Terms of Service; Didn’t read

14 08 2012

I’ve often and loudly complained about the bizarre nature of EULAs (End User License Agreements) and ToS (Terms of Service). For each and every service and program we use on the web or on the desktop, we’re basically signing an unread contract stating what liberties we’re offering to the service provider or what they can ask of us in return. I would venture to guess that 99% of the time, the EULA is completely skipped by the user. This is of course in part because the user doesn’t have the time or legal knowledge required to read a full EULA for each service he/she wants to use. However, removing EULAs isn’t an option either since companies needs to be able to control their service. What to do?

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A suggestion I presented a few years ago to a friend was to only allow EULAs to claim five to ten visual icons and up to 500 characters of text. The visual icons would in a creative commons style inform the user in what way his information/content would be used and what kind of behavior would be expected from the user. In this way, the user would be able to quickly grasp what the service agreement entailed, and the service provider would have his ass covered.

The people that are actually doing something

In recent news, the site “Terms of Service; Didn’t Read” has started an effort to keep EULA authors in check. Instead of imposing their system on the EULA authors, they keep their own record and rating of each popular web service.

Each positive and negative trait is given a weight to determine the services final rating (A to F). A trait can weigh between 5 and 100 points.

For instance, Facebook.com has three positive additions/exclusions in their EULA which add up to 45 “positive points”. However, Facebook’s EULA inclusion which allows them unfettered access to ALL your content has a negative weight of 90(!). Although Facebook is currently unrated at ToSDR, I have a feeling the end result won’t be very good.

Site HERE

Thanks to IDG

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Rogue machine punishing human masters

6 08 2012

On the topic of humans using computers to perform extraordinary tasks. I read about a rogue computer rebelling against his human masters and kicking them where it hurts the most; right in the wallet. According to the New York Times, a group of High Frequency Trading (HFT) machines went out of control yesterday.

high-frequency-trading

High Frequency Trading (HFT) has become popular the last few years. By using statistical analysis and market prediction, the HFT-machines are able to predict (with a margin of error) which stocks are worth buying, and which should be sold for a profit. The HFT-machines can make thousands of trades each minute, some are kept for a few hours, some for only a few seconds. Based on computer algorithms, the value of the trade is determined and either kept or discarded. At the end of the day, there are no stocks kept, only the profits remain.

High Frequency TradingThe trading group Knight Capital lost $440.000.000 (that’s over three billion SEK) in about 45 minutes. Due to a glitch in a software patch, the machines suddenly felt an urge to kill all humans purchase bad stocks such as RadioShack, Ford and American Airlines. When the error was discovered, it was already too late.

I think that the take-away from this is twofold. First, check your damned code (seriously)! Secondly, at the rate we’re developing as a technocratic society, I really can’t see any other future than one where machines one day (say 200 years from now) glitch up and starts killing all the humans. 10.000.000.000 dead in 45 minutes. 

Maybe we should take a breather and ask ourselves: is this the way we want to go? Is technological advancement always beneficial? What do we wish future generations to endure because of our constant hunger for progress?

 

Kill all humans





Björk, the mad scientist of alt-pop

6 08 2012

Yesterday, my wife and I went to see one of our all time favorite artists in concert for the first time. Björk, the mad scientist of alternative pop visited Stockholm for the first time in what feels like forever. At the end of a concert which felt like a mix of music and sensory assault, we learned that many of the instruments which the band uses are actually custom coded applications. On top of this, Björk’s latest album Biophilia was released both as a regular CD and as an interactive application. I find it interesting that computers are becoming such a large part of some of the music we experience.

At one point during the concert, one of the band members were strumming four tablets as though they were harps. The same band member also controlled two giant tesla coils which Björk used to create a unique sound.

I wonder where we go from here. Most concert performances are certainly controlled by computers by now, but Björk also uses programming to create something unique that couldn’t have been done without a computer. I’d like to see what else we can do.

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What I want for Christmas

8 09 2011

Just saw an awesome preview of Sony’s latest tech. An awesome looking 3D visor which gives the viewer the experience of a 750” screen (omg!).

This is all I want for Christmas (plus a box of bluray 3D pornos).

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