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Category Archives: Social Media

Facebook scrutiny. Why everyone, not just the governments should do it

When it comes to foreign election interference, data theft, and broken promises about safeguarding privacy it’s Facebook and not just some secret government surveillance program we have to guard against. Mark Zuckerberg has become the face of a privatized Big Brother. Ironically it’s the government that’s now trying to peel back the curtain.

As Zuck faces questions on Capitol Hill this week this week, the questions about Libra, it’s cryptocurrency product have been asked. This blockchain product “could create a whole new threat to Americans and national security,” said Carolyn Maloney, Democrat of New York. Libra’s mission, according to the Facebook White Paper, is a simple global currency and financial infrastructure that empowers billions of people.”

The blockchain on which it is based is Libra, and the unit of its currency is also a ‘libra.’ It’s backed by Lyft, Spotify, Uber, and Farfetch among its tech partners.  But others are not well known, such as Bison Trails and Xapo which is a very large crypto storage service.

Much of this –and the lack of trusted names that are part of this group –should give us reason to read behind the lines of what comes out this week. Worth reading the article on The Verge, that called it an attempt to build the ‘Bank of Facebook.’ Or more to the point, that this blockchain move is its secret weapon that will help Facebook “to create a quasi-nation state ruled by mostly corporate interests.” Reuters reports that France and Germany have pledged to block Libra in Europe. Do they know something we don’t?

 

 
 

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Hide Your face, shield your eyes! The dark side of biometrics

The use of facial recognition is not something that only comes from totalitarian regimes. It’s being used for domestic spying, in malls and casinos. Combined with AI, biometrics can turn PI (Personal information) and PII (personally identifiable information) into a weapon. I bring this up every semester to make sure my students are aware of what they are opening themselves to, should they share information even on benign sites, or “trusted” browsers.

Biometrics involve “biological measurements” such as fingerprints, facial features, and retina scans. The Department of Homeland Security, explains that “biometrics are used to detect and prevent illegal entry into the U.S., grant and administer proper immigration benefits, vetting and credentialing, facilitating legitimate travel and trade, enforcing federal laws, and enabling verification for visa applications to the U.S.” You would think biometrics is something average citizens only need to worry about if they own a passport (the new ones have an embedded chip with biometric markers), or a smart phone with facial recognition.

But biometric detection is coming closer to us than we realize. Kaspersky, the software cybersecurity company explain how “Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill downloaded photos of 20 volunteers from social media and used them to construct 3-D models of their faces. The researchers successfully breached four of the five security systems they tested.” Rental cars may soon come with biometric analyzers. Cities may use facial recognition without our knowledge as a pre-emptive way to assist law enforcement.

More alarming is the use of ‘public domain’ images to fuel the facial recognition business. The New York Times reports that family photos scrubbed off Flicker have been used to power surveillance technology. Hiding our faces, or making sure our children’s faces don’t show up in unscrupulous social media sites such as Instagram and Facebook may become a necessity. Or is it too late for those who have uploaded hundreds of photos to these leaky sites? As I warned manhttps://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/10/11/technology/flickr-facial-recognition.htmly times here and elsewhere these sites are “free” for a reason – they trade the data and meta-data of these posts and pictures without your knowledge. Digital human trafficking, in which many of us have become unwilling accomplices.

Interesting controversy. Tiffany and Co had to withdraw an ad that had a model covering her right eye. Why? It was accused of imitating the symbol of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, where protestors routinely cover their face, or eyes with a mask or helmet so as to avoid facial recognition cameras.  In fact, the mock eye patch has itself become a symbol of the protest.

 

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2019 in Communications, Social Media

 

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Facial recognition, a weapon?

File this under “Sigh! We knew this was coming.”

The story is breaking that protesters are being tracked down by facial recognition software in several cities. But more alarming is how in Hong Kong, which is erupting right now, police are seeking out protesters, then grabbing their phones, and attempting to use the facial recognition software on the phones to unlock their phones.

Hong Kong was a colony of Britain until 1997, but is now a ‘special administrative region’ of China.

“Oh, how neat!” some people thought, when Hong Kong announced that it has facial recognition software in the airport so that passengers could pass through immigration and security smoothly. Likewise so many now use door bell cameras (such as Nest and Hello) that have facial recognition, not realizing the vulnerabilities they could bring.

Facial recognition is a short stop from racial and social profiling. Why is it that few people seem to care?

 

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Leaving Facebook after nearly 12 years

I have had it with Facebook. I’ve also grown weary of what goes on in the name of being ‘social’ on Facebook.

Today I decided to quit the first social media platform I joined in July 2007. I don’t intend to ‘send a message’ to the founder, or to question those who find that it serves a great purpose. It’s just that for me, the great conversations I once envisioned and enjoyed have ceased to be fulfilling. There is too much noise on the platform, and the opportunity cost is not worth it.

I had ceased to share pictures on Facebook, and cannot imagine why we who inhabit so many networks need Facebook to be a de facto album; why every image we run into –whether it’s the decoration on the foam of a latte, or a sunset, or a meme needs to be uploaded, shared, and commented on. All of this is very odd, because back in 2010, in a series of workshops I conducted on how to put social media to use in business and communication, one of the modules was how to use Facebook. Imagine that – we actually went through a moment when this was necessary. The higher purpose of these workshops was to empower people to use emerging social media platforms to benefit society. It was not to turn the channels we created there into our personal daily press releases.

To put it another way, bluntly, Facebook has become a PR and propaganda machine. This is just one of the many Facebook behaviors that have set in, and these are often at odds with real life. I find it amusing how some Facebook users have begun to mimic each other in vocabulary and behavior. (Notice how words such as ‘stoked,’ ‘adorable,’ and ‘Yay!’ most people don’t use in life fills their feeds?) 

The other unintended consequence of always having an audience is that many who demonstrate humility in real life have developed an alter ego punctuated by braggadocio and ranting, knowing there’s an audience for this. Speaking of the audience triggering a behavior, consider what happened in New Zealand last week. That someone might use a live feed to carry out a horrific mass murder says something how “we shape our tools and then the tools shape us“. (A quote often attributed to Marshall McLuhan.) Connected to this is the ‘PDA’ problem, something we who make up the older generation of social media users used to find annoying in young people – the Public Display of Affection. Enough said.

I have stopped reading the tweets of my friends, former colleagues, and classmates. I prefer instead to message them directly or call them, should the need arises. For those who are shocked that I am unaware of a trip they have taken or a certificate their cousin’s child has been awarded because it was posted on Facebook, my response is, “You know my number – call me or text me.”

It is almost embarrassing to have to say that I teach communications –ever since I got into communications 21 years ago– and be on Facebook. And so I am deleting my account.

Worth citing: Mark Zuckerberg on what people are expecting of Facebook:

“I understand that many people don’t think Facebook can or would even want to build this kind of privacy-focused platform — because frankly we don’t currently have a strong reputation for building privacy protective services…” More here…

Updated: Facebook’s Data policy in its Terms of Usage section.

You probably agreed to this – Have you read this?

 
 

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“Weather isn’t climate.” They teach this in 5th grade science, don’t they?

“Weather isn’t climate. They teach this in 5th grade science.”

That’s one of the comebacks to Trump’s ridiculous tweet last week about the polar vortex that froze a large swath of the US. The problem isn’t only the president’s puerile, ill-informed ideas and responses. It is the method of his communicating his thoughts, with itchy fingers that want to ‘say’ something about, well, anything.

As noted many times earlier, social media has made a mockery of our modern-day communication. I wish they teach communication as a compulsory subject –Reading, Communication, Arithmetic?– in elementary school.

Or as an after-work class at the Oval Office…

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2019 in Communications, Social Media

 

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Do photographs really enhance our memories?

Have you ever questioned whether taking a photograph is the only way to preserve a memory? I used to be the person who always carried a camera. Sometimes two, plus a tripod.

But over the past few years I’ve begun to wonder if preserving important moments in life on a camera –and processing these salient moments through a camera lens –is actually useful. The question resurfaced in the past few days, twice.

First Google keeps sending me albums it randomly puts together, without me as much as even asking for this feature. (Yes, Facebook users, I see a lot of that too, ad nauseam.). I find that irritating. Who does it think it is to decide what I want to remember?

Second, a student commenting on a discussion in class, mentioned that one thing that irritated was having a parent point a camera at everything. The student complained that it was terrible how adults appear to want to save every moment, but miss looking at Real Life, as is.

The discussion turned to smart phones, and how everyone today pretends to be (or yearns to be) a photojournalist, documenting history as it were. The pictures are often badly taken, have no photographic or artistic value. And yet the screens are held up. The shutters click. Those with absolutely no photographic skills, can of course use built in filters, either on the device or on platforms such as Instagram.

So my question to them was this: If you were to witness an unfortunate event, or a run into a celeb you least expected, would you process it through your God-given optical lenses, and store it in your internal memory? Or would you rather take it in through a camera lens, and store it in the Cloud – just in case?

And my question to you: Is there a  significant event seared in your memory that has absolutely no photograph to document it? If so, what was it? More important, if you had a chance to go back in time, would you  (or have someone) photograph it?

 

Analog Yearbook data embarrasses. Imagine life after Facebook for public officials in 2048

I’m sure everyone in public office must be paranoid what someone might pull from their Yearbook entries thirty years ago. Now imagine what students of today might have to face in, say, 2048!

Anyone challenging a public official thirty years from now would have access to troves of data, not just on Facebook, but through deep searches using anything from selfies on Instagram, to SnapChat and Twitter that could reveal ‘background’ information. This could involve the precise location where someone was, and corroborated information gleaned from friend’s tagged photos and posts on other platforms. Would it be possible for a court to subpoena  backed-up photos on a Cloud service –just to establish a timeline?

When we teach digital literacy, we tell students to consider the digital trails they leave behind. Brett Kanaugh’s Yearbook entries being parsed by the media, investigators, and late night TV hosts are a lesson for anyone.