Predator Drone Ambience

CBP Releases Video From Predator Drone Deployed Over George Floyd Protests:

Shortly after the Minneapolis police killing [ murder -- fixed that for you ] of George Floyd last year, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) flew a Predator drone over the city in an effort to surveil the ongoing protests against police brutality occurring there. The drone, which took off from Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota and flew in a holding pattern over protests for approximately 90 minutes, recorded video from a height of 20,000 feet. Now, thanks to a recent Freedom of Information Request, you can watch that video. [...]

Despite these claims, the CBP has repeatedly been found engaging in this kind of surveillance -- even apparently using Predators to surveil indigenous pipeline activists at their homes on multiple occasions. An investigation found that the Department of Homeland Security (the parent agency for CBP) deployed aerial surveillance in 15 different U.S. cities to watch protesters amidst last year's violent and chaotic nationwide protests.

The video is strangely soothing, though.

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Scene missing! A video in this post has disappeared. If you know of an accessible version of this video, please mail me so that I can update this post.
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Apple Pay and Google Pay

Dear Lazyweb, is there a way of determining whether Apple Pay and Google Pay are actually in use? As opposed to, "it is theoretically possible for the user to sign up for this service."

I would like my checkout page to default to them if the customer actualy uses them, but not otherwise. Defaulting to an Apple/Google Pay button when it's not set up is a dark pattern that they are using to try and enlist me into advertising their service to non-users.

Apple Pay: This snippet gives a "yes" response if you are using iOS, or if you are using Safari on desktop, regardless of whether you have given Apple your credit card:

if (window.ApplePaySession && ApplePaySession.canMakePayments()) {
  var promise = ApplePaySession.canMakePaymentsWithActiveCard(...);
  promise.then (function (canMakePayments) { ... }); // Yes or No
} else {
  // No

Google Pay: This snippet gives a "yes" in every browser, even if you are not logged in to Google at all, let alone have given them your credit card:

goog = new google.payments.api.PaymentsClient ({ ... });
goog.isReadyToPay ({ ... }).then (function(response) {
  if (response.result) ... // Yes
  else ... // No

This is some strange definition of "is ready to pay" that could more accurately be described as "is ready to create an account on a completely other web site first".

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Means of Production

Ingrid Burrington:

I've lately been trying an exercise where, when reading anything by or about tech companies, I replace uses of the word "infrastructure" with "means of production." For example, from Facebook's engineering web page:

"Our data centers are the cornerstones of the global means of production that brings Facebook apps and services to you every day."

The sentence pretty much still makes sense -- without data centers, Facebook can't reach people, and therefore can't make money. It also works pretty well with this copy from a Cloudflare tutorial on the concept of infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS):

"In computing, the means of production refers to the computers and servers that run code and store data, and the wires and appliances that make connections between those machines. For example, servers, hard drives, and routers are all part of the means of production. Before cloud computing was an option, most businesses hosted their own means of production and ran all their applications on-premises.

"Means of Production-as-a-Service, or IaaS for short, is when a cloud computing vendor hosts the means of production on behalf of their customers."

So... a landlord. It's a little heavy-handed, I'll admit, but precision in naming things for what they are matters. As use of the term "infrastructure" in tech has grown, it's easy to lose sight of what actually gives Big Tech its power and what's at stake when proposing alternatives to such centralization: capital, and who controls it.

Breaking the platform economy's cycle of extraction and enclosure can redistribute power over data and infrastructure to the public.

Framing the platform policy discussion around the means of production also helps establish reasonable expectations. While it would be nice if Facebook as a "social infrastructure" provider had the vague sense of civic purpose that a term like "social infrastructure" implies, time and again we've seen that the company will not implement anything that serves the public but undermines Facebook's profits. Instead of describing Facebook as providing social infrastructure, we could simply say that it utilizes social interactions for profit through the means of production (by owning lots of computers and cables) and dispel the illusion of kind civic intentions.

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