2018/12/04: All of Quora’s value is derived from the answers provided by its users, and they go to great lengths to make a well-designed platform for finding and replying to questions.
But they do everything they can to make sure you can’t get those contributions back out.
No public API.
No backup or export tools.
Restricted access to answers without an account.
Blocked scrapers and unofficial APIs, and deleted questions related to scraping on their site.
2018/11/23: Data breaches at Facebook and Google—and along with Amazon, those firms' online dominance—crest a growing wave of anxiety around the internet's evolving structure and its impact on humanity. Three keys to the decades-long global expansion of the internet and the World Wide Web are breaking down.
The first key is the “procrastination principle,” a propensity to “set it and forget it” without attempting to predict and avert every imaginable problem. The networks' framers established a set of simple and freely available protocols for communicating over the internet, then stepped back to let competitive markets and cooperative pursuits work their magic.
The second key is the networks' layered architecture. For the internet, this meant that people could concern themselves with, say, writing applications to read and send email without having to know anything about what happens “below,” such as how bits find their way from sender to recipient. By the same token, those rolling out physical infrastructure didn't need to know or predict anything about how it would be used by the applications “above.”
The third key flows from the first two: decentralization. The internet and the web were designed not to create new gatekeepers, in part because regulatory bodies had little awareness of these protocols, let alone a hand in structuring them. A website hosted in Romania would still be just a click away for a user in Canada, without authorization by some centralized party.
Today, the principles of layers and decentralization are badly fraying, which risks transforming the principle of procrastination into one of abdication.
First, the issue of centralization. Surfing the web can now mean simply jumping among Amazon Web Services' hosting servers. If such a major network of servers—or one of the top domain name resolution providers—were to stop working, whole swaths of the internet would go down with it.
Second, formerly separate layers of the internet's architecture are blurring. The runaway success of a few startups has created new, proprietized one-stop platforms. Many people are not really using the web at all, but rather flitting among a small handful of totalizing apps like Facebook and Google. And those application-layer providers have dabbled in providing physical-layer internet access. Facebook's Free Basics program has been one of several experiments that use broadband data cap exceptions to promote some sites and services over others.
What to do? Columbia University law professor Tim Wu has called upon regulators to break up giants like Facebook, but more subtle interventions should be tried first. Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee's Contract for the Web offers a set of principles for governments, companies, and individuals, focusing on internet accessibility, user privacy, and a form of “re-decentralization” to revitalize one key to the network's success. On the technical side, he has launched Solid, a “relayerizing” separation of data from application: Users can maintain their own data (whether in a server in their living room or in the hands of a trusted proxy), and application providers would have to negotiate access rather than hoard the data themselves. And as Yale University law professor Jack Balkin and I have argued, those firms that do leverage users' data should be “information fiduciaries,” obliged to use what they learn in ways that reflect a loyalty to users' interests. These interventions represent meaningful action, while procrastinating a bit longer on the stronger medicine of forced corporate breakup.
The internet was designed to be resilient and flexible, without need for drastic intervention. But its trends toward centralization, and exploitation of its users, call for action.
2018/09/20: Google told U.S. senators that the company continues to allow developers to scan and share data from Gmail accounts, according to a letter made public Thursday.
Google said it uses automated scans and reports from security researchers to monitor third parties with access to Gmail data, but gave no details on how many add-ons have been caught violating its policies.
2018/9/18: For years, Facebook has publicly positioned its Messenger application as a way to connect with friends and as a way to help customers interact directly with businesses. But a new report from The Wall Street Journal today indicates that Facebook also saw its Messenger platform as a siphon for the sensitive financial data of its users, information it would not otherwise have access to unless a customer interacted with, say, a banking institution over chat. In this case, the WSJ report says not only did the banks find Facebook's methods obtrusive, but the companies also pushed back against the social network and, in some cases, moved conversations off Messenger to avoid handing Facebook any sensitive data. Among the financial firms Facebook is said to have argued with about customer data are American Express, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo.
The report says Facebook was interested in helping banks create bots for its Messenger platform, as part of a big push in 2016 to turn the chat app into an automated hub of digital life that could help you solve problems and avoid cumbersome customer service calls. But some of these bots, like the one American Express developed for Messenger last year, deliberately avoided sending transaction information over the platform after Facebook made clear it wanted to use customer spending habits as part of its ad targeting business. In some cases, companies like PayPal and Western Union negotiated special contracts that would let them offer many detailed and useful services like money transfers, the WSJ reports. But by and large, big banks in the U.S. have reportedly shied away from working with Facebook due to how aggressively it pushed for access to customer data.
2018/09/13: Racist bridges aren’t the only inanimate objects that have had quiet, clandestine control over people.
the residents of Scunthorpe, in the north of England, who were blocked from opening AOL accounts after the internet giant created a new profanity filter that objected to the name of their town.
an automatic hand-soap dispenser that perfectly released soap whenever white hands where placed under it did not recognize as hands those of a Nigerian man.
they discovered that home cooks were less likely to make claims on their home insurance and were therefore more profitable. The most significant item that gives you away as a responsible, house-proud person more than any other was fresh fennel.
there are concerns about this kind of data profiling being used in an exclusionary way: motorbike enthusiasts being deemed to have a risky hobby or people who eat sugar-free sweets being flagged as diabetic and turned down for insurance as a result. A study from 2015 demonstrated that Google was serving far fewer ads for high-paying executive jobs to women who were surfing the web than to men.
searches for “black-sounding names” were disproportionately likely to be linked to ads containing the word “arrest” (for example, “Have you been arrested?”) than those with “white-sounding names.”
2011/04/01: first steps of the online reputation management industry
THE Internet never forgets.
some tried manipulating the Web results on their own, by doing things like manually deleting photos, or asking bloggers to remove offending posts. But like a metastasized cancer, the incriminating data had embedded itself in cyberspace
This is a list of Free Software network services and web applications which can be hosted locally. Selfhosting is the process of locally hosting and managing applications instead of renting from SaaS providers.
Per sapere subito cosa sanno di noi i singoli siti che usiamo, da LInkedin a Starbucks, da Instagram a TripAdvisor, da Ikea a GoogleMaps, oggi è possibile "My Data Request". Il sito contiene un link alle app o ai siti web a cui abbiamo consegnato negli anni i nostri dati personali e cliccandoci sopra diventa facile richiedere l’archivio dei dati che ci riguardano in maniera compatibile con le leggi vigenti.
Il sito offre anche un comodo motore di ricerca interno per verificare la presenza nel loro database dell’azienda che vogliamo interpellare.
Molte di quelle censite, come Badoo, Skype e DropBox, purtroppo sono state bucate nel passato da hacker malevoli che hanno poi condiviso profili e account nel web profondo, e questo significa che quelle aziende non sono le sole ad averli. Altre hanno a che fare con giochi online per bambini e adolescenti, da Angry Birds al successo del momento, il videogame sparatutto Fortnite. Per questo motivo il sito può essere usato anche per fare un’altra semplice verifica: che cosa queste aziende sanno dei nostri figli.
If we end up trading a surveillance economy for a surveillance state, we've done ourselves no favorsrnrnEvgeny Morozov offered a similar proposal concerning what he termed "the data wells inside ourselves":rnrn We can use the recent data controversies to articulate a truly decentralised, emancipatory politics, whereby the institutions of the state (from the national to the municipal level) will be deployed to recognise, create, and foster the creation of social rights to data. These institutions will organise various data sets into pools with differentiated access conditions. They will also ensure that those with good ideas that have little commercial viability but promise major social impact would receive venture funding and realise those ideas on top of those data pools.rnrnThe simplicity of the mining metaphor is its strength but also its weakness. The extraction metaphor doesn't capture enough of what companies like Facebook and Google do, and hence in adopting it we too quickly narrow the discussion of our possible responses to their power. Data does not lie passively within me, like a seam of ore, waiting to be extracted. Rather, I actively produce data through the actions I take over the course of a day. When I drive or walk from one place to another, I produce locational data. When I buy something, I produce purchase data. When I text with someone, I produce affiliation data. When I read or watch something online, I produce preference data. When I upload a photo, I produce not only behavioral data but data that is itself a product. I am, in other words, much more like a data factory than a data mine. I produce data through my labor - the labor of my mind, the labor of my body.rnrnThe platform companies, in turn, act more like factory owners and managers than like the owners of oil wells or copper mines. Beyond control of my data, the companies seek control of my actions, which to them are production processes, in order to optimize the efficiency, quality, and value of my data output (and, on the demand side of the platform, my data consumption). They want to script and regulate the work of my factory - i.e., my life - as Frederick Winslow Taylor sought to script and regulate the labor of factory workers at the turn of the last century. The control wielded by these companies, in other words, is not just that of ownership but also that of command. And they exercise this command through the design of their software, which increasingly forms the medium of everything we all do during our waking hours.rnrnThe factory metaphor makes clear what the mining metaphor obscures: We work for the Facebooks and Googles of the world, and the work we do is increasingly indistinguishable from the lives we lead. The questions we need to grapple with are political and economic, to be sure. But they are also personal, ethical, and philosophical.rnrnrn====rnrnTarnoff and Weigel point to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's recent announcement that his company will place less emphasis on increasing the total amount of time members spend on Facebook and more emphasis on ensuring that their Facebook time is "time well spent." What may sound like a selfless act of philanthropy is in reality, Tarnoff and Weigel suggest, the product of a hard-headed business calculation:rnrn Emphasising time well spent means creating a Facebook that prioritises data-rich personal interactions that Facebook can use to make a more engaging platform. Rather than spending a lot of time doing things that Facebook doesn't find valuable - such as watching viral videos - you can spend a bit less time, but spend it doing things that Facebook does find valuable. In other words, "time well spent" means Facebook can monetise more efficiently. It can prioritise the intensity of data extraction over its extensiveness. This is a wise business move, disguised as a concession to critics. Shifting to this model not only sidesteps concerns about tech addiction - it also acknowledges certain basic limits to Facebook's current growth model. There are only so many hours in the day. Facebook can't keep prioritising total time spent - it has to extract more value from less time.rnrnThe analysis is a trenchant one. The vagueness and self-absorption that often characterize discussions of wellness, particularly those emanating from the California coast, are well suited to the construction of window dressing. And, Lord knows, Zuckerberg and his ilk are experts at window dressing. But, having offered good reasons to be skeptical about Silicon Valley's brand of tech humanism, Tarnoff and Weigel overreach. They argue that any "humanist" critique of the personal effects of technology design and use is a distraction from the "fundamental" critique of the economic and structural basis for Silicon Valley's dominance:rnrn [The humanists] remain confined to the personal level, aiming to redesign how the individual user interacts with technology rather than tackling the industry's structural failures. Tech humanism fails to address the root cause of the tech backlash: the fact that a small handful of corporations own our digital lives and strip-mine them for profit. This is a fundamentally political and collective issue. But by framing the problem in terms of health and humanity, and the solution in terms of design, the tech humanists personalise and depoliticise it.rnrnThe choice that Tarnoff and Weigel present here - either personal critique or political critique, either a design focus or a structural focus - is a false choice. And it stems from the metaphor of extraction, which conceives of data as lying passively within us (beyond the influence of design) rather than being actively produced by us (under the influence of design). Arguing that attending to questions of design blinds us to questions of ownership is as silly (and as condescending) as arguing that attending to questions of ownership blinds us to questions of design. Silicon Valley wields its power through both its control of data and its control of design, and that power influences us on both a personal and a collective level. Any robust critique of Silicon Valley, whether practical, theoretical, or both, needs to address both the personal and the political.rnrnThe Silicon Valley apostates may be deserving of criticism, but what they've done that is praiseworthy is to expose, in considerable detail, the way the platform companies use software design to guide and regulate people's behavior - in particular, to encourage the compulsive use of their products in ways that override people's ability to think critically about the technology while provoking the kind of behavior that generates the maximum amount of valuable personal data. To put it into industrial terms, these companies are not just engaged in resource extraction; they are engaged in process engineering.rnrnrn===rnThe shift of data ownership from the private to the public sector may well succeed in reducing the economic power of Silicon Valley, but what it would also do is reinforce and indeed institutionalize Silicon Valley's computationalist ideology, with its foundational, Taylorist belief that, at a personal and collective level, humanity can and should be optimized through better programming. The ethos and incentives of constant surveillance would become even more deeply embedded in our lives, as we take on the roles of both the watched and the watcher. Consumer, track thyself! And, even with such a shift in ownership, we'd still confront the fraught issues of design, manipulation, and agency.rnrnFinally, there's the obvious practical question. How likely is it that the United States is going to establish a massive state-run data collective encompassing exhaustive information on every citizen, at least any time in the foreseeable future? It may not be entirely a pipe dream, but it's pretty close. In the end, we may discover that the best means of curbing Silicon Valley's power lies in an expansion of personal awareness, personal choice, and personal resistance. At the very least, we need to keep that possibility open. Let's not rush to sacrifice the personal at the altar of the collective.
Like the oil barons at the turn of the 20th century, the data barons are determined to extract as much as possible of a resource that's central to the economy of their time. The more information they can get to feed the algorithms that power their ad-targeting machines and product-recommendation engines, the better. In the absence of serious competition or (until Europe's recently introduced General Data Protection Regulation) serious legal constraints on the handling of personal data, they are going to keep undermining privacy in their push to know as much about their users as they possibly canrnrnTheir dominance is allowing them to play a dangerous and outsize role in our politics and culture. The web giants have helped undermine confidence in democracy by underestimating the threat posed by Russian trolls, Macedonian fake-news farms, and other purveyors of propaganda. Zuckerberg at first dismissed claims that disinformation on Facebook had influenced the 2016 election as "pretty crazy." But Facebook itself now says that between June 2015 and August 2017, as many as 126 million people may have seen content on the network that was created by a Russian troll farm.rnrnrnWhy haven't antitrust regulators blocked deals to promote competition? It's mainly because of a change in US antitrust philosophy in the 1980s, inspired by neoclassical economists and legal scholars at the University of Chicago. Before the shift, antitrust enforcers were wary of any deals that reinforced a company's dominant position. After it, they became more tolerant of such combinations, as long as prices for consumers didn't rise. This was just fine with internet companies, since most of their services were free anyway. Critics say trustbusters exercised too little scrutiny. "Just because the web companies offer products for free doesn't mean they should get a free pass," says Jonathan Kanter, an antitrust lawyer at Paul Weiss.rnrnthanks to their vast wealth, fining them for any transgressions won't diminish their power.rnrnOne radical solution would be to break them up, just as the US government splintered the dominant Standard Oil monopoly in the early 1900s. Some progressive advocacy groups in the US have been running online campaigns with slogans like "Facebook has too much power over our lives and democracy. It's time for us to take that power back," and calling on the FTC to force the social network to sell Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger to create competition.rnrnSo how to curb the power of the data barons? Rather than waiting for legal battles that may or may not foster more competition, we urgently need to find ways to bolster rivals. That means reducing the vast chasm between the amounts of information held by the web giants and the rest. Regulation can help here: Europe's new data privacy regime requires companies to hold people's data in machine-readable form and let them move it easily to other businesses if they want to. This "data portability" rule will allow startups to get hold of more data quickly.rnrnrnSome argue that we need to think much more boldly-and not just with the big internet companies in mind. Viktor Mayer-Sch195182nberger, a professor at the University of Oxford, has proposed what he calls a "progressive data-sharing mandate" that would apply to all businesses. This would require a company that has passed a certain level of market share (say, 10 percent) to share some data with other firms in its industry that ask for it. The data would be chosen at random and stripped of all personal identifiers. Intuitively, the idea makes sense: the closer a company gets to dominating its market, the more data it would have to share, making it easier for rivals to compete by building a better product.
2018/01/29: Today’s Internet and digital platforms are becoming increasingly centralised, slowing innovation and challenging their potential to revolutionise society and the economy in a pluralistic manner. The DECODE project will develop practical alternatives, through the creation, evaluation and demonstration of a distributed and open architecture for managing online access and aggregation of private information to allow a citizen-friendly and privacy-aware governance of access entitlements. Strong ethical and digital rights principles are at the base of DECODE’s mission, moving towards the implementation of open standards for a technical architecture resting on the use of Attribute Based Cryptography, distributed ledgers, a secure operating system and a privacy focused smart rules language.
Worried by US spying revelations, India has begun drawing up a new email policy to help secure government communications.
The interest on big data and open data is understandably growing all over the world. The combination of several technology innovations, in areas like social media, cloud computing, analytics, offer scenarios that we could hardly imagine in the past. And the trend toward greater transparency and openness that is being championed by many governments and
A shadowy operation involving big data, billionaire friends of Trump and the disparate forces of the Leave campaign heavily influenced the result of the EU referendum. Is our electoral process still fit for purpose?
2014/07/30: AIVD described the interception of metadata as ‘a minor infringement of privacy’.
But is that the case? Certainly not, as Ton Siedsma’s experiment demonstrates. Metadata - including your metadata - reveals more than you think, and much more than the authorities would have you believe. One week says enough
I submitted Ton’s metadata to the iMinds research team of Ghent University and Mike Moolenaar, owner of Risk and Security Experts. I also ran my own analysis. From one week of logs, we were able to attach a timestamp to 15,000 records.
So, what did we find out about Ton?
This is what we were able to find out from just one week of metadata from Ton Siedsma’s life. Ton is a recent graduate in his early twenties. He receives e-mails about student housing and part-time jobs, which can be concluded from the subject lines and the senders. He works long hours, in part because of his lengthy train commute. He often doesn’t get home until eight o’clock in the evening. Once home, he continues to work until late.
His girlfriend’s name is Merel. It cannot be said for sure whether the two live together. They send each other an average of a hundred WhatsApp messages a day, mostly when Ton is away from home. Before he gets on the train at Amsterdam Central Station, Merel gives him a call. Ton has a sister named Annemieke. She is still a student: one of her e-mails is about her thesis, judging by the subject line. He celebrated Sinterklaas this year and drew lots for giving gifts.
2018/7/20: Today, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter joined to announce a new standards initiative called the Data Transfer Project, designed as a new way to move data between platforms. In a blog post, Google described the project as letting users "transfer data directly from one service to another, without needing to download and re-upload it."
The current version of the system supports data transfer for photos, mail, contacts, calendars, and tasks, drawing from publicly available APIs from Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, Remember the Milk, and SmugMug. Many of those transfers could already be accomplished through other means, but participants hope the project will grow into a more robust and flexible alternative to conventional APIs.
In its own blog post, Microsoft called for more companies to sign onto the effort, adding that "portability and interoperability are central to cloud innovation and competition."
""The future of portability will need to be more inclusive, flexible, and open.""
The existing code for the project is available open-source on GitHub, along with a white paper describing its scope.
Much of the codebase consists of "adapters" that can translate proprietary APIs into an interoperable transfer, making Instagram data workable for Flickr and vice versa. Between those adapters, engineers have also built a system to encrypt the data in transit, issuing forward-secret keys for each transaction.
Notably, that system is focused on one-time transfers rather than the continuous interoperability enabled by many APIs.
"The future of portability will need to be more inclusive, flexible, and open," reads the white paper. "Our hope for this project is that it will enable a connection between any two public-facing product interfaces for importing and exporting data directly."
Technological sovereignty must become another pillar on which to gradually construct and consolidate a new technological model that is ethical, responsible and civic.
The hashtag #deletefacebook
began trending earlier this year, following revelations that millions of individuals' data may have been improperly shared with the election consultancy Cambridge Analytica. It became a rallying cry for people dissatisfied with the way their personal information is used for financial gain. Now, Amsterdam and Barcelona are trialling an alternative model. Dubbed DECODE (DEcentralised Citizen-owned Data Ecosystems), it will allow people to...
We have just released the Santa Clara principles (PDF), calling on platforms to provide better information about how they moderate content online. The principles articulate a minimum set of standards