her social media activities.

Or, as I put it, that they’d been reading what she published on the internet — just as, presumably, she’d been reading what they published on the internet. That they’d gathered her comments with some semi-automated process — and, presumably, she hadn’t gathered theirs the same way — to me says “naivety” rather than “victim of sinister conspiracy”.

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The audio is of course ©2014 Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

ABC logoBy Thursday, news of the Heartbleed security bug had permeated from the technical press and the odd radio talk show into mainstream current affairs.

And so it was that ABC Radio’s Will Ockenden spoke to me for a story on the lunchtime current affairs program, The World Today.

Online security experts are warning today that nearly every user of the web over the last two years is exposed to a security bug sweeping the internet. Known as Heartbleed, the bug is a serious vulnerability in a piece of encryption software which secures data on nearly two in three web servers. It’s now a race between the server administrators and hackers to either fix the software in time or come under attack.

Here’s the full story, served directly from the ABC website, where you can also read the transcript.

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The audio is of course ©2014 Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

FIVEaa logoI’ve already hinted at the importance of Heartbleed, the internet security bug, to my working week. Oh, and to the internet, yeah, that too. Well, my first media object was an article for Crikey. The second was this conversation on Adelaide commercial radio station 1395 FIVEaa.

Even though a lot more has been learned about Heartbleed since this conversation took place, and I’ve written a bunch of stuff for ZDNet Australia after each of the daily briefings by the SANS Institute’s Internet Storm Centre (ISC), which will be listed in the Weekly Wrap, this conversation with Will Goodings from Wednesday afternoon stands up surprisingly well.

I think.

Judge for yourself.

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The audio is ©2014 dmgRadio Australia, but here it is ‘cos it hasn’t been posted on the radio station’s website. Besides, this is a reasonable plug, and they sent the audio file to me knowing this is exactly what I was going to be doing with it.

ABC logoAnother series of Game of Thrones is released, which means another series of radio spots talking about Australia’s reputation for (allegedly) massive levels of illegal downloads.

This spot is from Tuesday 8 April, a chat with ABC 720 Perth afternoon presenter Gillian O’Shaughnessy, triggered by the news that the first episode of Game of Thrones series four had seen record levels of illegal downloads, with Perth topping the list — although Angus Kidman at Lifehacker disagrees.

One highlight of this conversation is when I suggest that the entire Australian content distribution industry should just get out of the way, retire and go play on their yachts.

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The audio is of course ©2014 Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Title card for "Algorithms and the Filter Bubble"On Monday 7 April, I delivered an updated version of my guest lecture to media students at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), “Algorithms and the Filter Bubble”. And here it is.

What’s is about? It’s about what we now call — this year at least — “big data” and how that’s changing how the media works, just like it’s changing every other part of society.

I cruise through what all this data is, where it’s coming from, who’s collecting it and where it’s going; what advertisers and media companies and others can do with this data; and some speculation about how this might unfold in the future.

There’s links to all the references over the fold, and you can follow along with the slides (PDF). The recording picks up immediately after I was introduced by the course coordinator, Dr Belinda Middleweek. A transcript may or may not follow at some point in the future.

Some people mentioned that last time it was difficult to follow some of the slides, as the PDF file didn’t show how the builds happened, so I may add a video slideshow version at some point too.

The audience was primarily first and second year students at the beginning of their media studies degrees.

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[If a transcript ever becomes available, this is where it will appear.]

What was left out at the end

I didn’t keep a close enough eye on the time, which is most unprofessional of me, so I had to drop a couple of things at the end of the lecture. So what did we miss?

My planned closing was to speculate a little more about the implications of all this technology — essentially the material covered in references 26 through 30 below.

When advertisers and newsmakers know all about you, including where you are and what you’re interested in, and when robots become so good that they’re able to tailor news and advertising precisely for your interests and current state of mind — what does that mean for political persuasion, and other kinds of persuasion?

Watch the videos of the robots from the US Naval Research Laboratory responding to everyday human speech. Consider Apple founder Steve Job’s comment that the iTunes Store gives you “freedom from pornography”. Consider than in a world of filter bubbles, some news outlets with a political agenda might want to give you “freedom from confusing thoughts”. After all, Apple has already blocked from their App Store an app that provided information on US military drone strikes.

Just where might this go? As I told the media students at the start of the lecture, they are the ones who will be creating this future for themselves and their descendants, not those of us in the second half of our lives.

Licensing and Re-Use

This work is made available under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. This presentation may be re-used for non-commercial purposes within the terms of the Creative Commons license. The non-commercial and share-alike conditions are required to adhere to the licensing of the imagery used. Please contact me if you require an alternative version. As a minimum, attribution should read: “Source: Stilgherrian.” Online versions must link the word Stilgherrian to the website at stilgherrian.com.

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Heartbleed logoNothing has appeared here since Weekly Wrap 200 last Sunday — including the update to my guest lecture at UTS from Monday — because my work schedule has been dominated by the Heartbleed internet security bug.

There’s a lot that’ll appear here in the coming three days, and not just the UTS lecture. There’s radio spots that I did with ABC 720 Perth, ABC 783 Alice Springs, 1395 FIVEaa Adelaide, ABC Radio’s The World Today, and ABC 702 Sydney, for starters, plus links to the stories I’ve written on Heartbleed — one for Crikey and four for ZDNet Australia — although clever possums will know that they’re already listed on the media page.

In the background, I’ve also been sketching out ideas for a Pozible crowdfunding campaign or two, continuing from the one I did last year, to resurrect Corrupted Nerds and The 9pm Edict. Stay tuned.

I guess I shouldn’t whinge about Heartbleed killing my schedule. Some people have to do the really hard programming and systems administration work to clean up the mess, not just write and talk about it, and the extra work is heartbleeding revenue straight into my pocket.

ABC logoEarlier this morning I spoke about Facebook’s disturbing new “Big Cat” technology on ABC 702 Sydney, and here’s the audio.

Big Cat is the codename for an algorithm that can apparently detect with a high reliability whether your partner is having an extramarital affair, by analysing such things as their pattern of friend formation and communication, comparing their smartphone location with what they’ve said in posts — such as whether they’re really shopping or at the gym or on a work trip — as well as language cues, such as a tendency to avoid answering direct questions.

In a way, it’s a natural extension of MIT research from 2009, which showed that a young man’s pattern of friend formation could reveal whether he was gay — often before he even knew himself. Or Target (US) being able to determine when a woman had become pregnant from her shopping list — at least with 87% accuracy.

It’s the kind of stuff I talk about in my guest lecture to UTS students — which, as it happens, I’ll be updating and presenting this coming Monday 7 April.

As I discuss with breakfast presenter Robbie Buck, however, this is a little more serious than sending someone some discount coupons on a likely hunch. Facebook had better get this right, given that confronting a partner about an alleged affair is a serious issue.

I’m hearing that the Australia test locations will be the Brisbane / Gold Coast nexus or, more likely, Adelaide, for reasons that I explain.

One thing we forgot to mention in the interview is the reason for Facebook’s codename: “Big Cat” is for catching cheaters. Oh dear.

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The audio is of course ©2014 Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

ABC logoYesterday I ended up having a brief chat about identity, security and the concept of federated ID on ABC 105.7 Darwin. Here it is.

Breakfast presenter Richard Margetson had received a message from listener Heather from Tiwi, who’d lost her wallet. Amongst the hassle of having to replace all her cards, it was going to take up to six weeks for her new Medicare card to arrive — although she did get a new Medicare number to use straight away.

Margetson wondered whether technology might fix this. I set him straight.

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The audio is of course ©2014 Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

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