What are your thoughts on surveillance?


July 22, 2019

Today, Neumann leaves analysts scratching their heads and visions of ‘smart diapers’ dance in parent heads. But first…
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Kazakhstan’s internet crackdown shows the world wide web is becoming less worldwide

Last week, the government of Kazakhstan began intercepting all internet traffic inside the country’s borders.

But Kazakhstan is just one of several countries that’s unplugging local internet from a global grid, which raises questions about the future of the open internet. 

How — and why — is Kazakhstan’s government doing this?

Kazakhstan’s law requires internet service providers to make users install government-issued certificates on their internet-connected devices, which enables the government to intercept any user’s secure HTTPS browsing.

The government told ZDNet the law is “aimed at enhancing the protection of citizens, government bodies and private companies from hacker attacks, Internet fraudsters and other types of cyber threats.”

Critics argue the law’s simply about state surveillance

Kazakhstan, which is known for a laundry list of human rights violations, tried to implement privacy-invasive HTTPS interception in 2015 but got shot down by lawsuits from internet providers and foreign governments.

But the second strong arm was the charm, and now Kazakhstan’s government can monitor pretty much anything its citizens see online.

And other countries also want to own their internets

Russia, Kazakhstan’s neighbor to the north, is also working on putting up a Silicon Curtain by building its own internet, “Runet.”

But internet instigation isn’t limited to the former Soviet bloc: 22 state governments across Africa have purposely disrupted internet access for political purposes in just the last 5 years, and China has used a firewall to block certain sites for years.

In the meantime, big browser builders like Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla are debating how to deal with Kazakhstan’s crackdown.

The Kazakh-Wide Web
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WeWork co-founder cashes out over $700m

Adam Neumann, the surfer-haired, spiritually-minded CEO of WeWork, has cashed out more than $700m ahead of the workspace sharing juggernaut’s IPO through a bevy of stock sales and debt.

This has left some analysts scratching their heads, as startup founders generally wait to hit public markets before turning those holdings into sweet liquid.

A man on a mission

Since WeWork was founded 9 years ago, Neumann has invested largely in real estate ($80m for 5 homes). His other investments include commercial properties and stakes in startups, including a medical cannabis company. 

Some worry the cashout will reflect poorly on WeWork’s IPO, raising questions of Neuman’s confidence in the company.

But, on the contrary…

According to the The Wall Street Journal, Neumann, who’s still WeWork’s single largest shareholder, has made it a habit to sell and borrow against some of his holdings in nearly every investment round since 2014.

People close to Neumann argue that borrowing against his WeWork shares indicates that he’s more than optimistic of the company’s future.

Maybe he was just low on cash and needed a pair of hiking sandals?

» WeCash
This one’s for all the people out there who prefer absorbing stories through your ear-holes instead of your eyeballs. Click on a podcast episode below to start listening.

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The Memory Palace
Ben Franklin Death Ray
The coolest thing about Ben Franklin wasn’t that he invented bifocals, or flew the kite, or charted the jet stream, or invented a urine catheter — it was the reputation for sorcery he had garnered from countries in Europe.

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The End of the World With Josh Clark
Fermi Paradox
Isn’t it strange that, as old and large as the universe is, we seem to be the only intelligent life? Josh Clark discusses the Fermi paradox, what it says about humanity’s place in the universe, and a question for the ages: “Where is everybody?”

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Hidden Brain
Our Better Nature: How The Great Outdoors Can Improve Your Life
This episode of Hidden Brain explores just how important it is for urban dwellers to be exposed to the outdoors, not just for personal happiness, but to create a better and more connected world.

Pampers gets into ‘wearables’ in the only way Pampers knows how

The age of the smart diaper has arrived, with Pampers finally jumping into wearable devices with a new “connected care system” called Lumi that tracks babies’ activity.

The diaper comes with a sensor that alerts parents via an app notification when a diaper is wet, but — to borrow the words of a store owner I once met during an emergency in Ensenada — they’re “just pee pee, no ca-ca.” 

It also sends information on the baby’s sleep schedule and allows parents to track feeding times.

Is this how babies become geniuses?

Connected tech promises more efficient homes, and this announcement from Pampers (which is part of Procter ampersand Gamble) suggests that “baby tech” will be a part of the boom.

And it ain’t just undies: Baby tech offers connected bassinets, smart night lights and pacifiers, and even apps to ape the sound of a parent saying, “shush” — the future of adult emotional triggers, ladies and gentlemen.

Research and Markets predicts the interactive baby monitor market alone will reach more than $2.5B by 2024.

Let the diaper wars begin

Huggies led the way into the smart diaper industry, and now, as Pampers gears up, the war to see who can best surveil babies has officially left the docks.

» Bet your bottom dollar

The Area 51 raid may have been made up, but the marketing opportunity was real

Over the past few weeks, more than 1.8m RSVP’d to an event called “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us” on Facebook that was scheduled for this past weekend.

The made-up event generated lots of hype but didn’t result in any intergalactic incidents (although the Air Force did remind people to stay away from the fabled facility).

But it wasn’t a joke for advertisers

Instead, it was an out-of-this-world opportunity for brands to cash in on the valuable social momentum of a viral phenomenon. 

And cash in they did: Lego launched an alien-themed ad campaign; Bud Light created an Area 51 Special Edition can and vowed to put it into production if it got 51k retweets (it got to 38k); and the usual suspects like Wendy’s, Burger King, and DiGiorno got involved.

Viral moments are worth their weight in memes

In our economy of influence, anyone who promotes brands — corporate or personal — practically has a responsibility to chime in on viral moments like the Area 51 raid to expand “reach.” 

That’s why Lil Nas X immediately made an animated Area 51-themed music video, The Washington Post ran a hype-othetical piece about what the raid might look like, and mysterious merch accounts popped up like crop circles to sell Area 51 T-shirts.

» “Take me to your marketer”
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