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.

Re-reading

I’ve been re-reading a lot lately. Re-listening on Audible. Re-watching movies.

Lately This Present Darkness, Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water and Loving the Bible Again, 14 and Unoffendable. I’m thinking about listening to IT again and I keep rewatching Avengers movies and Star Wars: Rogue One. And of course, any Harry Potter movie that is on when I need to just veg is a go.

Seems I need to find some new reading directions.

And, not sure what to put here anymore.

Changes to Listening

I’m reading the book Deep Work right now and it too has caused me to rethink about what ‘noise’ is invading my days. And, this month at church, we are talking about the idea of ‘breaking up with your phone’ and in that study, we are hearing a lot of data about how our addiction to our mobile phones is having a dreadful harmful impact on our lives.

Whether it is your mobile phone, television or your computer, we have a lot options to pipe noise into our lives

  • If you listen to cable news network all day long one mostly hears negative views of everyone in all directions: all is bad, nothing is working, everybody is your enemy. (I do like the last story on CBS Evening news which always seems to be a positive story about someone or something that works.)
  • Local news spends a big fraction of their reporting on murders, fires, thefts, corruption and car wrecks.
  • Social Media streams to are quick to point out blame or evil. And in a flash, you can attack, or take sides, or fan the flames.
  • Podcasts are available on every single possible topic on the planet. Many good, many bad, and many that might just not be helpful. A source of true crime and hate messages.
  • True Crime shows are the rage on tv now, but they are just so frightening and gloomy. These can make you want to just stay inside and pack a weapon all the time.
  • Many movies and shows on television are not very good messages to pipe into our heads and the heads of our kids.
  • Facebook is sometimes full of joy (birth and marriages) and other times full of sadness (death, loss and sickness). Unfortunately, it is also a place (like Twitter) where people, who might otherwise seem normal, will bombard you with politics or news that you do not want to hear. The last presidential election cycle was a nightmare.

A while back I referenced the book Factfulness which tells us that perhaps, things are better than we realize. And really, there are lots of good people and organizations around trying doing to do the right things.

So where does all this go and what do I do about it.

  • I’ve cut way back on listening to the news. I’m mostly interested in the weather forecasts (something that might justify another post) and sports. I do try to check in on the national news daily, but I don’t spend a lot of time with it.
  • I used to listen to true crime podcasts and was fascinated with the solved and unsolved cases. However, I got to a point were the scary, negative, sad, awful was overpowering. And, as some of you know, I’m a runner and I would listen to these on early morning runs before the sun comes up. It is not a good mix to listen to these stories while out alone in the dark. Not needed. I’ve stopped listening to this whole genre.
  • On my mobile phone, I’ve turned on screen time app limits to limit social media access daily.
  • As mentioned on my last post, I’ve deleted Facebook and some other apps from my phone.

I think there are more steps to take and I’m on a journey here. I’d welcome hearing your thoughts and recommendations on how to best throttle or control the pipe of news and information that is streaming into my head.

Two Recommendations

However, I did just finish listening to Dr. Death podcast at the recommendation of SL and as a result I’ve decided to never need surgery. I wrote on an earlier post how essential it is to have a medical advocate to support you when going into surgery or serious medical issues. Wow.

And at the recommendation of JE I’ve just finished listening to Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Stevenson. He is coming to OKC to speak in a few days. Must listening. Must read. By the way you should follow JE’s blog here.

Epilogue: Running

So my fierce running partner and I decided to run 1,400 miles last year. I had run 700+ the year before while dealing with a foot injury so it was almost doubling my mileage in the year. We completed the task by mid-December and we made ourselves some medals to recognize the milestone.

And, of course, we’ve signed up to run another marathon this year.

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.

Subscriptions

A week ago I got to wondering how many services, products, systems, tools or apps I’ve subscribed to over the months and years. My guess was perhaps 5 or 6, but I wasn’t sure. As of right now, I’ve documented 36 things I’ve subscribed or pay for on a regular basis where a draft if made against my bank account or credit cards. Gym membership, Adobe tools, Amazon Prime, Apple Music, several apps, several news services, etc. And I’ve become convinced there are more to come. Some of these show up every 12 months and one even renews in 24 months. I’m still in discovery mode to remember and think of those that I’ve not yet tracked.

Related, I’ve noticed that some subscription services send you reminders a few days before renewal, but some don’t. Shame on those who don’t and seem to just be hoping that you’ve forgotten and they can charge you again.

You might consider doing such a review yourself.

Related, if you are aren’t already doing this, you should setup your credit cards to notify you via a push of every transaction as it happens.

iPhone Configuration Ideas

I found the best post I’ve ever seen on how to best setup your iPhone to minimize distractions and promote mindfulness and productivity on the device instead of time wasting. I thought I was fairly good at this but this article suggested a lot of ideas I had not considered and just working through the recommendations was a powerful reminder of how to better use my iPhone instead of it using me. If you’ve not done a cleanup on your iPhone for a long time or if you need help with this, I suggest you work through these recommendations at How to Configure Your iPhone to Work for You, Not Against You.