mfioretti: walled gardens*

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  1. "This felt and functioned like freedom, but it was always a commercial simulation"

    You could be forgiven for seeing this as a turning point for these sites, away from a hands-off approach to the communities they host and toward something with more oversight and regulation. An inside-out version of this analysis has been embraced by right-wing users, who have wasted no time declaring these bans a violation of their free speech. But this is an incomplete accounting of what happened and one that serves two parties and two parties alone: the companies themselves and the people they’ve just banned.
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    The recent rise of all-encompassing internet platforms promised something unprecedented and invigorating: venues that unite all manner of actors — politicians, media, lobbyists, citizens, experts, corporations — under one roof. These companies promised something that no previous vision of the public sphere could offer: real, billion-strong mass participation; a means for affinity groups to find one another and mobilize, gain visibility and influence. This felt and functioned like freedom, but it was always a commercial simulation.

    A community of trolls on an internet platform is, in political terms, not totally unlike a fascist movement in a weak liberal democracy: It engages with and uses the rules and protections of the system it inhabits with the intent of subverting it and eventually remaking it in their image or, if that fails, merely destroying it.

    But what gave these trolls power on platforms wasn’t just their willingness to act in bad faith and to break the rules and norms of their environment. It was their understanding that the rules and norms of platforms were self-serving and cynical in the first place. After all, these platforms draw arbitrary boundaries constantly and with much less controversy — against spammers, concerning profanity or in response to government demands. These fringe groups saw an opportunity in the gap between the platforms’ strained public dedication to discourse stewardship and their actual existence as profit-driven entities, free to do as they please. Despite their participatory rhetoric, social platforms are closer to authoritarian spaces than democratic ones. It makes some sense that people with authoritarian tendencies would have an intuitive understanding of how they work and how to take advantage of them.

    This was also a moment these hate groups were anticipating; getting banned in an opaque, unilateral fashion was always the way out and, to some degree, it suits them. In the last year, hard-right communities on social platforms have cultivated a pre-emptive identity as platform refugees and victims of censorship.


    There are alternative fund-raising sites in the mold of GoFundMe or Kickstarter; there’s an alternative to Patreon called Hatreon. Like most of these new alternatives, it has cynically borrowed a cause — it calls itself a site that ‘‘stands for free speech absolutism’’ — that the more mainstream platforms borrowed first. Their persecution narrative, which is the most useful narrative they have, and one that will help spread their cause beyond the fringes, was written for them years ago by the same companies that helped give them a voice.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/21/ma...p_0=502753&kwp_4=1807960&kwp_1=769030
    Voting 0
  2. 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.
    http://indiatoday.intoday.in/technolo...hatsapp-facebook-lawyer/1/940551.html
    Voting 0
  3. 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.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/25/ma...n-facebook-fix-its-own-worst-bug.html
    Voting 0
  4. Berners-Lee is working to make this a reality through an open source project called Solid. He hopes to create an open technology standard that different applications can use to share data, regardless of what that data is or what type of application needs to read it. Such a standard would enable applications—your hospital’s record-keeping software or a social network—to read and write data from the servers you choose and control, rather than the servers that belong to an individual company.

    The idea that people will eventually migrate from today’s tech giants to more decentralized systems may seem like a stretch. But last year at the Decentralized Web Summit in San Francisco, Berners-Lee pointed out that in the early days of the internet, many people thought proprietary online services like America Online, Compuserve, and Prodigy—all of which sought to tame the chaos of the web and the open internet—would dominate the mainstream market.
    https://www.wired.com/2017/04/tim-ber...r-web-plots-radical-overhaul-creation
    Voting 0
  5. the experts are right about many things. OpenPGP is old and more recent tools with more modern designs have a lot going for them. But I still think they're mostly wrong.

    The experts, by and large, have yet to offer any credible replacements for PGP. And when they suggest abandoning PGP, what they're really saying is we should give up on secure e-mail and just use something else. That doesn't fly. Many people have to use e-mail. E-mail is everywhere. Not improving the security of e-mail and instead expecting people to just use other tools (or go without), is the security elite proclaiming from their ivory tower: "Let them eat cake!"

    Furthermore, if that "something else" also requires people use their phone number for everything... well, that's the messaging world's equivalent of the widely despised Facebook Real Name Policy. If you ever needed a clear example of why the lack of diversity (and empathy) in tech is a problem, there it is!

    Compartmentalization, presenting different identities in different contexts, is a fundamental, necessary part of human behaviour. It's one of the basics. If you think taking that away and offering fancy crypto, forward secrecy, deniability instead is a win... well, I think your threat models need some work! You have failed and people will just keep on using insecure e-mail for their accounting, their work, their hobbies, their doctor visits and their interaction with local government. Because people know their needs better than you do.

    But I digress.

    The ridiculous phone number thing aside, I also take issue with the fact that when our opinionated experts do suggest replacements, the things they recommend are proprietary, centralized and controlled by for-profit companies. Some of them (mostly the underdogs) may be open source, but even the best of those use a centralized design and are hostile to federation. In pursuit of security and convenience (and, let's be honest, control, power and money), openness has been hung out to dry.

    This is short-sighted at best.

    These cool new apps may be secure today. But what about tomorrow? Odds are, they will be compromised by government mandate, blocked or shut down.
    https://www.mailpile.is/blog/2016-12-13_Too_Cool_for_PGP.html
    Voting 0
  6. Can outside sources verify what God believes to be holy? Can anyone verify God’s existence? Can anyone think of more hypothetical questions like this to underscore the point?

    As religious leaders expressed their concerns to The Literalist, The Literalist in turn became increasingly worried about Facebook deciding what is “fake” and “real” news. So The Literalist sent a short note to Facebook headquarters reading, “Now, don’t take this literally, but The Literalist encourages you to let users use reason when it comes to fake news. Satire included.”
    http://religionnews.com/2016/11/29/fa...ws-crackdown-threatens-religious-news
    Voting 0
  7. 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
    http://www.ilpost.it/carloblengino/2016/11/02/ho-qualcosa-da-nascondere
    Voting 0
  8. The results of the U.S. presidential election have put the tech industry in a risky position. President-Elect Trump has promised to deport millions of our friends and neighbors, track people based on their religious beliefs, and undermine users’ digital security and privacy. He’ll need Silicon Valley’s cooperation to do it—and Silicon Valley can fight back.

    If Mr. Trump carries out these plans, they will likely be accompanied by unprecedented demands on tech companies to hand over private data on people who use their services. This includes the conversations, thoughts, experiences, locations, photos, and more that people have entrusted platforms and service providers with. Any of these might be turned against users under a hostile administration.

    We present here a series of recommendations that go above and beyond the classic necessities of security (such as enabling two-factor authentication and encrypting data on disk). If a tech product might be co-opted to target a vulnerable population, now is the time to minimize the harm that can be done. To this end, we recommend technical service providers take the following steps to protect their users, as soon as possible:
    1. Allow pseudonymous access.

    Give your users the freedom to access your service pseudonymously. As we've previously written, real-name policies and their ilk are especially harmful to vulnerable populations, including pro-democracy activists and the LGBT community. For bonus points, don't restrict access to logged-in users.
    2. Stop behavioral analysis.

    Do not attempt to use your data to make decisions about user preferences and characteristics—like political preference or sexual orientation—that users did not explicitly specify themselves. If you do any sort of behavioral tracking, whether using your service or across others, let users opt out. This means letting users modify data that's been collected about them so far, and giving them the option to not have your service collect this information about them at all.
    https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2016/11...x-these-technical-issues-its-too-late
    Voting 0
  9. Summary

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

    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.
    http://www.windley.com/archives/2016/...lization_is_hard_maybe_too_hard.shtml
    Voting 0
  10. 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.
    http://www.wired.com/2016/08/facebook...mobile-works-now/?mbid=social_twitter
    Voting 0

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