Why I’m Leaving Facebook

It’s not strictly true, I will have a facebook ID again in the coming months, but it will be an output only ID. By that I mean it will be an ID that I can post things to, but little more than that.

As I said in my “evil empire” post, I’ve become more and more concerned about not just what data they collect, but what you can learn from it. They sell our data, and it’s pretty easy to drill down on the data and learn all sorts of things, even though the data is supposed to be anonymous.

The problem with this is not just what facebook can tell, it’s that to a degree it is a very biased view of who we are. For the longest time, the standing joke was:

if it’s not on facebook, it didn’t happen

But you know that’s not true. When was the last time you posted about your intimate desires, or genuine mistakes, or arguments you had with important people in your life, or private details of your dealings with banks, managers and so on. These all go to make up who you are, what makes you tick.

What facebook has is a simple snapshot, someone who is vastly different online than offline. Yeah, facebook knows I’m liberal, likely not religious, I read the Guardian and the New York Times and probably trust them for news as I spend more time reading articles. Facebook knows I have a generally negative view of the new President and it thinks it know what products and brands I “like“. The data says my “psychological gender” is more male than feminine, but not by much; I’m pretty laid back but do get emotional.

Our data is sold in bulk, using specialised tools, you can target data geographically, based on numerous categories. It is supposed to be anonymised when sold, but it’s relatively simple to identify. This week in Ireland the American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU] was trying to defend our privacy rights, when facebook moves our data between Europe and the USA. Europe has much stronger data protection rights. Facebook of course argued against that.

If you are not convinced, watch this video from the creators of Data Selfie, a chrome extension, see how what you do [on facebook], leaves a data trail to the person you are [on facebook].

The lack of control over our data is seriously concerning. Even though I’ve already deleted the primary facebook app from my phone, as well as Messenger. You can’t even see the data, I fear that facebook has data I can’t control, can’t delete, and somewhere in a facebook data center, I have a twin, someone I don’t know.

Goodbye the evil empire?

I’ve become more and more concerned about posting on facebook, and being part of a massive data collection and analysis machine

A wordpress question to my blog followers, both by email, and especially on wordpress. Do you use any of the following reasonably new wordpress features?

If yes, can you post a link to your blog below. I’m looking for some examples. Why?

serveimageI think I’ve mentioned before, I’ve become more and more concerned about posting on facebook, and being part of a massive data collection and analysis machine. So I’m looking for ways to post the same sort of content I would post on Facebook, here. The main problem is I don’t want to clutter my blog post page with daily links, youtube videos, soundcloud and mixcloud audio etc.

It did think about adding an additional page, and adding an RSS feed to the page to pull saved links from paper.ly, instapaper, shareaholic, pinterest and so on, I’ve got a basic page going here, but there is no obvious way to control the RSS update frequency. I can’t add plugins to my site as it is hosted on wordpress.com. While it is a premium site, no plugins can be added.

I can subscribe via the sidebar to an RSS feed, but thats not really desirable, unless anyone knows how to increase(significanty) the size of the sidebar in the twentysixteen theme. So, what I’m looking for is examples, got one?

Post a comment below. I’ll add your blog to my blogroll, and if there are any really good examples and you are willing to share “how-to’s” via email or similar, I’d be willing to make a paypal or amazon gift card payment.

Assange/Wikileaks/Trump

It will be interesting to see how they play out under Trump.

The first, and perhaps least important is that of the position of Julian Assange, the erstwhile editor-in-chief of the organisation WikiLeaks. Assange has been holed up in the Ecuador’s embassy in London trying to avoid questioning in Sweden over an alleged rape charge. Assange asserts that this is a thinly veiled first step in extraditing him to the US for trial on much more sinister charges.

I debated, aka argued, with my own son that you couldn’t take anything that Assange is now doing at face value. That when wikileaks first arrived on the Internet, it was about the leak and the injustice and not the personalities. My son, remained convinced that it was about the global banking system, and their ties with powerful politicians. I disagree, for too long, wikileaks has been about Assange.

Given the timing, and manor in which the wikileaks disclosure of the DNC/Podesta emails came about, I believe this was nothing more than an attempt by Assange and wikileaks to undermine the US election. They succeeded.

It’s almost certainly no coincidence that it was announced that Assange would finally be questioned by the Swedish authorities next week. The only question that remains, irrespective of the outcome, is will a Trump Presidency go after Assange in the same way either Obama or Clinton Presidency would?

If not, does that leave wiggle room for the return to the USA of Edward Snowden? Wikileaks can and will go on without Assange. Snowden is the real hero for exposing the secret mass survailance system that Presidents Bush/Obama had setup, and now will come under control of President Trump.

Feeling had America, you should. Don’t forget the emails, the only thing we learned from them for the mot part was how the DNC set Hillary up to fail, and they gave the chattering classes something to focus on that wasn’t policy, and wasn’t difficult.

China, still not big or bad enough

The primary difference being, as the updated NY Times article on Tianjin chemical storage shows, there were public records about chemical storage in China, not so much Texas. Freedom is an illusion.

china chemicals

Back on August 14th, the Austin American Statesman carried an article from the NY TImes about the dangers of Chemical storage on it’s front page. It did so without even a footnote highlighting the fact there is little in Texas that, in 2015, prevents the same thing happening. You can read an updated NY Times article here, or the one highlighted above here.

Of course, we had the total disaster in West, Texas in April 2013. Since then there has been little to prevent the same thing happening. When he was Texas Attorney General, Governor Abbott restricted any information about Chemical Storage held by the State, as posted over a year ago.. He said at the time, you can always show up and ask what chemicals are stored on a site near you. A fine example of what the Tianjin residents would call “shuǎzuǐpí“.

Of course, as we are always being told, “everything is bigger in Texas“,  and when it comes to chemical explosions, China has a long way to go to match Texas. Consider the pictures below, pretty similar.

Chemical Explosion

The pair on the left are from the 1947 Texas City Disaster, where 581 were killed, and over 5,000 injured, with more than 500 homes destroyed. Believed to be the USA largest ever and most destructive industrial accident. It ranks among the worlds largest man-made disasters. The pictures on the right are from the Tianjin explosions which killed 147 people.

The primary difference being, as the updated NY Times article on Tianjin chemical storage shows, there were public records about chemical storage in China, not so much Texas. Freedom is an illusion.

Privacy as an abnormal condition in America

I’ll get the gloating out of the way first, last week both Edward Snowden and Julian Assange appeared live by video at SXSW here in Austin. Given SXSW is one massive geekfest there was bound to be social media coverage, and some news coverage depending on what either of them said, or which way the wind was blowing in the mainstream media.

Assange on the 55-inch TVHowever, due to the successful Texas Tribune kickstarter campaign, tens of thousands of us were able to watch it simultaneously live via livestream.

I contributed just $250 to that kickstarter, I more than got my moneys worth from just those two livestreams, forget the tour of the Trib offices with Chief Innovation Officer Rodney Gibbs, a private review of the livestream equipment, and iof course all the Governors race coverage that signed up for in the first place.

Typical of the coverage was this Tweet: https://twitter.com/jeremywaite/status/443071488615141378

Snowdown on the laptopApparently, the count was up around 50,000 for Snowdon. I could go on for hours about what both Snowdon and Assange said, or didn’t say, but that wasn’t the point of this blog. Both discussions focused around the individual right to privacy, both explicit and implicit privacy.

Explicit privacy are those things that you have a right to expect will be kept private. These include those personal details, which if revealed, can cause you harm; Your social security number, your bank account details and balances, your medical records and a number of other items. Implicit privacy are those things which, no one really has a right to know, even if they feel they can use that information. This week I’ve realized finally, not only is there no boundary between the two here in America, but for the most part no one has any expectation of real privacy.

This is primarily because here in America corporations have relentlessly abused our privacy, sharing data to the point where, societally, people have no real expectation or understanding of privacy.

I’m sure its my background, maybe my English upbringing and/or family. However, I find it intolerable to get letter after letter from what are borderline scams to re-finance, using variously Presidential decrees, acts and so on. Each and everyone of these has the precise amount of the loan I have. Except I don’t have a loan, so each and everyone of those letters not only has the amount of my Home Equity line of credit, they also have the name of the lender. How did they get this? Disgusted I called my FCU, why had they given this out or sold it? They hadn’t, it was public record at the credit agency they use.

At least from my upbringing, one didn’t boast about the amount of money one did, or didn’t have. When it came up in discussion, you mostly let it go without answering, it was none of their business.

Another example of a violation of implicit privacy is my leased car. I received a call from yet another company using a dressed up, pseudo scam approach to extended the warranty on my 2010 VW CC. Except again, I don’t have a 2010 VW CC, I sold it 13-months ago. That doesn’t make it ok though. The tele-sales person that called me had enough information to make a pass at convincing me this was an official call. Just a few (social engineering) questions about the mileage(the last record the have was…), why I had purchased the car rather than taken a new lease…

The caller actually had very little real information, again no more than could be gained from the credit agency(lease) and some additional information from the VW Leasing or Dealership. However, what they were trying to do was to convince me they were the official leasing, extended maintenance dept. and they were using social engineering. While that may not be illegal, it’s certainly deceptive and immoral.

And there is the problem. When it comes to privacy in the US, for the most part people do not complain because they’ve been subjected to years of relentless commercial exploitation which has both worn them down, and taken away their will to fight back. At the same time, companies have automated their systems to the point where you just can’t talk to a human about privacy, and the relentless push for outsourcing, contractors, sub-contractors has made it incredibly difficult to even find out who knows what, much less stop it.

Assange and Snowdon in their ways have bought these massive government data breaches to our attention. They’ve highlighted how this data collection is going on at a massive scale. Eventually the information will leak to these scam-like commercial companies, you won’t hear about that, because they will just use the information to increasingly financially, socially, and morally to attack you.

A friend posted on facebook recently something to the effect of “which is worse the government or a private company when it comes to collecting data? – The government because they can take away your liberty.” – I would say, private companies are far worse, you have no privacy, liberty, no freedom and increasingly, no choice.

Cancer, the Radiolab edition.

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Henrietta Lacks famous cells

This podcast is possibly the most informative, scary, disgusting, weird and inspiring podcasts I’ve ever heard. Like most people cancer has had a growing impact on my family. My Mum is a survivor; I’ve lost Aunts, my ex-wife, and just last week, a good friends husband.  I’m heading for my 3rd surgery for nonmalignant skin carcinoma removal. Yet I know nothing about cancer.

I didn’t set out to learn, “Famous Tumors” was just next up on my drive time podcast list. Well worth the listen. The main story is about Her name was Henrietta Lacks, scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the land. Her cells, taken without her knowledge, became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. She remains virtually unknown, hear her story, and that of the march of her cells.