Prepare to Be Watched Everywhere

Big Tech’s eyes and ears are proliferating.

Their latest addition: Uber is piloting audio and video recording of rides. The car-hailing service is promoting this as a safety feature to help address assaults, reduce violence, and resolve disputes between riders and drivers.

Uber, whose former CEO and cofounder Travis Kalanick once got caught on camera berating a contractor, knows all too well how the implementation of such technology can go wrong. So the company is being extra careful about its roll-out. The recordings are apparently opt-in. The files are encrypted, preventing unauthorized parties from viewing them. The tapes are accessible only to Uber support staff. And in the case of video recording, the technology is said to blur people’s faces.

There are good, legitimate reasons for Uber to record what’s going on in and around its cars. Crime has been a persistent problem for the company, particularly in Latin America. (A decision to accept cash payments in certain markets, like Brazil, has juiced growth, but also sparked an uptick in robberies.) But there are plenty of unresolved questions about how the company will navigate wiretapping and eavesdropping laws around the world, particularly in places like California, which require two-party consent. (If you hail a ride with a group of friends, how might you get everyone’s permission to be recorded?)

As our transportation gets wired up, so our homes do too. Ring, the Internet-connected security camera and doorbell-maker owned by Amazon, is raising surveillance concerns. Neighbors, unsuspecting passersby, trick-or-treaters, and everyone else within range of one of the millions of installed Ring devices can expect to have recordings of their bodies and faces captured. An Amazon executive recently told a U.S. Senator that law enforcement officers can download and share Ring recordings with few restrictions.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that both the Ring Indoor Cam and Ring Video Doorbell were ranked at the bottom of this year’s “privacy not included” list published by the Internet non-profit Mozilla. You can find them down near Facebook’s Portal and the Google Home in the “very creepy” category. (Stamped “not creepy:” the Nintendo Switch and the Sonos One SL speaker.)

Whether you’re in a cab or just strolling the neighborhood, prepare to be seen and heard.

Robert Hackett

Twitter: @rhhackett


This Cyber Wednesday edition of Data Sheet was curated by Robert Hackett.


Election night. Following Facebook's affirmation of political advertising and Twitter's decision to ban it, Google has chosen a middle path. The search giant says it will continue to allow political ads, but campaigns will no longer be able to use political information, like public voter records or political affiliations, to target their messages. At the same time, Twitter's ban is causing headaches for non-profits

Crypto wars. Interpol, the international police organization, plans to condemn the spread of strong encryption, warning that it aids criminals, Reuters reports. The comments are poised to echo the position of top law enforcement officials in the U.S., UK, and Australia. Also, the Pope thinks tech execs should be held responsible for child safety.

Loose change. Software hosted on the official website of Monero, a privacy-oriented cryptocurrency, contained cryptocurrency-stealing malware for a brief period on Monday. The website's operators have not said how it got there. Meanwhile, a security expert has warned that Mimblewimble, another supposedly privacy-protective cryptocurrency technology, is "fundamentally flawed."

Hit and run. Burglars are using Bluetooth scanners to locate valuable electronics stashed in cars. If you want to protect your possessions, turn off Bluetooth or power down your devices. Or better yet, don't leave them in a car in the first place. 

Forgot your password during a North Korean missile crisis? Did you try Googling it?


At a comedy show I attended last month, one entertainer joked that, given the way workplaces are changing (for the better) in the #MeToo era, the next hit show will surely be CSI: HR, or human resources. Well, all jokes aside, the following ESPN nail-biter reads like a possible pilot episode—not for any prurient reasons, but because it involves a head of HR unraveling a $13 million fraud. That's the amount Jeff David, an NBA executive, stole from the Sacramento Kings, his former employer. From the basketball court to the courtroom...

A surge of adrenaline jolted through [HR exec Stacy] Wegzyn's body. With each passing hour, she became increasingly convinced that she was headed down a path that would upend David's life forever. She was consumed by the chase but also suffering from periodic pangs of doubt. What if I'm wrong? What if this is all legit? Reading David's email felt invasive, even if Kings employees, like those at most companies, sign away their privacy to people like her....

One week after her first foray into David's underworld, Wegzyn had struck the mother lode.


The Game Industry Is Suffering from A Battle Royale ‘Hangover’ by Lisa Marie Segarra

Some Huawei U.S. Suppliers Get Commerce Okay to Resume Business, Others Denied by Jenny Leonard, Ian King

Microsoft’s Is Adding Gmail, Google Drive, and Calendar Integration by Don Reisinger

Should ‘Fintech’ Fear Big Tech’s Push Into Banking? by Robert Hackett and David Morris

PayPal CEO Dan Schulman Reveals Why He Withdrew From Facebook’s Libra Project by Polina Marinova

Trade Tariffs Take Center Stage as Trump and Tim Cook Meet at an Apple Factory by Jordan Fabian


In this essay, The Atlantic's Kaitlyn Tiffany shares her experience entering into a peculiar covenant with her best friends: They share their locations with one another at all times. In addition to praising Find My Friends, an under-loved feature on Apple's iPhone which enables the omniscience, Tiffany explores the gender dynamics of geography, the history of GPS, and the consequences of surveillance. I admit, I am a little envious of the crew's experiment in trust.

Drop me a pin sometime?


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