Facebook: Watching your every move since 2012

It finally happened.  My mother joined Facebook.  I’m not sure what the current population of planet earth is, but it’s probably around 1.28 billion.  I know this because that’s how many people are currently using Facebook[1].

A few years ago when the company went public, people started complaining about a perceived lack of privacy.  Most people were concerned that the constantly evolving format created a need to always be aware that what you were posting would be directed to the appropriate audience.  What many people hadn’t yet realized was that Facebook had begun mining information at an unprecedented rate.

Sign-in to Facebook today and notice that those shoes you just considered purchasing are now featured prominently on your news feed.  That Google search you just performed has now caused advertisements to display alongside your profile.  It almost seems like Mark Zuckerberg is stalking us.  Taking their data-mining scheme to the next level, Facebook has gone on a spending spree.  They recently purchased popular apps Instagram and Whatsapp.  Those who use these apps have probably noticed that you can login to them using your Facebook information.

As the complaints have increased, Facebook has come up with a proposed solution – the “anonymous login.”  What it will do is allow users to login to third-party apps without giving any personal information to that app.  However, Facebook will still verify your identity, know what app you’ve signed in to, and they’ll know how often you sign in and how much time you spend on that app[2].

It seems that “anonymous” doesn’t really mean what we thought.  Where should the data-mining line be drawn?


[1] http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/resource-how-many-people-use-the-top-social-media/3/

[2] http://mashable.com/2014/05/01/facebooks-anonymous-login-is-evil-genius/

Should we add Doxx to the Lexicon?

Emily Bazelon’s most recent NY Times Magazine article, The Online Avengers, details the activities of a group of individuals who “scour the internet for personal data” of bullies and then “publicly link that information to the perpetrator’s transgressions.”   This practice of trolling the internet for transgressions is known as “doxxing.” The article focuses in particular attention to a man named Ash, who, together with a woman named Katherine, created an online group called OpAntiBullying.  Although the group never met in person, and never met the victims for whom they championed, they worked together, for a while at least, to publicly shame adolescent bullies. One focus of the article is the infighting that eventually occurred among the small group of “do-gooders,” highlighting the fragile bond between zealots brought together by a common cause, and the way in which their united enthusiasm lead to an equally fevered undoing.

What struck me most about the article, was the use of the word doxx, which I hadn’t heard before.  A cursory google search suggests the word has yet to gain much traction.  Urbandictionary.com defines doxx as exposing someone’s true identity.  A practice, the site suggests “is one of the scummiest things someone can do on the internet.”  In contrast, Emily Bazelon profiles doxxing in a more positive manner.  In her article Bazelon credits doxxing with bringing down the defendants in the Steubenville sexual assault case and with bringing awareness to a similar assault in Canada.

Doxxers are hackers.  In most instances, a doxx can only occur if one breaks into someone’s twitter account, or instagram feed, finding incriminating comments or pictures. Consequently, most doxxers are anonymous, as was the case in the article.

But the practice and the goals of doxxers create a dichotomoy with which I am not sure I am comfortable.  While a doxxers goal is more laudable, the conduct necessary to reach his or her goal is  often  illegal.  Its a little like Robin Hood, committing a crime to achieve a better good. I am not sure how I come out on this, though I suspect I fall on the side of legality (would one expect otherwise from a lawyer?)

Regardless, I suspect  doxx will become a word uttered with increasing frequency in the coming year.  Thoughts, examples or opinions on doxx are greatly welcomed.

 

The Birth of RoboTweeting

NBC News reports that companies are becoming “Twitter-savvy” when it comes to consumer complaints.  In some instances customers logging complaint are retweeted with patronizing responses.  For example, according to the article, when @OccupyLA tweeted “you can help by stop stealing people’s houses!!” The Bank of America retweeted “We’d be happy to review your account.”  Corporate manipulation of Twitter is yet another example of how “the system” can corral innovative technology for its own use.   Gen-xers, hipsters and naughts have fled Facebook in droves  once businesses hijacked the social media.  Now Twitter.  Can Instagram be far behind???