There are two major corporations that make their money off their users by selling advertising. One is Facebook and the other is Google.
In Facebook, it is relatively easy to keep your profile free from personal information especially if you use an email address set up solely to capture junk email.
Google has many products to use that if you are signed in to them when you use them, they are capturing everything about you. Your tastes in politics, movies, books etc. That is why their advertising is so effective. As soon as you search for something, the websites you visit subsequently will feature ads aimed at you.
You may like that but of you prefer to remain anonymous, there are alternatives available.
Search Engines: DuckDuck Go is free and effective and does not track you. If you make it your default search engine, you are keeping your privacy in whatever browser you use. Personally I use Ecosia which is similar and trees get planted for every search made.
Browser: Brave is an excellent browser which I have been using for a while. Also Safari is very good and blocks ads and tracking.
Mail: Gmail is everywhere but Google scans all your emails for words that they pickup that they can then advertise to you for. ProtonMail is Swiss and protected by strict privacy laws. If you use ProtonMail to another ProtonMail user the email is fully encrypted. Emails to non-ProtonMail users can be secured by a password. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of ProtonMail users so most of your emails would need to have a password to keep them private. Alternatively, instead of email use chat. FaceTime is good between Apple users. Signal or Telegram are good and safe.
Maps: Google maps tracks you. Apple Maps do not. Also OSM (Open Street Maps) don’t track you. Microsoft Bing Maps can use Ordnance Survey maps by clicking the Road box at the top right.
YouTube: This one is much harder to do without. It is ubiquitous. There is Vimeo.
Google Drive: There is OneDrive from Microsoft and iCloud from Apple.
Google Calendar: There is ProtonCalendar or Microsoft Calendar.
Personally, I’m a Apple Man and feel very comfortable using Ecosia search with Safari and Brave, Apple Maps, Calendar and Apple Mail. Apple sells hardware and their business model does not include going after your data.
I have friends that use Windows and Outlook and I feel sorry with what they have to deal with.
Some people think the messaging app will now force those using it to hand over their personal data to Facebook, which owns WhatsApp.
That’s not quite right.
WhatsApp’s policies changed cosmetically and not in ways that give Facebook more data. The bottom line is that Facebook already collects a lot of information from what people do on WhatsApp.
The confusion was the result of Facebook’s bungled communications, mistrust of the company and America’s broken data-protection laws.
Here’s what changed with WhatsApp, and what didn’t:
Facebook bought WhatsApp in 2014, and since 2016, almost everyone using the messaging app has been (usually unknowingly) sharing information about their activity with Facebook.
Facebook knows the phone numbers being used, how often the app is opened, the resolution of the device screen, the location estimated from the internet connection and more, as my colleague Kashmir Hill explained five years ago.
Facebook uses this information to make sure WhatsApp works properly and to help a shoe company show you an ad on Facebook.
Facebook can’t peer at the content of texts or phone calls because WhatsApp communications are scrambled. Facebook also says that it doesn’t keep records on whom people are contacting in WhatsApp, and WhatsApp contacts aren’t shared with Facebook. (This Wired article is also useful.)
WhatsApp has a lot of positives. It’s easy to use, and communications in the app are secure. But yes, WhatsApp is Facebook, a company many don’t trust.
The reason WhatsApp recently notified app users about revised privacy rules is that Facebook is trying to make WhatsApp a place to chat with an airline about a missed flight, browse for handbags and pay for stuff.
WhatsApp’s policies changed to reflect the possibility of commercial transactions involving the mingling of activity among Facebook apps — a handbag you browse in WhatsApp could pop up later in your Instagram app, for example.
I also want to touch on deeper reasons for the misunderstandings.
First, this is a hangover of Facebook’s history of being cavalier with our personal data and reckless with how it’s used by the company or its partners. It’s no wonder that people assumed Facebook changed WhatsApp policies in gory wa
“This is the problem with the nature of privacy law in the United States,” Kash said. “As long as they tell you that they’re doing it in a policy that you probably don’t read, they can do whatever they want.”
That means digital services including WhatsApp give us an unappealing choice. Either we give up control over what happens to our personal information, or we don’t use the service. That’s it.
Clearing up more WhatsApp confusion
Another false belief floating around about WhatsApp — and again, this is WhatsApp’s fault, not yours — is that the app is just now removing an option for people to refuse to share their WhatsApp data with Facebook.
Not quite right.
Yes, when Facebook made major changes to WhatsApp privacy policies in 2016, there was a brief moment of choice. People could check a box to order Facebook not to use their data from WhatsApp for commercial purposes.
Facebook would still collect the data from WhatsApp users, as I explained above,but the company would not use the data to “improve its ads and product experiences,” like making friend recommendations.
But that option in WhatsApp existed for only 30 days in 2016. That was a lifetime ago in digital years, and approximately four million Facebook data scandals ago.
For anyone who started using WhatsApp since 2016 — and that’s many people — Facebook has been collecting a lot of information without an option to refuse.
Understanding what happens with our digital data feels as if it requires advanced training in computer science and a law degree. And Facebook, a company with oodles of cash and a stock value of more than $700 billion, didn’t or couldn’t explain what was happening in a way that people could grasp.
I write this barely a week into 2021 – a year that will be a slight improvement over 2020 but then what wouldn’t be.
The good news is 1. The U.K. has a sort of a trade deal with the E.U. preventing a much worse outcome of no trade deal at all. 2. There are three new vaccines to combat COVID-19 so maybe we can defeat the nasty pestilence in 2021. 3. The U.S. Senate looks like it will be under the control of the Democrats as the two runoffs in Georgia have gone to the Democrats giving that party and the Republican Party 50 seats each with the breaking vote going to Vice President Kamala Harris.
It remains to be seen how the U.K. will deal with being outside the E.U. but with such an inept Government I don’t see much of a golden sunrise on this issue.
One of the three vaccines approved is British and what distinguishes it is that it is being sold at cost and not for huge profit as the two American vaccines are. Also, logistically, the Oxford-Astra Zeneca vaccine can be stored in a regular refrigerator which is a huge benefit as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has to stored at -70 degrees C which creates its own issues. Let’s be positive though and hope we shall all be able to return to a normal existence soon. I think “normal” will change through as I expect masks will be here to stay the way they are in Japan where anyone with an infection of sorts will wear a mask as routine. I would expect working from home will become far more common too as commuting charges, particularly on trains, are exorbitant in the U.K. compared to other European countries.
The U.S. Senate has been under the control of the Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky for some time now and he is almost single handedly responsible for the gridlock in the U.S. He has managed to bring the party of Lincoln into total meltdown by going along with everything that has come about with the Trump Administration. His departure as Majority Leader will allow for more legislation to see the light of day. Among the various blocks McConnell has been responsible for are the advise and consent of the Senate to Obama’s Supreme Nomination of Merrick Garland made 293 days before Obama left office. In comparison, he showed his hypocrisy by rushing the approval of Amy Coney Barrett was completed just a month before the General Election of 2020. McConnell would not consider gun control as he takes money from the National Rifle Association, even after the slaughter of 26 people, 20 of whom were children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School on 14 December 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. He denies Climate Change too and has given the thumbs up to the U.S. leaving the Paris Accord, the W.H.O. and breaking a treaty with Iran on nuclear matters. Also he has supported splitting young children of immigrants from their parents.
Today is December 23rd – just 9 days until the U.K.’s four year old Suicide pact turns into reality.
According to polls if the Referendum of 2016 was held today, Remain would win by a large margin. People are realising that we shall be worse off. Some people may not have realised this in 2016 because we have some terrible rags that pass for newspapers in the U.K. owned in large part by ex-pat billionaires that editorialise their selfish desires as facts when they are in fact lies.
Coupled with that we have a Government which is totally incompetent led by a lying charlatan who has no convictions at all and by a party with few who will stand up to him. Party first, country second. This will be all too familiar to Americans where its is Trump and the Republican Party first and the Country and the Constitution second.
Both our countries are the worst for dealing with Covid and it is not hard to figure out why.
If there was a gram of sense in the U.K. Government, the fact that we are an island that relies on importing food and drugs from Europe, it does not take too much imagination to have planned on testing haulage drivers for Covid before hand so that the huge queues forming in Kent could have been avoided. Instead the Government changes its mind on almost a daily basis and it has a lot to answer for. One of our motorways has become a lorry (truck) park queuing up to get ferry or train to France.
Already supermarkets are restricting the number of certain items that one can purchase.
At the moment there is no trade deal between the U.K. and the E.U. It might still be possible before 11pm (GMT) December 31, 12.00am (CET) January 1, to get trade deal – time will tell. Regardless, freedom of movement will end and so will cooperation between law enforcement in the U.K. and the E.U. Travelling to Europe will become more difficult – happily not for me as I am an Irish/European citizen.
So 2020 is year I want to forget, but will 2021 be any better in these islands?
A study of young Americans has shown some terrifying results about the Holocaust.
23% says it’s a myth or exaggerated
10% don’t think it happened
12% had never heard of it
11% think the Jews were responsible
63% are unaware that 6 million Jews perished
Adults between 18 and 39 (48%) could not name a single concentration camp or ghetto in the second world war.
These facts are astonishing and very disturbing.
On the 16th October 2019, I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oświęcim near Krakow, Poland. It is a place that will haunt me for the rest of my life.
On the 12th October 2019 I was in Berlin and visited the part of Berlin called Wanssee and the house where the Final Solution was planned by a group of highly educated men
The highly educated men were Reinhard Heydrich, Otto Hofmann, Heinrich Müller, Adolf Eichmann, Martin Luther, Erich Neumann, Wilhelm Kritzinger and Drs. Roland Freisler, Josf Bühler, Alfred Meyer, Wilhelm Stuckart, Rudolf Lange, Eberhard Schöngarth, Georg Leibbrandt, Gerhard Klopfer.
It is truly alarming this ignorance as the right wing in several countries are on the rise so could genocide once again be inflicted on the human race?
In February I moved to The Philippines to marry my sweetheart but it didn’t work out so I have returned to the U.K.
I have come back to a Government that is so totally incompetent and quite alarming. The U.K. has the worst Covid-19 infections in Europe due to this incompetence.
Even more alarming is that the Brexit Trade negotiations are going nowhere and the latest event is that the Government is introducing a piece of legislation that will break International Law and is quite open about this fact. The Prime Minister, a quack called Boris Johnson, led by an adviser Dominic Cummings who is intrinsically evil, is so disorganised in his thinking that he is way out of his depth. Johnson is a Trump clone with sociopathic tendencies who is out for just himself. He has surrounded himself with Cabinet members who are out of their depth as well.
The Conservative Party has brought this situation to the present mess. First David Cameron called a Referendum on our membership of the European Union and lost it. He called it to try and unite the factious party. Instead he has divided the nation into two camps. He resigned and was succeeded by Theresa May who was worse still. She would say memes like Brexit is Brexit which had no meaning at all. She was intransigent in her dealing with the E.U. and failed. She even called a General Election to attempt to get a bigger majority and only succeeded in reducing her majority to single digits.
So she resigned and the party chose Boris Johnson as its leader. He is a chancer, a father of many children whom I fully expect he cannot name and a man of no firm conviction. As a journalist for the Daily Telegraph he wrote two columns – one pro-EU (Remain) and one anti-EU (Leave). He decided that being a Leaver would get him the top job so that is the way he jumped. He called an election and won in a landslide due mainly to the fact that the Labour Party was led by a man (Jeremy Corbin) incapable of leading his party let alone the country. He was far left and seemed to be anti-semitic to boot as the party fell in the polls. He has now been replaced by Keir Starmer, a more centrist man.
So the situation in the United Kingdom is that it is far from United. Scotland is led by the Scottish Nationalist Party which wants to remain in the EU and leave the Union. Wales may go the same way. The biggest problem is Northern Ireland which shares the island it is on with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state. There is an unmanned border between the two as long as the UK is a member of the EU but once it is out trade becomes problematic. This is the major factor between the EU and the UK on trade. To complicate matters even further the new bill, mentioned above, could scupper the Good Friday Agreement, the Peace Treaty that united the Loyalists and the Republicans. The real issue is that the UK has no right to be on the island of Ireland and the sooner Northern Ireland becomes part of the Republic the better. That would leave England on its own.
The problem with Conservatives is that they live in the past admiring British history and are bad at dealing with the present. Who wants to return to the 1950s? It is a racist party preferring English speaking Australia and America to foreign speaking European countries that share our values.
Remember the UK chose to leave the EU and not the other way around and yet the UK expects the EU to give it the same terms it had as an EU member.
Political advertising is banned from being broadcast on television or radio. Unless Facebook changes, it may be time to extend this prohibition to social media
In every political debate since Facebook began to dominate democracy, the company has placed itself on the wrong side of history. The social media firm cannot be reformed from within because its business model profits from hosting bomb-throwing circuses of hate, humbug and hogwash. The platform harvests users’ personal data to algorithmically recommend content but can’t seem to help steering people towards vilifying one another while keeping their attention. It is not good for society, but it is good for Facebook.
That apparently is fine for the company’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, who is worth $85bn. Consider the latest ugly episode in the firm’s life. After some of the world’s biggest brands boycotted Facebook over its refusal to ban racist and violent content, the company reached for the usual bromide of reassurance that the matter was being taken seriously. Internally it was a very different story. The boycotters, Mr Zuckerberg said, would be back and his company was “not going to change our policies … because of a threat to a small percent of our revenue”.
In America there is a view that capitalism fixes things. In Britain, government usually acts. The Lords select committee on democracy and digital technologies last week was correct to say it was a mistake to allow social media firms to grow unimpeded by regulation. This, the peers said, had “become acutely obvious in the current Covid-19 pandemic where online misinformation poses not only a real and present danger to our democracy but also to our lives”. Facebook cannot be allowed to remain beyond the restraints applied to the rest of society. This message has been received by the UK’s competition authority, which has proposed forcing Facebook to give consumers a choice over whether to accept targeted advertising and even suggested breaking it up.
The Lords select committee was right to praise the UK government for putting forward an online harms framework, requiring social media platforms to protect users and sanctioning those that fail to do so by, for example, taking too long to remove offensive material. However, ministers have been tardy in bringing forward legislation and there’s no sign the platforms’ duty of care will shield voters from misinformation campaigns.
Such a move would be in necessary conflict with Facebook’s “neutrality”. The firm’s hands-off approach means it won’t drain its swamp of racism, misogyny and conspiracy. In a speech last October, Mr Zuckerberg had controversially signalled that Facebook’s interests aligned with Donald Trump’s. The Facebook founder said it’s not right to censor politicians. Mr Trump has been notably softer on Facebook than its rivals.
This bargain is unravelling. Faced with a growing backlash over Mr Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric, the social network removed a Trump ad that used a Nazi-era symbol. Facebook will also start allowing US users to opt out of seeing political ads. Yet in Britain Facebook is used to spread false political advertising. It does so knowing that the network’s algorithms spit out, in the words of its own research, “more and more divisive content in an effort to gain user attention and increase time on the platform”. There is an easy solution. The UK bans all political advertising from being broadcast on television or radio. Unless firms like Facebook change radically, it may be time to extend this prohibition to social media.
You can’t maintain a social network of 3 billion people without a few algorithms, and Facebook has them in spades. There are algorithms that calculate what ads you are most likely to click on, algorithms that calculate which groups you are most likely to join and algorithms that decide which of your friends’ births, marriages, divorces and deaths merit prime placement at the top of your newsfeed – and which you won’t mind missing.
On Wednesday, in response to the growing advertiser boycott over Facebook’s failure to addresshate speech, the executive Nick Clegg described a new kind of Facebook algorithm – one that calculates the social network’s moral worth. Writing for the advertising industry trade publication Ad Age, Clegg attempted to argue that the good on Facebook outweighs the bad.
“Focusing on hate speech and other types of harmful content on social media is necessary and understandable, but it is worth remembering that the vast majority of those billions of conversations are positive,” the former UK deputy prime minister wrote. “Look at what happened when the coronavirus pandemic took hold. Billions of people used Facebook to stay connected when they were physically apart.”
This is not the first time that a Facebook executive has hinted at such attempts to calculate the incalculable. (One imagines Clegg totting up the balance sheet at the end of the quarter: “I see that in the red we have this murder of a security officer allegedly carried out by extremists who met and coordinated their attack on Facebook but here’s one for the black: an adorable grandmother just liked a photo posted by her grandson who lives 500 miles away.”)
On 2 June, facing an unprecedented public protest by Facebook employees, Mark Zuckerberg told his staff that even if they disagreed with some of his decisions he hoped they agreed that “the net impact of the different things that we’re doing in the world is positive”, according to a transcript published by Vox. “I really believe it is,” he added.
As with all of Facebook’s algorithms, there is no transparency on how Facebook arrived at this net positive impact. We can only look at the outcomes and attempt to reverse engineer the decisions that produced them.
Take, for example, the campaign of genocide against the Rohingya minority in Myanmar. I don’t know exactly how Facebook accounts for its role in inciting the violence and ethnic cleansing that forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee the country as refugees, but I do know that no one at Facebook was fired over its deadly failures. No one resigned. No one staged a “virtual walkout”. No one put together a hastily arranged press appearanceto quell outrage from advertisers.
It’s clear that according to Facebook’s moral calculus, the lives of people in the global south do not count for as much as the lives of people in its own country, but one need not struggle to find violence and harm from Facebook here, either. Let’s not forget that the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where Heather Heyer was murdered, started as a Facebook event.
Heyer’s killer has been convicted and sent to prison, but how does Facebook evaluate its role in the event? Does the calculation change at all when you consider that just a few weeks before Charlottesville, I sent Facebook a spreadsheet with links to 175 neo-Nazi, white nationalist and neo-Confederate hate groups that were using itsplatform to recruit and organize? And that Facebook had declined to take any action against the vast majority of them until after Heyer’s murder, when it belatedly cleaned house?
How many sewing circles or bird watching groups or kickball teams using Facebook tools does it take to make up for that?
When I read Clegg’s generic paean to the “grandparents and grandchildren, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors” who use Facebook’s tools to communicate this morning, I couldn’t help but think about my own grandmother.
My grandmother was 105 and slowly dying of kidney failure when I went home for Thanksgiving together last year. It was a joyful and dreadful holiday as we crammed as many special meals and celebrations into four days as we could. On Thanksgiving day, I vividly remember my grandmother declaring that those of us who chose not to eat the sausage in our traditional Chinese-American sticky rice stuffing “don’t know how to live” – and feeling happy that it could never be said of my grandmother that she didn’t know how to live.
I also remember, just as vividly, glancing at my phone in my parents’ kitchen, and seeing that I had just been emailed another violent and racist rape threat. I remember looking away as soon as I could, as if that would wipe what I’d just seen from my mind. I remember thinking that I had to pretend nothing had happened, that I shouldn’t ruin Thanksgiving.
The neo-Nazis and white nationalists I had written about published articles with my photograph that described me as a “racial molotov cocktail” with “the cunning of the Jew and the meticulous mathematical mind of a Chink”. They encouraged their followers to go after me too, and I received a steady stream of racist vitriol on Twitter, on Facebook and by email. I tried to ignore it as much as I could. I tried not to ruin Thanksgiving. The worst were the messages that referenced my family, or imagined my rape.
The only existential threat to a $650bn multinational corporation is a threat to its revenues
(I’ve struggled with whether I should admit to being affected by what happened – journalists aren’t supposed to show weakness after all. I’ve worked hard to feel “fine” about all of this, but I have yet to reach a point where I can remember what happened without feeling my heart rate raise, without feeling an unwanted surge of adrenaline start to course through my body.)
I’m not saying that Facebook is solely responsible for the actions of every hate-addled individual who harassed me, let alone for the decisions made by Heyer’s murderer or Myanmar’s military.
But I do think that Facebook played a role in creating the conditions necessary for those things to happen. I think that not because I am a bitter and cynical reporter who is chasing clicks with outrage, but because over and over and over again reporters, researchers and activists have documented the real and devastating costs of Facebook’s algorithmic negligence and record of accommodating hate.
So when I hear Facebook touting all the good it has supposedly done for the world, I want to know just how it’s making that accounting, because I’m not prepared to say that it’s enough.
Hate is an existential threat to the people it targets, but it’s no threat at all to Facebook. The only existential threat to a $650bn multinational corporation is a threat to its revenues. That’s where the real calculations are taking place right now at Facebook. When hate hurt people, Facebook did nothing. Now that it’s hurting Facebook, we’ll see what it really values.
…is one of the most personable football managers around who has had huge success. Unlike someone like Jose Mourinho who complains a great deal and gets angry at officials, Klopp is first and foremost a gentleman.
As a Liverpool fan, I send my thanks in bringing them the Premiership Title for 2019/20 – the first one for thirty years.
Here is an essential truth about Facebook: Everything it does is intended to suck up as much information about you as possible, so it becomes more capable at selling ads.
Because Facebook tracks everything you say about yourself inside its digital walls, and tracks your activity online and in the real world, the company is armed with so much information that it can find Ford exactly the people who might buy a new pickup.
Facebook is an incredibly successful business in part because of this creepy data harvesting machine. (See also Google, but I’ll leave that for another day.)
That’s why I want you to pay attention to what a German antitrust watchdog is doing. It is saying that limiting Facebook’s data harvesting could address both the company’s data privacy problems and questions about whether the company competes fairly.
Facebook said Germany’s antimonopoly regulator is misapplying the law. The country’s top court sided with the regulator this week, but the case might continue to wind its way through the legal system. I’m certainly not an expert in German laws, and I won’t try to predict the outcome.
But the philosophical idea was a jolt to me. The regulator is treating two major concerns about Facebook — violations of people’s privacy and potential abuses of the company’s power — not as disparate issues but as two sides of the same coin.
Imagine if the Facebook data-sucking machine had more limits? Maybe its ads wouldn’t be as effective and politicians and ice cream companies would have to find other places to pitch what they do.
Facebook would be less creepy AND internet competitors might have a stronger hand.