News of the Day: Facebook Privacy Nightmare
Some trending news topics
Microsoft's new Surface Tablet — Looks like Microsoft is throwing their hands into the hardware ring, with a tablet that borrows a bit from the French Archos Tablet. I have no great faith in Microsoft’s software, so their hardware leaves me equally incredulous until I see it in action. At least like the Android tablets, it comes with usb and sd ports, unlike the Ipad. Performance and price will decide if the Surface, stays above water.
Overview of Highlight App —Called a real-world Awareness app, if you’re someone like me who hasn’t drunk the koolaid, I would call it a tracking tool. Basically if you’re out an about and any of your facebook/twitter “friends” are within 50 yards of you, this app will push a notification to you of where the person is and how far from you they are, etc.
Damn. Do you really need to know who is or is not near you at every minute of the day? If they are your friend, pick up the phone and call them if you want to know what they are doing. But Nooo! Let’s create an app to make a person’s location constantly broadcasted everywhere he or she goes, to all his online ‘friends’.
It’s the beginnings of an incredibly effective tracking tool. And more than a bit of a pretty staggering stalking and surveillance tool. You kids and your toys, I think you like any excuse to give up your privacy and your freedom (In the paraphrased words of both Loki and Doctor Who :)).
Enormous 90″ LED TV— A 90″ 3D television that costs $10000?? 3D is good for a lark once in a while at the local cinema, to see that Hollywood blockbuster, but to bring it in your home as a constant? Guys if you want 3D that bad at home, try turning the TV off and talking to your family, or going out to the park. Uhhh… that stuff is naturally in 3D, and no $10000 TV needed!
Okay that’s all the news for now!
So there is typically method to my madness.
Not always, but typically.
Any number of sites you can go to and see fools, without the good sense to cover their camera when not in use, undressing in sight of the laptop or webcam or hear their conversations when they are off camera, and they think the computer is asleep.
If that just scared you, even a little, it shows only… that you are still sane.
What I have just described, that’s the technology of yesterday. Not only have hackers been using it for years but so have ‘legitimate’ companies, that sell software that does just that, turn on the cameras and mics of a laptop remotely, without the user being aware. Ostensibly the idea for most companies is to use this in laptop retrieval, should the laptop be stolen. But any technology is more often used in salacious ways before constructive.
Example being, the first widespread use of pictures and video on the Internet was the female form.
For obvious reasons. Sex as they say… sells.
And all new forms of communication, to achieve widespread adoption… use sex to sell themselves to an un-trusting population. Whether it’s men in the wilds of Wyoming, being able to pick up this new fangled device called a phone, and hear a woman’s voice, an operator, speak to them for the first time, or the still common practice of draping a beautiful woman across a new car or motorcycle… it’s the allure of that oldest of motivations that drives new things.
So while the purpose of such technology may have been theft retrieval, by taking pictures of the person in possession of the laptop, then using a combination of GPS and IP address to determine their location, then notifying law enforcement; the truth is… that technology is in more widespread use, to invade privacy.
And as I said, that… is yesterday’s technology.
It’s got nothing on the technology of today, and tomorrow.
Ah, the joys of always on technology.
You know we have a whole generation raised on the idea of giving everything to the Internet, and not questioning or requesting safe-guards on individual liberties.
There’s a reason why we have (had much stronger) wiretapping laws, because there is the assumption that privacy is a central right of man. But what happens, generally through entertainment, through ease of use, is we give away rights, we relinquish the assumption that men have rights.
Take CANDID CAMERA, a show which began in syndication in 1948, before its most popular CBS run from 1960 to 1966… made it a national sensation. The show,virtually single-handedly shaped consent-less video recording as something harmless.
This show, funny, watched by everyone, often not in the best taste, but still had America laughing, was a show about video-taping people when they were not aware of it, and had more than anything to do with defining that as something innocuous. And suddenly in the pursuit of entertainment, a right you had with audio recordings, namely ‘a recording without your knowledge is against the law’, became lost with video recordings.
“Most audio recordings without consent of one or all parties are illegal…. Most video recordings are legal with or without consent.” — UVU
Yes, after the fact they still have to get you to sign a waiver to broadcast the video, but as far as taking the video of you without your permission (through a TV show, through pursuit of ‘fun’ and ‘social media’) that has became a defacto standard.
By not questioning the rights and boundaries being overstepped, those rights became lost. and that’s why we have the surveillance heavy society we have today, because in the pursuit of ease of use, and fun, and jokes, the masses gave up a fundamental expectation of privacy. And things like Face-book and You-tube and reality television are the 21st century extensions of the axiom: ease of use = deterioration of rights.
So we have a whole generation growing up with a pretty invasive technology in, of, and around them at all times. And what begins as entertainment today, that you have a choice in: Kinect, Siri, Face recognition; becomes obtrusive corporate policies and laws of the land tomorrow, that you don’t have rights to dispute, to adjudicate, to deny.
If you don’t care about your computer potentially having the mic and camera turned on remotely, without your knowledge or intervention, than this post isn’t for you.
But it is for those of us who want to have the right to disseminate our information, data, video, audio; when and to whom we choose. Or to have the right to not disseminate that info if we so choose.
But here’s the thing, increasingly pursuit of social media and ease of use and gaming is, by the very nature of the technology being used, incompatible with concepts such as privacy.
So a young generation, going by the mandate ‘I don’t have nothing to hide! I want my fun!’ is going for the immediate pleasure, seeing any technology infiltration as harmless. Here’s the thing it’s not about ‘having nothing to hide’ it’s about ‘having the right to choose who you share with, and where your boundaries begin, and where they end’.
That is a part of socialization that is being lost in this mad rush of always on technology, and ‘trusted’ computing and ‘cloud’ computing, and strangers as ‘friends’.
Who we are as people, who we become, is a lot about developing for ourselves our boundaries, and more importantly the people we let into and out of those boundaries. It’s about developing judgment and values and trust. And what is happening in a post Face-book, You-tube, Kinect world is a society where, like the 1950s audience for CANDID CAMERA, you have relinquished the right to boundaries… even in your home.
The Microsoft Kinect Device controller, is not just about motion detection, the underlying principles of it, which have not yet been scratched; is more than a face recognition machine, dressed as a game sitting in your living room recording your family.
It is a head to toe biometric unit, that is capable of mapping you, and identifying you from your brother or sister or father. It’s a wonderfully advanced whole body scanner… and database.
That’s the part that’s lost on people… Database. It’s a database with a map of your family that can phone home, and store detailed data about you and yours on remote servers. And call Microsoft what you will, but short-sighted and stupid is not among their sins. Kinect is an experiment, taking place in the consumers home, that has so many more profitable applications, beyond gaming.
So it’s more than a controller to create more accurate avatars to interact in 3D games. Its potential is to create a biometric representation of you, as unique as a fingerprint.
Why? Because it’s the holy grail of a new age of on-line transactions and commerce.
Think of the potential of Kinect, really think of it. A society that is becoming increasingly wired, and increasingly house bound, can shop virtually in immersive 3D environments. Banking done like you are playing the most stunning 3D game ever, but done with a unique, and for the purposes of commerce and law, legally binding avatar. An avatar that in terms of how your body moves and how it reacts (eventually incorporating heat ranges, and electromagnetic patterns), can tell potential advertisers more about you then you can tell about yourself.
I can see a day when Kinect biometric pattens are sold to advertisers just like home addresses and email addresses are sold today. So advertisers can tailor directly to you based on the things the pattern tells them, whether you’re balding or having menstruation issues or skin issues or an unhealed limp. Or how about Kinect used in the future to do on-line job applications, and submit a bio-metric pattern, like a signature with your application. Or perhaps even used as a rudimentary polygraph test.
You open the door for motion detection, body mapping, facial recognition, probability analysis in the comfort of your home, for the benefit of ‘entertainment’ and ‘ease of use’ and like that CANDID CAMERA audience of the 50s, you’ve relinquished the assumption that privacy in your home, or of your person, is in any way… a right of man. But you haven’t just relinquished it for yourselves, you’ve relinquished it for future generations, and that may be a path… worth pausing on.
Nope, I’m not telling you any of that.
I’m only telling you there are no rights of man, without the effort of men to preserve those rights.
Every man, every woman, every child, the rights they would ensure, must be jealously, fanatically even, guarded… from even the seemingly most innocuous intrusion or, they will, in the fullness of time, be taken from you. They must be guarded even from yourself and such easy answers as ‘entertainment’ and ‘ease of use’.
I’m saying Nero fiddled while Rome burned, and I would hate to think a whole generation was playing games on Kinect while, things far more valuable… burned away.
For more on conect, both pro and con, see the following links:
Those are just parts of the argument, research it for yourself… and decide.
As far as checking out your camera:
Here’s a pretty simple, and straightforward way to see how accessible your camera is (it is NOT one of the hacking sites I was mentioning earlier. At, least I don’t think it is :)) without your express permission.
Once on the site, on a less secure system, you may see your face if you click the button (on some really insecure systems you’ll see your face whether you click on the button or not). I’m not responsible for any pop-ups or hacking or viruses that may invade your system. or anything that occurs should you visit the site.
It appears to be an innocuous site, but I don’t own it, and am not affiliated with it, so I can’t vouch for it; beyond saying my system, which is pretty secure, was unaffected by the site. Your mileage however, may vary. Responsibility for your security, like anything on the Internet… is yours.
As it should be.
I hope you’ve found this article of help. If you have, please toss some likes and comments this way; as well as using the button on your left to purchase the snazzy pdf/epub article I have for sale. Also go to the WEDNESDAY WORDS column and purchase nifty books, using the showcased links. Thanks!
ALL THE NEWS, YOU CAN USE:
Ohio man given choice of Facebook apology or jail– It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. Nope… it’s still funny.
Cyber-security expert finds new flaw in smartphones– Even as a tech guy, I’m a Luddite at heart. Which means, there’s a point where I think you give up too much for ‘ease of use’. There’s a point where I think you need to draw a line between what is your data and what is not. Increasingly smart-phones, and tablets, and I-tunes, and cloud computing, not challenged, not held to a standard… will erase any such line.
Scorned Attorney Threatens to Take Down Lawyer-Review Site– Yeah that’s really going to change people’s opinion of him. More to the point I didn’t know there was a review site for Lawyers! Cool! I have some reviews I need to leave.
Five Sports You Can Start Today and Play Forever– Well these are usually bs, but these guys are right on. Tennis anyone?!
Planets Align February 25: Venus, Jupiter, Moon To Converge— Oohhhh! I Knew it was coming! I knew it! I’m going up to my roof tomorrow at sunset and scream… SHAZAM!!! Goshdarn it! We’ll see who becomes Captain Marvel!
Well that’s all the news for now. Go out and hug somebody.
American Public Radio produces a public radio program (available via podcast, which is the way I listen to it) called THE STORY, and it’s just that, stories of interesting lives and incidents.
From their description:
“The Story with Dick Gordon brings the news home – through passionate points of view and personal experiences. The program brings together ordinary and extraordinary people to provide perspective on the issues which affect us all. Our goal is to inspire conversation, thinking and understanding. Produced at North Carolina Public Radio – WUNC.”
The stories are hit and miss, but today’s lead story, covering Stacy Arnout Smith and Facebook is definitely a hit. A must listen tale, a cautionary tale of the pitfalls and perils of companies that are not held accountable for the content of their site, and the crushing potential for both defamation and privacy invasion that it opens up you, the individual, to.
It discusses how Facebook’s lack of checks and balances, and oversight nearly destroyed one successful woman’s career and life
Compelling and thought-provoking listening.
To my mind the medium is the message. FCC used to fine radio stations for inappropriate language, and the last time I checked they still do. I think social media requires the same type of checks and balances. More so, because the ease of entry is lower. So FaceBook or YouTube, etc should be held liable if their site is used to post pornographic pictures, or libelous, or hate filled rhetoric. Just as I would be liable if I sold space on the outside of my house, for anyone to put up posters or advertising.
Under the rules granted to Facebook or Youtube etc, I could just say “I ‘m not responsible for the content!”, and if you don’t like the naked pics on the outside of my house, or curse words, etc… I just say, “too bad. I just rent the space. You have to talk to the posters. Or better yet just tell your kids not to look when they walk past my house! What are you trying to do? Censor me!? What are you unamerican?!”
Of course me trying that argument as an individual, is idiotic, and not going to fly with neighbors, police, neighborhood associations, schools, or the courts.
I try that crap, that CL, YOUTUBE, FACEBOOK defense, and I (or You) as an individual would be under the jail.
And I say rightly so, because as soon as you create a medium, a vehicle for the public to view that content, then yes that is definitely your responsibility, if anything you post violates reasonable standards of decency. Who is more criminal… the man who creates the deadly drug in his basement, or the organization that allows the distribution of that deadly drug to millions of basements?
The medium is the message.
So if it is a right, and moral, and legal stance to impose on each other and our neighbors, these limitations to keep personal and private boundaries, to maintain this tenuous thing called civilization and culture, how is it that corporations/social media sites may eschew any such recognition of local mores and laws? How is it social media sites get away with, in essence, the erosion of civility and civilization.
Companies such as Facebook, Craigslist, Youtube, Google, Wikipedia, “insert social media site here”, get away with doing EXACTLY this… overriding local, regional, even national mores and standards… with no oversight or controls or potential liability.
It’s insane, it’s dangerous, and worse, the current lawless nature of social media… threatens to damage social interaction more than it seemingly invigorates it by, in ways subtle and gross, imposing on all cultures a singular culture… the culture of the lowest common denominator.
My final take on today’s podcast program is– Social Media sites not only should be held liable for the content that they become a worldwide vehicle for, the defamation, the pornography, the violence, the hate, the identity theft, but they MUST BE held liable if anything close to locally determined culture is to survive.
If privacy, personal boundaries, and the very concept of the value of the individual… is to survive as true and viable concepts in this still new century, companies and social media sites must be held liable.
With simple checks and balances imposed on Social Media sites, the arduous path that Susan Arnout Smith, wife, author, and mother, had to endure, and increasing numbers of people have to endure… would have been a non-issue.
What checks and balances?
Glad you asked. Well…
1/a filtering system to keep objectionable material from being posted in the first place- how simple is that?
2/Every site created should within 72 hours or so, have a pair of eyes, actual people (imagine that), that just look at the site very quickly to see if it may be a malware or phishing site or otherwise violate listing rules
3/A real customer service department that users can actually reach a real person by email/phone and report offensive or problematic sites or sites that violate standards. And an easy way to get sites pulled or shutdown.
4/ The above said, you also have to be aware of frivolous attempts by spammers to remove legitimate sites. The easiest way to resolve that is to offer different levels of social media pages. Example, a “free” facebook page, easily setup and easily removed if any violations comes in or are reported and a “paid” facebook or social media page, backed up by actual contact/credit card info, that will have an assigned customer service rep to assist with conflicts/inquiries.
The above are four very simple steps, that social media sites, that are raking in the dough with very little overhead, could afford to enforce, put in affect, to the improvement, both financial and qualitative, of both themselves and their users. Whether they will enforce it, depends on you, and how much you cry about your neighbor putting up offensive material on the outside of his house.
Do to these companies, what you would do to your neighbor if they put this offensive material on the outside of their house.
Hold them accountable. Report them. file criminal complaints. File civil complaints. Sue them. Make them accountable.
Make them… civil.
Listen to the episode here and I’ll think you’ll be made… aware of the need for change with all Social Media sites :
If you’ve done any business on line, such as buying flowers or books or utilizing job search sites among other activities, more than likely you’ve received an email from various companies saying your data has been exposed.
The official story is Epsilon, the uber-firm, that contracts with major firms to handle their email correspondence, and by its own estimation sends out 40 Billion email messages on behalf of its powerhouse clients, among them Target, Walgreens Citigroup, was hacked and the email addresses for the clients of these vast firms were… siphoned off.
It amounts to easily millions upon millions of affected customers. And right now all Epsilon is admitting to is the theft of email addresses. Though logically it would occur to me that any hacker group adept enough to smash, hopefully stringent security, walked away with a lot more than just email addresses, up to and including real names, full addresses, and credit card #s for a start.
This is the problem with consolidation, with a monopolistic mindset. Increasingly all our data is congregated through a single provider, which also as this example shows translates into a single point of failure, a potentially catastrophic failure.
So instead of the bad guys having to hack 200 different companies, in the age of information consolidation, and monopolistic data aggregation, all they have to do is get by one company’s defenses… and everything comes tumbling after.
This latest, and arguably greatest, data leak, reinforces the need for more checks and balances, and better and more stringent privacy and information controls. And indeed less consolidation of same. Instead of companies outsourcing everything to increasingly fewer providers, bring these sensitive data services back in house. And besides abuse from without, I’m also concerned of the potential for abuse from within. All that data and info, subject to a single company’s policies can be an unpleasant personal liberty nightmare waiting to happen… again.
I think in an age of FACEBOOK and YOUTUBE and TWITTER we may need to recognize the obvious detriments to such easy dissemination of information and perhaps be a bit more wary about what we share and why. And more importantly what is done, and who controls the things we share. Perhaps be more aware that what we give up in exchange for this ease of online dialog may be nothing less… than ourselves.
Something to consider.