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Discovering America- 2014 style - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
Discovering America- 2014 style
Columbus certainly didn't discover this country, despite the accolade of closed public services attributed to it and him today- but these recent discoveries of mine make clear that Big Brother is discovering YOU!

(1) "What did you think of that book? Oh wait, we already know...."

There aren't enough of them, nor enough copies, nor released soon enough, but library-loaned e-books are getting somewhat more accepted, both by the public and the publishers.  Our library system now enables you to find them through the same online catalog as the physical books, and you no longer need their proprietary software to download or read them- you can get Kindle copies and it's about three clicks on a PC to get it onto a reader. You can still use Overdrive to read it right through your web browser, or you can order Adobe versions.

But please. Don't:

Adobe’s Digital Editions e-book and PDF reader—an application used by thousands of libraries to give patrons access to electronic lending libraries—actively logs and reports every document readers add to their local “library” along with what users do with those files. Even worse, the logs are transmitted over the Internet in the clear, allowing anyone who can monitor network traffic (such as the National Security Agency, Internet service providers and cable companies, or others sharing a public Wi-Fi network) to follow along over readers’ shoulders.

Ars has independently verified the logging of e-reader activity with the use of a packet capture tool. The exposure of data was first discovered by Nate Hoffelder of The Digital Reader, who reported the issue to Adobe but received no reply.

Digital Editions (DE) has been used by many public libraries as a recommended application for patrons wanting to borrow electronic books (particularly with the Overdrive e-book lending system), because it can enforce digital rights management rules on how long a book may be read for. But DE also reports back data on e-books that have been purchased or self-published. Those logs are transmitted over an unencrypted HTTP connection back to a server at Adobe—a server with the Domain Name Service hostname “adelogs.adobe.com”—as an unencrypted file (the data format of which appears to be JSON).

The article goes on to show exactly what information about reading habits is being put Out There for anyone to see who's got rudimentary  h8cking kn0wledge- and it's not pretty.

I don't fool myself for one minute into thinking that Amazon isn't somehow doing exactly the same thing- it's just that they haven't been caught at it yet.


And speaking of "caught":

The New York Times has been running a series of stories about Subprime Crash II: Gas-Powered Boogaloo.  Investors can no longer pad their portfolios with $400,000 "liar loans" secured by depreciating real estate, so they're switching to $40,000 liar loans secured by even faster-depreciating cars:

Margaret Zollner, 71, does not have a job and receives food stamps, so she was shocked when a car salesman in Queens suggested she co-sign an $18,487 loan so her friend, whom she drove to the dealership, could buy a 2013 Chevrolet. She said she repeatedly explained to the car salesman that she could barely keep up with her own bills. Still, Ms. Zollner said, a salesman falsely listed her annual income as $60,000 on the application, a copy of which was reviewed by The New York Times.

While the car was ultimately repossessed, the nightmare for Ms. Zollner is just beginning. Her credit score has fallen, now hovering around 500, and she is about to declare bankruptcy. Ms. Zollner said she felt ashamed that she signed any documents. “I just can’t believe that one stupid mistake would land me here.”

When loansharks prey on such people, given the general legal disfavoring of kneecapping the customers, they at least want to get their collateral back in a hurry. And boy do they:

The thermometer showed a 103.5-degree fever, and her 10-year-old’s asthma was flaring up. Mary Bolender, who lives in Las Vegas, needed to get her daughter to an emergency room, but her 2005 Chrysler van would not start.

The cause was not a mechanical problem – it was her lender.

Bolender was three days behind on her monthly car payment. Her lender, C.A.G. Acceptance of Mesa, Ariz., remotely activated a device in her car’s dashboard that prevented her car from starting. Before she could get back on the road, she had to pay more than $389, money she did not have that morning in March.

“I felt absolutely helpless,” said Bolender, a single mother who stopped working to care for her daughter. It was not the only time this happened: Her car was shut down that March, once in April and again in June.

This new technology is bringing auto loans – and Wall Street’s version of Big Brother – into the lives of people with credit scores battered by the financial downturn.

Auto loans to borrowers considered subprime, those with credit scores at or below 640, have spiked in the last five years. The jump has been driven in large part by the demand among investors for securities backed by the loans, which offer high returns at a time of low interest rates. Roughly 25 percent of all new auto loans made last year were subprime, and the volume of subprime auto loans reached more than $145 billion in the first three months of this year.

But before they can drive off the lot, many subprime borrowers like Bolender must have their car outfitted with a so-called starter interrupt device, which allows lenders to remotely disable the ignition. Using the GPS technology on the devices, the lenders can also track the cars’ location and movements.

THIS article goes on to feature a credit union loan officer bragging about how he can disable a deadbeat's starter from his smartphone at Walmart. (As I've mentioned a few times: your friendly neighorhood credit union is not friendly, and increasingly not neighborhood, especially if you default. They are the meanest and most aggressive creditors of my clients I have ever witnessed.)  There's no mention in this piece about any legislative effort to regulate this practice, or any court brakes being put on it, and I doubt you will see any. The auto lobbies are among the most powerful in Washington and state capitols (witness the dealers' takedown of Tesla's efforts to sell direct to customers), and credit unions are in the same (low) class.

Not to mention how this is going to put perfectly nice repo men out of a job. I don't know about you, but I'd rather not have these guys out on the street with nothing to do:

5 comments or Leave a comment
ecosopher From: ecosopher Date: October 13th, 2014 02:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
When I was reading that story, Repo Man was the thing I was thinking of too! The future is now, indeed.

Thanks for the heads-up about the ebooks, too. For some reason I just can't get into ebooks. Now I have another reason not to :D
captainsblog From: captainsblog Date: October 13th, 2014 02:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
We've got to watch that again sometime soon.

I'm getting more comfortable with e-books, but between the privacy and them just reading more slowly (with so many opportunities to multitask on the reader), I'll always love me my paper.
bill_sheehan From: bill_sheehan Date: October 13th, 2014 02:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Is it really correct to compare the subprime mortgage debacle with subprime auto loans? It's costly and time-consuming to evict those who don't pay their mortgages. As you note, it's very easy for the lender to repossess its cars. Given the usurious interest rates charged to subprime borrowers, I'd think it more than covers the depreciation of the asset. I don't see a worldwide banking crisis coming out of this, just more misery for people who already have more than their share.

captainsblog From: captainsblog Date: October 13th, 2014 02:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
The concern is the amount of investment being put into this form of security, something which shouldn't be securitized in the first instance just as mortgages should never have been. The market is fickle, and one run on one fund could set off some pretty ugly dominoes.
bill_sheehan From: bill_sheehan Date: October 13th, 2014 02:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
I won't disagree with you about chopping up these loans as "investments". But I still don't seen how the lender loses money.

Here's a used car. Let's say its value is $18,000. I offer you a four-year no-money-down loan at a mere $500 per month. Aren't I nice?

You default in a year. I repossess the car. I now have $6000 of your money and a car that's worth $15,000. Wanna buy a used car? No credit check! No money down!

5 comments or Leave a comment