Tag Archives: Privacy

Foucault and Social Media

Rob Horning of The New Inquiry discusses Foucault and the way we speak, confess and perform on social media.

Sharing can be simply volunteering the self for ridicule, purging, nullification, ritual flaying — self-branding of a different kind. It’s why people sign up for demeaning reality TV shows, as Wayne Koestenbaum suggests in Humiliation. It’s part of why we sign up for Facebook. Moments of humiliation, Koestenbaum notes, “may be execrable and unendurable” but are also “genuine” in a “world that seems increasingly filled with fakeness.” Social media neatly increase that feeling of the world’s phoniness while providing a means for the sort of self-exposure that combats it. As more behavior seems inauthentic and “performative,” we have greater need to expose ourselves and have our own authenticity vindicated through the embarrassment this causes us.

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Do Not Track

Brian Fung of the Washington Post’s Switch blog writes on the state of privacy in web browsing and the policy proposal known as Do Not Track.

So where do the Do Not Track negotiations go from here? In the wake of Wednesday’s poll, the W3C is not expected to terminate the group. Instead, it might settle for establishing a definition for Do Not Track without laying out steps for compliance. Meanwhile, the Digital Advertising Alliance, an industry organization that recently exited the W3C working group, is developing its own draft standards. So while the W3C’s attempt may have stalled, Do Not Track may still have some life left.

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Navigating Homosex

“Even if the internet helps men find sex with men outside the gay identity, they’re still not safe from the heterosexual regime,” writes Huw Lemmey in The New Inquiry.

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A Novelist Describes Google Glass

Finally! An artist with a gift of voice offers his vision of Google Glass. Gary Shtyengart, author of “Super Sad True Love Story,” alternates between 3rd person narration and essay to share what it’s like to look through Glass. Refreshingly, his piece in the New Yorker is not a product review. Powerful and imaginative, Shtyengart uses literary tools–instead of tech specs–as a way to introduce us to Glass.

“O.K. Glass. Google translate ‘hamburger’ into Russian.”
“Gamburrrger,” a voice purred, not so gently, like my grandmother at the end of a long hot day.
And, all of a sudden, I felt something for this technology.

Wearing Glass takes its toll. “You look like you have a lazy eye,” I’m told at a barbecue, my right eye instinctively scanning upward for more info. “You look like you have a nervous tic,” when I tap at the touch pad. “You have that faraway look again,” whenever there’s something more interesting happening on my screen. To awaken Glass, one must tap at the touch pad or jerk one’s head; otherwise the device remains inactive, conserving its limited battery supply and allowing the user to remain perfectly human. At breakfast, I jerk my head up theatrically, and then use a new function which allows me to move around Web sites by holding two fingers to the touch pad and moving my head about, in effect turning my skull into a cursor. “Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto,” my wife says.

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A Radical New Way To Look At Facebook

Matt Buchanan of the New Yorker Elements blog writes:

Graph Search will eventually index virtually all of the content on Facebook—every link that’s ever been posted, every status update, every piece of data that outside Web sites have shared with Facebook through its Open Graph program—but what users will get starting today is fairly limited in its scope, restricted to searches of photos, people, places, and interests. It doesn’t work on mobile yet, either. And it is ultimately limited by the kind of information that people share on Facebook. But it is already a powerful tool for excavating information that would otherwise go unnoticed, and for spotting previously undiscovered patterns.

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Live In Infamy

My essay at The New Inquiry

Given the shadowy practices of data-harvesting and the ubiquity and permanence of social media information, what kinds of young people will choose to run for office?

By now we’ve been trained to record only those behaviors that reflect well on ourselves, lest our employers interpret our cocktail-crushing prowess the wrong way. But Facebook’s privacy settings are clumsy and easy to circumvent. Elsewhere, blog posts, life-tracking data, consumer preferences, and check-in beacons can just as easily be ripped from their context and misdirected to an unintended audience – and meanwhile, the social networks, publishing platforms and shopping hubs just keep multiplying. For those young people interested in running for office, this poses considerable danger.

In Julie Cohen’s Configuring the Networked Self, the legal scholar reveals how much of our thinking on privacy is stifled by the language of authenticity and illusory control. She begins by reminding us that many of the corporate and political actors who favor strong protection for trade secrets share an economic interest with those who lobby for weaker privacy protection. What connects these two is the desire to commodify information and to harness “infrastructures that render individual activity transparent to third party observers.” Companies want to sell us targeted ads, but they don’t want to reveal how they construct their targeting system. Couched in favorable market language, we’re offered an enhanced, personalized experience, discounts and entertainment, social freedom – in exchange for our participation in an all-enveloping apparatus for market research. Still, we aren’t exactly sure what we’re giving up.

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After Petition Against CISPA, Obama Responds

Responding to a petition signed by over 100,000 people on the White House’s We The People website, the Obama Administration has issued clarifying remarks on its stance towards CISPA. The President does not support the version of CISPA that the House of Representatives passed earlier this month. And as the Senate is expected to put forth its own version of the bill, Obama hopes to provide guidance for any new legislation.

According to Obama’s official response, the Administration will only stand by information-sharing legislation that embody “three key principles.”

1. “minimizing information that can be used to identify specific individuals.” This means erring on the side of discretion regarding the personal information of users/clients especially if that data is irrelevant to a specific cyber attack.

This, of course, is uncomfortably vague. Without the need for warrants, how will government agencies and private companies decide what is relevant information and what is not?

2. “new information should enter the government through a civilian department rather than an intelligence agency.” Here, Obama would like to see that the data collected under the protection of CISPA is gathered not by the NSA or the CIA but through civilian channels, like the Department of Homeland Security.

A longstanding American axiom: the CIA should not be able to spy on US citizens.

3. “Any new legislation ought to provide legal clarity for companies…But it should not provide broad immunity for businesses and organizations.” The Administration is hoping to guard against “unwarranted disclosure of personal information,” as well as practices that would “likely to cause damage to third parties.”

This last principle hopes to rid the legislation of dangerously broad language that would embolden companies to needlessly turn over damning personal data.

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Updating an E-Mail Law From the Last Century

Somini Sengupta reports in the New York Times

The current statute requires a warrant for e-mails that are less than six months old. But it lets the authorities gain access to older communications — or bizarrely, e-mails that have already been opened — with just a subpoena and no judicial review.

The law governs the privacy of practically everything entrusted to the Internet — family photos stored with a Web service, journal entries kept online, company documents uploaded to the cloud, and the flurry of e-mails exchanged every day. The problem is that it was written when the cloud was just vapor in the sky.

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