Privacy Again

I’ve been troubled for quite a while about our deteriorating privacy in the modern era as everything we do, everywhere we go, what we look at, what we ‘like’, what we read or watch, is being tracked, stored, packaged and sold. In particular, apps on our phones track and record a lot of data about us. And that data can be then shared with others without our permission or knowledge.

The chaos around the last US election and the manipulation of opinions and attitudes by 3rd parties is very troubling and all of us should be concerned about it even as we don’t know how to deal with it.

A few days ago I read a post entitled the Facebook Catastrophe that urged readers to listen to the Techtonic podcast Roger McNamee, author, “Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe” from May 6, 2019. I met Roger years ago and he spoke at one of my staff meetings where I worked. The thoughts he shared on the podcast which came from his new book are really troubling. I’m going to read the book.

After listening to this podcast I next listened to The Great Hack on Netflix as the ideas seemed to be related. This was just more insights into how all of these platforms enable us to be manipulated.

So, today I deactivated my Facebook account.

I didn’t delete it, just deactivated it. That might not actually solve any of the problems I’m worried about as I’m sure the data is still there about me, but at least I’m further removed from adding to that data and I’m not seeing what they choose to show me. I don’t think I use Facebook login services anywhere, but I’m going to be watching to see.

The next worry is here.

Thoughts? What are you doing about all of this?

Non-Fiction Winners

I seem to love three genres of reading and one of them is science non-fiction for laymen, i.e. for non-experts in the field. I’ve been struck by several amazing books in the past year or two and I’ve mentioned a couple of them before. However, I wanted to do this post to pull together a good list of amazing books to check out.

The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli is a book that unravels the nature of time as we currently understand it. Ideas such that there is a smallest ‘tick’ of time, i.e. time is not continuous as we might think, and the faulty view of thinking about events happening simultaneously were just amazing. The question of wondering what is happening in the Andromeda galaxy right now is nonsensical. This is one of only a handful of books that after finishing it on Audible, I started it over immediately and listened to it again.

The Order of Time caused me to immediately follow with another of Rovelli’s books, Reality is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity by Rovelli again. Another fascinating and very understandable journey through some amazing ideas.

I’ve posted about The Information: A History, a Theory a Flood by James Gleick is a wonderful review of the development of information theory which covers networking, communications, codes and computing. I’ve gone through this two or three times.

I’m currently listening to Life After Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy by George Gilder. This book is challenging some foundational ideas that I’ve believed in for years. I’m not done with this one yet, but I’m thinking there are some critical ideas here about security and the future of computing.

And finally, Scale, The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life, in Organisms, Cities, Economies and Companies by Geoffrey West. I’ve recommended this one to several and then some of those people have come back to me to discuss this they have further recommended it to their circles. I’ve been through this one twice too.

If you have any you’d recommend along these lines, please let me know.

Footprints Online

I’ve been troubled and conflicted for a while about how our privacy is threatened and how by using so many apps and services online, I’m giving away what might be private information to 3rd parties to then use or re-sell. I wrote about this last May when I wrote about Post Privacy.

Tech optimists used to wax poetic about how the internet was going to make us a smarter, more erudite, more empathetic global community. But in 2018, it’s become clear that we’re in the middle of a communication breakdown, and that nobody has a good answer for how to properly engage with the things we once posted online, however dumb or horrible.¹

There has been a recent wave of articles about online privacy and several make very good points or point to tools that help you erase or reduce your online footprint.

At this particular moment in time, a lot of people seem to be interested in making that a reality — or at least in trying to completely cover up their tracks. Signal, a text and phone-call encryption app that comes with a recommendation from Edward Snowden, recorded a 400 percent jump in downloads after the election. And while landlords, colleges and potential employers have examined the social-media presence of applicants for years, there are signs that this kind of scrutiny is close to getting much more invasive

I’ve decided to take some of these steps myself and last week I deleted all my Twitter posts since the beginning of time. Over, 11,000 tweets gone. Using one of the online tools that does the deletion for me, I deleted all my past tweets. After completing this effort, with some gut wrenching I must confess, I came across the article, “Your Old Tweets Give Away More Location Data Than You Think” in Wired that reports on a study where it can be determined where you live by looking at your twitter history.

And I also took down my very first blog. I didn’t delete the blog, but I made it private. That hurt. I really loved what I had written there over many, many years.

I still have this blog (and here I’m writing away) and I have my prior professional blog about IT which I’ve still left up but I’m not posting there much anymore. I might take it down at some point too.

I can’t figure out what to do with Facebook. I’m tired of their security breakdowns, their misuse of data, and their insights about us. But it is the only way we connect with some of our friends and family so I don’t have a good plan there yet. I’ve almost stopped posting anything and I don’t check it much these day. I’ve deleted it from my phone.

Have you taken any steps like these? Any learnings?

Footnotes:

¹ Winkie, Luke. “The Depressing Truth About Deleting Your Online History.” Medium.com, Medium, 11 Jan. 2019, medium.com/s/thenewnew/the-depressing-truth-about-deleting-your-online-history-92f26d24f907.

² Ohlheiser, Abby. “Erasing Yourself from the Internet Is Nearly Impossible. But Here’s How You Can Try.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 10 Feb. 2017, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2017/02/10/erasing-yourself-from-the-internet-is-nearly-impossible-but-heres-how-you-can-try/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.58de8e1326f4.

Post Privacy

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I read this amazing article this past week entitled Your Privacy is Over and afterward I read another article that indicated that without privacy, democracy is in trouble and in fact, can’t exist. I’ve lost the link to the later article although using search I found several along those lines here, here and here but none of these seem to be the one I’m remembering.

In any case, read the Your Privacy is Over article and give it some thought. I don’t think we really grasp the depth of this change yet its implications are huge.

privacy is threatened on a scale we have never thought about. We are entering the post-privacy age.

I wrote recently about telling someone I needed something and then it shows up on a search on an unrelated mobile app that had no connection between what I said and this app. No connection at all.

The threat to democracy that these articles are talking about is rather scary. Without privacy and secrecy, it is hard for dissent to have a safe place for dialog and organization.

Apple taking the stand to keep their mobile platforms private and secure really seems like the right thing to do even when it causes other problems.

These are some of the hard problems of the future. More on this soon.

PS. here is a post on how to encrypt your entire life in less than an hour.