back to article Surveillance Capitalism thinks it won, but there's still time to unplug it

On a walk across the show floor at January's Consumer Electronics Show, a friend working in technology for nearly thirty years expressed unease at where it all seemed to be headed. As I pulled my head away from a consumer door lock containing an embedded retinal scanner, I replied. “I don’t know what you’re talking about." …

Anonymous Coward

'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

Is it? Surely its on the lowest hanging fruit in your circle of friends / family / colleagues etc. I've repeatedly asked my SO to stop having anything to do with Uber <Tumbleweed>... I've warned about super-profiles and shadow profiles on Facebook for years ->. More <Tumbleweed>. And Windows-10 slurp? Don't get me started. Some people just don't care!

But if they did, the big surveillance giants could be killed off overnight. That's the difference between real world products and digital / virtual. But not even the recent YouTube scandals were enough to create change. What will it take? An entire generation being exploited... I applaud Germany for banning spyware watches, but a lot more action is needed.

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Re: 'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

"Some people just don't care!"

That's the problem. I'm increasingly inclined to think that the only solution to this, and quite a few other 'problems' with people, is another 50,000 years or so of evolution.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

if it was "SOME people don't care", it wouldn't be an issue. The issue is that "99.999999% don't care" and this makes the "surveillance capitalism" possible. And permanent. Because people's nature is remarkably stable, has been, over the last, what, six thousands years give or take.

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Re: 'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

Interestingly the whole debate you bring up centres around the products we choose to use, the bigger concern is surely the ones we don't and that we can't choose to avoid, try to decide you won't use any google services, blackhole their ASN at the gateway and see how long you last trying to get anything done online... it's a fun experiment if nothing else to determine how reliant you are on them.

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Re: 'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

"The issue is that "99.999999% don't care"

People do not want to think, they want to buy or be seen as having worth, the mechanics behind social media hold zero interest for them.... They just want to be to be popular, to be "liked", to imagine that they have their 15 minutes of fame.. Nothing new here really, it's been that way since homo sapiens got together as tribes...

But the true culprit is the advertising business, they are the ones pushing for more data, metrics.. Google/Facebook etc would have no business if advertising did not bring in revenue...

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Re: 'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

"The issue is that "99.999999% don't care" and this makes the "surveillance capitalism" possible"

Well those 99.999% will have to suffer the consequences then and the small minority left can just sit back and laugh at the idiots

FWIW I don't have a facebook account, don't own a smartphone or an amazon device and nor do I have a google log in for them to track me on their website plus I regularly delete brower cookies. It isn't hard, but to paraphase PT Barnum, never underestimate the stupidity or gullibility of the general public.

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Re: 'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

"try to decide you won't use any google services, blackhole their ASN at the gateway and see how long you last trying to get anything done online... it's a fun experiment if nothing else to determine how reliant you are on them."

Speak for yourself. Apart from some online banking everything else I do online is purely for entertainment purposes and even the banking I could do over the phone or in branch. If my broadband went down for good it would be annoying but I could carry on no problem. Don't assume everyone needs to internet to conduct their lives simply because you apparently do.

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Re: 'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

..."repeatedly asked"?!? Not your choice. Only what YOU do is. And discussing with others why you do it.

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Re: 'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

"I applaud Germany for banning spyware watches, but a lot more action is needed."

I'd applaud Germany only if it outlawed state spying on its own peaceful citizens.

I'd applaud Germany if it outlawed totalitarianism, instead of legislating it as mandatory.

Germany seems to have learned nothing from their experiences in the 20th century. They think the danger of Nazism is in the name "Nazi".

The real danger is in the violent totalitarianist beliefs groups like the Nazis, Bolsheviks, Maoists and Khmer Rouge held. The Nazis and Bolsheviks are merely historical examples of violent totalitarian groups. Such groups today bear different names.

Yes, I too would like to see corporate spying limited. But the threat of corporate spying is nothing compared to the threat of domestic spying.

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Re: 'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

Yes, this is one of the pernicious effects of the massive spying that too many people are OK with -- it means that if you don't want to be spied on, you have to go to extreme efforts to avoid it. And even then, you'll fail, mostly because the people you know are agreeing to being spied on anyway, and that sucks you into the whole scheme.

Pervasive surveillance means that you have to treat literally every device that can communicate outside your home, and every person you know, as a threat. That can't be good for society.

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Re: 'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

"Yes, I too would like to see corporate spying limited. But the threat of corporate spying is nothing compared to the threat of domestic spying."

I literally don't see any difference between the two. Perhaps that's because I live in the US, where there's nearly no difference between major corporations and the government in the first place.

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Re: 'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

>But the threat of corporate spying is nothing compared to the threat of domestic spying.

That's utter tosh. Neither is to be applauded, but, for the most part, the gummint doesn't care about your opinions. Corporations do, because they can sell them.

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Re: 'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

>But the true culprit is the advertising business, they are the ones pushing for more data, metrics..

It used to be that advertisers (or their clients) accepted that 50% of their advertising was wasted - but they didn't know which half. They were content with that, because there wasn't any alternative.

When advertising on the Internet was first suggested, those clients could be forgiven for thinking it was all wasted. It was only the promise of metrics which persuaded them to dip their toes in the pool.

Since then, the internet has become utterly dependent on advertising - bypassing any attempt at micropayments. The only differential that anyone can offer is - more metrics than the next guy.

So, it isn't quite as simple as boycotting one or two web giants - the whole system (the one we all depend on) would fall apart without advertising, and the advertising would fall apart without metrics, and the metrics would fall apart without snooping.

In the end, individuals can do nothing to change this; only governments can (as long as they aren't in the pockets of the offenders).

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Re: 'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

it means that if you don't want to be spied on, you have to go to extreme efforts to avoid it

No if you do that then you stand out in the data-sets! Do not ever be the outlier. You want an data profile that says; Utterly normal, nothing to see here.

Otherwise you get a knock on the d0383,.cxn &*^&^0908

+++

***NO CARRIER***

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

I have to say I do quite well in a Google free world. I've installed Lineage with MicroG or Copperhead OS on my last 2 phones and have zero Google processes running on my phones. I run Pi-Hole at home and blacklist away; Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc. Browser add-ons, FOSS apps, it does take a slight bit of work, but not a lot. It's not perfect, but I will be damned if I become a commodity without a fight.

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Re: 'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

Yup.

And the surveillance starts with national ID cards and compulsory residents registration (reporting your address - and moves - to local authorities).

But to be fair, this goes on all over Europe, not just in Germany.

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Unhappy

Until (or unless) you can *show* people that whole creepy picture of *themselves*

That won't change.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Until (or unless) you can *show* people that whole creepy picture of *themselves*

Amen to that!

I once showed someone who wasn't worried about his Linked-In account the "other side" of that website - the side where companies pay for access to the profile data. As soon as he saw how they had linked everything together - where he worked, what technology they used, who he purchased from, all his business and personal relationships, and on and on, he started to grasp the extent of the spider web, and his own personal contribution to building that web.

What we really need is to demand to see our profiles on these services.It would scare the shit out of people to see just how accurate, in-depth and detailed you can get when you start combining self-generated data with what you can buy from the other data brokers.

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Anonymous Coward

What now

Stopped buying Smart*.* (Iot, Smartphones, Laptops), especially from S. Korea. So what now? Remaining choice is practically zero. Are we living in a Society or an Economy? It feels like the road to Blakes-7 dystopia...

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Re: What now

@AC

"Remaining choice is practically zero"

No it isnt. We have freedom we have choice. When the lemmings all walk together they feel happy, and so what why shouldnt they? If they want smart X, Y, Z let them buy it. I have a non-smart phone and I bought it not because I increase tin foil sales but because I have no use for smart features and just want a phone.

We dont have to buy win10, in fact I have been moving people to linux. Not because of a lust for jamming devices just because they find it easier for them.

I have an old MP3 player working off a AA battery in preference to the gizmo's out there. Cheap and does all I want and more.

Now imagine if you really cared even half a hoot about ducking surveillance. Disk only versions of linux designed by default to be anonymous. Non-smart tech everywhere and going cheap. Easy access to the TOR network, VPN's and proxies.

People still exist in the outside world.

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Re: What now

What's the first thing that user does with that Linux (before they consider sacking you and going back to windows), they fire up a website that reports all their activity back to google's giant data hoover.. Sometimes choice is an illusion.

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Re: What now

@ The obvious

"they fire up a website that reports all their activity back to google's giant data hoover"

Ok, and so what? If you really dont want things reporting use a memory only linux with a browser with all the blocking addons and vpn/tor. That way the data that does get sucked up is worthless.

"Sometimes choice is an illusion"

Unfortunately that feeling of 'all hope is gone' brings about the situation. People saying 'they will do it anyway' and so dont choose an alternative but instead just go along head first into it. What it usually means is people want the fancy new feature and are willing to trade their data for it. Not a bad trade when you want to find something on google and for those who disagree use something else.

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Uh, "provides ... to any app that wants to measure your emotional reactions"?

I think you'll find you need to give the app permission to do this.

Other than violations where you aren't given any choice in the matter or a setting that should 'disable' something doesn't, it is all down to your own choice. You don't have to use any Google products, and can thus avoid their tracking. You don't have to use Facebook, and can avoid sharing your deep dark secrets with the world. You don't have to buy a smart thermostat or smart doorbell or smart lightbulb.

The alternative is nanny-statism where you can't buy certain things because they're "bad for you".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Uh, "provides ... to any app that wants to measure your emotional reactions"?

The general population just give out app permission without thinking.

So what could possibly go wrong with measuring your emotional reactions?

Let's leave them to it shall we so Amazon at some point can sell people rope when they are suicidal or maybe sell them rubbish when they are down or up. Nothing wrong with that is there? I mean it's not like the exploitation of a persons emotional state to make money?

Shine a light.

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FAIL

Re: Uh, "provides ... to any app that wants to measure your emotional reactions"?

The alternative is nanny-statism where you can't buy certain things because they're "bad for you".

You mean like illegal drugs? Illegal weapons?

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Devil

Re: rope when they are suicidal

Kill the goose that lays the golden eggs?

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Re: Uh, "provides ... to any app that wants to measure your emotional reactions"?

I think you'll find you need to give the app permission to do this.

Oh, you mean tapping 'allow' once so you can see the funny poo. Well that'll stop the mass data mining onslaught.

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Re: Uh, "provides ... to any app that wants to measure your emotional reactions"?

You don't have to use any Google products, and can thus avoid their tracking. You don't have to use Facebook, and can avoid sharing your deep dark secrets with the world.

And that sums up a big part of the problem - you have demonstrated that you don't realise how bad it's got.

You think that Google and Facebook don't have a profile on you ? Think again.

You can be very sure that both of them do whether you have ever visited any of their own sites. Unless you have been incredibly lucky to have never ever visited any website with Google or Facebook tracking code on it (disguised as things like analytics) then they do have a profile on you. And can you be 100% certain that no-one has given Facebook your contact details - they shouldn't without you permission, but so many see no problem complying with the nagging to "just upload your contacts so we can join them to your circle of friends".

I suggest you lookup Max Schrems. Facebook were found guilty of illegally building profiles of people who had not consented - but they have not stopped doing that. We're just waiting for Privacy Shield Figleaf to get the same treatment that Safe Harbour did when it was shown to be worthless. US law is fundamentally incompatible with EU privacy law, it's just that there are too many commercial interests for it to be dealt with ... yet.

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It's all about choices...

That, dear Reg readers, starts with us. We’re the folks who made this world. We’re the folks who keep it ticking over. Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us. It’s our legacy.

Is that really what we want to leave behind? Or can we make an effort to do better in 2018? ®

So what do you suggest?

As techies.. one of our choices (if we think we have one) is our employer. But the real power is being a consumer and having friends that are like minded. No FB, no Amazon (if we can help it), no Google for starters. Yeah.. some of us already feel it's a lost battle and that they're ok with the way things are.

But what about those not inside tech? The average consumer... most don't seem to care. I'm not sure if they don't understand what's being sucked up from them and then spoon fed back or if they feel that they, as consumers, have the better end of the deal.

We, for the most part, work in tech. We're not the followers, or the ones who set corporate policy. We might, depending on the company we work for, be the tools used for this much like soldiers in a war. So is it our legacy? Or is it the masters of finance?

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Re: It's all about choices...

We, for the most part, work in tech. We're not the followers, or the ones who set corporate policy. We might, depending on the company we work for, be the tools used for this much like soldiers in a war. So is it our legacy? Or is it the masters of finance? .... Mark 85

Hmmm? Howdy, Mark 85,

The present actuality and virtualised reality is subtly surreally more different, and relies solely upon arrogant ignorance to survive and prosper ...... hence the mania around the pimping and pumping of the need and feeds of secrecy and disinformation to maintain and retain the false pictures which deny one the truth of one's existence.

It is why there is so much fear and terror in status quo systems around the Rise of Virtual Machines and Advanced Intelligence which are immune and not infected or effected with such a perversion, and be APTly ACTive in all manner of novel creative and disruptive circles/clouds/webs/businesses.

And is the more accurate current situation for more than just many ...... We, for the most part, work in tech. We're not leaders, but followers of ones who set corporate policy. We might, depending on the company we work for, be the tools used for this much like soldiers in a war. So is it our legacy? Or is it the masters of finance?

The Future will be both Fundamentally and Radically Different though ..... it is only natural and to be fully expected and embraced if one is not to be thought and rendered a Luddite.

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Re: It's all about choices...

Another completely sensible, logical and coherent post from amanfrommars1. That’s the third or fourth this year… (need a am I losing my marbles icon (or have I just found them?))

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Re: It's all about choices...

I'm rooting and routing for the latter, James 51.

Welcome to Live Operational Virtual Environments.

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Anonymous Coward

Good article but what's the fix

Every phone tracks your location and everything you do on it.

Every web browser tracks your browsing and spending habits.

Every App you use sends back personal info about you.

The Western governments are tapped into the Inernet backbone and monitor all your private traffic.

Every internet-of-things device you buy sends your details to their company.

Permanent surveillance of every where you are and everything you do is now across every platform you use. Even powered off or in standby mode, that stuff is still tracking you.

You no longer own any device - you are just renting their services, paying with your soul.

The only solution - disconnect from all technology. And since that ain't gonna happen, we are all fucked.

Freedom died a long time ago.

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Re: Good article but what's the fix

"Every phone tracks your location and everything you do on it."

Given the number of times I forget to take my phone it's not very good at tracking my location and not much gets done on it.

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Re: Good article but what's the fix

"Freedom died a long time ago."

It didn't.

My keyboard entries on the Web are registered. My surfing preferences and emails too. My telephone is tapped and taped. My travels on public transportation are videotaped and registered on my name, and all passages through the road toll registering points are registered and taped.

But I can read whatever I like, love any person I like, travel wherever I like - it's just a question of economic means and keeping up good relations to family, neighbours, colleagues and friends. The police never bothers me. I've never done anything remotely criminal, so I have never been in prison.

In some countries people are bothered by police and priests and criminals and racists and religious bigots - but AFAICS this came centuries before the data slurping. Death penalty for atheism? It cannot be blamed on Google, Apple, Facebook or Apple.

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Linux

Re: Good article but what's the fix

"Every web browser tracks your browsing and spending habits."

Well, you could try lynx, although it's not that useful on the modern web.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Good article but what's the fix

"But I can read whatever I like, love any person I like, travel wherever I like - it's just a question of economic means and keeping up good relations to family, neighbours, colleagues and friends. The police never bothers me. I've never done anything remotely criminal, so I have never been in prison."

Really?!

Delusional.

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Holmes

Re: Good article but what's the fix

The fact that the police hardly ever bother you tells me that there is a 90% probability that you are a white Anglo Saxon male over the age of 35

How close was I?

That is why they rarely bother me. We are not in any watch groups.

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Re: Good article but what's the fix

However, you are no longer free to live a private life.

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FAIL

Signal/noise ...

The more they gather, the more they have to store and analyse. At which point any "value" decreases exponentially.

Google itself is the best examplar. Those of us who remember Lycos, AltaVista, Magellan et al already know that Google is slowly dying on it's arse. Even in the past 12 months, there's been a marked decline in the "quality" (or otherwise) of even simple search terms.

(In fact, I suspect a lot of Google is now - like Ourubouros - a circular loop where it returns search results based mainly on the search results other users have clicked on.)

Either way, I suspect that come 2020, as an arbitrary point in the future, there will be more data, and less knowledge.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Signal/noise ...

YouTube searches are similarly getting very hit&miss. Type in a two word unique user name and it is halfway down the results page - preceded by entries which have the words separately.

Enclose the two words in quotes and it doesn't find it at all - at least on the first couple of pages of results. It does find lots of entries with the two words in separate places though.

There is no obvious explanation of that matching behaviour.

There used to be a time when Google would return your old comments from various online fora when searching on your unique user name. Nowadays it usually fails to find any.

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Coat

Re: Signal/noise ...

@Anonymous Coward There used to be a time when Google would return your old comments from various online fora when searching on your unique user name. Nowadays it usually fails to find any.

I have a theory about why this might be happening to you...

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Every phone tracks your location and everything you do on it.

By a old style phone.

Every web browser tracks your browsing and spending habits.

Firefox Quantum (plus likes of No Script etc installed), Startpage for search.

Every App you use sends back personal info about you.

See 1st comment

The Western governments are tapped into the Inernet backbone and monitor all your private traffic.

VPN

Every internet-of-things device you buy sends your details to their company.

Don't fucking buy this tat.

Permanent surveillance of every where you are and everything you do is now across every platform you use.

Remove battery or even stick in Faraday bag.

Pay cash (this is the big new area of tracking)

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What if you use orbot and orfox with noscript and startpage as a browser, use noroot firewall to limit app connections and use protonmail instead of gmail?

I know its not as effective as rooting your phone but surely its got to hinder data collection?

If its not i'm interested in any suggestions to improve my browsing habits.

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old style phone

It'll still track you as you move from cell (tower) to cell, but not with the same accuracy as a Smartphone.

One day, offenders will be terminated by drone using Smartphone positioning - I'm sure it's happening now though.

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"It'll still track you as you move from cell (tower) to cell, but not with the same accuracy as a Smartphone."

In the US, this is not true -- most feature phones can be tracked with similar accuracy as smart phones, due to legal requirements to be able to locate cell phones for emergency purposes. Most phone contain GPS receivers, even if the GPS functionality is not available to the user of the phone.

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Surveillance utopianism?

Read The Happy Breed by John Sladek (written in 1967!). And that is actually ‘optimistic’ scenario without any evil companies invovled...

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So where do you draw the line? Sellers have been analysing their customer's habits for millennia, from the first travelling traders and earlier.

Arkwright's Stores knows that Mrs Jones always comes in for a loaf of bread on Tuesday's, and the fishmonger knew she'd always have cod on Friday.

Is it wrong for a supermarket to track the number of cornflake packets they sell? Not really. Is it wrong for them to track that people prefer Cadbury chocolate to Hershey's vomit-chocolate, again not really. Or that people buy more Turkey in the run up to a Christmas? Or that predominantly Muslim areas don't buy Turkey in the same way that Christian areas do?

Some (possibly almost all) of what Facebook does is smelly. Some of Google's is pretty evil too. Experian and Equifax are almost entirely evil. But we soon will have legislation that puts control in the hands of people not tech corporations *if* enforced properly. If we can get that extended to the credit reference agencies, or even their immunity from libel damages removed, then I think we'll be in a pretty good place.

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Unhappy

Er Brexit

But we soon will have legislation that puts control in the hands of people not tech corporations

And that will soon be repealed as part of our wonderful trading deal with the US

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Re: Er Brexit

Sorry my spelling is off today s/wonderful/woeful/ to my above post

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