Well Known Biases

Politics, Economics, and the Law

Tag Archives: Google

Link Roundup – 04/25/13

Milo Yiannopoulos has some concerns about Google Glass.

In the future, robots will grade your college essays.

The IRS can probably read your email without a warrant.

The ATF, not wanting to be left out, would like to know more about you, and find it all out more easily.

UC Irvine law dean Erwin Chemerinsky thinks the only way to eliminate inequality is compulsory public schooling, and the outlaw of private schooling.

The NSA data center in Utah will be able to store a truly mind-boggling amount of data. Data on, you know, all of us… But hey, at least it’ll create jobs.

The EU becomes increasingly intolerant of free speech.

The Federalist Society has begun Executive Branch Review, a website keeping tabs on the acts of regulatory agencies (which, fun fact, produce some 90% of laws).

Jonathan Adler takes issue Rickie Solinger’s accounting of the effect of Roe on abortion statistics.

Lawmakers, having decided that what’s good for you is bad for them, are looking to exempt themselves from the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”).

In other stupidity, the Obama administration thinks it would be a rather good idea to do the exact thing that eventually brought us the “economic downturn.”

And finally, in a rare bit of good news, a federal magistrate has refused a government request to compel decryption of a hard drive.

 

Link Roundup – 06/28/12

IT World has an article about web tracking, and who’s doing the most of it.

Facebook is being sued for $15 billion over their privacy practices.

Wired reports on legislation in New York to ban anonymous online speech.

Rhode Island has just repealed a 1989 law which made lying online illegal.

The CBSA has been directed to put on hold their plans to monitor Canadians’ at airports with cameras and microphones.

Iran is again blaming the U.S. and Israel (And the U.K. as well, why not?) for computer attacks and disruptions of the nuclear program.

Senator Charles Schumer is concerned with Google and Apple’s attempts to survey the world for their mapping services. Is it the invasion of privacy? Why, no. He’s concerned that Terrorists™ will use this information to do terroristy things.

Foreign workers are being advised to keep their papers on them when in Arizona.

American fundamentalist Christian schools are using the Loch Ness Monster to prove evolution is an evil secularist lie perpetrated by godless scientists, or something like that. I’m confident they’re proving something, but I don’t think it’s what they think they are.

Netflix may be compelled to provide closed-captioning on all their programming.

Jimmy Carter states what should be obvious: The United States’ policy of drone warfare, with its regular and numerous collateral victims, is a violation of various human rights, and undermines any claim we might have as a beacon of morality.

Link Roundup – 06/18/12

PC Pro has an article speculating that the U.S. government has planted agents inside Microsoft. Their take is that Microsoft was an unwitting pawn. My take is, should this be true, it’s as likely as not that they were in on it.

The Air Force’s X-37B has returned to Earth.

Now more than ever, governments (U.S. included) are peeking in on your Google data.

Katrina vanden Heuvel writes an op-ed concerning the Obama administration’s “kill list.”

$20 a month for secure communications? Sounds tasty.

The U.K., which I consider the “mineshaft canary” for the U.S., is contemplating alarmingly sweeping communications monitoring. They pinky-swear this won’t include anything like reading your postcards. No, really.

Somewhat closer to home, in Ottawa, equipment is being installed at airports and border crossings that will eventually record your conversations. If you’re bothered by this, then presumably you’re either a terrorist, smuggler, or child predator.

But at least we’re not in Ethiopia, where VoIP services have been made illegal, punishable by 15 years in prison.

The Increasingly Troublesome Baggage of Social Networking

Social networking is now the method by which most of us keep up with one another. I’ve done Myspace, Facebook, Google+, and have dipped my toe into LinkedIn. Most people in my age group have at least an active Facebook, and a handful maintain a G+ account as well. Myspace is a ghost town, but still has a few users. And who else remembers Friendster? Add to this YouTube, the various photo uploading sites, webcam services where you can chit-chat with complete strangers, the abomination unto God and man that is Twitter, and countless more.

These networks have given us all a forum in which to stand up and say “Hey! Look at me!” and we’ve wholeheartedly taken them up on this offer. Whatever part of the human mind makes this sort of thing irresistible has been expertly marketed to, and it should come as no surprise that the people who own these sites have found their own way to capitalize on our deep-seated need to tell everyone everything. We’ve solved a number of market research problems by telling the entire internet what we enjoy, think about, and want to do and buy. All this information divulged without ever having been formally requested. I have a great many friends who are constantly ‘liking’ this and that on Facebook, despite knowing full well that they’re acting as unpaid market research subjects, and that this benefits them in no concrete way.

It is by now fairly well known that Facebook retains your data forever. I began to have my own suspicions as to this being the case when the service would occasionally glitch, and display items from years ago. There are also allegations that Facebook collects information to build a skeletal “shadow profile” of people who are not (yet?) users of the service. And let’s not forget the troubling facial recognition software which “helps” you by automatically tagging people. The truly staggering amount of money that is made selling this information to marketers is an obvious motivation for harvesting and retaining it, yet there appears to be more to the story.

Articles are beginning to appear, mainly on tech-oriented websites, concerning usage of social media information by banks and other money-lenders, both to help assess you as a credit risk, and to additional people to whom they can market their products and services. More disconcerting still is the fact that the government increasingly monitors social networks for their own purposes. The Department of Homeland Security keeps tabs on people and news outlets, and monitors them for dissent. This information is then made available to the various other alphabet soup agencies. Not to be outdone, the FBI has expressed interest in a program to automatically collect information from various social and news sites, filter it, and plot the location from where it originated onto a map.

Facebook is certainly commonly thought to be the worst offender, but G+ should be catching up soon, as Google has changed its terms of service, and intends to fully integrate their various services, all in an effort to better serve you. Whether or not this will in fact better serve the end-user remains to be seen, but I would assume it will better serve Google’s pocketbook, and in the meantime could certainly streamline the process of information gathering by third parties.

Towards the end of this past year I decided to abandon the Facebook account that I’d had for several years, and to begin a new one under a pseudonym. I did this for various reasons, privacy being only one of them. This certainly won’t provide any deterrence to an entity with a genuine interest in discovering who I am, but it provides at least a small measure of separation between my name, and my online presence. Eben Moglen would argue that this still makes me part of the problem, and I’m inclined to agree with him, though I’m not yet sure what to do about it. The intelligent and principled thing to do would be to commit “web suicide” and never look back, but few of us would use these services to begin with if they didn’t provide some utility. However I have greatly scaled back my online persona, and have created my own personal policies regarding what sort of information I intend to provide. It’s not perfect, but it’s some kind of start.

The ever-building mountain of evidence that social networking is being exploited by various parties, none with our best interests in mind, should act as a reminder that it’s exceedingly foolish to depend upon another party to safeguard our information and maintain our privacy.

Additional links:

Europe v. Facebook
Electronic Privacy Information Center on ‘Facebook Privacy’