Sensors and Sensibility

It's alarming! It's no big deal! How your personal information is being collected and protected, used and misused

13 min read

When Canadian Tourist Byuhgsoo Soo Son picked up a rental car from a Payless office in San Francisco last November and set off with his wife and son on a 12-day tour of the California coast, Las Vegas, and the Grand Canyon, he had no idea how pricey that trip would be. Upon dropping off the car, he was floored when the expected US$260 charge turned out to be a whopping $3400, the result of a $1-a-mile fee that kicked in when Son crossed the California-Nevada border. Accompanying the bill was a detailed map of the family's route, made possible by the Global Positioning System tracking device installed in the car. Son had never bothered to read all of the fine print in his rental contract-who does, really?-which mentioned the out-of-state penalty and the possible presence of a tracking device.

Get used to it. One-fourth of rental cars in the United States now have GPS tracking installed, and over the last several years, at least two other companies have used the devices to fine errant drivers. If the car were stolen, or it broke down in a desert or a snowstorm, the trackers could be a lifesaver, the rental companies say. Some renters, if asked, might even appreciate a map of their trip as a souvenir. But having your every move tracked like a fugitive's? Most drivers, surely, would object.

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The Spectacular Collapse of CryptoKitties, the First Big Blockchain Game

A cautionary tale of NFTs, Ethereum, and cryptocurrency security

8 min read
Mountains and cresting waves made of cartoon cats and large green coins.
Frank Stockton

On 4 September 2018, someone known only as Rabono bought an angry cartoon cat named Dragon for 600 ether—an amount of Ethereum cryptocurrency worth about US $170,000 at the time, or $745,000 at the cryptocurrency’s value in July 2022.

It was by far the highest transaction yet for a nonfungible token (NFT), the then-new concept of a unique digital asset. And it was a headline-grabbing opportunity for CryptoKitties, the world’s first blockchain gaming hit. But the sky-high transaction obscured a more difficult truth: CryptoKitties was dying, and it had been for some time.

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