mfioretti: control*

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  1. The research was, as the study puts it, “premised on the notion that ad transparency undermines ad effectiveness when it exposes marketing practices that violate consumers’ beliefs about ‘information flows’ — how their information ought to move between parties.” So if a clothing store asks you for your email address so that it can send you promotional spam, you may not enjoy it, but you probably won’t consider it a breach of trust. But if that same store were, say, covertly following your movements between the aisles by tracking your cellphone, that would be unnerving, to say the least. Given that Facebook operates its advertising operation largely on the basis of data harvesting that’s conducted invisibly or behind the veil of trade secrecy, it has more in common with our creepy hypothetical retailer.

    as John explained via email, “If I have to see ads, then yeah, I’d generally prefer ones that are relevant than not relevant but I’d add the qualifier: as long as I get the sense that you are treating my personal information properly. As soon as people feel that you are violating their privacy, they can become uneasy and understandably, distrustful of you.” Zuckerberg’s claim that you prefer to have your most personal information and online behavior tracked and analyzed on an industrial scale probably only checks out if you’re unaware it’s happening.

    Assuming the validity of the research here, it’s no wonder Facebook doesn’t want to show its math: The ads that are its lifeblood will stop working as well. John agreed that “there’s a disincentive for firms to reveal unsavory information flows, so that could plausibly explain trying to hide it.” Facebook is, after all, one big, world-spanning, unsavory information flow.
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  2. I suspect Zuckerberg may have crossed a line when it became apparent he was considering the possibility of a presidential run. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s fictional novel The Great Gatsby, Zuckerberg would most likely be considered a member of the nouveau riche. Families who have pedaled influence in America may have felt the need to remind Zuckerberg of his place, and that he and his entire model is still susceptible to the older and more traditional forms of media.

    When news of the Cambridge Analytica story hit the tech communities, the biggest surprise from within the tech sector was the lack of surprise. Those of us who worked with advertising agencies and marketing teams knew the extent of data collected by Google, Facebook, Adobe and others. The hole which allowed for the data extraction was patched by 2015, breaking one of my own applications. One thing that’s not mentioned in the media is that the change also prevented Facebook users (those that were developers at least) from getting full access to their own data.

    Media coverage on Facebook has also been highly moderated and selective. Aaron Greenspan’s Ask Me Anything thread on Reddit was locked, and posts to his blog concerning Zuckerberg have been moderated on sites like HackerNews8. Greenspan was in a legal battle with Facebook over trademark disputes, which were settled in 20099. The details of his relationship with Facebook are best described on his Quora post about being classmates with Zuckerberg in University.

    I’m not by any means apologizing for the actions of people like Blagojevich, Spitzer or Zuckerberg. I’m not defending Facebook as I’ve felt for years that social media gives people a false sense of relevance and have primarily used it to promote my own content. But I do doubt the narrative that non-famous people are deleting their Facebook profiles en-mass. For many people I know, Facebook Messenger is our only communication link. Even those who delete their Facebook accounts simply move to other messaging services, sometimes ignorant that services such as WhatsApp and Instagram are also owned by Facebook.

    I would like to see a bigger push to independent, federated social networking services, but I doubt the #deletefacebook campaign will accomplish that. I think if people took a step back and looked at the bigger picture, they’d see the outside of a rich man’s pissing contest. The truly Orwellian part of this narrative is not the exposure of Facebook’s data industrial complex, but instead the focus given to it by traditional TV, web and print media.

    In 1929, Edward Bernays created a campaign for the Tobacco industry to encourage more women to smoke. With a publicity stunt during an Easter Parade in New York, and a few select words given to certain reporters and photographers, pretty soon every newspaper outlet in the country was printing headlines about Torches for Freedom. Bernays was able to equivocate smoking an addictive substance with the right for women to vote. It showed there need not be a large conspiracy, just the right amount of advertising and a careful inception of an idea for news media to take off running with it. We may have exchanged print for screen real estate, and the papers of the 1930s didn’t have an interactive comments section, but overall not a lot has truly changed in the way the news media is used, controlled and used to control.

    In the book 1984, Orwell may have been satisfied with his characters experiencing a “two minute hate.” The American media, however, is like the lens of a magnifying glass focusing the sun on a small toy soldier. Today’s media can focus American outrage into a 24/7 long hate that the party leaders of Oceania could only dream of. We are focused on our leaders instead of on all the influential and essential people surrounding them who are really controlling the narrative.
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  3. That means in addition to being a chokepoint through which governments can block the Internet, it is also a place where they can monitor it. While leaking data to Comcast may be creepy, leaking because the DNS protocol in some parts of the world, literally a matter of life and death.
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2018-04-05)
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  4. The Riksbank governor, Stefan Ingves, called for new legislation to secure public control over the payments system, arguing that being able to make and receive payments is a “collective good” like defence, the courts, or public statistics.
    Cashing out? Why notes and coins may become a thing of the past in Sweden
    Read more

    “Most citizens would feel uncomfortable to surrender these social functions to private companies,” he said.

    “It should be obvious that Sweden’s preparedness would be weakened if, in a serious crisis or war, we had not decided in advance how households and companies would pay for fuel, supplies and other necessities.”

    “When you have a fully digital system you have no weapon to defend yourself if someone turns it off,” he says.

    “If Putin invades Gotland Sweden’s largest island » it will be enough for him to turn off the payments system. No other country would even think about taking these sorts of risks, they would demand some sort of analogue system.”

    an opinion poll this month revealed unease among Swedes, with almost seven out of 10 saying they wanted to keep the option to use cash, while just 25% wanted a completely cashless society. MPs from left and right expressed concerns at a recent parliamentary hearing. Parliament is conducting a cross-party review of central bank legislation that will also investigate the issues surrounding cash.
    'I don't use contactless': the woman whose name is on British banknotes
    Read more

    The Pirate Party – which made its name in Sweden for its opposition to state and private sector surveillance – welcomes a higher political profile for these issues.
    Look at Ireland, Christian Engström says, where abortion is illegal. It is much easier for authorities to identify Irish women who have had an abortion if the state can track all digital financial transactions, he says. And while Sweden’s government might be relatively benign, a quick look at Europe suggests there is no guarantee how things might develop in the future.
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  5. After Barack Obama won reelection in 2012, voter targeting and other uses of Big Data in campaigns was all the rage. The following spring, at a conference titled Data-Crunched Democracy that Turow organized with Daniel Kreiss of the University of North Carolina, I listened as Ethan Roeder, the head of data analytics for Obama 2012, railed against critics. “Politicians exist to manipulate you,” he said, “and that is not going to change, regardless of how information is used.” He continued: “OK, maybe we have a new form of manipulation, we have micro-manipulation, but what are the real concerns? What is the real problem that we see with the way information is being used? Because if it’s manipulation, that ship has long since sailed.” To Roeder, the bottom line was clear: “Campaigns do not care about privacy. All campaigns care about is winning.”

    A few of us at the conference, led by the sociologist Zeynep Tufekci, argued that because individual voter data was being weaponized with behavioral-science insights in ways that could be finely tuned and also deployed outside of public view, the potential now existed to engineer the public toward outcomes that wealthy interests would pay dearly to control. No one listened. Until last year, you could not get a major US foundation to put a penny behind efforts to monitor and unmask these new forms of hidden persuasion.

    If there’s any good news in the last week of revelations about the data firm Cambridge Analytica’s 2014 acquisition (and now-notorious 2016 use) of the profile data of 50 million Facebook members, it’s this: Millions of people are now awake to just how naked and exposed they are in the public sphere. And clearly, people care a lot more about political uses of their personal data than they do about someone trying to sell them a pair of shoes. That’s why so many people are suddenly talking about deleting their Facebook accounts.
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  6. Il nodo della questione si trova in questo dettaglio: un numero limitato di persone particolarmente attive può trasformare un sussurro in un “urlo collettivo”, come si è visto in questa, e in altre occasioni, anche per mancanza di analisi da parte dei giornalisti. Il giornalismo di oggi si alimenta naturalmente di ciò che trova larga diffusione sui social media, e non può non farlo; ma i numeri dei social media non possono essere interpretati correttamente senza un’accurata analisi che consideri la facilità con cui si possono manipolare gli hashtag: può infatti accadere che sui primi 71.000 tweet sopracitati, 35.000 siano stati fatti da 500 persone. “Dettagli” che non possono essere trascurati, soprattutto considerando il comportamento degli account più attivi, un numero esiguo, che non possono essere descritti solamente come bot, ma che alternano attività “umane”, come tweet personalizzati e risposte ad altri tweet, ad attività automatizzate, destinate unicamente a ripetere in maniera meccanica il tweet in questione. “Dettagli” che indicano la presenza di un tentativo concertato di manipolare la rilevanza di un hashtag, tradotto poi dai più importanti media del Paese come il sentimento di una parte dell’elettorato del Pd. Quanto questi account abbiano contribuito alla diffusione dell’hashtag è difficile da quantificare con precisione. Quello che possiamo dire con certezza è che senza di loro non saremmo stati qui a parlarne.
    Tags: , , , , , by M. Fioretti (2018-03-29)
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  7. Then, if the economic value of personal data is so limited, why is there all this fuss about this economic dwarf? The answer is that this is not an economic matter but a question of power. Not the power of making people buy specific economic products, which always at doubt, but power per se. Power to organize the environment in which each of us develops her vision of the world, the power on thoughts and bodies. And among the big corporations of this dwarf universe, who cares if data power creates chaos, destruction and insanity. Faced with the disaster that it brings about, they will only respond with trying to grab even more power on the pretext to correct their misdeeds. It is from below, from us, through groups who adopt and create their own knwoledge tools that the next world can emerge. It is already there in scraps, but to see its premises, one needs to get rid of dogmas.
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2018-03-29)
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  8. Stratumseind in Eindhoven is one of the busiest nightlife streets in the Netherlands. On a Saturday night, bars are packed, music blares through the street, laughter and drunken shouting bounces off the walls. As the night progresses, the ground becomes littered with empty shot bottles, energy drink cans, cigarette butts and broken glass.

    It’s no surprise that the place is also known for its frequent fights. To change that image, Stratumseind has become one of the “smartest” streets in the Netherlands. Lamp-posts have been fitted with wifi-trackers, cameras and 64 microphones that can detect aggressive behaviour and alert police officers to altercations. There has been a failed experiment to change light intensity to alter the mood. The next plan, starting this spring, is to diffuse the smell of oranges to calm people down. The aim? To make Stratumseind a safer place.

    We get that comment a lot – ‘Big brother is watching you’. I prefer to say, ‘Big brother is helping you’
    Peter van de Crommert

    All the while, data is being collected and stored. “Visitors do not realise they are entering a living laboratory,” says Maša Galic, a researcher on privacy in the public space for the Tilburg Institute of Law, Technology and Society. Since the data on Stratumseind is used to profile, nudge or actively target people, this “smart city” experiment is subject to privacy law. According to the Dutch Personal Data Protection Act, people should be notified in advance of data collection and the purpose should be specified – but in Stratumseind, as in many other “smart cities”, this is not the case.

    Peter van de Crommert is involved at Stratumseind as project manager with the Dutch Institute for Technology, Safety and Security. He says visitors do not have to worry about their privacy: the data is about crowds, not individuals. “We often get that comment – ‘Big brother is watching you’ – but I prefer to say, ‘Big brother is helping you’. We want safe nightlife, but not a soldier on every street corner.”
    Revellers in Eindhoven’s Stratumseind celebrate King’s Day.
    Revellers in Eindhoven’s Stratumseind celebrate King’s Day. Photograph: Filippo Manaresi/Moment Editorial/Getty Images

    When we think of smart cities, we usually think of big projects: Songdo in South Korea, the IBM control centre in Rio de Janeiro or the hundreds of new smart cities in India. More recent developments include Toronto, where Google will build an entirely new smart neighbourhood, and Arizona, where Bill Gates plans to build his own smart city. But the reality of the smart city is that it has stretched into the everyday fabric of urban life – particularly so in the Netherlands.

    In the eastern city of Enschede, city traffic sensors pick up your phone’s wifi signal even if you are not connected to the wifi network. The trackers register your MAC address, the unique network card number in a smartphone. The city council wants to know how often people visit Enschede, and what their routes and preferred spots are. Dave Borghuis, an Enschede resident, was not impressed and filed an official complaint. “I don’t think it’s okay for the municipality to track its citizens in this way,” he said. “If you walk around the city, you have to be able to imagine yourself unwatched.”

    Enschede is enthusiastic about the advantages of the smart city. The municipality says it is saving €36m in infrastructure investments by launching a smart traffic app that rewards people for good behaviour like cycling, walking and using public transport. (Ironically, one of the rewards is a free day of private parking.) Only those who mine the small print will discover that the app creates “personal mobility profiles”, and that the collected personal data belongs to the company Mobidot.
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  9. Finally, there’s what the authors call “political security” – using AI to automate tasks involved in surveillance, persuasion (creating targeted propaganda) and deception (eg, manipulating videos). We can also expect new kinds of attack based on machine-learning’s capability to infer human behaviours, moods and beliefs from available data. This technology will obviously be welcomed by authoritarian states, but it will also further undermine the ability of democracies to sustain truthful public debates. The bots and fake Facebook accounts that currently pollute our public sphere will look awfully amateurish in a couple of years.

    The report is available as a free download and is worth reading in full. If it were about the dangers of future or speculative technologies, then it might be reasonable to dismiss it as academic scare-mongering. The alarming thing is most of the problematic capabilities that its authors envisage are already available and in many cases are currently embedded in many of the networked services that we use every day. William Gibson was right: the future has already arrived.
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  10. Google tracks you on more than just their search engine. You may realize they also track you on YouTube, Gmail, Chrome, Android, Gmaps, and all the other services they run. For those, we recommend using private alternatives like DuckDuckGo for search. Yes, you can live Google-free. I’ve been doing it for many years.

    What you may not realize, though, is Google trackers are actually lurking behind the scenes on 75% of the top million websites. To give you a sense of how large that is, Facebook is the next closest with 25%. It’s a good bet that any random site you land on the Internet will have a Google tracker hiding on it. Between the two of them, they are truly dominating online advertising, by some measures literally making up 74%+ of all its growth. A key component of how they have managed to do that is through all these hidden trackers.

    Google Analytics is installed on most sites, tracking you behind the scenes, letting website owners know who is visiting their sites, but also feeding that information back to Google. Same for the ads themselves, with Google running three of the largest non-search ad networks installed on millions of sites and apps: Adsense, Admob, and DoubleClick.

    You know those ads that creepily follow you around everywhere? Most of those are actually run through these Google ad networks, where they let advertisers target you against your search history, browsing history, location history and other personal information they collect. Even less well known is they also enable advertisers like airlines to charge you different prices based upon your personal information.

    These ads are not only annoying — they are literally designed to manipulate you through targeting to make you buy more things, and just showing them to you is an act of Google profiting off of your personal information.

    At DuckDuckGo, we’ve expanded beyond our roots in search, to protect you no matter where you go on the Internet. Our DuckDuckGo browser extension and mobile app is available for all major browsers and devices, and blocks these Google trackers, along with the ones from Facebook and countless other data brokers. It does even more to protect you as well like providing smarter encryption.

    #3 — Get unbiased results, outside the Filter Bubble.

    When you search, you expect unbiased results, but that’s not what you get on Google. On Google, you get results tailored to what they think you’re likely to click on, based on the data profile they’ve built on you over time from all that tracking I described above.

    That may appear at first blush to be a good thing, but when most people say they want personalization in a search context they actually want localization. They want local weather and restaurants, which can actually be provided without tracking, like we do at DuckDuckGo. That’s because approximate location info is automatically embedded by your computer in the search request, which we can use to serve you local results and immediately throw away without tracking you.

    Beyond localization, personalized results are dangerous because to show you results they think you’ll click on, they must filter results they think you’ll skip. That’s why it’s called the Filter Bubble.

    So if you have political leanings one way or another, you’re more likely to get results you already agree with, and less likely to ever see opposing viewpoints. In the aggregate this leads to increased echo chambers that are significantly contributing to our increasingly polarized society.

    This Filter Bubble is especially pernicious in a search context because you have the expectation that you’re seeing what others are seeing, that you’re seeing the “results.” We’ve done studies over the years where we have people search for the same topics on Google at the same time and in “Incognito” mode, and found they are significantly tailored.
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