Things that caught our eye

The Perils of the New Connectivity…Or How iPhones Can Kill

5 Feb, 2015   | by:

Being currently at the Oxford Internet Institute, I have access to a wide range of great talks by scholars researching the Internet (in fact, there are almost too many events to attend!). On Monday and yesterday two talks touched upon the negative and exploitative aspects of the Internet and its connective culture.

The first talk by Gina Neff focused on venture labor, a concept that Neff introduced in her seminal study “Venture Labor”. It connected Neff’s work on high-tech workers in the “Silicon Alley” of the late 1990s to current developlements related to micro-labor, such as click farms in Bangladesh, low cost transcription services in the Philippines or Mechanical Turk workers and Uber drivers all over the world. Interesting parallels between the venture labor of the late 1990s and micro-work today were revealed in the narratives of the workers themselves. Many of them seem to see their employment as an entrepreneurial investment – a view that is also imposed on them from the outside via government policies and initiatives.

The second talk featured Jenny Chan, a lecturer at the University of Oxford’s “School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies”. She presented an impressive long-range ethnographic study about the terrible working conditions of Foxconn employees manufacturing iPhones and iPads in South China. Her talk took the suicides in 2010 as the starting point and showed how these workers are actually “Dying for an iPhone”.

Both talks highlighted that behind the shiny facade of newness, innovation and progress connected with the Internet many people pay a heavy price, are suffering.. or even dying.

Stay tuned for more updates from the OII!

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Things that caught our eye

When Facebook and Apple freeze your eggs – Listen up Ladies!

15 Oct, 2014   | by:

This may be an unusal news post from our side, but I am fascinated and shocked about the new perks Facebook and Apple are willing to offer women. Because Silicon Valley has come up with an idea to encourage women who pursue their careers and also want to have children. According to a Swiss Newspaper Facebook and Apple are now willing to offer highly qualified academic women incentives – meaning money – to freeze their eggs in order to keep on working. Women are no longer under the pressure to have a baby before they are 40 and can pursue a fruitful and long career in these two companies. Apparently, women have been doing this for a while in the U.S. NBC News says that these two companies are most likely the first to offer this kind of coverage for non-medical reasons. Brigitte Adams, founder of the patient forum, said:

“Having a high-powered career and children is still a very hard thing to do.”

“By offering this benefit, companies are investing in women and supporting them in carving out the lives they want.”

Even though I myself believe in women being able to have a great career while at the same time having children, I am not quite sure what kind of message this offer is sending us. It seems like these perks are just another sign from the corporate world telling women that a career and children are two incompatible wishes unless you freeze your eggs – thus postponing actually having children at an early stage in your “work-life”. So women of the world or at least of Silicon Valley (for now) listen up: You can have children, just not straight away!

Enjoy the full story “Perk Up: Facebook and Apple Now Pay for Women to Freeze Eggs” here.

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Things that caught our eye

Apple states iOS 8 Update Keeps Your Data Private (Except iCloud-Data)

18 Sep, 2014   | by:

The New York Times this morning reported that Apple, perhaps in wake of the celebrity photo leak, it has increased the security measures in time for the launch of its newest iOS.

In relation to Government Information Requests Apple states on its page that (emphasis added):

On devices running iOS 8, your personal data such as photos, messages (including attachments), email, contacts, call history, iTunes content, notes, and reminders is placed under the protection of your passcode. Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data. So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.

However, there is one big caveat, which the NYTimes noted. If you want matters to be private, then you should not use iCloud services, because:

[t]he new security in iOS 8 protects information stored on the device itself, but not data stored on Apple’s cloud service. So Apple will still be able to hand over some customer information stored on iCloud in response to government requests.

This is interesting, because with launching iOS 8, these iOS devices heavily rely on you also enabling your iCloud account and storing as much information as possible on there. Many of the native apps on iOS are adept to this iCloud backup/storage and also many third-party apps. To again take the example of the leaked photos of celebrities recently, those were not from the devices themselves, but taken, most likely, from iCloud storage. Future incidents like this are not solved by making access to phones themselves more difficult, but perhaps might benefit from the newly introduced ‘two-step-verificiation‘ .

Thus, it might be a step in the right direction, but it in no way means that your data is private, especially when using iCloud. However, it does boost privacy for those instances in which law enforcement are allowed to access ones phone, as they will now have access to encrypted, and hence virtually useless, data (when it comes to messages and FaceTime. When it comes to the US, the June 25, 2014 decision of the Supreme Court in Riley v. California (PDF) has shown that for law enforcement to ‘search’ a phone the bar has been set much higher now.

Apple Says iOS 8 Update Keeps Data Private, Even From the Police –


Things that caught our eye

Apple forces the U2 album on everyone with an iPhone or iPad

11 Sep, 2014   | by:

For those with an i-device, they should be able to see that new U2 album that was released on the same day as the iPhone event by Apple (9 September 2014). Without your explicit permission, the album features in your Music app.

We have seen questions on Google having to delete things off of your phone remotely, (see for a recent example the Brazilian Court who ordered the remote removal of the app ‘Secret’ from the Google Play Store and phones), but this is a first, to my knowledge, of having a company add something like this remotely to ‘your music library’.

Apple Just Uploaded A U2 Album To Your iPhone And iPad — And Seriously, WTF | TechCrunch.

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