S3E10: Big Brother and Your Cell Phone

The One-Off Tech Podcast S3E10 Big Brother and Your Cell PhoneIntro

Do you know where you are? Your cell phone does. if you are familiar with the concept of Big Brother, an all seeing, all knowing entity watching our every move, then you might want to think about what big brother and your cell phone know about you. In this video we will talk about Tech and how to better protect your privacy. We will also talk about Siri and how she isn’t who she used to be. Like, Subscribe, and hit the bell if you want to watch videos like this on my channel.

I’m Roy Richardson and this is the live edition of my podcast, the One-Off Tech Podcast now in season 3 and available on all your favorite podcast platforms. I have been in the tech industry for over 25 years and here we talk about Tech in plain language and how it can affect you. Does Big Brother and your cell phone spy on you? The answer is probably. But the Big Brother in this scenario isn’t some big government entity (unless you live in a country that tightly controls the Internet or have some conspiracy theory to fill in some gaps here. I believe for the most part the US Government is “Chaotic Good”. For the purposes of our discussion, the Big Brother in this case is Tech companies and sometimes hackers. And the Tech companies only want to make a buck, okay, actually that is also the hackers goal too. But the Tech companies want to target what you do, where you go, and what you like to send you relevant ads.

So if you have listened to any of my previous podcasts or my first live stream (don’t watch it, I will recap it and save you some misery) you know cookies play a big role in your experience on different websites you visit, session cookies keep up with the fact you have visited that site before and also make it where you don’t have to login to their websites very often because based on these text files on your computer they know you are the person who previously visited and a session variable says you were authenticated. 

And we talked about Google’s new way of tracking users FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) basically an attempt to track you but make the info more anonymous. See the show notes for a link to read about that in more detail or watch the first show.

Okay, so how does it have anything to do with my cell phone? So your browsers are telling who you are, some of your favorite apps have asked you for permissions at some point and you may or may not have allowed some of your apps “location tracking”. What?!?

Your phone is constantly pinging cell towers saying “Hey, here I am!” and if you have allowed apps to be able to do location tracking, then they will ask for and receive this information. So what does it mean when apps know where you are? Simple, say you are at Walmart. You pull into the parking lot and the app knows you are at a certain Walmart store. How does it know this? You allowed this app to do location tracking. On iPhone, go to Settings, Privacy, Location Services and you will see what access you have given these apps. 

iPhone Screen And Me Privacy SettingsEver get an ad in an app that is so local? Wow, that lawyer is down the street from me and well, there is his ad. I am always bugged when I visit a site and it says welcome to you coming from  company Mirror Abstract Productions, which is my fictional company. They do a lookup of the IP address I am coming from just to try and personalize what they are advertising. I find it more annoying than informative.

The point of this all is that you are being tracked and you either knowingly or unknowingly gave these apps permission to know where you are. Some apps it is an easy decision. Why does the grocery store app or Clash of the Titans need to know where I am? That is a question you have to answer.

Recently with the release of Apple iOS 14.5, Apps that previously didn’t as even though they were supposed to ask if it was okay to track you suddenly are having to ask if they can track you. Facebook is the most upset by this. Why? Because the location targeting and tracking allowed them to tailor ads to your specific location and based on where it knows you are browsing. 

So next time your apps update they are supposed to ask your permission to track you and if you say no, they can’t. 

Settings, Privacy, Tracking on iOS. Sadly you have to answer this one by one on Android for each app. You have to go to Settings, Apps, and select each App one by one and then go to Permissions (as Android phones are not all the same, it may be different on yours) and there are all of the permissions those apps say they require. Some apps will stop working correctly if you turn off location tracking while others will keep working but nag you about setting it back.

Want to know where Google thinks you are? If you have enabled it to know everything about you?

Go here: https://myactivity.google.com/myactivity?pli=1 (after the show of course)

https://www.theverge.com/2021/3/30/22358287/privacy-ads-google-chrome-floc-cookies-cookiepocalypse-finger-printing

More detail on how apps can track your location and how location tracking works on phones.

https://ssd.eff.org/en/playlist/privacy-breakdown-mobile-phones#mobile-phones-location-tracking

 

Chapter 2

So with the release of iOS 14.5, Siri got an update as well. I first noticed then when I asked Siri a question in the car and it had a decidedly male sounding voice. I thought it was a fluke because it was in the car, but checking my settings the Siri voice I have come to know and love was gone. I was really sad because the original voice of Siri and I follow each other on Twitter. Why I do not know but yeah. So how do I get her back? Well it seems you can’t. The goal for Apple is to allow voice selection to not be noted as gender specific. And you have more variety in nationality selections as well. I love it but I am really missing Siri’s original voice. You have to manually go in and download each voice to have more selections that the two it gives you for American voices. Currently I am using an Australian voice. Not me, Siri. as my default Siri voice. Android has had similar but strangely when I changed Android to British, my Google Maps went metric and I wasn’t ready to do how many kilometers I am going before I turn unless I am running a 5k or 10k race and usually I know the route before I enter the race. 

Also strangely if you spent time downloading them all, with iOS update 14.5.1, you have to download them all over again, so if you haven’t played around with this, good, Happy Downloading.

Google I/O was May 18 (today as I am steaming here) and they have announced many cool things. Next week we will talk about them and also I will tell you why I bought a Mac Mini rather than an iMac. Practical reasons mostly but you will understand better when I explain next week.

Be sure to like and subscribe to this channel to see more videos like this. Following the “Atomic Habits” philosophy, if I change one thing every week eventually I will improve by percentages. I am shooting for 1% a week. Let me know in the comments how I am doing.

Thanks for listening. If you are a fan of audio podcasts, look for the audio version of this show wherever you listen to podcasts. Look for the One-Off Tech Podcast.

Have a great day!


The Live Stream version on YouTube

https://youtu.be/HgT3R0QfCjE

S3E9: Our Robot Masters, AI, Automation and the Future of Work

S3E9 Our Robot MastersOur Robot Masters, AI and Automation

Chapter 1

What if what you do could be done by a robot? Think about it. It is already happening in small minute ways already. In some stores, there is no cashier. You simply go to the counter and because everything in your buggy has an RFID chip (Radio Frequency Identification) basically a very small passive device that says hey, here is my barcode. Think of it as a barcode with a radio transmitter. Amazon Go stores go beyond this. They use cameras, machine learning and artificial intelligence to detect what you pickup and put in your cart. Other stores have been testing out similar technologies. There is a link to a video to show you how it works.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrmMk1Myrxc

Then there is Flippy from Miso Robotics, the burger and fry cook robot. White Castle has been testing it out and businesses are starting to buy these robots that flip burgers and can drop baskets of food into fryers. I will have a link on the site to a video so you can watch Flippy in action. Oh by the way, if you have some cash, they are looking for investors. 

https://www.msn.com/en-us/video/superbowl-special-2020/white-castle-testing-flippy-kitchen-robot-to-reduce-human-contact-during-covid-19/vp-BB16JntW

So now the afterschool job of many teenagers could be replaced by a robot. This came about for multiple reasons and the pandemic caused it to surge. It became harder to find staff for fast food restaurants during the pandemic. There are positive things about this robot, 1)many are burned each year working a hot grill. 2)It is easier to keep a robot clean and sanitary than a human. We are just messy animals. But on the negative side it means less jobs. Now these robots are not cheap so it will take years to earn back the money from buying these robots. 

But McDonald’s has gone a step beyond and replaced their wait staff in some stores. You now order via a kiosk. So rather than having to talk to a human you simply push buttons on the screen to place your order and as voice recognition technology keeps getting better and better, soon you will be able to speak your order into kiosks. So how do I pick up my food? Ah, so far, there are still humans who hand over the food. 

But imagine ten years from now, potentially less. Flippy is making your burgers and fries, you voice order your food or order it from your phone, a series of conveyors bag your food and place it in front of you for pick up. There is one human working in the restaurant. His job, make sure the robots and automation keep working as expected. He may even be skilled in how to fix some things if they break.

Okay. So what do you do for a living? Stop and think. Is there anything you currently do that you could envision being done via robotics or artificial intelligence? How much of your job do you spend doing that thing that can be replaced? 20%? 60%? 80%? Or maybe you have a job that requires a lot of intricacies. Maybe you are a welder? Oh, wait, robots do a lot of the welding in automobile factories. Wait, robots also paint cars in factories too. I posted another link.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1GLwS7CVZs

What are you trying to say you may be thinking? Am I about to be replaced by a robot? Maybe but not yet. Darrel M. West from the Brookings Institute says they believe in 30 years, ⅓ of all working age men will not have jobs. I believe because of the way technology, politics, and society moves, it will happen much sooner like a self inflicted wound.

See the show links to get more information about these ideas.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVGOAbTACB4 (Darrell M. West – The Future of Work: Robots, AI, and Automation)

Technology is moving so fast that basic jobs that normally do not require college degrees will slowly go away. Many jobs that require manual labor will eventually be replaced by robots, artificial intelligence and automation. Entry level jobs will be replaced with AI and automation. Eventually you will have to have a college degree in order to find jobs that are not taken away by these supposed innovations. And when we all have degrees, then it will be those who have the advanced degrees who get the jobs. This all sounds dystopian and it is hard for it not to sound and seem that way. And this will widen the income gap even more. Even more people will be in poverty and technology will expand the haves and the have nots. 

So how do we prepare for a world like that? First we have to be prepared to reinvent ourselves more often. Think about your first job. What did you do? I was a bagger in a grocery store. I then worked for a major retailer in a distribution center. I reached a deadend and I realized I wanted more. So I then as an adult finally went to college. I retooled myself before to become an Information Technology professional. I was into computers at a very young age and it made sense for me. As I worked for a company for a long time I was promoted several times. I went to school again to learn new skills. We have to be prepared for a world where we have to always be learning. Albert Einstein is noted as saying, “once you stop learning you start dying”. What if every ten years we need to learn brand new skills to keep employed? This is the type of world we are heading toward. In a previous episode of the podcast and my live stream, we talk about how cars now have so many computer processors, they have had to stop making cars for periods of time (and will continue to do so) because there is a major chip shortage that will not go away overnight. In fact it will take years to overcome. The point being is that our future is wrapped up in technology. Self driving cars are coming. You won’t need Uber drives or taxi drivers. With self driving cars you will have more self driving transit buses and trains. You will eventually not need a car at all if you live in a major city and eventually smaller towns and cities will move this direction 

And as the pandemic has shown us, it will become harder and harder to get jobs as more and more companies allow remote work forces. Think about it. A company is in your town but they allow remote work. When you apply for a job, you are no longer competing against those who are in your area, you are competing with people potentially all over the world. When the market is ultra competitive and there are too many people who are skilled in the same skill, you will see wages drop. Why hire someone making $75,000 a year when you can hire someone for the same job with the same skills for $50,000. 

The point is, it is time to start thinking about the next ten years. What are you skilled at now and what can you get skilled at to future proof your next ten years. Let that noodle around your brain for a while. By the way, programming, data science, and Cyber Security are the hottest jobs right now and will remain so for at least the next ten years. What will be hot after that, I do not know. 

Chapter 2

What is Universal Basic Income and why should I care?

https://www.npr.org/2021/03/04/973653719/california-program-giving-500-no-strings-attached-stipends-pays-off-study-finds#:~:text=A%20high%2Dprofile%20universal%20basic,of%20the%20program’s%20first%20year

So according to the Urban Institute, (https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/103656/2021-poverty-projections_0.pdf), the current level of poverty in America (the United States where most of my viewers live) is 13.7%. The United States government considers family of four making $24,500 or less to be living in poverty. So imagine you can’t find a good paying job nor can your spouse. The US Federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. If you work 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year at that wage, you will make $15,080 before taxes. But if all you can find are part time jobs, you could effectively become the working poor. Imagine not making enough money to put food on the table and a roof over your head. Average Rent in US 2021 $784 per month. So at that wage you make almost $1,257 a month. Minus the rent, that leaves you with $472.67. If you live by yourself on that, you could make it work perhaps, but if you have a child or more than one child, can you make that work?  Nearly 8% of all households in the US are single parent homes. (https://www.prb.org/u-s-household-composition-shifts-as-the-population-grows-older-more-young-adults-live-with-parents/). If your children are in school and you have to pay for an after school program so you can work, that cuts into your food budget even more. And what about power and water and maybe even gas for your car and heating for your apartment? You can be nickeled and dimed to the point you do not have any money and are constantly fighting to live. In the US, the poverty level is $12,880 (according to US Department of Health and Human Services https://aspe.hhs.gov/2021-poverty-guidelines). So if you make the 40 hour job at minimum wage, you are below poverty level if you have a child as a family of two’s poverty level is $17,420 and for a family of four $26,500. But if all you can find are part time jobs because you do not have an education, you are in a pit you can never come out of. 

So in 2019 in Stockton, CA, an experiment gave 125 residents who were living below the poverty level $500 a month with no restrictions. It was theirs to do whatever with. Did they run off and buy drugs? No, in fact because the folks in the study were healthier, had less stress, it allowed folks to work on paying off debt. Most were able to go and look for better jobs than the ones that kept them in poverty. This one year experiment called SEED (Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration) https://www.npr.org/2021/03/04/973653719/california-program-giving-500-no-strings-attached-stipends-pays-off-study-finds

 

The study only lasted one year. But the benefits have continued for those who were in the program. I know many would say the pandemic has shown that folks getting extra unemployment have had less incentive to see employment and right now we are seeing lots of low wage jobs having trouble finding employees. That isn’t exactly accurate but it does have some relevance. You can’t and shouldn’t paint everyone with the same paint brush. If this were geared toward folks living in poverty and had a set start and end like this program did, then maybe the results could continue on. 

Why do I even bring this up? So imagine we do indeed no longer have jobs for everyone in 30 years. What do we do for those who can’t find jobs? We have time to fix things before they happen. Will we? 

The purpose of this episode is not to solve these problems but to get you thinking about these problems and how we as a society solve it. 

This episode was too cerebral to do it proper justice. And really a recorded video might have done it a lot more justice. 

Next Week’s Episode, Big Brother and My Cell phone.

Apple is trying to protect our privacy and Facebook is trying to steal it. 

Bonus video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUc5oN_ffRo

Bonus Food for Thought:

https://www.morningbrew.com/emerging-tech/stories/2021/04/25/myth-automation-eliminates-work?utm_source=morning_brew