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Brislen on Tech

Paul Brislen, Editor. 10 March 2017, 1:51 pm

"If you have nothing to hide of course you'll have nothing to fear."

Usually it's said by someone in authority with the sort of smile that shows just enough teeth to make you think of a dog in the first stages of panic about a stranger patting it on the head. 

And sadly, sometimes it's said by well-meaning but utterly ignorant commentators (and commenters) on various websites whenever the issue of hacking, security breaches, government intervention and goodness knows what else comes up.

"I've got nothing to hide. They're welcome to listen to my phone calls if they want. All they'll hear is me telling my kids when I'll be home" etcetera.

You have nothing to hide. I have nothing to hide. But we have plenty of things that we need to be private about.

I have folders of emails from clients that are sensitive in nature. I have banking details that really shouldn't be published on Twitter. I have information that would enable someone to impersonate me on various social media networks and yet more information that would enable someone else to impersonate me to my bank.

These are all things that I need to keep private, yet I have nothing to hide.

I tried once to explain it to a panelist on a radio show. She had nothing to hide so I suggested she read out her phone number or bank account number on air. She declined.

It's not that we have secrets we don't want the government to know about but rather that we have control over that data and can make the call for ourselves whether or not we give it out.

The argument over social media access to our lives is also somewhat moot. We choose to give out that information freely and knowingly in exchange for a service (Facebook for one thing) that will use that information for its own purposes (making money).

That of course assumes we do enter into that relationship freely and in full knowledge and often we do not. Hands up those who played those stupid "what star ship captain are you most like?" kind of games. All of them at some point will ask for access to your Facebook account, ostensibly to post the results but in reality to gather a snapshot of you and your data for their own use. They don't really care which of the Brady Bunch you're most like or what type of food you'd be, they want your demographics to sell to marketers.

Wikileaks has decided to push out a tonne of material about how the CIA can hack phones, tablets, laptops, desktop computers and even televisions (and presumably that goes doubly so for IoT gear) to use as listening and tracking devices and now the world is freaking out about privacy in the age of surveillance. 

And rightly so. This is no laughing matter, no small news. In a world where governments are deciding to act in the best interests of those who donate the most to their election campaigns it's no small wonder that knowing more about those with contrary views is seen as a good thing from their point of view. Would New Zealand have enacted the Homosexual Law Reform Act if mass surveillance was a feature of our world at that point? Would any of the labour reforms that gave more power to the workers over the objections of the business owners have been introduced if the governments of the day had been able to break apart the organised protests before they happened?

We haven't reached half way through Trump's first 100 days in office yet and the world is now changing on a daily basis. I suspect we've got a lot more to work through before we're done.

NBR - CIA can hack your iPhone or turn your smart TV into a bugging device 

The Register - That CIA exploit list in full: The good, the bad, and the very ugly

The Guardian - Apple to 'rapidly address' any security holes as companies respond to CIA leak

The Guardian - FBI's James Comey: 'There is no such thing as absolute privacy in America'

The Guardian - 'Am I at risk of being hacked?' What you need to know about the 'Vault 7' documents

The Guardian - Murder defendant volunteers Echo recordings Amazon fought to protect (this story is the taste of the shape of things to come in our IoT connected world)





Content Wars (again)

So Vodafone can't buy Sky TV because it owns too much of a percentage share of the sports that New Zealanders hold dear to their hearts which leaves the merger (Sky NZ buys Vodafone NZ with money lent to it by Vodafone Group which in turn buys Sky NZ… I'm sure it makes sense to someone somewhere) dead in the water.

After which, Spark announces it has done a deal with Netflix so customer can get Netflix free for a year (if they sign up for two) which is lovely but where does that leave Spark's own video on demand service, Lightbox?

And so to retaliate, Vodafone (which previously offered Sky's MySky service free to new sign-ups and which offers Sky TV service to its cable TV customers where it has TelstraClear's old cable network) has now signed up to offer Sky's online offering Neon free for a year.

Currently, New Zealand is awash with content offers and that's no bad thing.

Consider where we came from just a few scant years ago. When Quickflix launched in New Zealand it was regarded as some kind of con by many in the media. Grudgingly they allowed that yes, content delivered via the internet might just work but the prevailing view (that TV on your laptop would suck) prevailed and the whole thing was ignored.

When Netflix launched it finally became clear that watching content on your device was far more interesting than those early naysayers had realised and that yes, watching big screen entertainment on the big screen was good (and with the crashing price of LCD screens bringing smart TVs into many homes), watching every day entertainment on every day devices was a huge market.

Today it's a given, and even the free to air channels have hard-working apps and even an inclination to launch some material online before making it available for broadcast.

A quick check of pricing and content would suggest that Sky TV still retains the bulk of New Zealand sporting content but increasingly you don't need access to the broadcaster to watch international sport.

Likewise for non-sporting content (movies and TV) the plethora of services and range of options has increased, although predominantly from the US providers. The UK television companies BBC and ITV have teamed up to offer some kind of online service in the US market that gives viewers access to back catalog shows at a low monthly rate, but it's not available elsewhere yet and the idea of adding in more recent shows seems to be an anathema to the programmers who make oodles of obvious cash from BBC America and the like.

I've also heard people complain about having to buy Netflix, Lightbox, Neon and Quickflix to get access to all the shows they want.

This is a good thing.

You can buy all those channels and still have change left over from the price of your old Sky TV service plus you never need to pay for a VCR or a set-top box ever again.

Clearly it's time to jump in. I'd love to see some stats for the levels of piracy in New Zealand because it's becoming increasingly easy to give TV companies money for their shows, and that's great to see.

Stuff - Vodafone and Sky reaffirm partnership with Neon promotion

Spark - Spark offers Netflix free for 12 months

Stuff - Quickflix leaving television alone as it rolls out the red carpet


Game On

But watching TV is so passive and so old fashioned when you can be in the adventure itself. To prove the point, the New Zealand game development business has increased its sales yet again, rising 7% to hit $424 million in value.

This is great news coming as it did off a particularly strong year in 2015 which saw growth of 16% year on year.

Mobile continues to dominate, up 15% to $167 million for the year, and the shift to digital content delivered online (versus going into a shop and buying a disc like an animal) continues apace, with digital downloads up by 20% to $95 million, subscription services up 9% to $37 million and traditional retail sales of software for games down 10% to $59 million. Console sales also fell - down 5% year on year.

The data comes from the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association and will be welcome news to those who work in the industry in New Zealand.

And, as the press release says, we're doing better than Australia which only grew by 4% revenue last year. So that's always good.

IGEA - NZ video games industry revenues race ahead to $424M in 2016

BoingBoing - Steve Bannon sunk $60M of Goldman Sachs' money into a failed World of Warcraft goldfarming scheme


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