Connecting the Dots, Part 8…

Connecting the Dots, Part 8…

When you were a kid, did you ever read Dr. Seuss’ book The Sneetches and Other Stories? You know the one I’m talking about. Continue reading “Connecting the Dots, Part 8…”

Locking Down Facebook…

Locking Down Facebook…

The following four articles led to this note. Please read them in order (but watch out for the AUTO LAUNCH VIDEO in the first link):

1. CBS News: Facebook knew of illicit user profile harvesting for 2 years, never acted

2. Reuters: Republican lawmakers concerned by Facebook data leak

3. The Guardian: How to protect your Facebook privacy – or delete yourself completely: If you found the Cambridge Analytica data breach revelations deeply unsettling, read our guide to the maze of your privacy settings

4. BBC News: Is leaving Facebook the only way to protect your data?

Upshot: Panic in the streets. Momentary threats to leave Facebook. And in a week, when something new distracts us, another privacy violation or some other horrible thing that happens in government or in your local community pushes the panic out of the way and we resume our daily lives. Continue reading “Locking Down Facebook…”

Slippery slope…

Slippery slope…

“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

Clearly I’ve struck some nerves recently and folks are beginning to ask for my opinion. That makes me feel less like I’m shouting into the wilderness. Which is good, except that this might be a very short term opportunity to get the point across if the government gets its way with Net Neutrality…But I digress.

Now don’t get me wrong. I think government is great for a lot of things, most notably caring for its citizens and ensuring that we’re treated fairly and safely. Except, well, when we’re not, because we’re not something we should be.

See, here’s the thing: This inconvenient clause in the Constitution that protects us from self-incrimination, the Fifth Amendment (part of the Bill of Rights) is supposed to keep us safe from harm. Combined with the Fourteenth Amendment, which covers equal protection under the law, and we ought to have ways to ensure that we are covered in case another citizen within the reach of government decides we’ve done something wrong.

Some of us have come to expect the safety of due process, and the value of privacy. Unfortunately, others view these same things as hindrances to Truth, Justice and The American Way TM.

We are seeing the argument play out right now, in the public eye, as the FBI exerts pressure on Apple to crack its iPhone privacy code, so that the former can investigate the contents of the iPhone discarded by the San Bernardino shooter whose name remains undisclosed here.

Well, okay, so maybe they have a point. After all, it’s possible the contents of that phone could hold valuable data. Certainly it was used for a variety of things, which the FBI wants to see. Even Bill Gates has some concerns about the issue, though considering the sheer weight of snoop involved in Win10, I’m surprised he was willing to weigh in at all.

The question is, where does it stop?

The FBI says it’s focused on finding and following any leads it can.

“Maybe the phone holds the clue to finding more terrorists. Maybe it doesn’t,” FBI Director James Comey said in a statement released Sunday night.

89.3 KPCC: What the FBI might be looking for on San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone

See, if it was just this one phone, and just this one time, it might be okay, just this once. But, and I can’t say this clearly enough, it’s NOT this one phone, this one time.

No. In fact, as far as we know right now, there are over a dozen phones IN ADDITION TO this one phone, that they’d love to check if they can only figure out how to crack Apple’s security.

And that, friends, is what has me worried.

Have you read the USA PATRIOT Act? The capitalization is not an accident. It’s an acronym that stands for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism.

According to the Department of Justice’s archive, the Act was passed with bipartisan support by both the Senate (98-1), and the House (357-66). This legislation has damaged the right to privacy guaranteed by the above-listed amendments to the Constitution, and the Act’s provisions used repeatedly in controversial ways I’m certain the Founding Fathers would have rejected out of hand.

(Don’t like Wikipedia? Great. Follow the footnotes and go read WHY these items exist in the entries the way they do.)

Fast forward to December 3, 2015 and the guy who finally had enough of the racist remarks that he and his wife decided to make their Bonnie and Clyde-style exit, 2A-protected guns a-blazing, and now all of a sudden we see that we need yet another way to infringe on our rights to privacy because his phone might lead to other Lone Wolf shooters.

Not, you know, like this one, or this one, or even this one. Nope.

Tell me, because I’m really curious, just what unlocking one–or even a dozen–iPhones will do to protect your safety or mine? How much do YOU use YOUR cellphone every day, for all sorts of things, like figuring out how to get from Home to Work, or to the school, or the doctor’s office, or any of hundreds of different locations? How often do you search for things on your phone that might be questioned?

Imagine: I write these articles after I search for material. Sometimes Duck Duck Go won’t produce the results I want, and I don’t always (mostly never) remember to use Google’s Incognito function.

Am I a terrorist? Hardly. I don’t even own a gun, though I do know how to shoot and when I was younger I was fairly good at it.

Idealist? Yeah, but more pragmatic, really. Cynical, even, which is why I view this latest push the same way I view those innocuous cameras that watch us EVERYWHERE, on the road, at the ATM, at Walmart, buying dinner at McDonald’s. And why every time I pull out my ATM card, I worry that the next time I could make a mistake and discover that I can’t buy a thing because I no longer have access to my money.

It’s not that I’m fearing for my own life, really. I make a relatively small noise in a really REALLY HUGE pond, so I’m not that concerned I’m suddenly going to attract the sort of scrutiny that makes one fear jail time. Not at the moment, at any rate. But with the USA PATRIOT Act still in place, all this time, and knowing what we do know about the effects of extremism at home and abroad, it does make one wonder just what the authorities would do if they could peek into the dark corners. It certainly makes me think that curtains on the windows aren’t just for blocking sunlight.

If you think these issues of privacy are overblown, I invite you to (re)read George Orwell’s book 1984 and see if you still hold that opinion afterward. You could simply read this letter written by Orwell to Noel Willmett in May, 1944, three years prior to writing the book.

How did Orwell know?

If this is the primary focus for the coming year, we’re doomed…

If this is the primary focus for the coming year, we’re doomed…

I’m watching the Democratic Debate tonight on ABC. It’s not just me, I hope. Who’s wondering why the focus is so sharp on Daesh. No matter what the candidates have to say, they’re dragged back to talking about Assad and war.

Does this sound familiar to you? No??

Really.

I wonder why that is.

Isn’t it interesting that as much as Bernie Sanders wants to talk about income inequality, about endemic racism, about gun control, about infrastructure, about the things we MUST concentrate on to survive, we have to spend HALF of the debate on foreign policy, most notably endless war in the middle east. They’re FINALLY addressing the domestic issues in the second hour.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find this format immensely frustrating.

I see too many parallels in the extreme focus on threats that we created by our own actions, without accepting any sort of responsibility or admitting our role, that’s just crazy.

I want to know what we’re going to do here. I want to know why we haven’t been talking about these things that matter to us every day, like the cost of groceries.

Domestic policy should have been the first thing out of the gate. We need to focus our attention here, balancing education, infrastructure, making things better for everyone, not just the rich. And we need to ditch endemic racism, enforce equality, make sure that freedom isn’t compromised out of a misguided sense of fear and paranoia.

I want to hear that they’re going to ditch the Patriot Act and Citizens United, and close the tax loopholes and pipeline that ships our money out of the country.

As long as we keep the spotlight on war, as long as we continue to fight the war without dealing with the home issues, as long as we keep producing wounded warriors instead of jobs, this isn’t going to change.

No matter how loudly the media focuses on the issues off-continent, we need to look within. We can’t break the cycle if we don’t stop these wolves from forcing the focus elsewhere.

If we can’t fix our own home, the terrorists win.

Annoyed by FB Game/App Invites? Block them!

Annoyed by FB Game/App Invites? Block them!

So, yo. Handy FB tip for reducing irritation (yours and mine). Got folks who use Apps? See invites from said folks? Still like them but don’t like the invites? Do something about it, because those apps are designed to share themselves around, kind of like herpes, and the sharing isn’t necessarily something they can control.

In the top blue bar, look for the padlock and three bars (to the right of the globe). Click that icon, then click the link at the bottom that says [See More Settings].

On the left you’ll see a link called [Blocking] (red circle, white bar). Click that link and then scroll down to the third section (App Invites). Type in the name of the offender(s).

Et voila, no more app invites from said person(s).

I’m up to an even dozen. I can still see their other posts, when they bother to do something other than play games.

And note: I don’t play games because they’re generally designed to pry into your friends list and do precisely this: Grab your data and keep it for their nefarious use. Not just time wasters, these “social” apps are privacy busters.

Just say no.

Comments:

Me: GG – here’s the good one to share. 8)

DK: If you have a friend who’s always finding new apps to use, you can block app invites from that person. On that same “Blocking” page, look for “Block app invites”. Place your friend’s name in the “Block invites from” box. Now you’ll see all their status updates, and any Event invitations, but not when the use a new game.

EJ: While intended for something else, I found Adblock Plus to be a wonderful way to reduce faicebukk irritation:
https://adblockplus.org/

LS: Yep. Adblock Plus is the way to go. And it works on way more than just FB.

EJ: I guess I should mention that I installed ABP not so much because of the amount of junk posts, but because FB did this nasty thing of “pegging” my CPU usage near 100%. It was constantly “doing stuff” that kept my CPU busy, which slowed down “other stuff”, and made my CPU run hotter than normal. This was/is a “known problem” with FB, but FB doesn’t seem to have any interest in dealing with the problem, or perhaps, admitting that it’s a problem in the first place.

LS: It has no incentive to fix anything that doesn’t drive away users. And let’s face it, the average FB user is willing to put up with a sharp stick in the eye every few weeks when the interface changes to make it more useful and friendly to advertisers.

DK: Social Fixer is another great add-on for FB. It will stop FB from continuing in infinite loops.

Me: AbP will also not fix the problem I’m addressing specifically with this note. App invites aren’t ads. They’re specific actions connected to and generated by the apps themselves.

While it’s good stuff, along with Social Fixer, it might be more appropriate for a separate post. Thanks!

Facebook’s Latest and Greatest? Oh I don’t know about that…

Facebook’s Latest and Greatest? Oh I don’t know about that…

Wow, Facebook. Just snuck that right in there, while nobody was paying attention, huh?

Hello, Facebook Friend.

Guess what?

All that time you might have taken to indicate that you don’t want to see comments or likes, all the extra effort you took so that you could stop seeing photos, all that extra time it took you to figure out whether the post was something you wanted to see or not?

Gone.

Mouse over my name and you’ll see two options:

Following (with a check mark) or Follow (with a broadcast signal) and Friends (assuming your one of mine) or Add Friend (if you’re not – yet).

They’ve reduced the feed options to a binary set. Either you’re following someone or you’re not.

And you either “Get notifications” or you don’t.

There are still customized lists (for now) that allow you to filter people to various compartments of your life, including Acquaintances (folks you barely know or strangers) and Restricted, but most of the rest of the filters?

Gone.

I wonder if this is why they wanted Matt’s hands off their code when it came to Friend Tracking for Social Fixer.

I dunno about this, FB. If I suddenly see a bunch more ads, I might have to bite the bullet and pull out of here, for reals.

Connecting the Dots, Part 2

Connecting the Dots, Part 2

United States of ALEC from BillMoyers.com on Vimeo.

On October 11, 2012, I wrote the following post: Do you know ALEC? If not, you should. And you should be afraid. Continue reading “Connecting the Dots, Part 2”

Attempting to see the forest…

Attempting to see the forest…

Last weekend I attended a Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Dinner. It’s an annual event held by congregations across the country, as a chance to get to know people from the congregation and to share entertainment, conversation and good food.

During the conversation at dinner, the subject of race came up. The conversation drifted to discussing how we can get past the foundations of race without sounding racist which put me in mind of the documentary Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey. The DVD is available through PBS, but some enterprising YouTuber put the show up in a series of episodes with Spanish subtitles.

If you haven’t watched this documentary, stop reading right now and go watch it. Seriously. I’ll wait.

Done? Good.

Welcome back.

For me, the theories and research became a game-changer for my views not just on race but on cultural differences. So I surprised myself by saying that while we can say there’s no differences genetically between us white folks, and our African, Asian, Arab and European brethren, there’s a danger in carrying the conversation too far, because it’s easy to conflate racial stereotyping and cultural choice and with the myth of gender choice.

We don’t choose the color of our skin, the shape of our eyes, who we find attractive or how our bodies function. Moreover, our brains are designed to sort everything we encounter into select boxes. Our cultural training gives us the context for deciding what to do with those boxes once we’ve done the sorting.

But there’s a trap, and until I read these articles today, I didn’t have a way to articulate what that trap was because I am so fundamentally American in my belief structure that I can’t see the forest for the trees, or the rest of the world for my own borders. I suspect I’m not alone.

We Aren’t the World: Joe Henrich and his colleagues are shaking the foundations of psychology and economics—and hoping to change the way social scientists think about human behavior and culture.

I have had more than a passing interest in anthropology over the course of my life.  In fact, before I became a theatre major, I was going to be an anthropology major. I’m drawn to the research and understanding of human behavior and how it affects societies.

Coming from an areligious background, I find it more than a little strange to be committed to attending services weekly, and more than a little strange when I visit services in other religions, because I have no tools to work with, no existing framework on which to hang my belief system. It is nearly impossible for me to attend any service, UU or otherwise, without observing the ritual from the outside. UU congregations are by far the most welcoming because there is an overriding desire to incorporate the principles by which we live, which transcend virtually all other religions.

From the Unitarian Universalist Association’s web page (http://www.uua.org/beliefs/principles/index.shtml), this is a summary of the UU Principles:

There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Unitarian Universalism (UU) draws from many sources:

  • Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  • Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  • Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  • Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  • Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
  • Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

There is a social aspect to UU faith that attracts me, coupled with a completely different way of worshiping that includes and encourages laughter, discussion, meditation, two-way communication and sharing in ways I haven’t found with other religious groups except, perhaps, the Quakers.

But that’s not all.

Shortly after encountering the first article, I saw this one.

False beliefs persist, even after instant online corrections

When I read these two admittedly scholarly research papers, it was easy for me to find them connected, because they both address our perceptions of reality based on empirical evidence we seldom collect outside our own safe spheres of reference.

In other words, they both tell us we can’t see the forest for the trees.

I have made a career of putting information out and correcting inaccurate information when I’ve found evidence that suggests the contrary, but in the end, we can never truly know reality if we don’t have the truth as it exists, not as we perceive it. It is impossible for us to view information without the filters we have built by being part of our society. Changing those filters takes work. There are too many times when people view that work as unnecessary, even bothersome.

Witness, for example, Richard Nixon’s fall.

Yeah, okay. I’m dating myself. If you’re not of a certain age, you won’t have the tools you need to understand where I’m headed with this, but bear with me for a moment.

Until David Frost caught Nixon on tape saying he, as President, was above the law, there was still a question about whether he had done anything illegal. Gerald Ford’s pardon was insufficient to take away the stain of the acts which forced Nixon to resign. To this day we will never truly know what happened and how it came to be because a good deal of the motive behind Nixon’s activities were buried with him.

Nixon’s legacy, that we can never truly trust the elected officials in charge of our country, persists to this day in the form of Birthers who would rather discuss President Obama’s birth certificate and legitimate claim to the Presidency than look at the country as a whole and try to find a way to fix the problems we have now, thanks to more lies from corporate entities that are more concerned with the bottom line and CEO salaries than with the lives of the people they serve.

We got here because we believe our way is the right way to live. We support those who have their own best interests in mind because they have told us to believe they are doing the things they do for us.

But what if we’re wrong? What if they’ve lied?

The French Revolution came about because the people got sick of starving to death and took it on themselves to reduce the long-standing ruling class to severed heads. The present-day American aristocracy has done its level best to deflect violence away from the true source of trouble, incarcerating anyone who seems interested in taking them down. Our government is no longer of, by and for the People, unless those people are the rich ruling class. The rest of us are here to make sure the American Aristocracy maintains their hold on the upper class.

We are almost 50 years away from landing our people, Americans, on the moon. We are fighting to keep North Korea and Iran from gaining the bomb because we have no control over their activities. We know our borders are insecure and we have done our best to lock them down, only to reduce our country to panic-stricken sheep who believe everything our politicians say, because they must be right.

Our children are starving automatons designed to follow the herd, not to innovate or be creative. And if they don’t tow the religious line, they are also incarcerated, if they don’t fall prey to random shooting violence, drugs or worse.

We spend our time watching fairy tales on TV, or modern-day gladiators in an electronic Colosseum. In the end, whatever we do will be too little too late.

And all because we think we know what’s best for the rest of the world. Because we are Americans.

When the revolution comes, it won’t be televised. I just wonder when it’s going to start.

Formal statements mean a lot more with names attached…

Formal statements mean a lot more with names attached…

In discussing several topics over the last couple of weeks, having to do with gun control, NDAA and privacy, it occurred to me today that I’ve finally got something worth doing on the White House petition site.

I’ve said repeatedly over the years since President Bush signed the USA Patriot Act into law that it was badly done, giving rise to all sorts of invasive policies and activities in the name of National Security. So today I put my money where my mouth is.

Repeal the USA Patriot Act [a dead Petition thanks to Trump] in its entirety.

Why?

DownsizeDC.org explains: 4 Reasons to Repeal the Patriot Act

For extra bonus points, reread the Bill of Rights, so you have a clear understanding of why I included the Amendments I did. These aren’t just a good idea. They’re the law. There are any number of ways in which the USA Patriot Act is unconstitutional. Do your part and spread the word. You tell two friends and they’ll tell two friends, and so on, and so on…

We need 150 signatures before the Petition will appear to the public, and that’s not as easy as it once was, with Facebook’s broken user interface.

And please share. The more people you tell about the petition, the faster the rest of the public will see it.

 

Meanwhile, I’m heading back to school at the end of this month, taking two classes: Two-Dimensional Design and Western Civilization to Modern Times. Seems to be the perfect time to make my research skills pay off.

Expect more from me on these subject as time goes on.

Annoying Facebook Ads? Keep yourself off your friends’ pages!

Annoying Facebook Ads? Keep yourself off your friends’ pages!

Hey! So all those Facebook ads that are suddenly popping into your feed because someone “liked” something from a commercial site? You don’t like being linked that way? Don’t want to annoy your friends the same way?

Fix it!

If you look at the top of your Facebook page, on the right in the blue bar, you’ll see your icon and name, “Home” and a downward triangle.

Click the triangle once to open up your settings. Look at the bottom of the left column and you’ll see a text link for “privacy settings.” Click that link and it will open up a page with lots of useful settings here.

Find “Ads, Apps and Websites” to keep sponsored ads from showing up with your name on other FB user pages. Click Edit Settings again.

You can adjust all sorts of things here, especially if you use Apps frequently, but the sponsored ad stuff is below. See Ads, and click Edit Settings again.

Now you have two major ad types and you have to set each one individually. “Ads shown by third parties” and “Ads and friends” each have their own settings. Click through each section’s Edit Settings. (Or, try using these links, which might work for your login (or not):

https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=ads

https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=ads&section=platform

https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=ads&section=social

The default is set to “Only My Friends” but you can change it to show “No One” your information. You have to choose the option in both places and save your settings.

FB advertised this change months and months ago, but finally got around to implementing the sponsor code about a month or so ago and it’s rolling out slowly. I just started seeing the ads on my page.

If you want me to tell you I’m seeing your name associated with restaurants and such, let me know. Happy to oblige.

Comments:

Me: Now in convenient shareable format.

LS: I don’t think this actually works. I’ve had both of those settings set to “No One” for a long time, and I still see both types of ads regularly in my feed. Until this changes, I consider it nothing but a digital pacifier.

Me: No. Your settings affect what you display on other people’s pages. FB defaults to displaying your likes for your friends unless you take the time to say otherwise. Your friends need to do the same. As you can see from the directions, these settings are very well hidden. The average user has no idea how to change these settings – something FB counts on for selling the ads in the first place.

Like I said, feel free to share.

LS: Ah, I misread. And yes, they are very well hidden, a true marvel of deliberately obfuscated GUI design. I must grudgingly admire the evil genius behind it.

Me: Remarkable how sneaky this is, huh?

LS: Almost as hard to find as the place where you can block specific apps.

“But look, you found the notice didn’t you?”

“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’.”

Me: HHGTTG reference FTW!

JZS: Thanks for typing this up. I had already set my preferences thusly but it pays to check that they haven’t somehow changed mysteriously.

Theme: Elation by Kaira.