The future of technology and entertainment is frightening

Martin Brinkmann
Feb 21, 2015
Updated • May 21, 2018

Spy agencies and governments that grab, steal, hack, manipulate and collect massive amounts of data, bloatware and adware on PCs, massive invasion of privacy on the Internet, TVs and Internet of Things devices that phone home and transfer what you say or do, free to play apps designed for profit and not for the people who play them, the list goes on and on.

I sometimes think that this world has taken a wrong turn in the past decade or so with all the unpleasant things that are going on right now in the technology sector alone.

Just in the last week alone, it became known that Lenovo shipped adware with consumer PCs, that spy agencies manipulated hard drive firmware and stole SIM card encryption keys, that you can now be tracked through your phone's battery, and that cable networks speed up shows to show you more ads.

Each week, there are new revelations how we, and with we I mean the public, are being spied on, tracked, and manipulated in various ways.

One example: bloatware, that is pre-installed trial software and desktop shortcuts pointing to online retailers have been part of most Windows PCs for a long time.

When you buy a PC, the chance is good that it ships with programs and other things you don't need. Manufacturers make much of the money they earn from these PCs from third-party offerings they add to the systems.

Most PCs that come with this adware are slower than they would be without these installations and this reflects negatively not only on the manufacturer of the PC but also Microsoft and its Windows operating system.

Some manufacturers came up with the ingenious idea to charge you for the removal of the programs that they installed on them in the first place.

For Lenovo, bloatware did not seem to cut it anymore which is why the company shipped Superfish, an adware program running in the background, with some of its consumer PCs.

Spying and tracking

via XKCD

Every Snowden leak reveals additional terrifying news about the NSA's (and sister organizations like the British GCHQ) global spying program. Hacked hard drive firmwares that are impossible to detect for end users and eve the majority of businesses make every computer with a hard drive a potential security risk.

The hack of the world's largest SIM card manufacturer puts anyone with a smartphone at risk too as it allows spy agencies to decode data that passes between mobile phones and cell towers.

It seems there is barely anyone or anything that you can trust anymore when it comes to devices and software, and the companies and manufacturers that produce them.

On top of all that, there are the spy agencies that reduce the chance of making sure you are not spied on, tracked or manipulated further.

Even if you bought a Microsoft Signature Edition in the Microsoft Store for example, those come without third-party software installations and bloatware, you cannot be certain that some spy agency did not intercept the package, modify the firmware of the device or plant some other tracking stuff on it that you cannot detect, before it got to you.

I have to admit that the chance is quite low that this is the case, and from the reports it seems that these firmware hacks were used in targeted attacks.


As far as entertainment is concerned, there is a large push towards additional revenue generation which you can see most clearly in the games industry.

While there are still full-price computer games out there, many of those come with options to purchase DLC, downloadable contents as well as premium editions. That's not necessarily a bad thing on first glance but the system is being abused by some companies already.

You may need to purchase DLC to get the full game experience for example, and some games only ship with all of their contents if you buy a premium edition.

There is also a large push towards free to play games, especially in the mobile sector.

Many of these games are designed for maximum profits and not to provide gamers with an enjoyable gaming experience. This is done through various mechanics, for instance by adding timers to various activities in the game. You can either wait for an action to complete, e.g. build something, or pay to speed the process up.

There have been cases in the past where a single action took more than 24 hours to complete. So instead of enjoying the game, you would start it up once every day, select a new action for the day and close it down again as you were not able to do anything else afterwards.

Some say that this is just the beginning, that things will get a lot worse before they may get better again. The Internet of Things is just beginning to invade homes worldwide which gives companies great new options to track and manipulate people.

Some will certainly display ads to you on Internet connected devices such as fridges, microwaves or home automation devices, and since all of these things are connected, it gives spy agencies even more options to spy on you.

Now you: What can be done about some or all of this?

The future of technology and entertainment is frightening
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  1. PJ said on February 26, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    “I sometimes think that this world has taken a wrong turn in the past decade”

    Was the world less frightening, say, between the 1930s & mid 1940s ? What were the Gestapo, Stasi, OVRA, Milice Française, Kempeitai, etc. as well as “freelance” troublemakers doing with the low & high technology of that decade ?

    How about the most recent Cold War era (1980s–early 1990s) ? Or the Dark Ages & Elizabethan Age, where priests on horseback sent forth poisoned garments to people they did not like ? How about Ancient Roman spies, conspirators, rabble-mongers, as well as centuries of bloodlusty spectators roaring for the spectacular mauling of yet another wounded person in the gladiatorial arena equipped with the latest self-rising lion platforms ?

    With each generation, there are always humans that carry out &/or support malicious ventures & policies with whatever means available, for the purpose of self-gain &/or entertainment. The spread of high-tech devices simply make it much faster & easier for certain forms of human malice to propagate & affect a larger group of selected users. (Not everyone has the good fortune to be affected.)

    So where human nature is concerned, the past decade is essentially not very different from the distant past. It is just that humans have a relatively short memory. In 50 years’ time, not many will remember (or know) the likes of Lenovo Superfish, Comodo PrivDog, etc. — that is, even if the perpetrators still exist by then.

    Last but not least, scary crapware/ malware, mass espionage & privacy violation issues wrt desktops, laptops, harddrives, SIM cards, smartphone batteries, cable/ satellite TV, etc. etc. are basically all rich people’s problems. And not only do the rich (in the relative sense) have the means to “vote with their wallets”, the privilege of wealth & status also empowers one to raise multiple defences & protests against undesirable issues (whether high-tech or not).

    On the other hand, even in relatively developed countries, there are many people with little or no access to smartphones (or any phone), PCs &/or the internet. Some don’t even have proper nutrition or shelter, but are exposed to the constant risk of starvation, assault & rape. And what privacy can one possibly hope to have, when one has to clean one’s bloodstained underwear in a public washroom (whether this has high-tech sensor &/or LED light-enhanced taps or not) ?

  2. Daron Wade said on February 26, 2015 at 5:45 am

    People, Its gonna happen, either except it or reject it.
    ….so except it you will conform….or reject it…you will rebel.
    how will you conform. you will take it how they say you do.
    reject it? you will …..voice your opinion….you will yell at your
    neighbor, you will leave bad messages online…. mhhh…
    you will stomp your feet (holy shit)……then in then end
    you will comply……

  3. Florenski said on February 24, 2015 at 3:30 am

    I don’t know how much will help something like this, but I would like to see a site/web page where the companies are getting a rating (positive or negative) based on their actions as well as a description of the actions that were counted. This way, at least we’ll see in time how despicable are some companies ready to became only to maximize their profit and we’ll have an easy way to remember what they did.

  4. Jan said on February 24, 2015 at 12:45 am

    The problem which is behind all that is a political one. It’s about the mere way the society is organized. A very interesting subject, worth to discuss, and your article points well issues in “new technologies” area. But trying to resolve thousands of various issues without attacking the root cause isn’t very efficient. I’m not sure we can truly solve this btw, but that’s worth trying.
    The whole things seems to me out of the scope of this website.

    1. Tom Hawack said on February 24, 2015 at 9:22 am

      It’s maybe out of scope if it’s political, which is your assertion. That’s your loop, only.

      1. Jan said on February 25, 2015 at 8:14 am

        Economics is political. And economics are directly related to a great part of what is described here.
        Another great part is occupied by massive spying from governement, which is also political.
        So yeah it’s my assertion and I stick to it.

  5. Gonzo said on February 23, 2015 at 12:58 am

    >What can be done about some or all of this?
    For your part Martin, you could stop blacklisting all Tor exit nodes affording your readers some privacy.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 23, 2015 at 7:31 am

      I don’t blacklist anything. If something is blacklisted, it’s at the provider’s end and I don’t have any control over that.

      1. Jan said on February 24, 2015 at 12:48 am

        Tried to load this website with tor.
        “Firefox can’t establish a connection to the server at”
        So your provider must block all tor ip.
        Anyway, using ixquick proxy it’s still easy to get here with tor, if someone which so.

  6. Jonny said on February 23, 2015 at 12:32 am

    I feel an isolated log cabin coming on in my old age, with just some super secure tripple vpn + other stuff computer, no mic or webcam.

  7. The said on February 22, 2015 at 3:47 am

    Very glad someone had started looking at this topic. I suffer from depression and lately a crippling dose of anxiety to go with it. This makes me wonder if I’m just thinking what these diseases encourage or if there really are big issues with the massive changes ‘technology’ is pushing towards us.
    I think there is.
    It’s very hard to ignore the probable impact that unethical first person shooters (and pathetic gun laws) have had in all the mass shootings at schools in the US in particular.
    I liked FPS games on the past but don’t play them anymore for ethical reasons. Only exception I would make would be if the game had reasonable ethics such as world war 2 games. Clearly German soldiers may have been duped into following a leader they thought was something less than a maniac but they also represent the face of the Holocaust so there’s some justification in playing games like Wolfenstein. However I’d still much prefer a game that blended in the larrikan teamwork, adventure, ingenuity, imagination, camaraderie and disguised violence/impact that a TV show like Hogan’s Heroes applied to the very same topic.
    When it comes to ‘games’ on mobiles that’s even more scary. Just take a look at the first page of new/popular games on Google Play. They include BombSquad (“bomb your friends”), “Office Rumble” (surprised they didn’t call it Going Postal) and One Finger Death Punch.

    That’s not even considering all the invasive permissions most mobile spps require.

  8. privacy addict said on February 22, 2015 at 3:30 am

    Companies/powers that be are dehumanizing us. We are dealing with greed, power, control, etc. Nothing new under the sun, just history repeating itself but with the addition of carte blanche technology that is out of control. It is just unacceptable where everything is headed and Martin is right, it is frightening. Ohh.. Martin, always the voice of reason! Although I think we are way beyond voting with our wallets or changing political parties (your response to a comment) – deep down inside I think you know this. Yeah, changes happen here and there, but what is happening is on such a massive scale and in so many different areas nothing can reel it in at this point. The sweet spot is well and gone – this is not going to end well. Technology has brought out the worst in people, it’s really unbelievable. Just the things that twitter out of people’s heads floors me sometimes. Personally, I’d like to go back to the days of larger phones and when alternative rock was at its best, lol.

    The crux of the matter really is, how do we get the hackers, crackers, corporations, powers that be etc., that are hurting/violating/using us to see we are not objects? Answer: We can’t. It’s been this way all throughout time. It’s the reality of this wicked world.

    The mechanistic form occurs when features of human nature (e.g., cognitive flexibility, warmth, agency) are denied to targets. Targets of mechanistic dehumanization are seen as cold, rigid, interchangeable, lacking agency, and likened to machines or objects. Mechanistic dehumanization is usually employed on an interpersonal basis (e.g., when a person is seen as a means to another’s end).

  9. dostiers said on February 22, 2015 at 12:49 am

    Very early in my forays into cyberspace I decided to create an alter ego as my public face, Ian (Internet Assumed Name) W***** for almost all my Net activity, most of which I conducted through initially anonymous proxies and in recent years via VPN. Apart from banking and online shopping, Ian, does everything. So the spy agencies, etc, may have a lot of data on ‘Ian’ built up since the mid 1990s, but they should barely barely be aware I exist.

  10. Patrick said on February 22, 2015 at 12:35 am


  11. Steve said on February 21, 2015 at 11:38 pm

    Just don’t buy the crap, very simple.
    Still have my CRT TV, looks better than anything I see on the market.
    My rotary phone works great.

  12. InterestedBystander said on February 21, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    Vote with wallet, yes: turn away from proprietary software whenever at all possible. Support ethical producers — software devs who offer good stuff without strings. Irfan Skiljan is one example of a dev who’s made his software — IrfanView — available without underhanded monetization schemes. There are a lot of good guys out there, and our job as consumers is to spend the time and effort necessary to seek them out, and to support their efforts.

    Things to consider:

    If you give a hot toasted darn about the widespread exploitation of Windows systems (with or without Microsoft’s compliance), use Linux. No crapware and spyware, no bloatware. Mint, Ubuntu, Salix, and Manjaro are all dead easy to install. It takes very little effort to learn Mint Cinnamon, and only a bit of time to learn Ubuntu.

    If you really want security, use something like Qubes. If you really want privacy… well, the guy who hacked GammaGroup and exposed the FinFisher infosec attackware wrote, “Create a hidden, encrypted partition, and install Whonix. Use a VPN or hack somebody else’s server…”

    You don’t have to go that far. But you can at least muddy your trail whenever you can. Create a second, third, and fourth name-email-phone-birthday-address cluster and use them instead of your real personal details whenever a website wants you to register to access information or post on a forum.

    You probably cannot be anonymous on the internet, and you probably cannot be invulnerable to attacks. You can’t really do anything about a compromised SIM chip or pre-hacked firmware on your drive. You can almost certainly make yourself a harder, smaller, and more confusing target online, though.

  13. George P. Burdell said on February 21, 2015 at 7:19 pm

    If the above leaves you inadequately disgusted, here is another avenue for snooping: smart appliances paired with smart electric meters, and broadband over power line.

    George Orwell’s telescreens, in my recollection, depended on humans to spy on what you are doing at home. Our future, for those of us unlucky enough to live long enough to see it, will have our home appliances directly reporting their activities to supercomputers. Very efficient! No need to wonder if somebody is home doing their laundry! We already know what TV channel you are watching! Have you brushed and flossed twice today?

  14. tuna said on February 21, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    Thanks Martin, you summed up the bleakness of the state of digital debauchery quite succinctly.

    Perhaps you could do a future article on guerilla tactics to push back. I personally love providing mis-info to any & all entities that presuppose they value my privacy more than I do.

  15. BrianS said on February 21, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    MB: “Ideally, people would vote with their wallets…” That’s certainly what I did. When the Lenovo-SuperFish story hit, I packed my 21-day old Lenovo Yoga 2 (yes it had SuperFish) back into it’s original box, went back to Best Buy and got a refund. (Best Buy was really great about… no hassle at all.) I then drove 80 miles to Denver to the Microsoft Store and bought a Microsoft Signature Edition Acer (had the same specs) … it was even $5 bucks cheaper. No more crapware for me. I’m done with that.

  16. Jeff said on February 21, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    “You may need to purchase DLC to get the full game experience for example and some games only ship with all of their contents if you buy a premium edition.”

    With PC games, the best thing you can do, IMO, is *wait*. Don’t buy games on day one unless your goal is simply to reward the developer/publisher for making a game or genre the way you like to see them made.

    I wait usually 6 months to 1 year after initial release, and I get the full game, with several stability patches and ALL the DLC for $10 to $20 total instead of $60 for the base game alone. I waited a year on Batman Arkham City and got the full game + all DLC for $7.50.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 21, 2015 at 4:31 pm

      That’s exactly what I do. The only exception to the rule is — regardless of whether a game supports DLC or not — if I want to play it with friends and they buy it on release day or if I trust the developer. There are not many that I trust with my money though).

      Other than that I wait for a sale to come along where I can buy it for 50% or even less of the original price. Plus, it received several patches and may come with all the DLC included if you buy a game of the year edition.

  17. Richard Allen said on February 21, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    Absolutely spot on article Martin. It’s amazing how many of the uninformed sheep have given up their privacy without even a second thought, don’t care and don’t want to hear about it. I swear sometimes I feel like I’m the only one (not that I am) that saw years ago the cluster f**k that the Patriot Act was going to turn into. What’s left? Our governments now have easy access to everything that you and I do online, if they choose to look at it. Why was I not surprised to hear about the sim card hack earlier? It’s beyond crazy now and I’m not holding my breath waiting on the public outcry! Every entity that has anything remotely to do with online access, no matter how inconsequential the service, expects to be given the ability to track our online usage. I’ve seen website owners, bloggers make comments, basically saying, How Dare We modify referer header information or block cookies or god forbid block ads because we owe them our privacy for being allowed access! ;)

  18. Dan said on February 21, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    We need to find a better motive than profit.

  19. Earl said on February 21, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    Don’t panic. Everything will be fine once the Vogons are finished with their little bypass thingy.

    1. Keith D said on February 22, 2015 at 2:04 am

      I’m ready. I’ve got my book, Babel fish, electronic thumb, and a fresh clean towel.

  20. Nerdebeu said on February 21, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    There’s also something else disturbing. All theses incessant and absurd pressures, everywhere, on behalf of the copyright:

    I have not forgotten either ACTA. All this to say that the entertainment industry is at the forefront for undermining freedoms. And the collusion between the Governments, the intelligence services and these industries are no more to demonstrate.

  21. Larry said on February 21, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    Hi Martin,
    Just a typo “(and sister organizations like the British GHCQ)” shouldn’t it be a GCHQ?
    I want to tell to that I enjoy your blog much and I come here everyday. Thank you much for all your hard work!

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 21, 2015 at 12:15 pm

      Larry you are right, I have edited the typo. Thanks!

  22. BKV said on February 21, 2015 at 11:28 am

    Block adverts with your router, so as to remove ads across all devices.
    Did you buy a new PC¿ Then do a fresh install of windows and reinstall drivers, or heck install Ubuntu or some other Linux system.
    Want to play a game with horrid DLC offerings¿ Don’t buy the DLC, or even better don’t buy the game. The masses should vote with their wallets, instead of buying a game and then whining. Wait for the game to drop in price in the brick and mortar stores for console games, don’t rush and purchase them during the release week. Rent the game or something.
    I usually wait for sales and discounted GOTY editions.
    I have no idea why the majority of XBL on demand games are $60 when it should be cheaper, as it’s digital only. Play more PC games, they have better sales. Seriously, ignore the majority of freemium games. If it’s out to milk you or the DLC whales of money, spread the word.
    We don’t need cable. We’ve got so many other things online to replace it, and watch it at our time.
    There are also Over The Air broadcasts, ignore the ever-rising cable costs.

    Also, learn more about technology and modify your recent cars. The car manufacturers currently track driving habits, locations visited, seat-belt usage and more data. Learn how to turn them off yourself.

    I shall end this minor rant here.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 21, 2015 at 11:33 am

      Those are all valid points but only a small group follows them while the masses, call them sheep if you want, seem indifferent.

      1. kalmly said on February 21, 2015 at 2:38 pm

        YES! The indifference. That is what disturbs me, the oh-well-if-you-aren’t-doing-anything-wrong attitude. That is scary. Shudder.

  23. Tom Hawack said on February 21, 2015 at 11:16 am

    It definitely is a mad, mad, mad world. And at the same time, not mad only. I don’t think anything can be done, I don’t even think the very idea of acting on the world is sensible. I believe in liberty rather than in interventionism when both have their drawbacks but only the former has the potential to leave a space whatever narrow for hope. Perhaps mankind is moving towards the best as opposed to the worst, but it takes time and once again liberty, this liberty which allows everyone of us to choose, to strive to choose within the immensity of his consciousness.

    Meanwhile is the present. As this article describes when summing a reality of today’s technology, the feeling anyone whom is concerned and informed of what is going on in terms incursion, intrusion between a minority and a majority of humans, is founded. Yet, once the observation done remains the reaction, various as expressed with the above cartoon’s smile :)

    I believe one’s consciousness should never be defeated by cynicism nor by pragmatism, should never surrender on the altar of a reality above his power to change it. If everyone remains open-minded, strives for lucidity without falling into an egocentric relationship to others, reality will become the sum of our individual beliefs and attitudes. It takes time, there is no paradise on Earth, but striving for the best (as we feel it individually) is already both the condition for a better world and a defeat to chaos, the true chaos defined by global acceptance of evil.

    1. Dan said on February 21, 2015 at 1:31 pm

      Who stands outside of consciousness to shape it?

      1. Tom Hawack said on February 21, 2015 at 1:47 pm

        That definitely is an important question. Answers may differ.
        Why feelings, why humor, why everything specific to a human being which is not required in the life of a bacteria?
        Why happiness? What is happiness? Warum, sag, warum? (a German hit song from the seventies!).
        Questions are great, answers are dangerous, doubt is ambivalent. But one thing appears as the synthesis of liberty and equality, it is fraternity, brotherhood. And that ain’t no metaphysics!

    2. anon said on February 21, 2015 at 11:39 am

      Such rosy words just to tell “Don’t worry, everything is going to be alright. Oh, that little bugs following you? Just close your eyes and pretend that it’s not there, it’s alright.”


      1. anon said on February 22, 2015 at 6:06 am

        Well yeah, being careful is better than being either paranoid or ignorant.

      2. Tom Hawack said on February 21, 2015 at 12:18 pm

        The point is not to not worry neither is it to interpret what is neither written nor suggested, but to conceive the idea that between cynicism and angelism, between dictatorship and liberalism appears one and only one alternative, that of our consciousnesses which would change the world as it has already, as it is presently changing each and every one of our lives. This is so true that spirituality is the big newcomer of our era, unfortunately handled for the worst by fanatics, also pointed as a reference by a said-to-be civilized world when it calls to combat evil, the evil of the evil… I believe saying to others what they should do is a political approach, and calling upon religion to change the world is a political attitude and not at all a spiritualist one, not even a religious one when we define religion in conformity with what it originally aims at, testifies of. One must think of the Middle-Age to compare the society’s quest of what is was then with what it is now : God, spirituality, humanism but at the end, a search for the meaning of life within the wide spectra of love, apparently the only alternative when organization of thoughts within society prove that neither liberalism nor dictatorship can make it. It’s up to everyone of us to search, search for truth without ever imposing it. Search, strive, love. No other way.

    3. Martin Brinkmann said on February 21, 2015 at 11:35 am

      Ideally, people would vote with their wallets and in societies where you can vote for political parties for different parties. I agree that restrictions are not the solution.

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