Opinion

The Great Debate

from Nicholas Wapshott:

Buying into Big Brother

Whatever high crimes and misdemeanors the National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden may or may not have perpetrated, he has at least in one regard done us all a favor. He has reminded us that we are all victims of unwarranted and inexcusable invasions of privacy by companies who collect our data as they do business with us.

Some, like Google and Facebook, pose primarily as software companies when their main revenue source, and their main business, is to mine data and sell advertisers access to customers. We knew this already, of course, though it seems many of us would prefer to forget the true nature of the technology firms that have boomed in the last decade. Seduced by their dazzling baubles, we have bought in to Big Brother without truly understanding the true price we are paying and will continue to pay for access to their brave new world.

We may take pity on the idiot schoolboy who uses expletives on Twitter or posts a picture of himself holding a joint at a party only to discover when he looks for a job that a trawl by an HR department has made him unemployable. But even smart people -- like the New York mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner, who sent lewd pictures to strangers -- can remember too late that in this wired world we are all being recorded all the time. Yet there is little legal protection from abuse by the companies who collate our personal data and store it for eternity.

One likely outcome of Snowden’s leak will be that the federal government has to justify its intrusions and maybe even show a prima facie case against an individual or groups before it gathers their data. There is no such move to ensure that pernicious data mining for commercial or private purposes will be similarly controlled. Primitive tribesmen, on seeing a camera for the first time, often balked at having their picture taken for fear it may steal their souls. Using the Internet is the same, except we know for certain that the price of going online is to lose all shred of confidentiality.

The record of internet companies who ruthlessly peddle our private concerns and personal details to advertisers is hardly encouraging. Every time a social network changes its inaptly named “privacy” policies, always by way of “explanation” in the finest of fine print littered with incomprehensible Orwellian “Newspeak,” it compromises our private lives even more aggressively.

Social media life: What privacy?

It was almost quaint: Google’s recent apology for privacy violations. Granted, it came in the face of a lawsuit where the company got its hand slapped for “data-scooping,” a wonderful phrase that could be the slogan of our current lives. Google was found to have crossed the line with its Street View Project, where in addition to photographing houses and buildings along the world’s streets and avenues, the Googilians scooped up all manner of personal information from zillions of unencrypted wireless networks.

Really? I’m shocked. Not. Who doesn’t data scoop is my question?

I look at a bathing suit on line. For the next few weeks, whenever I open my laptop it pops right up. It’s like I am being stalked by a bathing suit. I vow to never ever succumb again to online shopping, a resolve that crumbles faster than my New Year’s resolutions.

Every day I am online giving away — not just bits of information but bytes of my soul, or at least that’s the way it feels. Obviously the social media sites, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare, et al, are the most glaring examples. We can complain about Google and about the predatory identity thieves out there who hack into our so-called private information. But the truth is we are the saboteurs of our own privacy.

from The Great Debate UK:

How social media can play a major role in disaster forecasting and recovery

--Julian Hunt is Visiting Professor at Delft University of Technology and the Malaysian Commonwealth Studies Centre. Joy Pereira is Deputy Director of SEADPRI, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. The opinions expressed are their own.--

The UN Climate Change Summit in Qatar will be negotiating levels of funding for adaptation against climate change. Social media, which can reduce impacts of disasters through community involvement and improved real-time management, must receive effective and rapid use of such funds.

Social media is increasingly joining public broadcasts and targeted radio messages as a means for central organisations, including government, to communicate forecasts and advisory information to people in affected areas ahead of a disaster, and effective advice during and after one.

Social media and the new Cold War

There is a new Cold War starting. It does not involve opposing military forces, but it does involve competing ideas about how political life should be organized. The battles are between broadcast media outlets and social-media upstarts, which have very different approaches to news production, ownership and censorship. And some of the biggest battles are in Russia, where the ruling elites that dominate broadcast media are pitted against the civil society groups that flourish through social media.

Whereas broadcast media is most useful for authoritarian governments, social media is now used by citizens to monitor their government. For example, in early 2012, rumors circulated that a young ultranationalist, Alexander Bosykh, was going to be appointed to run a Multinational Youth Policy Commission. A famous picture of Bosykh disciplining a free-speech advocate was dug up and widely circulated among Russian language blogs and news sites, killing his prospects for the job (though not ending his career).

These are not simply information wars between political elites and persecuted democracy activists. There is a deep structural rift between the organization and values of broadcast media and those of social media. Putin is media savvy, but his skills are in broadcast media. The Kremlin knows how to manage broadcast media. Broadcasters know where their funding comes from, and they know what happens if they become too critical. Indeed, Putin’s recent changes to the country’s media laws are specifically designed to protect broadcast media and burden social media.

How to resist Big Brother 2.0

The ubiquity of digital gadgets and sensors, the pervasiveness of networks and the benefits of sharing very personal information through social media have led some to argue that privacy as a social norm is changing and becoming an outmoded concept. In this three-part series Don Tapscott questions this view, arguing that we each need a personal privacy strategy. Part one can be read here, and part two here.

As the Net becomes the basis for commerce, work, entertainment, healthcare, learning and much human discourse, each of us is leaving a trail of digital crumbs as we spend a growing portion of our day touching networks. The books, music and stocks you buy online, your pharmacy purchases, groceries scanned at the supermarket or bought online, your child’s research for a school project, the card reader at the parking lot, your car’s conversations with a database via satellite, the online publications you read, the shirt you purchase in a department store with your store card, the prescription drugs you buy – and the hundreds of other network transactions in a typical day – point to the problem.

Computers can inexpensively link and cross-reference such databases to slice, dice and recompile information about individuals in hundreds of different ways. This makes these databases enormously attractive for government and corporations that are keen to know our whereabouts and activities.

Can we retain privacy in the era of Big Data?

The ubiquity of digital gadgets and sensors, the pervasiveness of networks and the benefits of sharing very personal information through social media have led some to argue that privacy as a social norm is changing and becoming an outmoded concept. In this three-part series Don Tapscott questions this view, arguing that we each need a personal privacy strategy. Part one can be read here.

Privacy is nothing if not the freedom to be let alone, to experiment and to make mistakes, to forget and to start anew, to act according to conscience, and to be free from the oppressive scrutiny and opinions of others.

It may seem an odd notion today, but in its infancy the Internet was a favorite refuge for many seeking privacy. A famous New Yorker cartoon published almost 20 years ago featured two dogs sitting in front of a computer, with one saying to the other: “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

Should we ditch the idea of privacy?

The ubiquity of digital gadgets and sensors, the pervasiveness of networks and the benefits of sharing very personal information through social media have led some to argue that privacy as a social norm is changing and becoming an outmoded concept.  In this three-part series Don Tapscott questions this view, arguing that we each need a personal privacy strategy.

Since I co-authored a book on privacy and the Internet 15 years ago I’ve been writing about how to manage the various threats to the security and control of our personal information. But today I find myself in a completely unexpected discussion. A growing number of people argue that the notion of having a private life in which we carefully restrict what information we share with others may not be a good idea. Instead, sharing our intimate, personal information with others would benefit us individually and as a society.

This is not a fringe movement. The proponents of this view are some of the smartest and most influential thinkers and practitioners of the digital revolution.

What happened to ‘Yes we can’?

At this pivotal moment in the presidential race, President Barack Obama and his re-election team need to focus on a key question that could influence the outcome of this year’s election:

How do they get the “we” back?

Good question. We all remember how Obama broke new ground in the 2008 campaign by using social media as a powerful political tool. Obama’s campaign created an expansive Internet platform, MyBarackObama.com, that gave supporters tools to organize themselves, create communities, raise money and induce people not only to vote but to actively support the Obama campaign. What emerged was an unprecedented force, 13 million supporters connected to one another over the Internet, all driving toward one goal, the election of Obama.

When they chanted “Yes we can,” it wasn’t just a message of hope for the future – it was a confirmation statement of collective power. They weren’t waiting to be told what to do; they were actively engaged, calling friends to come to events, learn what was at stake, contribute ideas, and help out in some way. The power of “we” was awesome to behold. The “we” not only raised hope for people but also unprecedented sums of money for the old-fashioned campaign on the ground.

from Don Tapscott:

20 big ideas for 2012, continued

The views expressed are his own.

What will happen in 2012? In the spirit of the aphorism “The future is not something to be predicted, it’s something to be achieved,” let me suggest 20 transformations (which Reuters will publish in four groups of five; the first can be found here). We need to make progress on these issues now to prevent next year from being a complete disaster.

These ideas are based on the research I did with Anthony D. Williams to write our recent book which comes out in January 2012 as a new edition entitled Macrowikinomics: New Solutions for a Connected Planet.

All 20 are based on the idea that the industrial age has finally run out of gas and we need to rebuild most of our institutions for a new age of networked intelligence and a new set of principles – collaboration, openness, sharing, interdependence and integrity. These big ideas will be the focus of much of my writing next year.

Is social media losing its lure … and return on investment?

FILM-BUZZ/

How do you know that social media is folded into the narrative of American life? Perhaps when people are being encouraged to give it up for a religious holiday.

Offlining Inc., a group of Silicon Valley types, is promoting the occasional break from social media and tech devices in general by blasting an ad showing Lindsay Lohan. The message: “You don’t have to be Jewish to make amends for your tweets on Yom Kippur.”

It’s a good idea — we could all use time off from our iPhones, not to mention Twitter, Facebook, et al. But Americans don’t actually spend that much time on social media. Which is good because the reason many people have embraced social media (which would be marketing) is turning out to have a lousy return on investment, if you consider the opportunity cost of time.

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