mfioretti: data ownership* + surveillance*

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  1. Journalists have been asking me whether the revulsion against the abuse of Facebook data could be a turning point for the campaign to recover privacy. That could happen, if the public makes its campaign broader and deeper.

    Broader, meaning extending to all surveillance systems, not just Facebook. Deeper, meaning to advance from regulating the use of data to regulating the accumulation of data. Because surveillance is so pervasive, restoring privacy is necessarily a big change, and requires powerful measures.
    After the Facebook scandal it’s time to base the digital economy on public v private ownership of data
    Evgeny Morozov
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    The surveillance imposed on us today far exceeds that of the Soviet Union. For freedom and democracy’s sake, we need to eliminate most of it. There are so many ways to use data to hurt people that the only safe database is the one that was never collected. Thus, instead of the EU’s approach of mainly regulating how personal data may be used (in its General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR), I propose a law to stop systems from collecting personal data.

    The robust way to do that, the way that can’t be set aside at the whim of a government, is to require systems to be built so as not to collect data about a person. The basic principle is that a system must be designed not to collect certain data, if its basic function can be carried out without that data.

    Data about who travels where is particularly sensitive, because it is an ideal basis for repressing any chosen target. We can take the London trains and buses as a case for study.

    The Transport for London digital payment card system centrally records the trips any given Oyster or bank card has paid for. When a passenger feeds the card digitally, the system associates the card with the passenger’s identity. This adds up to complete surveillance.

    I expect the transport system can justify this practice under the GDPR’s rules. My proposal, by contrast, would require the system to stop tracking who goes where. The card’s basic function is to pay for transport. That can be done without centralising that data, so the transport system would have to stop doing so. When it accepts digital payments, it should do so through an anonymous payment system.
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    Frills on the system, such as the feature of letting a passenger review the list of past journeys, are not part of the basic function, so they can’t justify incorporating any additional surveillance.
    https://www.theguardian.com/commentis...ata-law-privacy-big-tech-surveillance
    Voting 0
  2. “I believe it’s important to tell people exactly how the information that they share on Facebook is going to be used.

    “That’s why, every single time you go to share something on Facebook, whether it’s a photo in Facebook, or a message, every single time, there’s a control right there about who you’re going to be sharing it with ... and you can change that and control that in line.

    “To your broader point about the privacy policy ... long privacy policies are very confusing. And if you make it long and spell out all the detail, then you’re probably going to reduce the per cent of people who read it and make it accessible to them.”
    https://www.theguardian.com/technolog...testimony-to-congress-the-key-moments
    Voting 0
  3. Should there be regulation?#
    Yes. On privacy disclosure, and prohibiting the most draconian uses of user data. It should not be possible for users to give those rights up in exchange for use of a social system like Facebook. The idea is similar to the law in California that says that most non-competes are not enforceable. The benefit you receive has to be somewhat equivalent to the data you give up. #
    What about Google, Apple, Amazon?#
    This is the really important stuff.#
    This affair should get users, government and the press to look at other tech companies who have business models based on getting users to disclose ever-more-intimate information. Here are some examples.#
    Google, through Android, knows every place you go. They use that data. Do they sell it? I don't know, but I'm pretty sure you can use it to target ads. Apple, through the iPhone also knows where you go.#
    Apps on Android or iPhones can be told where you go. Many of them are only useful if you let them have the info. Apps can also have all your pictures, contacts. Face recognition makes it possible to construct a social graph without any access to the Facebook API.#
    Google and Apple can listen to all your phone calls.#
    Google, through their Chrome browser, knows everywhere you go on the web, and everything you type into the browser. #
    Amazon Echo and Google Home are always listening. Imagine a leak based on conversations at home, phone calls, personal habits, arguments you have with your spouse, kids, any illegal activities that might be going on in your home. #
    If you have a Gmail account, Google reads your mail, and targets ads at you based on what you're writing about. They also read the email that people send to you, people who may not also be Gmail users. Some examples of how creepy this can be -- they seem to know what my investments are, btw -- I assume they figured this out through email. Recently they told me when a friend's flight to NYC was arriving. I don't know how they made this connection. I assume it was through email.#
    Amazon, of course, knows everything you buy through Amazon. #
    Google knows everything you search for. #
    And on and on. We've reconstructed our whole society around companies having all the data about us that they want. It's kind of funny that we're all freaking out about Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. The problem is so much bigger. #
    Summary#
    It seems like a non-event to me. The press knew all about the API going back to 2012. That they didn't foresee the problem then is a result of the press accepting the hype of big tech companies on their terms, and not trying to find out what the implications of technology are from non-partisan experts. This was a story that could have and should have been written in 2010, warning users of a hidden cost to Facebook.#
    Today's scandal, the equivalent of the one in 2010, is that Google is attempting to turn the web into a corporate platform. Once they control the web as Facebook controls the Social Graph, we'll have another impossibly huge problem to deal with. Better to head this one off with regulation, now, when it can do some good
    http://scripting.com/2018/04/11/140429.html
    Voting 0
  4. IoT will be able to take stock of your choices, moods, preferences and tastes, the same way Google Search does. With enough spreadsheets, many practical questions are rendered trivial. How hard will it be for the IoT — maybe through Alexa, maybe through your phone — to statistically study why, where and when you raise your voice at your child? If you can correlate people’s habits and physical attributes, it will be toddler-easy to correlate mood to environment. The digitally connected devices of tomorrow would be poor consumer products if they did not learn you well. Being a good and faithful servant means monitoring the master closely, and that is what IoT devices will do. They will analyze your feedback and automate their responses — and predict your needs. In the IoT, Big Data is weaponized, and can peer deeper into the seeds your life than the government has ever dreamed.
    https://www.salon.com/2018/02/19/why-...signed-for-corporations-not-consumers
    Voting 0
  5. Mark Zuckerberg also launched Facebook with a disdain for intrusive advertising, but it wasn’t long before the social network giant became Google’s biggest competitor for ad dollars. After going public with 845 million users in 2012, Facebook became a multibillion-dollar company and Zuckerberg one of the richest men on Earth, but with only a promise that the company would figure out how to monetize its platform.

    Facebook ultimately sold companies on its platform by promising “brand awareness” and the best possible data on what consumers actually liked. Brands could start their own Facebook pages, which people would actually “like” and interact with. This provided unparalleled information about what company each individual person wanted to interact with the most. By engaging with companies on Facebook, people gave corporate marketing departments more information than they could have ever dreamed of buying, but here it was offered up free.

    This was the “grand bargain,” as Columbia University law professor Tim Wu called it in his book, The Attention Merchants, that users struck with corporations. Wu wrote that Facebook’s “billions of users worldwide were simply handing over a treasure trove of detailed demographic data and exposing themselves to highly targeted advertising in return for what, exactly?”

    In other words: We will give you every detail of our lives and you will get rich by selling that information to advertisers.

    European regulators are now saying that bargain was a bad deal. The big question that remains is whether their counterparts in the U.S. will follow their lead.
    https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/...antitrust_us_5a625023e4b0dc592a088f6c
    Voting 0
  6. "Continueremo a lavorare con le autorità francesi per garantire che gli utenti comprendano quali informazioni vengono raccolte e come vengono utilizzate", ha affermato WhatsApp in una dichiarazione inviata per posta elettronica. "Ci impegniamo a risolvere le diverse e talvolta contraddittorie preoccupazioni che hanno sollevato le autorità per la protezione dei dati, con un approccio comune a livello europeo prima che nuove norme sulla protezione dei dati a livello di blocco entrino in vigore nel maggio 2018".

    I trasferimenti di dati da WhatsApp a Facebook avvengono in parte senza il consenso dell'utente, ha ribadito l'ente francese che ha anche respinto le argomentazioni di WhatsApp secondo le quali l'azienda sarebbe soggetta solo alla legge degli Stati Uniti. Il monito francese, è "un avviso formale, non una sanzione", ma il colosso dei messaggi rischierebbe di incorrere in multe in una fase successiva.
    http://www.repubblica.it/tecnologia/2...ncia_il_garante_fb_whatsapp-184580045
    Voting 0
  7. The point is that Facebook has a strong, paternalistic view on what’s best for you, and it’s trying to transport you there. “To get people to this point where there’s more openness – that’s a big challenge. But I think we’ll do it,” Zuckerberg has said. He has reason to believe that he will achieve that goal. With its size, Facebook has amassed outsized powers. “In a lot of ways Facebook is more like a government than a traditional company,” Zuckerberg has said. “We have this large community of people, and more than other technology companies we’re really setting policies.”

    Without knowing it, Zuckerberg is the heir to a long political tradition. Over the last 200 years, the west has been unable to shake an abiding fantasy, a dream sequence in which we throw out the bum politicians and replace them with engineers – rule by slide rule. The French were the first to entertain this notion in the bloody, world-churning aftermath of their revolution. A coterie of the country’s most influential philosophers (notably, Henri de Saint-Simon and Auguste Comte) were genuinely torn about the course of the country. They hated all the old ancient bastions of parasitic power – the feudal lords, the priests and the warriors – but they also feared the chaos of the mob. To split the difference, they proposed a form of technocracy – engineers and assorted technicians would rule with beneficent disinterestedness. Engineers would strip the old order of its power, while governing in the spirit of science. They would impose rationality and order.
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    This dream has captivated intellectuals ever since, especially Americans. The great sociologist Thorstein Veblen was obsessed with installing engineers in power and, in 1921, wrote a book making his case. His vision briefly became a reality. In the aftermath of the first world war, American elites were aghast at all the irrational impulses unleashed by that conflict – the xenophobia, the racism, the urge to lynch and riot. And when the realities of economic life had grown so complicated, how could politicians possibly manage them? Americans of all persuasions began yearning for the salvific ascendance of the most famous engineer of his time: Herbert Hoover. In 1920, Franklin D Roosevelt – who would, of course, go on to replace him in 1932 – organised a movement to draft Hoover for the presidency.

    The Hoover experiment, in the end, hardly realised the happy fantasies about the Engineer King. A very different version of this dream, however, has come to fruition, in the form of the CEOs of the big tech companies. We’re not ruled by engineers, not yet, but they have become the dominant force in American life – the highest, most influential tier of our elite.

    There’s another way to describe this historical progression. Automation has come in waves. During the industrial revolution, machinery replaced manual workers. At first, machines required human operators. Over time, machines came to function with hardly any human intervention. For centuries, engineers automated physical labour; our new engineering elite has automated thought. They have perfected technologies that take over intellectual processes, that render the brain redundant. Or, as the former Google and Yahoo executive Marissa Mayer once argued, “You have to make words less human and more a piece of the machine.” Indeed, we have begun to outsource our intellectual work to companies that suggest what we should learn, the topics we should consider, and the items we ought to buy. These companies can justify their incursions into our lives with the very arguments that Saint-Simon and Comte articulated: they are supplying us with efficiency; they are imposing order on human life.

    Nobody better articulates the modern faith in engineering’s power to transform society than Zuckerberg. He told a group of software developers, “You know, I’m an engineer, and I think a key part of the engineering mindset is this hope and this belief that you can take any system that’s out there and make it much, much better than it is today. Anything, whether it’s hardware or software, a company, a developer ecosystem – you can take anything and make it much, much better.” The world will improve, if only Zuckerberg’s reason can prevail – and it will.

    The precise source of Facebook’s power is algorithms. That’s a concept repeated dutifully in nearly every story about the tech giants, yet it remains fuzzy at best to users of those sites. From the moment of the algorithm’s invention, it was possible to see its power, its revolutionary potential. The algorithm was developed in order to automate thinking, to remove difficult decisions from the hands of humans, to settle contentious debates.
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    The essence of the algorithm is entirely uncomplicated. The textbooks compare them to recipes – a series of precise steps that can be followed mindlessly. This is different from equations, which have one correct result. Algorithms merely capture the process for solving a problem and say nothing about where those steps ultimately lead.

    These recipes are the crucial building blocks of software. Programmers can’t simply order a computer to, say, search the internet. They must give the computer a set of specific instructions for accomplishing that task. These instructions must take the messy human activity of looking for information and transpose that into an orderly process that can be expressed in code. First do this … then do that. The process of translation, from concept to procedure to code, is inherently reductive. Complex processes must be subdivided into a series of binary choices. There’s no equation to suggest a dress to wear, but an algorithm could easily be written for that – it will work its way through a series of either/or questions (morning or night, winter or summer, sun or rain), with each choice pushing to the next.

    Facebook would never put it this way, but algorithms are meant to erode free will, to relieve humans of the burden of choosing, to nudge them in the right direction. Algorithms fuel a sense of omnipotence, the condescending belief that our behaviour can be altered, without our even being aware of the hand guiding us, in a superior direction. That’s always been a danger of the engineering mindset, as it moves beyond its roots in building inanimate stuff and begins to design a more perfect social world. We are the screws and rivets in the grand design.
    https://www.theguardian.com/technolog...r-on-free-will?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other
    Voting 0
  8. Smart toys including My Friend Cayla, Hello Barbie, and CloudPets are designed to learn and grow with your kid. Cool, right? Unfortunately, many of these toys have privacy problems. As the 2015 data breach of Vtech's InnoTab Max uncovered, hackers specifically target kids because they offer clean credit histories and unused Social Security numbers that they can use for identity theft. These toys also collect a lot of information about your kid, and they aren't always clear about when they do it and how they use it.
    http://edition.cnn.com/2017/06/07/hea...2Fedition_us+%28RSS%3A+CNNi+-+U.S.%29
    Voting 0
  9. La relazione dell’Autorità garante per la protezione dei dati personali non fa alcun riferimento con quei toni così banali ad “allarmi”, sottolinea invece le grandi questioni in campo, anzi raccontando i risultati ottenuti lavorando sulle discipline, le garanzie, il dialogo coi player, seguendo le linee guida dei gruppi dell’Unione. Se il mainstream dev’essere sempre quello dell’allarme e dei titoli fuorvianti, inutile lamentarsi della disintermediazione e dello strapotere delle piattaforme di social media.
    http://www.webnews.it/2017/06/06/garante-privacy-relazione-annuale
    Voting 0
  10. "All of us, when we are uploading something, when we are tagging people, when we are commenting, we are basically working for Facebook," he says.

    The data our interactions provide feeds the complex algorithms that power the social media site, where, as Mr Joler puts it, our behaviour is transformed into a product.

    Trying to untangle that largely hidden process proved to be a mammoth task.

    "We tried to map all the inputs, the fields in which we interact with Facebook, and the outcome," he says.

    "We mapped likes, shares, search, update status, adding photos, friends, names, everything our devices are saying about us, all the permissions we are giving to Facebook via apps, such as phone status, wifi connection and the ability to record audio."

    All of this research provided only a fraction of the full picture. So the team looked into Facebook's acquisitions, and scoured its myriad patent filings.

    The results were astonishing.

    Visually arresting flow charts that take hours to absorb fully, but which show how the data we give Facebook is used to calculate our ethnic affinity (Facebook's term), sexual orientation, political affiliation, social class, travel schedule and much more.
    Image copyright Share Lab
    Image caption Share Lab presents its information in minutely detailed tables and flow charts

    One map shows how everything - from the links we post on Facebook, to the pages we like, to our online behaviour in many other corners of cyber-space that are owned or interact with the company (Instagram, WhatsApp or sites that merely use your Facebook log-in) - could all be entering a giant algorithmic process.

    And that process allows Facebook to target users with terrifying accuracy, with the ability to determine whether they like Korean food, the length of their commute to work, or their baby's age.

    Another map details the permissions many of us willingly give Facebook via its many smartphone apps, including the ability to read all text messages, download files without permission, and access our precise location.

    Individually, these are powerful tools; combined they amount to a data collection engine that, Mr Joler argues, is ripe for exploitation.

    "If you think just about cookies, just about mobile phone permissions, or just about the retention of metadata - each of those things, from the perspective of data analysis, are really intrusive."
    http://www.bbc.com/news/business-39947942
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