mfioretti: data ownership* + walled gardens*

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  1. Facebook, which now owns WhatsApp, is fighting a challenge to its new privacy policy that it unveiled last year. According to the new privacy policy WhatsApp can share some user data with Facebook, which the Mark Zuckerberg-led company can then use in various ways. Although WhatsApp says that it will (still) not share all the information that users generate through their chats, India Today Tech noted earlier , Facebook only needs the phone number of a user to build a full WhatsApp profile for that user. The company most likely already has other details on users.

    Also Read: WhatsApp will ONLY share phone number but that is all Facebook needs

    The new WhatsApp privacy has been criticised worldwide. Just days ago, a court in Germany asked Facebook to stop harvesting user information from WhatsApp. After the court order, Facebook said that it was pausing the sharing of WhatsApp user data with Facebook in whole of Europe. The ruling came even as the European Union privacy watchdog continues to probe the new privacy policy.

    However, in India where privacy laws are non-existent, Facebook and WhatsApp have so far defended their new privacy policy. It is also important to note that India is one of the biggest markets for both Facebook and WhatsApp and that could also be one of the reasons why Facebook wants to enforce its new privacy policies here. Data from Indian users could be commercially very attractive for the company.
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  2. Facebook’s entire project, when it comes to news, rests on the assumption that people’s individual preferences ultimately coincide with the public good, and that if it doesn’t appear that way at first, you’re not delving deeply enough into the data. By contrast, decades of social-science research shows that most of us simply prefer stuff that feels true to our worldview even if it isn’t true at all and that the mining of all those preference signals is likely to lead us deeper into bubbles rather than out of them.

    What’s needed, he argues, is some global superstructure to advance humanity.

    This is not an especially controversial idea; Zuckerberg is arguing for a kind of digital-era version of the global institution-building that the Western world engaged in after World War II. But because he is a chief executive and not an elected president, there is something frightening about his project. He is positioning Facebook — and, considering that he commands absolute voting control of the company, he is positioning himself — as a critical enabler of the next generation of human society. A minor problem with his mission is that it drips with megalomania, albeit of a particularly sincere sort. With his wife, Priscilla Chan, Zuckerberg has pledged to give away nearly all of his wealth to a variety of charitable causes, including a long-term medical-research project to cure all disease. His desire to take on global social problems through digital connectivity, and specifically through Facebook, feels like part of the same impulse.

    Yet Zuckerberg is often blasé about the messiness of the transition between the world we’re in and the one he wants to create through software. Building new “social infrastructure” usually involves tearing older infrastructure down. If you manage the demolition poorly, you might undermine what comes next.
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  3. non voglio farla lunga, ma in allora, come oggi, io non controllavo affatto il dato e l’informazione personale volontariamente o forzosamente appresa ad ogni mio movimento; ciò che in qualche modo mi salvava nella tribolata adolescenza (non sempre invero) era il controllo della situazione sociale e del contesto.

    Il controllo sul dato-informazione non l’avevo con il macellaio del paese e non posso pensare di averlo oggi sul web con Google, Facebook e soprattutto con le mille agenzie statuali affette, per svariate e talvolta encomiabili ragioni, da bulimia informativa. Ma in allora avevo contezza e in qualche modo governavo le banali regole tecniche (le vie del paese, gli orari della corriera) e quelle sociali di prossimità del mio territorio.

    Oggi non ci riesco più. E non è solo per la quantità dei dati captati e memorizzati ad ogni passo ma per la totale opacità del contesto e delle regole tecniche e sociali che governano la nostra vita digitale.

    Algoritmi ignoti, insondabili ai loro stessi creatori, ricostruiscono la nostra immagine, creano punteggi e giudicano rilevanze e congruità a nostra totale insaputa. Banche, assicurazioni, imprese di ogni risma e fattezza (a breve l’internet delle cose ci stupirà) ma soprattutto lo Stato, con le sue mille agenzie di verifica e controllo, accedono ad ogni informazione decontestualizzandola, creando relazioni e correlazioni di cui non abbiamo coscienza, ma di cui subiamo quotidianamente le conseguenze.

    Non possiamo impedire tutto questo, il big data e gli open-data salveranno il mondo, d’accordo. Ma possiamo e dobbiamo pretendere di sapere il chi, il come e il quando. Abbiamo bisogno di sapere qual è il contesto, e quali sono le regole; solo così troveremo strategie, non per delinquere o eludere la legge (come sostiene parte della magistratura), ma per esercitare i diritti fondamentali della persona.

    Nel mondo fisico sappiamo quando lo Stato ha il diritto di entrare in casa nostra, o a quali condizioni possa limitare le nostre libertà personali, di movimento, d’espressione; nel mondo digitale non sappiamo, e neppure ci chiediamo, chi, quando e a quali condizioni possa impossessarsi dei nostri dati, dei nostri dispositivi tramite software occulti, della nostra vita. Accettiamo supinamente un’intollerabile opacità.

    Io ho qualcosa da nascondere da quando ho ricordi: sono riservatezze variabili a seconda dell’interlocutore, del tempo, del luogo e del contesto. E non voglio per me e i miei figli una società stupidamente disciplinata da una costante sorveglianza e decerebrata dagli algoritmi. Vorrei una società in cui l’asimmetria dell’informazione sia l’esatto opposto dell’attuale, dove purtroppo il cittadino è totalmente trasparente e lo Stato e le sue regole sono opache e incerte.
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    Carlo Blengino
    Carlo Blengino

    Avvocato penalista, affronta nelle aule giudiziarie il diritto delle nuove tecnologie, le questioni di copyright e di data protection. È fellow del NEXA Center for Internet & Society del Politecnico di Torino. @CBlengio su Twitter
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  4. Summary

    Decentralized thinking is hard. So hard that future generations might see the Internet as a historical abberation.

    In a Linux Journal piece entitled Giving Silos Their Due, Doc Searls laments that decentralized services, with a few notable exceptions, haven't become the preferred way of engineering new technologies. He says:

    In those days, many of us had full confidence that Jabber/XMPP would do for instant messaging (aka chat) what SMTP/POP3/IMAP did for e-mail and HTTP/HTML and its successors did for publishing and all the other things one can do on the World Wide Web. We would have a nice flat, distributed and universal standard that people could employ any way they wanted, including on their own personal hardware and software, with countless interoperable systems and no natural barriers to moving data easily from any one system to any other.

    Didn't happen.

    And in fact, Jabber/XMPP isn't the only place this didn't happen, as Doc goes on to point out. In fact, after Web 1.0, decentralized protocol-based systems have never become the preferred way to do something significant on the Internet.

    I remember telling Doc a while back that I'm often afraid that the Internet is an aberration. That is a gigantic accident brought on by special circumstances. That accident showed us that large-scale, decentralized systems can be built, but those circumstances are not normal.

    Jon Udell was visiting this week and we spoke in similar tones about blogging and how it turned from a vibrant, two-way conversation to a place for electronic magazines and think-pieces. Early blogging felt like a community. I met many of the people I now consider good friends through blogging. Now, blogging is just a way to market, even if all you're marketing is ideas. People understand posting on Facebook or Medium cause it's simple, fast, and gets immediate attention.

    Similarly, Jon's elmcity project, meant to demonstrate the network effects that emerge in physical communities from a decentralized system for calendar events, couldn't get traction because, as I understand it, people understand a Facebook Event page or sending a tweet more easily than they do publishing their calendar. Even when people got calendars, try getting them to understand why putting a PDF document online isn't good enough.

    I get that decentralized thinking is hard. Even harder is getting a decentralized ecosystem off the ground. The Internet was a fun little playground before 1994. Of course the first nodes on the Internet were put in place in 1969. When I was in grad school in the 80's there were so few public nodes in the Internet, we could FTP an entire list from Berkeley anytime we set up a new machine. That's a long incubation period for something we now consider a critical infrastructure of the modern world. Man-made, decentralized things are difficult to pull off.

    So, yeah, I'm a dinosaur. Like Doc, I'll "never believe silos are the best way to make the world work in the long run. And I'll always believe that the flat distributed world built on free and open stuff is the most supportive and fertile base on which to build the best and broadest range of goods and services." I'm pretty confident that the return of Online Service 2.0, what I call the The CompuServe of Things, will ultimately leave people flat. I hope that the IoT ultimately creates the right circumstances for a resurgence of decentralized thinking.
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  5. If you’re a business trying to reach potential customers on mobile devices, why would you need anything else?

    As businesses embrace this argument, which they will if Facebook continues to command such an outsized audience, that doesn’t just help Facebook become more successful. Facebook killing it doesn’t just mean Facebook makes boatloads of money. The more it succeeds, the more Facebook warps a universe of Internet content, industry norms, and consumer habits around itself. Facebook in effect becomes the mobile Internet.
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  6. I'm going to assume you know what Apple Pay is: you use your iPhone, iPad, or Watch as a trusted, authenticated identity token in a shop to pay for stuff. It ties into your bank account and basically your phone swallows your debit and credit card.

    Ultimately the banks are going to discover—the hard way—that getting into bed with Apple was a bad idea, about the same way that getting into bed with Amazon over ebooks was a bad idea for the Big Five publishers. Apple is de facto an investment bank, right now: all it needs is a banking license and the right back end and regulatory oversight and risk management and it will be able to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Chase or Barclays or HSBC as a consumer bank, too. And Apple has a very good idea of how risky their customers' behavior is because unlike the banks and the credit card settlement network they're not running on incrementally upgraded legacy infrastructure designed in the 1950s. Note those two words a couple of sentences ago: "risk management". Banks are not in the business of holding your money or making loans; they live or die by how well they manage risk. Apple, like Google, has a much richer relationship with their customers than any bank. They can (for example), with a customer's position, know roughly where the customer's phone or watch is moving, and thereby spot faked payment credentials if someone clones the device and tries to use it to buy something a thousand miles away. The CC networks have velocity checking but it's a really crude metric for spotting fraud: Apple can massively improve on it.


    you and I aren't really their target market. Rather those people currently sitting in desks listen to teachers drone on are. In a few years there will be consumers who simply do not know a world without smartphones and apps. Who grew up using a phone or tablet before they touched a PC or laptop. These people are going to see their phone (or its successor) as the center point of their technological lives, everything else is an accessory. They're more likely to be without their keys, wallet, ID than they are to be without their phone.

    So to this group, not making payments, unlocking their car/house, or or proving their identity with their phone will seem risky and cumbersome.

    Why would you trust something so insecure as cash or a credit card or a physical key?
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  7. Smettero' di utilizzare Facebook, perche' mi sono convinto che e' una scelta indispensabile per continuare a considerarmi una persona decente. Era da tempo che mi ripromettevo di andarmene, con molteplici e valide motivazioni: tempo rubato alla lettura di libri, dispersione in un flusso superficiale di notizie privo di ogni approfondimento, convinzione sempre piu' radicata che Facebook sia l'equivalente moderno della televisione come strumento di massificazione, omologazione e devastazione culturale, dipendenza dalle interazioni con gli altri che ti spinge a collegarti ad ogni possibile occasione per seguire "cosa succede di la'" con la continua sensazione di perderti qualcosa di imperdibile.
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  8. Since its inception, email has been the best invention in the information age — right on the level of TCP/IP and HTTP. Why?

    It’s ubiquitous. Every device. Every kind of network. Every system. Every person. Everyone has an email address, and anything can be built to accept email. Because of this, everyone can be represented online via a unique email identity.

    It’s asynchronous. Stream-based collaboration tools are all about communication at the moment. When I sign on to our team portal in the morning, I easily could miss everything posted since last night, focusing on what I can see in the window. IM is even worse, if I’m not signed on at the moment, that message is gone. Email is designed to be asynchronous.

    It’s democratic. Email as a standalone product has no central controlling authority, unlike a Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. A threat to email and its dependencies would be treated as a direct threat to the Internet itself, and any profiteer wouldn’t dare end it.

    It’s open. While spam filters keep out the garbage, and do an increasingly good job, it’s still the most reliable way to reach out to someone, especially a new contact.

    It’s dirt cheap. Sending an email costs nothing. Sending lots of email, you’re paying an email marketing company fractions of a penny per contact to ensure deliverability. How much would it cost to engage purely via LinkedIn InMails, or how limited would you be if you could only communicate via Facebook Messenger?

    It (can be) forever. I’m not sure I ever sent any messages on Friendster, but what happened when they shut down?
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  9. Music, movies, TV, and podcast subscriptions. All tied up in Apple's little ecosystem. A very pretty noose to keep people chained to its hardware.

    Imagine, just for a moment, that your Sony DVD player would only play Sony Movies' films. When you decided to buy a new DVD player from Samsung, none of those media files would work on your new kit without some serious fiddling.

    That's the walled garden that so many companies are now trying to drag us into. And I think it stinks.

    On a mobile phone network in the UK, you can use any phone you want. Hardware and services are totally divorced. It promotes competition because customers know that if they have a poor experience with HTC, they can move to Nokia and everything will carry on working just as it did before.

    But, if all of your contacts, entertainment services, and backups are chained into HTC - well, then you're just shit out of luck if you want to move.

    I want to see a complete separation of church and state here. Hardware should be separate from software. Software should be separate from services.

    So, perhaps I'll stick with Google and hope that my Google TV talks to my Google Phone while I watch Google Play videos and listen to Google Play Music on my Google ChromeBook which I share on Google+ and purchase with Google Wallet. And send them the technology geek's prayer "Please don't decide that this useful service isn't profitable."

    I just want us all to get along. I want my disparate equipment to talk to each other. I don't want to live in a house where every component has to be made by the same company otherwise nothing works correctly. I don't want to be stuck using a crappy product because they're the only ones offering service X.

    I don't want toys that only run on your flavour of batteries.

    I don't want to be part of your fucking ecosystem.
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  10. With this latest privacy change on January 30th, I'm scared.

    Facebook has always been slightly worse than all the other tech companies with dodgy privacy records, but now, it's in it's own league. Getting off isn't just necessary to protect yourself, it's necessary to protect your friends and family too. This could be the point of no return -- but it's not too late to take back control.
    A short list of some Facebook practices

    It's not just what Facebook is saying it'll take from you and do with your information, it's all the things it's not saying, and doing anyway because of the loopholes they create for themselves in their Terms of Service and how simply they go back on their word. We don't even need to click "I agree" anymore. They just change the privacy policy and by staying on Facebook, you agree. Oopsy!

    Facebook doesn't keep any of your data safe or anonymous, no matter how much you lock down your privacy settings. Those are all a decoy. There are very serious privacy breaches, like selling your product endorsement to advertisers and politicians, tracking everything you read on the internet, or using data from your friends to learn private things about you - they have no off switch.

    Facebooks gives your data to "third-parties" through your use of apps, and then say that's you doing it, not them. Everytime you use an app, you're allowing Facebook to escape it's own privacy policy with you and with your friends. It's like when my brother used to make me punch myself and ask, "why are you punching yourself?" Then he'd tell my mum it wasn't his fault.

    "I have nothing to hide"

    A lot of people aren't worried about this, feeling they have nothing to hide. Why would they care about little old me? Why should I worry about this when I'm not doing anything wrong?

    One of the more obvious problems here is with insurance companies. The data they have on you is mined to predict your future. The now famous story of the pregnant teenager being outed by the store Target, after it mined her purchase data -- larger handbags, headache pills, tissues -- and sent her a "congratulations" message as marketing, which her unknowing father got instead. Oops!

    The same is done about you, and revealed to any company without your control.

    From the Terms Of Service (not the Privacy Policy -- see what they did there?):

    You give us permission to use your name, profile picture, content and information in connection with commercial, sponsored or related content (such as a brand you like), served or enhanced by us.

    And later:

    By "information" we mean facts and other information about you, including actions taken by users and non-users who interact with Facebook.

    So this includes everything they're collecting about you but not telling you. Everything you read online, everything someone ever posts about you, all your private financial transactions.

    Finally, I want to explain how this latest privacy change makes things way worse, and way more out of your control if you stay on Facebook.

    Facebook is demanding to track what you buy, and your financial information like bank account and credit card numbers. You've already agreed to it in the new Terms Of Service. It's already started sharing data with Mastercard. They'll use the fact that you stayed on Facebook as "permission" to make deals with all kinds of banks and financial institutions to get your data from them. They'll call it anonymous, but like they trick your friends to reveal your data to the third-parties with apps, they'll create loopholes here too.

    Facebook is also insisting to track your location via your phone's GPS, everywhere and all the time. It'll know extactly who you spend your time with. They'll know your habits, they'll know when you call in sick at work, but are really out bowling. "Sal likes 2pm Bowling at Secret Lanes." They'll know if you join an addict support group, or go to a psychiatrist, or a psychic, or a mistress. They'll know how many times you've been to the doctor or hospital, and be able to share that with prospective insurers or employers. They'll know when you're secretly job hunting, and will sell your endorsement for job sites to your friends and colleagues -- you'll be revealed.

    They'll know everything that can be revealed by your location, and they'll use it however they want to make a buck.

    And -- it'll all be done retrospectively. If you stay on Facebook past January 30th, there's nothing stopping all of your past location and financial data to get used. They'll get your past location data from when your friends checked-in with you, and the GPS data stored in photos of you. They'll pull your old financial records - that embarrasing medicine you bought with your credit card 5 years ago will be added to your profile to be used as Facebook chooses. It will be sold again and again, and likely used against you. It will be shared with governments and be freely available from loads of "third-party" companies who do nothing but sell personal data, and irreversibly eliminate your privacy.
    This is irreversible now.

    Location and financial data are not just really sensitive, they allow the "third-parties" de-anonymise information about you. This massively empowers these third-parties to collect all avaiable information about you, including calculated information that you never revealed. This is a situation where even Facebook itself will have trouble maintaining the privacy of its data -- not that they care.
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