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If the uber-secret National Security Agency is poring through Verizon phone records and tapping Google and Facebook servers, what does that mean for you? Is there any privacy online? What happens when people start wearing Google Glass and recording your every move? The Computer Guys and Gal discuss privacy, social media and the future of gaming.
- Bill Harlow WAMU Computer Guy; and Hardware & Software Technician for MACs & PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc.
- John Gilroy WAMU Computer Guy; and Director of Business Development, Armature Corporation
- Allison Druin WAMU Computer Gal; Chief Futurist at the University of Maryland Division of Research; Co-Director of the Future of Information Alliance, University of Maryland
Apps To Protect Against Online Snooping
Sudo puts the user in charge of what data to share, rather than corporations or the government, and lets you make money from it.
Tor is a web browser that helps you defend against network surveillance by preventing anyone from learning your location or browsing habits.
The Onion Browser for iOS is a Tor-capable Web browser for smartphones.
Ways to keep your information private (even from the NSA), from credit cards and social networks to Web history and Dropbox accounts.
App Of The Month
For road trips, iExit tells you what exits, gas stations, hotels and rest areas are coming up in real time when driving on the interstate.
Gifts For Techie Grads And Dads
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. It's the -- well, you know that music can only one thing. It's The Computer Guys & Gal here this week to talk about the tech issue that has been on everyone's mind, you know, the future of video games. No, just kidding.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIWe're talking about privacy, technology and revelations about a massive NSA surveillance system, news stories broken by The Guardian and The Washington Post last week. In a few shorts days, the term PRISM has become a kind of shorthand in many people's mind for a surveillance state run amok, and it's raised a whole lot of thorny, technical, legal and philosophical questions.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIBut it also raises some practical questions for today's tech consumers: How many of my emails and personal photos and videos are being sucked into government databases? It is -- is it even possible to evade that dragnet? And do we on the Internet or we, the Internet user masses, really care about the erosion of privacy in the digital age? Call us. Let us know. 800-433-8850 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org because we'll be hearing very shortly from Bill Harlow. He's a computer guy. He's a hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. Bill Harlow, good to see you.
MR. BILL HARLOWGood to see you, too.
NNAMDIAllison Druin is with us. She is chief futurist at the University of Maryland Division of Research, co-director of the Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland. Allison, good to see you also.
MS. ALLISON DRUINOh, it's always a pleasure, Kojo.
NNAMDIAnd John Gilroy is with us. He is director of business development at Armature Corp., and not to be confusing the word PRISM with a place that John Gilroy needs to be, which is prison.
MR. JOHN GILROYPrison, P-R-I-S-O-N.
DRUINThat makes sense.
NNAMDIWhole different word. 800-433-8850. With all this talk about the NSA snooping through our emails and our Web browsing, I'd just like to know what your general thoughts were when this story began to break. First you, Allison.
DRUINYou know, I kept thinking, what are people watching? What is it that -- are people watching? You know, are they watching the phone calls? Are they watching the email? Are they watching the online activity? And who's watching it? I mean, all of a sudden, you've got stories about the IRS and the Tea Party group. You've got the Justice Department with the -- with, you know...
NNAMDIThe Associated Press.
DRUINWith the -- yeah, looking at the subpoenas and subpoenaing records of journalists, and then you have NSA with everything from phone to Internet. It started feeling, wow, you know. It's just what do I have to lose here kind of thing. What is, you know, what's happening? But what was most interesting to me was when -- last Friday when people were saying I'm shocked. I can't believe this is happening.
DRUINYou know, and every president of every company was coming out, you know, of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, AOL. I mean, you name every one of them saying, I didn't know anything about this. I had no idea.
NNAMDII know nothing.
GILROYI know nothing.
DRUINWell, what was so interesting was that they were practically saying the exact same words, so obviously they all coordinated. But they were saying something where we, you know, we will provide all the data that the government, you know, the government is asking us in accordance with the law. All right? So we're following the law, folks.
DRUINAnd -- but what they also said was that they didn't realize about the scale of what NSA was doing with Verizon. And, oh, that doesn't happen at Google. That doesn't happen at Facebook. And so they were talking about, you know, that our things that we're doing are specific. And it just didn't give me a whole lot of confidence. I don't know. What do you think?
NNAMDIHow you saying, Bill Harlow?
GILROYThey'd know anyway.
HARLOWNo comments. I'm not even sure why I'm on a radio show anymore.
HARLOWI think what got to me was that I was actually just kind of -- I guess I'm cynical because I was not as surprised as I thought I was going to be when this all came to light. And what's interesting, too, is that all these very similar statements you mentioned, Allison, there's actually a cottage industry of people who are kind of picking these apart, saying, well, they're not really -- in some cases not really saying that much, so they very much could still be part of PRISM.
HARLOWIt's hard to say because the law seems to cover a very broad amount of things that the government can do to collect this data. So there's a lot of, I think, you know, information we don't really know yet, a lot of speculation, unfortunately. But I would just still assume that privacy online by and large is a myth.
NNAMDIAll the Donald Rumsfeldian (sic) unknown unknowns.
GILROYI know a lot of people in the intelligence community in this town, and about six months ago, I was on the phone with this guy. And his cellphone, it kind of went in and out, and I said, are you there? He said, yeah, just me and the Chinese government.
GILROYAnd so I was expecting this out of the Chinese government,, but the curveball was, oh, yeah, I guess I should have expected out of this government, too. So it's a -- I guess the old adage is that just get over it. There's no privacy and never has been. And if you expect it, I think you're being naive.
NNAMDIWe're talking with The Computer Guys & Gal about privacy online. Are you spooked by the news that the NSA is tapping servers at companies like Google and Facebook? Does it give you second thoughts about what you do online? Give us a call, 800-433-8850, or send email to email@example.com. Send us a tweet, @kojoshow, using the #TechTuesday. Well, many people are wondering whether it's possible to evade the various systems set up to follow us online, or at least control what advertisers and governments can see about you.
NNAMDIFrom what I've seen, that's a pretty tough task to accomplish. For desktops, there's a program called Tor which allows you to anonymize your browsing, but there are some apps that will allow you to cover your tracks on the mobile Web. Allison, you flagged a mobile app that allows you to control the data that you share with retailers. Tell us about Sudo.
DRUINSudo, yeah, it's actually a free app that lets you share data about yourself and be explicit and make you in charge of what data you want to give to essentially to businesses. And so it asks you to build an ID, and then you -- and then what you do is you collect your social networks, your mobile devices, and you decide what you're going to give. And for each thing you give to a retailer, you get a special deal, and you actually get cash back.
DRUINAnd so, you know, to be honest with you, this may really be just an illusion that you actually have control, but it is really nice that somebody is doing -- making the illusion of it because it does suggest that, you know, we may all agree with, you know, President Obama's sentiment that, you know, that what -- that maybe it's really, you know, we need to make tough choices between privacy and security and so on.
DRUINBut, you know, it's really the frustration that everyone has, is that these decisions are being made for us, and it's not about that what we're doing -- now, even if it's an illusion, it's a nice illusion, and we sort of want that. But there really are four areas that you have to worry about in terms of your technologies for being -- for thinking about your -- essentially your identity online. You have to think about the phone. You have to think about your cloud storage. You have to think about your social networks, and you have to think about your Web history. That's a lot of footprint.
NNAMDIWhen you only used to have to think about the guy next door with the glass up to the wall.
NNAMDIAndrew Leonard, a tech writer at salon.com, wrote a favorable review of something called the Onion Browser, a mobile browser, similar apparently to the Tor project. It costs 99 cents. Is this the wave of the future?
HARLOWOh, I don't know. I mean, I think for some people it will be, but, I mean, the reality is that, when you're talking about security, you're -- or -- and privacy, you're talking about security versus privacy versus convenience. So you have to kind of weigh those three things. And I think for a lot of people convenience is pretty popular.
HARLOWSo -- and even for a similar thing, too, like, I don't even use a -- I don't use Onion on a mobile device, but I use a password keeper. And the way it works on an iPhone is you need to use the built-in browser, which feels a little different from Safari. Nine times out of 10, I'll just use mobile Safari 'cause it's way more convenient so...
GILROYWell, the risk is if you look at these secure networks or go tunnel in, go back and forth, so if I go from my company to Kojo's company, I may have a safe tunnel, and they can't, you know, observe that communication. But what about the other end? I mean...
GILROY...it's the endpoints. And so then I call Kojo on a cellphone. And all a sudden there may be a secure communication (technical) that telephone call. But still, the endpoint there is somebody can track his position. And then I call him from my cellphone, and then they can track my position. So you don't want to be too naive about this.
GILROYYeah. It's tunnel -- it's great. It's encrypted.
HARLOWIt's only as strong as the weakest link so...
HARLOW...if the person on the other end isn't taking safeguards, it doesn't do you a whole lot of good.
GILROYAnd all of a sudden, they see where Kojo is driving, and it's just -- they got you.
NNAMDIWell, what steps are you taking, if any, to improve the odds that your online interactions stay private? 800-433-8850. Does encryption help at all?
DRUINWell, that's important to think about, OK? The question is: Where is it being encrypted? Is it being encrypted on your computer, and then you're sending the encrypted information to another computer that only understands the encrypted stuff, OK? There's actually cloud storage called SpiderOak, and it's similar to Dropbox.
DRUINAnd that's what they do, OK, is that they're -- it's a point-to-point encryption, and supposedly, you have your, you know, your password that they don't even have. And so they can't figure that out. But to be honest with you, any company can be subpoenaed for what...
NNAMDIDropbox is one of the companies that supposedly participated in PRISM, that's my understanding.
DRUINExactly. They're next stepped for joining the fun. So, you know, that's the question is it may not even be about the content of your data. It may be about the tracking of your data. So when you -- when I know I'm sending something to John and he's a suspicious character -- I'm sure you're all shocked...
DRUIN...then they say, whoa, how many times is she sending something to John? So it's not even about the content, but they're tracking the paths.
NNAMDIWhich brings us to our caller, Joe in Takoma Park, Md. Joe, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOEHi. Thank you, Kojo. I guess I have the same point. They're not tracking content. They're tracking context, and the context is terrorist organizations. And so I don't understand why anyone is concerned about, you know, whether they're -- you know, whether we are being tracked in the context of our connections to terrorist organizations.
GILROYJoe, what if you're falsely accused?
JOEThen I would like to have those records. I would like those records to be available.
GILROYGood luck with that. And I can see...
JOEWell, you know, what I'm saying is the only thing that I could be accused of through this is contact with some terrorist network, and if so, the more clear the data is, the better.
DRUINWell, you could be -- you know, it's really interesting you talk about context because people are talking about context collapse, which means that basically because people are taking so many things out of context, people are reacting to Twitter tweets, you know, and suddenly, they're saying outrageous things and saying lock them up. And again, it's out of context, and so people don't know. And now, when this context collapses, so does security, and so does privacy.
NNAMDIWell, the -- what has been publicized is that what they're going after is metadata...
NNAMDI...and it's my understanding that the recent Future of Information Alliance discussion had to do both with metadata and datafication. So please explain.
DRUINWell, essentially, all of our data or all of our information has information about it, and so that's actually what I was just talking about when I was saying my information going to John, but it has more than just path information, OK? It can be about the number of people that I'm connected with, OK? So it can have the relationship data. It can also be timing of this data. It can be the kinds of platforms you're on and so on.
DRUINAnd then when you have something called big data and you can start to see it in a larger context, OK, then you could start seeing outliers, and you can start saying, whoa, John is doing something very different than the rest of the American public. And so that's why our data, you know, the rest of us is being tracked with crazy John because essentially crazy John interacts with us. And so they have these connections. And apparently, the government can go too deep or something like that?
HARLOWI don't know. But it's just – to me, it's just amazing what they can do when they collect all this data, like you said, with big data, and then, yeah, they're immediately building up this pattern. And they can, you know, see things that, you know, you think that, oh, it's only the content that matters. But, yeah, you're right. The stuff that you find out about how things are intertwined, you know, how they're time stamped and how the network is built gives them a lot of information without seeing a single word you say.
GILROYYeah, I deal with software developers all the time, and they talk about attributes when they write things.
GILROYAnd I think of metadata as, like, a communication attribute, a certain location, certain speed, certain connect. And they can be very, very accurate with conclusions they draw with just a few pieces of these attributes, three or four pieces with six degrees of separation. Maybe in this world, it's only three degrees of separation. They can pretty much say, well, geez, that was Allison in Silver Spring making a telephone call on Friday. I mean, it's not that hard to do.
NNAMDIHere is Dale in Falls Church, Va. Dale, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DALEYeah. How's it going, Kojo?
DALEGreat show, great topic and I love your show. I actually was calling to kind of make a point that most people on their day to -- on a day-to-day basis don't realize how much of their information they already share in the sense that, for example, when you go to a lot of retail stores now, they automatically at the register ask you for your phone number or you have on I'm checking in on Facebook here. So there's a lot of public tracking that people give up on their own without having these parsed information systems (unintelligible).
NNAMDIYeah. But isn't there a difference between voluntarily giving it up and having the government checking it for themselves for their own purposes?
DALEWell, I think there's a difference. But here's the rub in all of that is the pieces that you voluntarily give up, they don't -- they're actually a lot more useful in tracking you than what the government program does because it's a targeted system in the sense that you're metadata. You're not an actual physical being that's somewhere in real time, you know?
DALESo by the time this metadata actually gets tracked back to you -- if you're doing something criminal, I think that, first of all, you should be tracked. But at the same time, you on a day-to-day basis saying, hey, I'm here or a department store tracking your -- how many times you go here or there, I think that's a little...
GILROYDale, you're talking about data brokers, right?
GILROYData aggregators? Data brokers?
NNAMDIOK. Thank you very much for your call, Dale. Before we go to a break, let's hear from Karen in Washington, D.C. Karen, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KARENHey, Kojo. It seems too, that aside from having to protect my computer from viruses so it doesn't work, I'm not worried about my privacy because I'm not doing anything I shouldn't be doing. And if people want to hear me talking to my husband, what's for dinner tonight or how the kids did in school, the government really seem to have something, you know, better to do than that. And so I know that -- I mean, it's not a big deal if they hear that. I'm not doing anything I shouldn't be doing. And if this is tracking my computer, I could do ad blocks. But nothing really affects my life adversely so...
NNAMDIWell, there's one -- there's a difference between not doing anything you shouldn't be doing, not doing anything illegal and doing things that are related to terror.
NNAMDIIf somebody is in the closet and doesn't want the world to know and that person can be threatened by anybody who can access their information, and therefore they can be compromised if a spouse happens to be cheating on another spouse and that spouse happened to have a very important position or information that somebody wants, do you think somebody should be able to use that to blackmail that person because the person is doing something that, even though not illegal, is wrong?
KARENWell, I assume to believe it's not the government's position to blackmail people. They're just interested in terrorist activity. And hopefully, nobody else could have access to your computer to know what you're doing.
NNAMDIWell, you may not have heard of COINTELPRO and how the FBI tried to blackmail Dr. Martin Luther King for those very same reasons.
GILROYYes. Exactly. Well, they followed him.
DRUINIn fact, I just saw a quote on Slashdot that said, "I have nothing to hide needs to die." It was basically, was being a communist or a friend of a communist in a crime in the U.S. before the Red Scare real? You know, nope, but they came, and they destroyed a career. So the bottom line is, is how the information is used actually matters.
DRUINAnd so today, thankfully, we live in a country that hopefully what you're doing on a day-to-day basis, you know, telling your husband about food and, you know, and telling your kids to get off the Internet, that makes, you know, that hopefully that's pretty benign. But we don't know about how people can use that in weird ways that would be very detrimental. But, you know, but on the other hand, the Pew Research folk say 62 percent of Americans say it's OK to lose some personal privacy.
GILROYThat's this morning. I read it this morning, yeah.
DRUINYep, yep. But to fight terrorism, OK? So what do we know -- what is terrorism? And that's the question. So it's a really fascinating question.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, we'll be talking about all kinds of other stuff that the Computer Guys & Gal are interested in. We're going to be talking about gaming, about new products and appliances. So hang on. We'll be right back.
NNAMDIWelcome back. They're here, The Computer Guys & Gal. Allison Druin is chief futurist at the University of Maryland Division of Research and co-director of the Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland. John Gilroy is director of business development at Armature Corp. And Bill Harlow is a hardware and software technician from Macs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. Bill Harlow, let's take a look at some other privacy questions. Google Glass is not available yet, but it's on the way. Please first explain what Google Glass is and what it does.
HARLOWIt's basically a digital monocle built into a frame that you can put around your glasses, so you can -- it's a little heads-up display for your eyes, so you can actually see information from the Internet. You can record what you're seeing. You can do a lot with it. Essentially -- I don't know if people are familiar with -- I'm sure they are -- the book "Snow Crash" by Neal Stephenson.
HARLOWIt reminds me of this term they referred to people as Gargoyles. These were agents who actually had all sorts of recording devices on their person, and they could see almost everything. And essentially, this is a really cool piece of technology that a lot of early adopters or explorers, as Google calls them, are trying out to willfully become a Gargoyle.
HARLOWSo it raised a lot of questions as far as this always-on wearable computer that can record what you're seeing. You know, is that, how invasive is that? How uncomfortable people are going to feel if this, let's say, takes off and becomes something you see in your everyday life?
NNAMDIIn the context of this NSA story that we're talking about, there are potentially 800,000, you know, intelligence employees who could be walking around wearing Google Glass. Will the average person be able to tell immediately if you're wearing Google Glass?
HARLOWFor now, yeah, they're kind of bulky. It's kind of an obvious thing that looks like something out of "Star Trek." But, you know, technology tends to miniaturize, so how soon before you can build it into a pair of headphones, build into the frame of the glasses so they can be inconspicuous.
GILROYNow, Bill's idea is to go to Las Vegas and take a few dollars and...
HARLOWCan't do it though. Can't do it.
GILROYYeah, but he was -- he wasn't allowed to do it because Las Vegas says no Google Glass in our place.
NNAMDIBut Google Glass makes it easier than ever to video record people without their knowing. In some cases, you can activate the camera with a wink.
NNAMDISo what does that mean for privacy if someone close by is wearing Google Glass?
DRUINWell, you know, what's interesting about it is that people are actually comparing it to -- well, it's no different than your cellphone, you know? It's just you're able to do search, you're able to figure out the time, and...
HARLOWBut it goes in your pocket when you're done with it.
HARLOWIt couldn't stay on you since you're out there...
HARLOW...you know, potentially broadcasting.
DRUINThe real problem with it is you really can't tell very easily. Is the video on, is it off? Is the audio on, is it off? And then, you know, there were some people that were posting blogs about going on dates with this thing. And, I mean, you know it's interesting.
HARLOWI don't think Google Glass is compatible with dating.
HARLOWI think it's kind of a mutually exclusive here.
NNAMDIWell, people -- well, is John Gilroy being fresh when he is winking, or is he turning on the camera on his Google Glass?
GILROYRight, he's being fresh.
HARLOWNeither one is that acceptable to be honest.
NNAMDIProbably both. Some people have raised questions about whether Google Glass will include face recognition.
HARLOWIt's funny you mention that because someone's already developing that. So...
NNAMDIHow will that work?
DRUINGoogle -- OK. So Google is saying that, yes, if the camera sees you, they can do facial recognition comparison of a person's live face with something they have, you know, in terms of the digital image, OK? But here's the rub. They've actually announced that no facial recognition software is going to be approved or created until privacy protections are in place. Now, does that mean they already have...
HARLOWThat doesn't mean anything to me essentially.
GILROYMeans nothing today.
HARLOWI mean, some hackers can find so -- such easy ways to bypass what's built into the Google -- Android with the Play Store. Even on iOS devices, which are more locked down, people can very easily jailbreak those and do whatever they want.
GILROYWell, think about this. So next year, Kojo goes to Datapalooza V, and he's walking the hallways, and he's going, hey, Bill. Hi, Sally, and he sounds like he's the, you know, the smartest guy in the room because he's got Google -- I'd love to have that. That'd be great to have.
DRUINSee, and that...
NNAMDIBecause you'll never forget anybody's name again.
DRUINThat's right, but that's the balance. The trade-off is, do we want the features, the better automation, you know, and so on? And do we give up some of that privacy for that? And they're saying that the -- actually, younger generation is saying, there's no such thing as privacy. So who cares? And, in fact, actually, we saw this at the University of Maryland when we were starting to ask, should we go into the cloud for our email system for our undergraduates?
DRUINAnd we were very concerned about our students' privacy, and they had no problem. Let's go to Gmail. Let's go. So, you know, it's fascinating. It really is.
NNAMDIWell, yesterday, Apple unveiled its latest and greatest gadgets at the annual Worldwide Developers Conference. They included a new desktop computer that will be made in the USA, a new operating system with some different user interfaces and a new radio service called iTunes Radio, which is going to try to take on Pandora. What's most noteworthy here, Bill?
HARLOWWell, to me personally, I think that the redesign of iOS 7 for iPhones and the iPads is going to be a big deal because this is the first user interface that they've overhauled significantly since the iPhone first came out. So it's also the first time that Jony Ive, their industrial designer who's now heading up just the whole experience of using an Apple product, to really put a stamp on it.
HARLOWSo all the faux chrome, the faux wood, the faux leather, all that is stripped out of the interface. It's very flat and minimal looking. But they also really try to think about how it feels to use. So a lot of it is about, OK, I think everybody knows how to use an iPhone or an Android phone or smart phones at this point since the iPhone came out. So things don't look as buttony (sic) anymore. They just kind of are, and they can clean it up.
HARLOWThere's more screen real estate available to do what you want to do, more access to do things you want to do quicker. There's now a little control overlay you can slide up, so you can quickly do things like turn on and off Wi-Fi, turn on airplane mode, adjust brightness. They've got this really nice, soft layering effect for everything, so that rather than just having texture for the sake of texture, everything is thought about.
HARLOWSo things kind of maintain place in the depth access. So if you're navigating through different screens or different folders, it makes sense. OK, this is overlaying over something that's under this, and it's very subtle. It's one of those things where you really need to go Apple's website and check it out because you can just tell so much thought went into this.
HARLOWAnd the end result is something that seems, on the surface, quite simple. So to me, that's going to be huge. And the reason why it's going to be huge to me also is that it's going to be compatible with so many devices. I mean, unless you've got anything older than iPhone 4 or an original iPad, you can put this on pretty much any device that runs iOS now.
NNAMDIOver the last year or two, Apple has seen its dominance in the tech market gradually eroded by a number of companies, especially Samsung which has rolled out a series of popular smartphones and tablets. Does Apple need another big hit?
HARLOWOh, I don't know about that. I think they need to continue to release good products. I mean, it's nice to have a blockbuster product 'cause it gets us talking, and it's news. But at the end of the day, it's just -- is it something people actually want to use, and is it good? And I think that stuff that's flashy initially makes a good impression, but overall, it has to be something that's solid and works.
HARLOWAnd I think that's what people keep going back to, whether it's an iPhone or an Android device. I think it's telling that a lot of the popular Android devices aren't necessarily the flashiest ones. They're just good. A lot of people seem to like the Nexus which -- the Nexus 4, which isn't even the fastest device, but it's just got a good cohesive experience.
DRUINBut, you know, Apple is really good at changing -- at paradigm shifts, OK? And it has been in the past to, you know, to say, we're going, you know, we're going to move slightly to the left now. We're going to move slightly to the right.
HARLOWI kind of think that they do it on their schedule, too, not so much as a reaction of everybody else.
DRUINYeah. Yeah. But the challenge is that if you don't do something paradigm shifting enough, then people say, do I really need to upgrade? Do I really need to change to new phone?
HARLOWOr you do Windows 8, and it's such a big paradigm shift that has a huge backlash against it.
DRUINRight. So you have to have that sweet spot of change versus static.
NNAMDIWhy should I care if Apple has another big hit? I'm not an Apple shareholder. I don't have any skin in this game.
HARLOWWell, you should care about Apple getting involved in radio. What we see is that people are watching less television, not buying newspapers, but radio is still hanging in there. Google tried and failed. Yahoo tried and failed. And now our friends in Apple are trying to get in this radio game, and it's still popular. That's -- I love that part of the whole four minutes of games that you used to make.
NNAMDIOf course, Pandora's dominant in that regard. So it's going to be a real challenge for Apple.
HARLOWYeah, I feel bad because I'm a big fan of Pandora.
HARLOWAnd iTunes seems an awful lot like Pandora, like, a lot like Pandora, except it's going to baked into iOS 7 now. So, I mean, I pay for Pandora, you know, just so I could get it without ads and have unlimited access to it.
NNAMDII forgot. I'm supposed to say I am a fan of terrestrial radio.
HARLOWYes. Yes. Yes.
GILROYYeah. (unintelligible) I hit you with a chair in the lobby here, huh?
HARLOWI'm a fan of it all. Why limit yourself? Podcasts where you can get "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," for example, are excellent, too.
DRUINI like it. Yeah.
NNAMDITwo recent developments could change the face of gaming: the new Xbox One console and the new Halo game for mobile phones. We're looking for your calls. What's your preferred gaming device, and where do you think the world of gaming is headed? 800-433-8850. If the lines are busy, shoot us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or a tweet, @kojoshow. Bill, last month, Microsoft revealed the specs of the new Xbox One which the company plans to release by the end of the year. What makes this gaming console different from its predecessors and from the recently released PlayStation 4?
HARLOWYes. So they now set a while ago, and then E3 is happening this week where we're getting more details about it. So the big thing about the Xbox One, which is the successor to the Xbox 360, is the 360 introduced a lot of popular non-gaming applications, some social media, a lot of entertainment hubs like, you know, Pandora or Netflix or Hulu. And they're really pushing that on the Xbox One.
HARLOWSo they're trying to make it like the -- maybe that's where the one comes from -- the one device in your entertainment center. So, yeah, you can play games and it was kind of assumed. They didn't really cover that initially without announcement. But it's going to integrate with your TV. You can run your cable box into it and have the interface overlay with it.
HARLOWSo it's a unified experience, a unified program guide. I think they're trying to make it something that the whole family will use. I mean, it comes with a Kinect that's mandatory. You have to have it to use it. So voice control is going to be a big part of the experience. And a camera always sitting there watching you is part of the experience, too. So...
NNAMDIThis brings us back to the privacy issues.
HARLOWAlways on camera.
NNAMDISome people are worried about the privacy concern that this Kinect presents.
HARLOWWell, I've got to be honest with you. My personal opinion is that there's a lot of stuff that on the surface feels kind of consumer-unfriendly about it, the fact that it's kind of pricy -- that's 500 bucks as the initial price for it -- the fact that you have this camera that is more than just a camera and actually has a lot of interesting technologies like infrared and stereo capability, stereo 3-D so it can sense depth.
HARLOWAnd there's a very fascinating demo, but -- and it's cool. But it's also kind of scary. It can kind of detect your mood. It can look at your face and determine, are you happy, are you sad, are you indifferent, are you angry? It can see -- it can estimate your heart rate based on infrared. It can see just by your posture and how you're standing where you're exerting the most energy.
HARLOWAnd the other thing that kind of bugs me, too, in addition to having this always-on camera is that they're changing the way people buy games to ownership. The classic go in, buy a disc, and you own it, when you're done with it, lend it, give it away, sell it -- that's going away. Everything's a license, even if you buy a physical disc.
HARLOWYou activate it, and it's yours. And there's still a lot of big questions about, well, can you sell this? Can you resell this? Can you give it away? And it's a resounding maybe, and it's -- a lot of it is dependent on how publishers choose to enable these features. And to me, that's going to cause a lot of confusion and possibly resentment.
NNAMDISome say the boxed video game is not a relic. Thanks to a new paradigm for video games, leasing rather than owning them. The trend is to pay a monthly fee to use the game rather than making a one-time purchase of a boxed disc. What are the pros and cons for gamers, and what's their reaction so far?
HARLOWA lot of negative reaction from the social media, but it doesn't necessarily mean that's what the general public feels. I mean, a lot of people buy stuff on iTunes. Steam is a very popular way to buy games on PCs and that's very restrictive, too. So that could be the way -- I don't like it, but it could be the wave of the future.
NNAMDIHere is Daniel. We got a Tweet from (word?), "Did you guys miss the Sony PlayStation 4 event last night? You should be talking about how that destroyed Xbox." And now here is Daniel in...
HARLOWGive us a second. Wow.
NNAMDIHere's Daniel. Daniel, your turn.
DANIELI didn't quite use the word destroyed, but it's pretty close to it, especially on the kind of draconian authentication codes that Xbox seems to want or, sorry, Microsoft seems to want for trading games. I guess what -- rather than kind of go into detail on the PS 4 and the fact that it's $100 cheaper, it looks like it has better processing, it looks better, frankly...
NNAMDIIt's on, baby.
DANIELIt is. But the thing that I wanted to stop on, though, 'cause you raised a really good point, which is, is the market headed towards sort of an apathy towards the idea of being able to resell or share games? I actually would argue that, you know, with the advent of the cloud and everything that's gone into -- you know, everything really from -- or, I mean, when I was younger, it was piracy, and it was Napster and everything else.
DANIELThe trend continues to be accessibility and sharing. And so I think the argument that Microsoft is going to be able to -- not to make them sound evil, but to kind of get away with the idea of limiting purchases to one person,, I think, is really going to be summarily rejected. It just doesn't seem to be where the trend is going with younger people who are continuing to buy consoles. And, by the way, a $500 tag for a console is pretty cost-prohibitive for the younger demographic, which has generally been the biggest purchasers of video games.
NNAMDINot to mention this tweet from Darrell: "Why is Microsoft sticking it to me again by not playing historic Xbox games on this new machine?" Bill Harlow.
HARLOWWell, not yet. I expect you'll see reissues, but I'm -- there's always a design cost to making something backward-compatible with everything. So I kind of get where they're coming from. The device is essentially eight years old now, so I can see why they're not offering them anymore. The big thing to me is I think it'll be interesting to see if the PS 4 is going to take off because it is so not -- unrestrictive. I mean, it's not going to be region-locked.
HARLOWYou'll be able to buy a game and just run it off the disc. And the other thing, I'm curious, too, is I bring back Steam for the PCs. One of the things that makes it popular is it seems so un-intrusive, and they're running sales all the time. And I think that if you're going to have this much in the way of consumer restrictions, you really need to start offering more than just this is the way it is.
HARLOWAnd right now that seems to be the case with Xbox One. Maybe things will change when the console comes out. Right now, they're still saying that all these terms are subject to change and can be changed at any time. So we'll see.
NNAMDIWell, before we take a break, under this new paradigm for online games, Microsoft has been getting criticism for requiring online verification every 24 hours to play its games. That leads back to concerns about privacy and what Microsoft is doing with that information.
HARLOWI have no idea, but I'm sure that piracy is a concern, although in the case of consoles, I'm not sure how widespread that truly is. And I guarantee that they're tracking your habits when you're on the console. They know what you're playing. They know what apps you're running, what you're watching within those apps, I'm sure.
HARLOWThe fact that on the existing Xbox 360 you can determine whether you've been sharing information with other people in your friends list means that, yeah, they must have access to it. So it could be benign, but it's one -- another data point that you have to be concerned about. You know, are you willing to share this as well?
DRUINYou know, when my husband gets on his Netflix, he gets very frustrated because Netflix always suggests to him movies that he should be watching. And they're all the kid movies, and he's going, I don't -- this thing totally doesn't work for multiple people. And so because the kids are all about...
HARLOWHe's not a Dora fan, is what you're saying.
DRUINNo, he's really not. And that's the problem with some of these things that are not "supposed to be shared." We really need family technology that people get, that this is all about multiple people.
HARLOWIt just -- these recommendations, it just makes you think, you know, with all this metadata that might be harvested, how much of it is just flat-out wrong, you know?
DRUINYeah. Yeah, exactly. No. And, you know, and with kids, you know, they use it twice, and they go, all right, well, I'm done with that. It's time to download another thing. And so...
DRUIN...I actually do think...
HARLOWNetflix has some things for 30 seconds or less.
DRUINThat's right. And so I actually think Microsoft -- strangely enough I'm saying this -- Microsoft has it right because I actually do think that licensing it for a short period of time is probably all that's necessary given the attention span of consumers.
HARLOWBut is it going to be cheaper, or is it still a $60 game? That's the big question.
DRUINOh, and that's the big question. I agree with you.
GILROYDid you say the word collection agent? Is that what the phrase you used?
GILROYWell, I sure heard it. I put the other three letters in front of it.
HARLOWDon't bring your anxieties into this.
DRUINYeah, yeah. Really, please, John.
NNAMDIIf at your house you're watching both "Thomas the Tank Engine," and Ken Burns' "Civil War," they might want to know exactly, who the heck is this person?
DRUINA totally psychotic guy.
NNAMDIWe're going to be taking a short break. When we come back, more of the Computer Guys & Gal and your phone calls, 800-433-8850. When we come back, we'll be talking about social media, social media in the news. As always, Yahoo is buying Tumblr, a blogging platform. Some people say Twitter is becoming too powerful in the marketplace of ideas. What social media do you use most? Is Tumblr a good buy for Yahoo? 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. The Computer Guys & Gal are here: Bill Harlow, John Gilroy and Allison Druin. We're taking your calls at 800-433-8850, email to email@example.com. We got this email from Andy, identifying links to encrypted and pro-privacy software that he uses and encourages others to use. It includes Electronic Frontier Foundation's PRISM Break project, PRISM,, as in P-R-I-S-M, Break project.
NNAMDIIt's prism-break.org, a compilation of privacy forward software. He also flags the Tor project which we discussed, an encrypted chat program that is crypto.cat. He also flagged encrypted email at gpg4win.org. All suggestions from Andy. Allison, let's talk about the power of Twitter to call people out and even bring them down for perceived verbal blunders or political incorrectness. What are some examples, and what do you say -- what do those examples say about the way Twitter has evolved?
DRUINWell, it's a bit of the pack mentality is what's going on there. You know, you...
HARLOWUnleash the hounds, exactly.
DRUINYeah. Well, you have your lone wolves, and you have your activists, OK, for communities, all right? And they're really shoot, you know, shoot-fire-and-ask-later kind of folks, OK?
DRUINAnd it is -- goes back to this context collapse where, you know, somebody says something that made sense in a conference, pull it out on Twitter and they sound like, you know, they're racist, or they're, you know, against all, you know, Republicans. What was -- "The Daily Show" co-creator tweeted: This tornado is in Oklahoma, so clearly it's been ordered to only target conservatives, you know? So that's, you know -- and she actually had...
GILROYIt's pretty funny to me.
DRUINI mean, that's pretty funny.
DRUINBut -- yeah. No, you're not allowed to laugh, guys.
DRUINBut, you know, in this town, you know, it totally makes sense to say that, OK? We're inside the Beltway. But she actually apologized on Twitter for that comment. So, you know, the bottom line is that, you know, Twitter is now a social, you know, a social marketplace for ideas. And some people are very concerned that actually it's become so socially correct, if you will, politically correct, that you have to either apologize all the time, or it's getting boring, or, you know, or it's going to be -- you know, it's not going to be the next great place anymore. So it's hard to say, but I tell you, it's...
HARLOWThat's an uphill battle, though...
HARLOW...moderating Twitter. I mean, I can't imagine that's putting a serious dent on how people act there. I mean...
NNAMDIIt's got to be a fundamental conflict between shooting from the hip, which is what Twitter is...
NNAMDI...saying something that pops into your head and looking for thoughtful, sensitive comments.
HARLOWIt's also know your context, too. You wouldn't shoot from the hip on Twitter. But you know a lot of successful comedians who, you know, could do that and get away with it. So, you know, you got to know your role.
DRUINIt's absolutely about context, and that's the thing. And now Twitter is not one of the ones that went with Prism.
GILROYI was going to say that, not one of the big nine.
DRUINThat's right. And so, you know, and so they actually are proud of the fact that they, you know, they haven't gone with the government. They've been always fighting any of the government requests for more data. So...
HARLOWMaybe there is one guy there who's like, what, are we not big enough for you guys?
NNAMDII was about to say, the Pew Research Center says 84 percent of adults who use the Internet do not use Twitter.
NNAMDISo there are lot of people on the sidelines, and maybe that's why they're not one of the big nine, so to speak.
DRUINIt could be. I mean, I think the other thing, too, is that they're looking at Twitter at the -- as the sort of social frontier kind of thing. And that it is a lot easier to analyze without actually going into the treasure troves of Twitter because, you know, it's a lot public here folks.
NNAMDITalk about the ways young people are using photo sharing sites, like Instagram and SnapShot, taking pictures of themselves called selfies and posting them on these social networks. Some of the photos are basically, well, X-rated. What's going on there?
DRUINYeah. Well, you know, kids figured out, you can go to Instagram and -- OK, cover the radio for anybody that's -- you can go to Instagram, and they don't ask your age like they do at Facebook, OK. I mean, granted, anybody can put in your age as 49, and then you can get on Facebook, OK.
GILROYThat's what I used.
DRUINYeah. I'm sure. You're not 49, though. Anyway, but Instagram is the new hot place for kids, and especially for tweens and teens. And they are doing crazy things like having beauty contests on Instagram. They're essentially -- it's a place to post pictures, and it's a place to see comments from other people. And they do likes and so on. And -- but, unfortunately, one, let's face it folks, this stuff follows you.
DRUINAnd so you got to teach your kids, you really, really have to be careful about what you post in Instagram. You also, you know, you also have to think about how socially correct are kids with other kids' photos, and it can hurt. And so some parents have realized there's bullying going on, and they didn't even realize it.
HARLOWReally drives home your point about the younger generation not caring about privacy if they're going to put whatever they want on Instagram.
DRUINOh, that's sad.
GILROYYou know, in my generation, we had to learn about the birds and the bees. This generation has got to learn about the bits and the bytes.
HARLOWThey're teaching us about the birds and the bees.
HARLOWThey have to combine them and say, look, this is what's acceptable. And I think maybe in a physical situation, you never push some around, but it may be possible taking a photograph of someone and saying, hey, look at Kojo. He can't hit a baseball. And they offend him and (unintelligible).
NNAMDIWell, what makes it so contradictory is that apparently the Pew poll -- I'm not sure it's the Pew poll -- but the poll on how people felt about the NSA doing the tracking, more young people objected to it than anyone else. So if, on the one hand, you're seeing young people...
NNAMDI...don't seem to care about their privacy, but on other hand they care about the government invading their privacy.
DRUINThat's right. It's all about when they can...
HARLOWLike volunteering it.
DRUIN...so-call volunteer it, but they don't understand. It's like a tattoo. Guess what? It doesn't really go away without hurting. And so you really have to remember, if you put it on, you know, when you're 13, it's still going to be there later on.
NNAMDIThink tattoo, think John Gilroy. Here's Ilhan (sp?) ...
NNAMDI...in Silver Spring, Md. They don't go away without hurting. Ilhan, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ILHANHi. I'm the mother of four sons, all involved in the Internet high-tech industry. And last night, they were up in arms about the icons and the new iOS8, I think, is what the iPhone -- the new iPhone is called. And they were telling me that some features are beautiful. And they showed me the parallax features and how you can kind of see underneath the layers. It's really beautiful, but the icons were so flat.
ILHANAnd then they proceeded to show me that all over the Web, people were posting icons that were much better, you know, much more pleasing, much more artistic, aesthetically beautiful. And they said the original designer who had come out against this and Apple, you know, he said, just don't do this, this is really ugly. They fired him, and they continued to have these flat icons. So I was wondering what your panel thought about them.
NNAMDIiOS7 is what we're talking about.
HARLOWYeah, yeah. I mean, I think I, initially, am in agreement. I think these icons look like a regression 'cause the others ones were just so intricate in detail. But they don't bother me that much. I'm not up in arms about it. My arm is only about -- I don't know -- elbow height.
GILROYThey're not arms.
DRUINYou know, the thing...
DRUIN...about design -- your elbow -- the thing about design is that you do have to continually rethink...
DRUIN...what does it mean? And the question is, what were they're trying to say with this? And, you know, some people are suggesting that they're trying to say, look, we're not pretending to be anything else but being an icon.
HARLOWExactly. And that's Jony Ives', you know, take on so much -- keep it elemental. And the other thing, too, is that they spent a lot of time going with the cohesive look. And maybe that's why it's so flat and clean and colorful early on because they want to make sure they're using a consistent color family, a consistent grid, a consistent look, so that you can tell all these icons were made by one company, and they all are part of a family.
HARLOWAnd it extends into the apps themselves as far as the color choices and the interface. So I think from that standpoint, it's very successful, and maybe with time, we'll learn to appreciate that.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Ilhan. Let's talk about new apps for a second. What new app have you discovered that you just can't live without? John Gilroy, what's your nominee for app of the month?
GILROYI think this is the best app ever. This is for guilty pet owners. And they want to see if their little dog is getting any exercise. You can -- I hate to say this -- get an app that'll measure your dog's fitness. I know some people that uses Fitbit, and they can count the number of steps they do every day and how they're sitting at work, going, oh, I wonder what Fluffy is doing.
GILROYAnd so they can put an app on their dog and track it during the day. And guess what they could do? They can aggregate that data, and they're going to say, oh, your dog Fluffy should have more exercise, less exercise. It's just that it's to the point -- what my son called -- he called a first-world problem.
GILROYAnd that's what he called it.
NNAMDIBut what of Fluffy's privacy?
DRUINReally. If that dog gets a load of what that aggregated information is...
GILROYWow. What kind of...
NNAMDIIt feels like I'm on my own here today, OK?
GILROYDid Fluffy sign a statement?
NNAMDINobody is watching me.
NNAMDIOnly to discover that somebody is watching me.
HARLOWWell, if Fluffy bothered to read the terms of service when...
GILROYRight. They should have read that carefully...
HARLOW…he was adopted, then it wouldn't have been a problem.
GILROY...and put a paw on that and agreed to that.
HARLOWExactly, exactly. (unintelligible).
NNAMDIAllison, what new app have you discovered?
DRUINWell, you know, I actually -- there's a combination of different apps. And an app that I actually had discovered was Sudo, OK? And I was playing around with it, and I started feeling like I was sort of -- I don't know -- I was swapping. It was -- I was at a swap meet.
DRUINAnd it felt a little too personal. So I, like -- so that was my app that I discovered. So I have to say that even though I just told you about Sudo as, you know, owning it and giving it, I don't actually like giving away that much information. So I wasn't making that much money. It was useless anyway. So that was my app.
NNAMDIBill Harlow, what's your favorite new app?
HARLOWIt's an app for the iPhone called iExit. And it's great for road trips. So if you're going along in the interstate, and it's like, man, I am really peckish here, is there anything good to eat? You pull it up, and it shows -- organized by exit. And you can also search through,, and they'll...
GILROYThat's not a bad one. I think I like that a lot.
GILROYWhat's it called?
HARLOWYeah. So you can -- if you're looking for, let's say, like a Chinese place, a vegetarian place, you know, how far do you have to go for it? You can kind of say, well, you know what? This one's three miles away. I'll settle for that. I'm not going to drive another 20 for something really amazing.
NNAMDIiExit, that's the name of his favorite app. We are going to allow Anne in Alexandria, Va., to have the last word or question today. Anne, you're on the air. You only have about 30 seconds, though.
ANNEOh, I can do that. Kojo, you're the best. Guys, I really love to listen to you. My question is...
ANNE...you guys talked about the anti-virus on the cellphone. I'll hang up. Would you go more into that for a second?
NNAMDIAnti-virus on cellphones.
GILROYRight, the least to your concerns.
GILROYI think McAfee, the old -- most major vendors have Symantec has this.
HARLOWYeah. I mean, there are a bunch out there for the Android platform. Haven't seen much in the way of anything like that for iPhones, and I haven't really heard much in the way of any widespread attack to it.
GILROYIt almost seems innocuous now -- get a virus, oh good, at least you know.
DRUINAt least it's only a virus.
NNAMDIGood luck. Bill Harlow is hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. Bill, thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIAllison Druin is chief futurist at the University of Maryland Division of Research and co-director of the Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland. Allison, thank you for joining us.
DRUINIt was fun.
NNAMDIAnd John Gilroy is the director of business development at Armature Corp. You are wearing your Armature shirt today.
GILROYBon appétit is what I say.
NNAMDIWhy do you say that?
GILROYI guess it's funny. I want to talk about this restaurant in town. We'll do it next month.
NNAMDIThank you, too, for joining us.
NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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