01.11.10

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FBI/Facebook Wants to Know Your ‘Friends’

Posted in Action, Boycott Novell, Law at 9:49 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“True friends are like diamonds; precious but rare. Fake friends are like fall leaves; found everywhere.”

Anonymous

Summary: Timely reminder of the value of people’s privacy

Tactless remarks from Novell’s former CEO Eric Schmidt have led us to writing a post about the dire, potentially-criminal consequences, but the same type of debate returns now that Facebook’s boss makes a similar type of remark. This was covered (and spun a little) in:

No one wants privacy these days

SOCIAL NOTWORKING SITE Facebook’s boss Mark Zuckerberg told TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington the other day that privacy is a thing of the past.

Zuckerberg: People Are Comfortable Without Privacy, So We Threw Them All Over The Cliff

[A]s you may recall, a few months back, Facebook tried to make that big shift anyway, pushing many people to reveal what had previously been private.

Zuckerberg: ‘I am a prophet’

Mark Zuckerberg has revealed that he is a prophet, declaring that he had foreseen that people will soon have no qualms about displaying every minute detail of their private lives on the internet.

Facebook’s database of binary connections between profiles is problematic for all sorts of reasons and one of our readers has explained why in the following message:

Internet Scumbags Spin Privacy Concerns to Their Advantage

Got a privacy problem? Embarrassed by something you gave others to publish? Perhaps the nice people running the databases and PR astroturf firms can help you get what you really want. The bad guys want to help you, really. This unlikely turn, where the exploiters and extortionists proclaim themselves the good guys, is amazingly being presented as reasonable policy and legislative framework.

A new wave of Google bashing and Facebook glorification is hitting the news. Instead of having a good look at real problems, such as ChoicePoint, and the problematic uses of databases by both government and industry, the databases that people can see and derive some benefit from are lambasted.

The Register is running an amusing article about Facebook that hints at some of the more serious issues.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/01/11…

“Critics have slated the social networking site for burying privacy controls, highjacking its users’ data and allowing advertisers to farm Facebookers to help them flog tat. Oh, and eroding an generations’ respect for their own and other people’s privacy.”

“The fact is, Zuckerberg said, that people want to share everything, and they want to share it on the internet. That is the “new norm”, and he saw it coming.”

Good for the Register to point to commercial exploitation of centralized databases and the intentional erosion of privacy by the exploiters. The article is amusing and worth reading in full.

If only more serious publications had as much sense. “Mainstream” coverage is looks more like this:

http://neteffect.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/…

Google and digital freedom, aka “piracy,” are presented as cause for concern while astroturfers and spammers are presented as the cure. Reasonable legislation in France, where people would have the right to demand of
commercial databases that pictures of themselves be deleted, is ridiculed as hopelessly naive because “piracy” means the pictures will always resurface. Google is smeared with the piracy label, rather than a company that promises private sharing but then allows commercial data mining and tells you not to worry about it. The authors finally recommend the vigilante justice of “search engine optimization” and “reputation defense” which are euphemisms for astroturf and spam. PR companies that follow Microsoft’s TE training manuals will “defend” their clients by relentlessly libeling competitors, often anonymously or through pseudo names. Without search engines, their work would go doing damage without victim awareness. Google seems to be a convenient, visible target for the crimes of others. Big publishers have always hated digital freedom, which makes them unnecessary, and Google which supplants them.

Serious publications should be focusing their attention on the more sinister practices that have the same but less visible results, data mining of people’s purchasing, email and web browsing. Losses of insurance, denial of
employment and other problems have already shown people the dangers of social exploitation networks. Laws that govern these things are seriously out of line, especially in the US where the PatRiot Act actually encourages violation.

Free software has answers to as many of these concerns as is practical. Modern GNU/Linux systems offer simple interfaces for encrypted email, instant message and file sharing so that only a minimum of user selected material ever needs to be shared to achieve what social exploitation networks promise. The more control people have over their computers and publishing, the more privacy and publishing power they will have. While it is never possible to “take back” what you have given others, no one should need a third party publisher to share with their friends. Data mining of purchasing data and private electronic correspondence can only be reduced by law.

On the issue of privacy, The Register has also just published the following more encouraging article.

Italians take the ‘p’ to fight back against Big Brother

Italians are fighting back against the surveillance society with a grass roots project designed to publicise the location of CCTV cameras – and to “out” those that have been set up contrary to Italian Law.

From BoingBoing today: “Orson Welles on privacy, prescient remarks from 1955″

Amy sez, “In 1955 Orson Welles created a BBC programme called Sketchbook. In this episode he is shockingly contemporary when he talks about passports, privacy and personal rights ending in his assertion that all members of the human race deserve to maintain their dignity and privacy. He also talks about about the role of police – interesting in light of recent invasions of privacy in the supposed interest of protecting citizens.”

It is good to have people out there who fight for everyone’s rights.

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4 Comments

  1. finalzone said,

    January 12, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Gravatar

    In Canada, Facebook cannot claim people do not want privacy. That organization was already in trouble for the same reason.

  2. Yuhong Bao said,

    January 19, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    Gravatar

    Yea, as I said, Google is a lot better than MS, regardless of what the astroturfers may say.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    There is a PR stunt at the moment, but it’s not new. Microsoft is making noise about 6-month search data retention in order to pressure Google (with over 90% market share) to cripple its algorithm/SERPs. Microsoft has played this card for years.

  3. Yuhong Bao said,

    January 19, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    Gravatar

    Ars has a new guide to Facebook privacy also, as an alternative:
    http://arstechnica.com/web/guides/2009/12/an-updated-guide-to-facebook-privacy-december-2009-edition.ars

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