Your privacy is being attacked yet again as the bill passes to allow the sale of your browsing history.
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As you may have recently heard, Twitter and Facebook are in the news due to their recent grilling on Capitol Hill. What is interesting to me about this, regardless of how you feel about the companies and the services they provide, is that not being public utilities they are not susceptible to government regulation.
Rather, they are private companies who have Terms of Service (ToS) people agree to when signing up that state they can ban or remove any content or users they find don’t meet their community standards. This is the same idea that companies all across the U.S. embody when they say they can refuse service to anyone. This is their freedom as a company and has nothing to do with individual rights. You do not have any first amendment rights except for in the presence of GOVERNMENT censorship. It has nothing to do with privately owned spaces including social media platforms. The fact is, social media platforms are for-profit companies who make money when people post their own opinions to them and they make a LOT of money when those opinions are contentious. It is in their own best interest NOT to censor their users when their users are operating within their ToS.
Thus, none of this makes sense for Congress to step into. There are several legal precedents for the government staying out of media-related industry censorship, which is why entities like the MPAA, CCA (now defunct), and ESRB exist – all being industry self-regulating bodies. That said, maybe it’s time social media platforms establish their own so there are standards and regulations across them and content can be rated rather than completely removed. This would certainly help people avoid content they didn’t want to see and could allow for space where more objectionable content could exist within its own bubble that people could venture into at their own risk.
What SHOULD be of concern is personal data privacy. But, we all know that isn’t going to get anywhere. Those of us who do work in this space
I missed posting last month because a lot was happening! Of course, for everyone who is involved with technology and data at a global level, we have all been touched in some way by GDPR. I know my inbox was flooded with emails on the changes to everyone’s privacy policies and probably yours was, too. It’s worth a read to learn more about it and why it’s such a big deal and how it’s affecting businesses all over the world.
For me personally, May was a big month because I changed jobs after almost a decade at The Planet/SoftLayer + IBM where I had been a design lead for Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), IAM (identity and access management), and BSS (accounts) and then head of the Strategic Insights team for Public Cloud Research (covering all of Infrastructure as a Service and Platform as a Service). I moved from there to SAP Leonardo Services where I took the position of a Blockchain Design Consultant. This means I’ve been heads down learning all I can about Blockchain and my new company for the last 3 weeks.
Here’s where I have to have a sense of humor around these two seemingly unrelated subjects considering the paradox of Blockchain and GDPR.
To summarize the article, given the immutable state of data in a Blockchain, there is no way to update or delete it. In developer’s parlance, there is no way to perform the UD operations of basic CRUD. In fact, the entire acronym has been updated for blockchain to be CRAB (create, retrieve, append, burn). The problem is, does burn accommodate the “right to be forgotten” and “erasure of data” portions of GDPR? If personal data is in the Blockchain, then the answer is no.
That said, there is a workaround as discussed via creating a hash and a link in the Blockchain that refers back to PII (personally identifiable information) that is stored OUTSIDE of the Blockchain. This results in the PII data only being accessible through an encrypted hash and link to it provided in the Blockchain that can only be decrypted by those who have the key. To ensure the data hasn’t been tampered with, the data retrieved via the link would need to provide its own hash that can be compared with the hash in the blockchain. If the two match, the data has not been modified. This is GDPR compliant because all of the data off-chain can be deleted thus making the hash/link in the blockchain useless. However, the blockchain is then reduced to an access control mechanism to data that remains centrally owned and located rather than a decentralized encrypted transparent immutable replicated ledger of actual data that is owned by everyone.
This results in the following:
The goal of GPDR is to “give citizens back the control of their personal data, whilst imposing strict rules on those hosting and ‘processing’ this data, anywhere in the world.” Also, one of the things GDPR states is that data “should be erasable”. Since throwing away your encryption keys is not the same as ‘erasure of data’, GDPR prohibits us from storing personal data on a blockchain level. Thereby losing the ability to enhance control of your own personal data.
As you can see, I may have sipped a bit of the Blockchain Kool-aid.
On top of all of those changes, I also finished a side hustle where I completely redesigned a billing system for a friend’s startup.
In the coming months, I’ll be posting more about Blockchain along with some Machine Learning, IoT, as well as other forms of AI from a user and design perspective along with my ever-present posts on the Internet, privacy, security, gaming, and social media. I imagine the various topics will merge at some point down the line. I’m excited to be here in the edge technologies space. It’s exactly what I told my circle of friends I wanted to work on at the turn of the year. Thank you to SAP for making that a reality.
Boing-Boing on Theresa May and Internet privacy.
“Use deliberately compromised cryptography, that has a back door that only the “good guys” are supposed to have the keys to, and you have effectively no security. You might as well skywrite it as encrypt it with pre-broken, sabotaged encryption… Theresa May doesn’t understand technology very well, so she doesn’t actually know what she’s asking for. For Theresa May’s proposal to work, she will need to stop Britons from installing software that comes from software creators who are out of her jurisdiction… any politician caught spouting off about back doors is unfit for office anywhere but Hogwarts, which is also the only educational institution whose computer science department believes in ‘golden keys’ that only let the right sort of people break your encryption.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection wants to start collecting ‘information associated with your online presence’ from travelers from countries eligible for a visa waiver, including much of Europe and a handful of other countries. Earlier this summer, the agency proposed including a field on certain customs forms for ‘provider/platform’ and ‘social media identifier,’ making headlines in the international press. If approved by the Office of Management and Budget, the change could take effect as soon as December.
Privacy groups in recent weeks have pushed back against the idea, saying it could chill online expression and gives DHS and CBP overbroad authority to determine what kind of online activity constitutes a ‘risk to the United States’ or ‘nefarious activity.'”
As a cyber anthropologist who, at times, uses social media for research – I find this highly disturbing. Twitter is turning into /b where nothing anyone says can really be taken seriously these days. This is ill-conceived and lacks critical understanding of the platform and the culture surrounding it.
I think one of the things people fail to realize about the possibility of this Apple backdoor is that it not only has implications for us as Americans, but also for people all over the world.
Consider what doing this would mean for people who live their daily lives in danger when the only protection afforded to them or their loved ones may be the fact that their privacy is secure and their data encrypted.
Consider what it may mean for journalists or whistle blowers.
Many people all over the world only access the Internet through mobile devices. It’s all they can afford. They may even make their living doing so. What if that was taken away because it was no longer considered secure?
Consider everything you have done with your devices knowing they are secure and what may change in your life if at some point it no longer was.
It’s World Anthropology Day. I challenge everyone to look around the world a little differently today to see if they can empathize with people who live in situations completely different from their own. I challenge you to consider what your life would be like if your privacy no longer existed and you had to live in fear – this is reality for so many.
My readers, please take a moment to read all of the TOS in every single social app you have downloaded and used over the last year. This includes all of the updated TOS you automatically agree to because you’ve already had it installed. They ALL ask for some setting you’re not going to be comfortable with if you are caught up in the hysteria over the new FB messenger application.
If you are not installing the FB messenger app because of the latest and greatest in sensationalist headlines, then you should follow through and uninstall every single other app that utilizes any of your social networks (twitter, tumblr, instagram, skype etc). After you’ve done that, you should revoke all access of those applications to each other (i.e. any app that is connected to your Facebook account).
Then, if you really want to protect your privacy, you will delete your Facebook account altogether, along with every other social network profile you’ve ever created. Just don’t forget those companies still own all of the data you gave them over the last 10 years (if you’ve been on FB as long as I have). You already sold it to them when you signed up and they can do whatever they want with it whenever they want to. Most importantly, it’s their business to do just that.
It is accessible via Facebook Settings (easiest way to access it is to click on the lock in the header next to the updates icon and go to “See more settings”).
Being the 2-factor security person that I am, I know many of you have probably read about Facebook, GMail, and Twitter passwords being hacked. Though you can’t do much about that (other than not have accounts with those services of course), there are steps you can take to keep those accounts secure even if someone else has your password. All that is required is that you have a mobile phone and that you set it up from your computer (I don’t know of a way to do this from the mobile side only).
Facebook users, to enable the 2-factor setting click on the lock icon and click on the link at the bottom that says “See more settings”.
Once there, click on the Security link 2nd from the top on the left.
Then click on Login Approvals.
There you will be given a checkbox to “Require a security code to access my account from unknown browsers”.
You can check that box and then choose which method you use to get your codes. I chose the code generator because that will work even if I only have access to WiFi, whereas receiving a text message may not. I would also at this time generate extra codes just in case you lose your phone. Save them in a place that will be easy to access, so you can get back to your account easily should you need to.
While you’re in the security section I would also suggest you check the active sessions and recognized devices. End activity on anything you don’t recognize. Lastly, setup your trusted contacts. Be sure to choose people who actually use Facebook regularly.
GMail users who use their accounts on multiple devices may find this method a bit cumbersome, but it’s only cumbersome to setup. Once it’s done, you don’t have to make any changes unless you get a new device or wish to disable it.
Login to your GMail account and then find the cog icon under your picture on the upper righthand side of your screen and click settings.
Once there, click Accounts at the top and you will find security settings.
Clicking Account Recovery Options lets you set up your phone to use to recover your account should you forget your password or to challenge hackers. You can also add a recover email address as well as an alternate email address you can log in with. I would highly suggest doing both.
Clicking Other Google Account Settings will take you to a page that lists all of the settings for your Google identity. If you’ve never been here, I suggest you read it so that you understand more about the way Google views & uses your information. For our purposes today, click on Security from the menu on the left.
From there, scroll down to the bottom to find 2-Factor Authentication and turn it on.
After you set it up, you will want to create device / application specific passwords for your account so that you can log into your email through your phone, tablet, or other device that doesn’t use 2-factor authentication. You can click on the link visible in the screen shot above to get there.
Pro-Tip, you can use one generated password for all of your devices if you enter it into all of them at the same time. Caution though, if you do that and have to revoke it for some reason (you lose your phone), you’ll end up revoking it for all devices instead of just that one.
Login to Twitter and click the cog icon on the top right hand side of the nav bar.
Then select settings from the menu.
Then select Security and Privacy from the menu on the left.
Then select one of the two login verification options available.
Hopefully this was helpful to some of you. I know these settings can seem buried and intimidating if you’ve never used them before, but I suggest it is worth it to go through all of this trouble so that you don’t end up losing your digital life to someone else’s malicious activities.
Today’s post brought to you by international privacy and the digital divide:
Fast Company reports: Google Execs are found guilty by an Italian court for privacy violations.
FCC Reports: 93 Million Americans Disconnected From Broadband Opportunities. (PDF found here) Here is an additional press release on broadband.gov.
This was the first podcast I have ever recorded and I did it all in one take!
Transcript is below!
Have you ever wondered what the staying power of your favorite social networking site was? Or, perhaps why over 9 million people play World of Warcraft? What about Twitter and why 140 characters just seems to work? Ever been curious about the explosion of webcomics, blogs, or podcasts? Or, perhaps considered what impact the Internet has had on your daily life? The lives of your children and their education? The lives of people all over the world? Ever given thought to how law or politics influences the web or how the web may influence them? What about intellectual property, digital property rights, or the viability of open source software? How about hot topics such as net neutrality, censorship, or the digital divide?
It is exploring these questions and more that motivates me, my name is Diana Martin, and I am a Cyber Anthropologist.
Just what is a cyber anthropologist you may be asking? Well, before we get that far, I’d like to ask you to take a moment to simply consider the question – what is an anthropologist?
Images may come to mind of the fictional characters of Indiana Jones (who was an archaeologist by the way), or Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan the pretty and smart, though a little socially inept, forensic anthropologist on the popular TV show Bones. You may even think of Margaret Mead, a widely known cultural anthropologist, and her controversial studies in Samoa. Well, stick with that train of thought as for each of these anthropologists, fictional or not, it is their curiosity of people that draws them to their line of work. Anthropology literally means the study of man. A simple way of looking at it is that never-ending quest to answer the question – why do people do what they do? In order to answer this question cultural anthropologists, myself included, do what they do best – study culture.
In earlier years, cultural studies have focused on the ‘other’ or those that do not necessarily share the same beliefs, artifacts, language, attitudes, and behaviors as ourselves. This resulted from the colonization of lands that forced people from different cultures to interact with one another, which of course spurred that burning curiosity of wanting to know more about each other for reasons both good and bad.
More recently, anthropology has shifted from studying the other to studying ourselves, taking a more scientific look at what we do in our sub cultures, communities, societies, organizations, businesses, or bureaucracies and asking why do what we do? As the Internet has grown more popular, many anthropologists have focused their studies online to ask this same question as it relates to online culture. And, yes! There is such a thing as online culture. Technically, there are several, each with their own language, beliefs, artifacts, attitudes, and behaviors. Just try explaining all of the abbreviations you use while talking online to someone who has never used email or instant messengers. Imagine showing a cat macro to someone who has never seen one and expecting them to ‘get it’. My personal favorite is to watch the eyes of my friends who do not play World of Warcraft glaze over as the rest of us start talking about raiding strategies or epic loot.
So now you may be asking yourself, how does one study online culture? Central to the anthropological approach of studying any culture is participant observation, immersion, and holism. Immersion being the way in which we immerse ourselves in the cultures we study so that we may be able to get a true sense of what it is to be a part of that culture and holism being a totalizing perspective where we take into consideration the context of the situation in order to reveal as much about it and everything that surrounds it as possible. Both of which are key to participant observation, where not only do we observe the culture we are studying, but also participate in it as well.
In addition to this we use several tools, both qualitative and quantitative, throughout our research including direct observation, surveys, interviews, and focus groups. Moreover, it is the emphasis of the anthropologist as the primary research tool, and the training we go through to refine our eyes and ears as research instruments, that is an important aspect of our methodological approach. Anthropological methods are scientific and we take great measures to be objective in order to avoid bias and to ensure the accuracy of the data collected. The strength of our approach lies more in the exploratory stage rather than in the later confirming stages of research. It is the discovery, finding the unexpected, being open to surprises, and learning the natives’ point of view that makes anthropological research worthwhile and unique. It is this entire process as well as the written culmination of these efforts that is known as ethnography.
Now there’s a word you might recognize – ethnography. Ethnographies have taken the social media world by storm, especially in terms of marketing and public relations. However, this has not had quite the positive effect on my field as one would hope. You see, the problem begins with the fact that many people conducting ethnographic research today have a lack of training in theories and methods with which to collect and analyze the data. You are likely to find these resulting ethnographies to be incomplete at best, completely unsuccessful at worst.
While yes, not all ethnographers need be anthropologists, and not all anthropologists consider themselves ethnographers, it is important to make a distinction between ethnographers that have an anthropological background with a specific set of skills focused on creating a holistic picture based on empirical studies versus those who do not and fail to be able to provide true and unbiased insights as a result.
Now, don’t get me wrong – there are anthropologists doing just this. However, they tend to be few and far between.
Beyond marketing and public relations anthropology has also become a useful tool in areas such as human computer interaction, interface and interaction design, usability and accessibility. Imagine the possibilities when you marry anthropology to user experience. Many people, myself included, are doing this today. However, for all those that are making strides to bridge these two together, it seems to still be a widely unknown or at least unused practice! On the subject of design and development, cultural differences have begun to play a much larger part when it comes to digital domains especially in terms of our growing global economy. Those of us in application design are no longer developing just for an American audience and this is becoming more evident than ever particularly when it comes to things such as games, social networking sites, and software as a service. It is in these fields that anthropologists, if given the opportunity to use their skills, have a chance to really shine.
Another question that may have occurred to you is why? Excellent – you are already a budding anthropologist. Why would someone want to study online culture?
To reiterate, let’s consider the following: building and sustaining digital communities, privacy issues, censorship, cyber law (especially concerning copyrights, intellectual property and the buying and selling of pixels), politics, the digital divide (particularly how this will effect the education of our children as well as the work force in the very near future), practical business uses such as defining and mitigating the risk of introducing new applications, venues, or services to the digital world, user experience, accessibility, as well as several global applications both in terms of development (with respect to languages and customs) and availability.
This list could continue on and on with unlimited ways anthropology can be useful in terms of studying online culture. Now let me shift gears for just a moment and introduce a slightly different idea – that of studying culture online. What I mean by this is giving particular attention to the way one’s culture affects their view of the online world. Remember the concept of holism we talked about before? This is one of the ways it comes into play.
When it comes to studying culture online, it is important to note that there are in fact online communities embedded in specific national cultures. Questions we may consider are how are these the same? How are they different? What can we learn from them and how does this play out in an offline context? There is also the way communities online tend to be comprised of people who come together across class, sex, age, education, and cultural barriers. Many online communities form based solely on a common interest. How do people deal with these differences and overcome these barriers to successfully participate in these communities? What implications does this have in terms of communities goals and collaborations? How does the ability for people to come together online despite these differences affect their worldly outlook and their daily lives beyond the Internet?
With that in mind, it is important to make another point. A key contribution anthropologists have made to the study of online communities is in fact our holistic approach in relating the activities of both a persons digital and analog lives. These lives are not separate! Too often researchers look at isolated instances instead of taking in the bigger picture. We are not only our Second Life avatars, our level 80s in WoW, our Twitter or blog feeds, users of internet applications, or digital consumers. No, these are simply the digital parts of our lives as parents, employees, students, friends, families, and neighbors so on and so forth. This total picture reveals participants in cyber cultures as a combination of organic and technological – or, cyborg in nature if we take a chapter from Donna Haraway. While we are indeed creatures of social reality, this combination of us and the machine it is not so much fiction anymore. And, if we are to take into account Michael Wesch’s ‘The machines is using/us’ then in some respects the Internet is a cyborg too, as it wouldn’t be the Internet as we know it if we as contributors, programmers, designers, and users were not a part of it.
My hope with this podcast is to introduce, or maybe even reintroduce anthropology to today’s internet innovators and to provide several ways in which anthropology can be put to use to explore questions in terms of online culture and culture online. I would also like to reemphasize that I am one of several attempting to research technology and the people who use it from an anthropological point of view. Many of us, myself included, have backgrounds in programming or design in addition to our anthropology training, and have been involved in various Internet communities since their conception. Speaking personally, I simply love technology and everything about it. It is my goal to find ways to combine this love of technology, my understanding of it from a development perspective, and my curiosity of people into a truly holistic form of cyber anthropology.
If you would like to find out more, I invite you to visit my blog Cyber-Anthro.com or to email me at Diana [@] cyber-anthro.com. And of course, you can find me on Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, Livejournal, Last.fm and many more. Just email me for details!
Wesch, Michael – The Machine is Using/Us
‘Manifesto for cyborgs: science, technology, and socialist feminism in the 1980s’, Socialist Review 80 (1985): 65-108.