As you’re likely aware, recently Facebook changed the email settings of all users so that the email they signed up with is no longer visible – replaced by their @facebook.com email address. The company rolled out an email service back in 2010. My guess is that adoption was lagging so given the new pressure they’re under as a result of their IPO to monetize the service, they made the switch.
They’re perfectly entitled to do this; after all they’re a private company providing a free service to users.
HOWEVER, what you’re ENTITLED to do and what you SHOULD do are two completely different things.
MOREOVER, WE do not control the language – THE PEOPLE DO (in this case, the users). Read more…
Online nothing goes away, and anything can come to light if enough time and pressure are applied.
George Zimmerman is about to find that out because the Miami Herald found his MySpace page. I’m kind of surprised this didn’t come to light sooner. In a bit of dark humor, he was just awarded the “In the Spotlight” badge because people are flocking to pore over his updates for clues.
We can’t undo the advances into the era of Radical Transparency, we can only adjust to it. That isn’t a bad thing.
Just as social media can have a negative impact on someone’s life, it can also have a positive impact. It depends on how much of a person is positive or negative.
Social media is only a tool – it has no inherent qualities. It can only reflect those who use it. The same social media platforms that are providing fodder to back up the allegation that the shooting of Trayvon Martin was a hate crime motivated by mistrust of a race are ALSO raising funds for Zimmerman’s defense fund and spreading the message of his fervent right-leaning defenders. Con artists on both sides of the case have faked content to support their side – and virtually all have been caught and debunked.
Right now the big headlines are the racist missives against Hispanics that the MySpace profile contains, as well as some allusions to criminal behavior.
That won’t be the only headline, and a fuller picture of Zimmerman is already being illustrated in the news media as we all endeavor to learn more about him and his motivations. The Herald noted that he has a racially-diverse group of friends (as depicted by his photos). Likely there are other positive features of Zimmerman which will come to light.
I tend to think anything that helps make us more aware that the world is a complex, gray place with few (if any) absolutes is a benefit to us all.
A disturbing trend has ramped up over the past couple of years: employers demanding the login credentials for the Facebook accounts of their employees. Another example of this cretinism reared its ugly head here in Cassopolis, Michigan at Lewis Cass Intermediate School District where teacher’s aide Kimberly Hester was fired for refusing to cough up her password to administrators after posting a nondescript and safe-for-work photo of a co-worker’s pants around her ankles.
What makes this case doubly-stupid is that was completely unnecessary: if the school needed documentation of the alleged transgression, it could have taken a screen capture from the account of the local parent who raised the issue with the administration in the first place.
Demanding the Facebook credentials of an employee is just as outlandishly-inappropriate as demanding the login credentials for an employee’s online banking account. Employers should consider such a request with exactly the same level of caution (because they could open themselves up for liability).
Here’s why: Read more…
Hey kid – would you put down those Foot Locker boxes and have a bit of a chin waggle for a minute?
Martin Luther King once said “a riot is the language of the unheard.” What’s burning up London right now is an unheard population, and while I can sympathize with the sentiment, the violence isn’t something that can be condoned and it’s utterly and completely daft. Here’s why:
- London is one of the most surveilled cities in the world (just behind Chicago). There are over 500,000 cameras throughout the city quietly recording with unblinking eyes.
- Facial recognition technology has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years, and it’s so commonplace we all have access to it in Facebook. The pool of photos is growing all the time, both on social networking sites and off in private databases. Even if you’re wearing a mask or covering your face, it doesn’t matter because police will be able to match your clothing from other video footage when your face was uncovered.
- You can’t count on your friends because all it takes is an errant tweet or Facebook post to incriminate you. Police are already watching for incriminating evidence of activities in process and arresting tweeting looters.
- Your technology can narc on you. Given how prevalent mobile phones are in the UK and how flimsy the security is, it should be relatively easy for police to use scanners to identify all mobile devices within range of a certain area where the riots are taking place. That would help kick-start any investigations or facial recognition searches. Not only that, but if the companies that produce all the electronics that have been nicked in the past few days have added any sort of security to them, connecting to the Internet could identify a looter (or someone who received stolen property).
- London Police can crowdsource the investigation with ease. [Update: ...and they already are] Back in 1997, a bunch of people in a neighborhood near Michigan State University rioted after MSU lost to Duke in the NCAA finals, burning couches, stealing and destroying property. Even back then, there were plenty of people shooting video and taking pictures which the local police took and looped on a cable-access TV channel with a message inviting the community to tip them off if they recognized anyone in the photos. That was 15 years ago – just think of how much easier it will be to crowdsource identification with Facebook ads or mobile apps.
- The evidence will stay around “forever.” That means Law Enforcement can take its time with the investigation – as it does so, the technologies and pattern-recognition algorithms will continue to improve. I’m also pretty sure England doesn’t have a statute of limitations – so prosecutions could happen even years after these fires have been extinguished.
In the meantime, mind the gap! (Sorry, couldn’t resist).
[Update: This just appeared on Mashable and is obviously highly-relevant recommended reading - "NYPD Creates Unit To Track Criminals Via Social Media"]
Have you taken a look at what Twitter Lists you’re on lately? It’s an interesting study in how we help the web understand itself through our actions and contributions to the great, seething tide of data online.
This is a great example of the evolution toward the idea of the Semantic Web proposed by Tim Berners-Lee (which he explains in his own words in the video below).
The web is resembling more and more a form of artificial intelligence, and we netizens are the amino acids that make up its DNA. Through the information we post, the ways we categorize it, and the connections we make with each other (social media makes the maxim “you are who you know” ever more true) – we’re teaching the web to understand us (an idea beautifully illustrated by Dr. Michael Wesch in this now-classic YouTube vide0).
Just look at what one can glean from how people have categorized me by what I tweet: public relations, social media, Grand Rapids, Michigan, great dane lover, professional, foursquare, education, GRCC, digital, West Michigan, college, advertising, design, video, search engine optimization (SEO), online reputation management (ORM), web, marketing, branding, communication, Lost, ddm, PRSA 2009 conference, etc. There are even value judgments: greatness, elite, superuser, conversationalist, greatness, smart, connected. Even the use of language provides insight into me; I’m described in slang/jargon terms like “tweeple,” “twibes,” ”g-rap,” “journchat,” “pr 2.0,” – indicating that I likely fit into various subcultures.
What can we forecast from this phenomenon? For starters, privacy will continue to change in ways that disrupt our cozy and long-held expectations. I don’t control who lists me or how they list me (though right now I can make the lists I’m on private).
As with other areas of social media or your digital identity, there are really two responses we’re left with;
- Closed: restrict the content about oneself online by zealously guarding personal information and the content one contributes to the web.
- Open: contribute to the content about oneself online to have a hand in shaping one’s online identity.
Increasingly the closed approach is futile.
Even if one were totally abstinent from Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and the blogosphere – content will inevitably be contributed to the digital world without one’s consent. Your friends, co-workers and neighbors will tweet about you, corporations will make the data they aggregate about you more web-accessible (whether it’s the purchases you make, the magazines you subscribe to, the traffic cam video of intersections you drive through – even the lab results of your doctor’s visits – unfortunately I don’t think medical records are immune to this unstoppable trend).
Mashable just published an article surveying some of the recent stories of people rejecting social media (Anti-Social Media: A Rising Rebellion Against Web 2.0?). They cite examples like the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine, workplace bans (citing productivity concerns), and the phenomena of teens rejecting Facebook.
An abstinence-only approach to social media will likely be as ineffective as the abstinence-only approach to sex education: both rely on ignorance and are based on the assumption that one can control the behavior of others. It’s far more effective to be pragmatic and arm people with information so that they’re empowered to make decisions about their future.
Problem is, it doesn’t matter if a handful of teens are rejecting Facebook; that’s not going to stop information about them (or any of us) from ending up online.
The details of your life are online whether or not you choose to publish them: friends and neighbors are posting photos of you, corporations are digitizing records, and government documents are going online. The process has been slower for digital immigrants, but for digital natives – it can begin even before they’re born as parents and relatives post sonogram photos or blog the intimate details of the pregnancy.
Don’t believe me? Search for yourself with Pipl (a seach engine focused on gathering information about individuals) and see what you find.
I sympathize with the privacy concerns (I, like most, used to do everything online under pseudonyms), but here are two realities you can count on:
- More information will be published about you online.
- The tools we use to aggregate, sort, index, and categorize information online will continue to improve.
In that context – abstaining from social media seems a bit foolish. By trying to stay off the grid, you’re voiding your say in how you’re portrayed online. People (university admissions offices, romantic prospects, and employers) will invariably use the web to learn about you, and it’s prudent to participate in the identity that is created for you online. At the very least, it pays off to have a Facebook account so that you can keep track of what your friends are saying and posting about you (and ask them to hide or untag photos/videos or other content that you’d rather not have go public).
Employers attempting to force employees to abstain from social media to maintain productivity might want to more closely evaluate that approach. First, it’s expensive and time-consuming to try to block access to everything online (and most efforts can easily be defeated anyway). Second, it hasn’t been established whether or not social networking adversely affects productivity (the research thus far is pretty skimpy – and it’s mostly based on surveys as opposed to measuring/observing employees at work). You’ll likely want to evaluate the type of work each employee is doing and consider factors like these before making a decision:
- Do they need to incorporate creativity in their work?
- Do they need to collaborate with others (including customers/clients) on their work?
- Do they need to be aware of current events or social trends?
- Do they need to stay in contact with co-workers/customers/clients who aren’t within yelling distance?
- Do they need to frequently reference resources to do their job?
Bruce Schenier at Wired wrote an excellent piece (“It’s Time to Drop the ‘Expectation of Privacy’ Test”) about the need to drop the “Expectation of Privacy” test currently used as the primary case law that determines the constitutionality of government action. He cites some of the analysis and proposed alternatives from Daniel Solove, Orin Kerr, and Jed Rubenfeld.
It is crucial that the US take concrete efforts to address this issue; more information is being created (in 2008, 4 exabites of unique information was generated – more than all of the data created in the preceeding 5,000 years), digitized and held (potentially indefinitely), this will only become an increasingly dire concern. This is especially true when one considers the spectre of a privatized federal intelligence-gathering infrastructure.
The problem becomes apparent, too, when one thinks of how defamation law works given the “public figure doctrine.” Under the current model, private citizens are affored more protection than public figures. But what constitutes a “public figure” in the age of social media? Does simply creating a MySpace profile qualify? What about publishing a Twitter feed?
In the book Born Digital (which I’m reading), the authors (John Palfrey and Urs Gasser) run through the lifecycle of a child born today to illustrate how vastly more data is created and available about them than in any generation in history – and how decisions that will affect the rest of their lives are made without their consent by unwitting parents.
In the area of government and civil rights, there have already been abuses of the warrantless wiretapping power that the Bush Administration claimed for itself as the administration illegally wiretapped journalists and aid workers. Perhaps the solution to this lack of privacy is more transparency: what if we requried the federal government to publish online a list of all of its active surveillance investigations? The argument that such information should be protected because it would alert criminals/terrorists to the investigation is moot because they already assume this is the case, and this might dissuade the government from abusing its power.
In the area of social norms, we’re running up on some terrible uses of existing criminal law with respect to privacy – like those protecting sensitive populations like minors as teenagers are being prosecuted for sending or holding nude photos of themselves. (These prosecutions pervert the spirit of these laws becuase they’re in place to protect the victimized population; they’re not meant to be applied when the victim is the perpetrator).
I’m increasingly convinced that the future lies not in restricting access to information, but in protecting society after the fact in a world where everything is transparent. We should be asking ourselves what we can do to render harmless private information about us that might be disclosed (because we must assume that it will be). What will this look like? It will change everything from how we validate identity, to how we educate/prepare children, and it will likely fundamentally alter our societal/cultural mores.
"...and you shall have no pie."As my parents tell it, when I was an infant my first word wasn't a word - it was an entire sentence. Very little has changed.
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