Pluralistic: 15 Feb 2022

Today's links

A screenshot from the 'McKinsey for Kids' website. It shows a woman in a suit. The caption reads 'An economist at McKinsey tells a company how it might improve its business and profits over the next five, ten, or even 20 years. You might like this job if you’re interested in how money is made and spent. In this example, an economist realized that farmers struggled to know how much food they should buy.'

McKinsey For Kids (no, really) (permalink)

McKinsey for Kids is a new website from the scandal-haunted consulting giants who proposed that Oxycontin-producers Purdue Pharma pay a bounty to pharma distributors based on the number of lethal overdoses in their territories. Its purpose is to teach kids to think like McKinsey Consultants.

"Chapter 1" of the project invites kids to manage an aquaponics fishery with "models" and "Internet of Things" gadgets and "computer vision." The lesson is long on the ways that outside experts can solve problems, and absolutely silent on the ways that outside experts can get it wrong. In that regard, it's a brilliant encapsulation of the McKinsey model (all that's missing are the titanic invoices).

Writing about McKinsey For Kids, The American Prospect's Adam M Lowenstein calls the site part of McKinsey's "thought leadership" program: "[a means to] project expertise and credibility, and to sustain the company’s narrative of itself and the work it does."

But McKinsey for Kids isn't just directed at the outside world; there's also an inside game: the site "reassure[s] current employees that the work they do is meaningful and purpose-driven, and to convince future employees that the way to live a meaningful and purpose-driven life is to go not into government, education, health care, or philanthropy, but into business. Somewhere like McKinsey."

That's an important challenge, because McKinsey's business relies on fielding plausible experts that will maintain its role as consigliere to 90 of the 100 largest businesses in the world. But McKinsey itself is such a force for ill that it keeps losing top personnel. Some – like Anand Giridharadas, go on to write bestsellers that eviscerate its claims to virtue:

It's hard to retain good people when your corporate mission helps ICE build freezing immigrant detention cages where prisoners are separated from their children and kept on the brink of starvation:

It's even harder when your corporate mission includes helping the Saudi royals identify dissidents and "neutralize" them:

And as Lowenstein writes, McKinsey For Kids talks a good game about the company's role in addressing the climate emergency, but its meat-and-potatoes is work for Exoon, BP, and Saudi Aramco:

The company is really good at this kind of thought-leadership-projection. Its utterly banal, useless "Beyond Coronavirus: The Path to the Next Normal" has been cited 65 times, including many citations in peer-reviewed journals (the reviewers apparently failed to read the article):,9&hl=en

The foundational message of McKinsey for Kids is identical to the message of McKinsey itself: to save capitalism, we must capitalism harder. The problems of markets must be solved with markets. The problems of business are best addressed by founding a rival business.

McKinsey's built a powerful botnet: its alumni are woven through government, business and finance. These alums work with their former colleagues to create "efficiencies" that are realized through job cuts, pay cuts, informalization, regulatory arbitrage and mergers to monopoly.

McKinsey For Kids is part of the strategy that maintains the power of that botnet and replenishes its personnel.

(Image: McKinsey For Kids)

A product shot of Apple's Airtag; superimosed on it in meme-style all-caps Impact is 'SNITCHES GET STITCHES.'

Outing German spy agencies by mailing them Airtags (permalink)

Apple's Airtags are an ingenious technology: they fuse every Ios device into a sensor grid that logs the location of each tag, using clever cryptography to prevent anyone but the tag's owner from pulling that information out of the system.

But there are significant problems with Airtags' privacy model. Some of these are unique to Apple, others are shared by all Bluetooth location systems, including Covid exposure-notification apps and Airtag rivals like Tile.

For example, minute imperfections in these devices' Bluetooth radio circuitry make it possible to uniquely identify them without having to bypass their encryption, simply by tracking the signature "fingerprint" of each radio:

That's an attack on the device's owner. But tracker tags also enable attacks by the device's owner. For example, there's a thriving market for Airtags whose speakers have been disabled (the speakers emit a chirp that is supposed to warn people if they are being tracked by someone else's Airtag):

Even without gimmicked speakers, tracking people with Airtags (and their competitors) is frighteningly easy. The New York Times' Kashmir Hill (consensually) tracked her husband around Manhattan with a constellation of these bugs.

Even with the chirping speakers, her husband – a press privacy advocate with a strong technical background – struggled to locate and de-activate the Airtags. Hill reports that many people – particularly women – are finding Airtags hidden in their cars, clothes and elsewhere.

The far-reaching surveillance potential of these trackers was driven home by a stunt/investigation carried out by Lilith Wittmann, who confirmed her suspicion that a German government agency was a front for a spy operation, by mailing Airtag-bugged packages to it and watching as they were relayed to facilities used by the intelligence services ("the Office for the Protection of the Constitution").

It's a fascinating new operational security wrinkle that relies on the popularity and ubiquity of Apple's Ios devices; foiling it requires not just that a spy facility be mobile-phone-free, but that all the facilities that deliver its mail also adopt this measure.


(Image: Apple)

This day in history (permalink)

#15yrsago Vancouver cops hate WiFi

#10yrsago UK: yes, we kidnapped people and sent them to be tortured by Qaddafi, but you can’t sue us

#5yrsago In the US and UK, retirement is only for the super-rich

#5yrsago Scottish court: your neighbours owe you for the distress of pointing a CCTV at your back yard and recording your conversations

#1yrago Billionaires think VR stops guillotines

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Crypto-gram (, Naked Capitalism (

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