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Brislen on Tech

Paul Brislen, Editor. 28 February 2020, 1:00 pm

Here's this week's Brislen on Tech, from TechBlog editor Paul Brislen.

The lucky country

I'm sitting here in my home office while I write this. I've got the doors open onto what I call my porch but the family calls "that area under the deck where Dad was supposed to put tiles down but he couldn't be bothered so now it's a sand trap for the cat", it's a lovely evening, I've got a fan blowing because we're on day forty something of no real rain, and I'm talking to you via my gigabit internet connection.

The kids are both upstairs on their devices. One is "doing her homework" which appears to be a review of all the latest music trends, as discussed by a leading collection of teen-based commentators oh and some maths that frankly I can't understand, while the other is just watching every episode of Derry Girls again because she can.

My wife is watching Married Women who Love Too Much or some similarly-themed show while simultaneously playing a game on her phone and probably buying something on her iPad. 

The cat is out, but no doubt when she comes back in she'll jump on a device and perhaps watch videos of birds in 4K for quite some time, as is her want, until it's bedtime.

My connection down here in the office is buttery-smooth and running like a Swiss watch.

I'm told I could upgrade to 2Gbit/s or even 4Gbit/s but frankly, for my family needs 1Gbit/s is enough, even on the coldest, dampest winter days when the kids' friends are all over and everyone needs a slice of my connection.

The UFB has been a fantastic innovation for the New Zealand market, delivering a future-proofed network that will still be in use a hundred years from now.

It's a massive leap forward from where we were only a decade ago, when telcos were keen to tell us we didn't need intervention and that the market would deliver.

Meanwhile, in Australia, Telstra has just decided to halve the maximum speed of its NBN plans from 100Mbit/s to 50Mbit/s because nobody could get 100Mbit/s reliably anyway.

Sure, not everyone is on fibre to the home, predominantly because Telstra made such a song and dance about it that the government over there ended up giving Telstra a big wodge of cash to shut them up, but even so, reducing speeds at a time when the world is increasing dramatically is really quite something.

I'm pretty sure Chorus's new CEO, who has fled from the NBN company, is quietly relieved to be where he is. Try explaining to shareholders and ministers why 50Mbit/s is good enough for the 21st Century after you've spent tends of billions of dollars while your munty cousins across the Ditch are getting gigabit speeds for a fraction of the price.


ITNews - Telstra stops offering 100Mbps services for NBN FTTN/B/C users

New Daily - 'We're going to be left in the dark ages': What Telstra's shock move says about Australia's NBN

Gizmodo - Telstra Cans Its 100Mbps FTTN NBN Plans

Computerworld - Chorus debuts 2Gbps and 4Gbps fibre services

Computerworld - Vodafone ramps up 5G initiatives

Computerworld - 1Gbps services becoming the norm, says NZ's Chorus


Facial Recognition.jpg

The gift that keeps on giving

Companies like to ask us for information and then sell that information on to the highest bidder. They do this incrementally, usually, and give us very little in return. Sure, we get some targeted advertising that just makes us go "hey, I was just talking about going to Bahrain to buy Bitcoin for my mother's second wedding" but other than that it's all pretty harmless and who cares.

Until they take your face, that is. 

Facial recognition is one of those areas of contention that appears to boil over with misunderstanding and innuendo and then goes away again. I have seen emails from one unhappy punter demanding to know where a client is putting their facial recognition equipment because it gives her eczema (no, really) and she needs to avoid it, but for the most part once the process is explained to the average user, it's pretty clear there's little risk. After all, passport control has been using facial recognition technology for years without a problem. Our phones use our faces to unlock and that's all pretty painless, right?

Unless, that is, you're stupid enough to store a customer's entire facial feature database in an insecure way so that anyone can get access to it.

I mean, only a real idiot would do that, right?

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present Clearview, the start-up that scraped 3 billion photos off the internet to train its facial recognition system which in turn it sold to law enforcement agencies in the US.

According to The Register, some ratbag "gained unauthorized access" to data that included a list of customers, the number of user accounts those customers had created, and the total number of searches they ran using Clearview's software.

Bad as that is, the response was even worse. In short, Clearview's lawyers said "eh, waddaya gonna do?" and shrugged it off as a cost of doing business in the 21st century.

Ah no. For those of us who always check the fine print, this is a terrible tale of a company run amok and of users who didn't sign up to a service having their details stolen. 

I just hope the lawyers get to earn their keep with the class action suit that is no doubt being considered even as we speak.

The Register - Hacker swipes customer list from controversial face-recog-for-Feds Clearview. Its reaction? 'A part of life'

Vox - Clearview AI, the world's scariest facial recognition company, can't even keep its own data secure

Reseller News - Encryption flaw found in over a billion Wi-Fi devices

Reseller News - Cisco security warnings include firewall holes, Nexus software weaknesses


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