#privacy

But only after you told us…

CC1A3E06-C401-4AB3-992C-0C1EA65FD952.jpeg

Once upon a time FB thought our data was its BFF. So one could question the advertising campaign from the social media giant as a sop to the regulators. Where was Zuckerberg telling big government that he is not to blame for the FAANG giant’s users voluntarily giving all their information and broadcasting it to the world. While the group may not have asked for express permission, if one’s privacy really mattered that much one wouldn’t be so active in screaming from the mountain tops what, where, how and with who they were active with.

Still better to seek forgiveness, right?

Zucker feasted on your consent to be a sucker

Whatever the outcome of this hearing, much of the data collected was willingly offered by Facebook users. It was they who told people where they took vacation, the restaurant they ate or birthday they celebrated. It was they who adorned their avatar with a transparent French or rainbow flag as a back drop after another terrorist attack or to show support for same sex marriage. It was they who clicked the check box to agree to the “terms and conditions” immediately without reading it. Is that Zuckerberg’s fault? Questions however must be asked with respect to the ability to access microphones and cameras unbeknownst to users. How flagrantly was privacy law violated beyond that agreed by users?

For as much as Zuckerberg might look an evil violator of privacy laws (he may yet be proved to be so), if one wants real anonymity, social media is the last place to find it. It is doubtful anyone posts happy snaps on social media as a pure storage back up device. Many people crave attention and more than ever their self-actualisation stage in the ‘hierarchy of needs’ is driven by likes and shares rather than the Abraham Maslow’s original theorem of 75 years ago. The higher the ratio of “selfies” would probably be highly correlated to attention deficit disorder. Protesting the use of the data provided is a grossly naive assumption if not borderline negligent. Tucked away in the fine print of the words and conditions would surely have FB gaining their complete consent.

Ted Cruz took it to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on whether the social media giant ‘censors conservative’ news. He replied, “Silicon Valley is an extremely left-leaning place.While denying that he knows the political affiliations of the 15~20,000 staff who police content he said the group does its best to remove things that are considered hateful (e.g.hate speech, terrorism), hurtful or distasteful (e.g. nudity). It was brought to Zuckerberg’s attention that black conservatives (and Trump supporters) Diamond & Silk had their page blocked with 1.2 million followers on grounds of  “being unsafe to the community”. In any event, Zuckerberg deflected many of the questions in his testimony on grounds of the size of the organization but admitted not enough was done to police itself. Power corrupts…? Absolutely…?

Which brings the whole argument surrounding ‘free speech’ and social media sites exercising subjective political bias. It was only several years back that openly gay shock-jock Milo Yiannopoulos was banned from Twitter for causing ‘offence’ to a Ghostbusters actress. Yet what is offence? Where is the line drawn? What offends one might not offend another. However the censor would seemingly be able to use his or her subjective opinions, values and biases which makes it pretty clear what the outcome will be. President Trump learned that when a disgruntled Twitter employee temporarily suspended his account. Do not be surprised when we’re simply told to “get with the times” and accept the party line. Resistance is futile. It is the simplest way to shut down sensible debate.

Anyone active on social media is well aware of the risks of being targeted, trolled or attacked for expressing differing views. However do users require, much less want to submit to the machinations of the thought police? Shouldn’t they be free to choose what they view or pages they subscribe to? Indeed hate speech (not to be confused with difference of opinion) has no place but the majority of users are likely to be able to make that assessment without it having been arbitrarily made for them.

Then again, surely as a publicly listed corporation Facebook can decide what it wants to do with its site and let participants in the free market (who use it for no charge) decide for themselves that the obvious bias forces them to seek social media platforms elsewhere. Twitter share price was badly thumped for its blocking of certain groups and its share price is around 1/3rd the peak. It’s overall followers have fluctuated in the 316-330mn range since Q4 2016. The market works. It is taking Facebook’s shareprice to task on the grounds it will suffer for treating its users as mugs. Perhaps a look at activity post the hearings will show just how many mugs are still as active as before despite the threats to abandon the evil Zuck. The share price will respond accordingly.

It begs the question as to why a more conservative outfit hasn’t decided to make a Facebook equivalent which does not censor outside of clear violations of hate speech. Surely offering a replicated platform that didn’t censor free speech would be a massive winner. Users would also sign up to a simple (and SHORT) legal agreement that there is a risk of being offended and to commit to accepting it. Where clear violations of hate speech (e.g. threats of murder, terrorism etc.) are found such things can be reported to the authorities (with terms and conditions EXPLICITLY warning of such repucussions for violating easy to understand rules). Then again maybe Zuckerberg is right. Silicon Valley is indeed an extremely left-leaning [alt-left?] place! So this is why conservatives are behind the 8-ball on a free speech social media platform.

The sad reality is that social media is policed by the left and authorities seem keen to exploit the powers that provides. The examples are too many. Controversial conservatives have been blocked, banned and restricted for the most spurious of reasons. Diamond & Silk are hardly a danger to society. It is almost comical to think that.  Yet aren’t the subscription rates/followers of particular sites indicative of the ‘moods’ of people? Could it be that black, conservative and Trump supporter must be mutually exclusive terms in the eyes of the left’s identikit forcing the Facebook apparatchiks to enforce a subjective shutdown? If a public explanation was provided it would probably just say, “trust our objectivity’. Whaaaat?

At some stage if enough people feel they are being played around with they will choose of their own volition to leave and seek their social media thrills on other platforms. Or will they? It maybe too late. Blatant exploitation of social media by governments looks like an obvious trend. If we are only too willing to give up our data and cede any visibility of the inner circle’s terms of use of it we are on a slippery slope of our own making. Think about how your mobile device allows you to be tracked whenever and however. It can turn your camera or microphone on. It can triangulate your whereabouts anywhere across the world. What you’ve read, listened to and watched. Where are the privacy laws surrounding this? Is your local rep fighting in your corner? Probably not.

Could private conversations with a lawyer (client-attorney privilege) be bugged and used as evidence? Don’t laugh. As an aerospace analyst many moons ago, teams of specialists with anti-bugging devices trawled through the suites of the aircraft manufacturers’ chalets to ensure the opposition didn’t get wind of negotiations with airlines they were both competing to win large orders from. Illegal in the extreme but seemingly exercised by all parties. It was an unwritten rule.

However social media censorship hides deeper problems. It is also increasingly a tool to shut down debate and people like London Mayor Sadiq Khan has met with social media execs to collude on cracking down on ‘hate speech’. Surely policing spurious claims of hate speech is a lesser issue to the immediate threat faced by a capitol which saw its murder rate surpass that of New York. Not so. This is the dangerous turn in social media. Not whether our data is used for targeted advertising for cheap flights but used to pillory, interrogate and shut down innocents. After all social media has a half-life of infinity.

Take the controversial figure Tommy Robinson in England. The UK authorities and media wish us to believe he is an unhinged far right wing bigoted racist thug. Yet despite all of the times he has been jailed (for mostly trumped up charges), silenced and muzzled for publicising what he sees as a major problem in his community (i.e. radical Islam), the growth in followers continues to rise on his Facebook page (706,000). Maybe the authorities should keep tabs on them? Arrest them on suspicion of potentially causing hate crimes. Surely they are cut from the same cloth as Tommy? Afterall it is better to arrest a comedian for teaching a dog to do a Nazi salute to annoy his partner as it is less controversial to the state than tackling real issues. Perhaps authorities should pay attention to why Robinson’s following is so large? It is irrelevant whether one finds his viewpoints offensive or not, a majority of over half a million clearly don’t. He is no saint and would be the first to admit it. Still the authorities are trying everything to shut him down. Social media is being used as a watchdog.

Robinson has two best selling books –  ‘Enemy of the State’ and ‘Mohammad’s Koran: Why Muslims kill for Islam’. Is that not evidence that there are more people than the authorities would care to admit to that actually concur with his assessment? Maybe some want to read it out of curiosity? However when many of those same people see an undercover scoop done by the left leaning publicly funded Channel 4 on the inner workings of one of England’s most conservative mosques, praised by politicians as they true face of a peaceful religion. Even though the mosque had promised to clamp down on radical imams, the documentary revealed that despite assurances to government authorities, teachers still encourage students to believe that the only remedy for gays and apostates is to be killed. So maybe Robinson’s followers aren’t as fringe or minor in number as we would be made to believe? With the widespread outing of child grooming gangs across the UK, maybe Brits have had enough of the political hand wringing over politically correct discourse. The more the movement is pushed underground the harder it will be to stop vigilantism. We’ve already seen signs of it emerging. Think of the Guardian Angels in NY during the crime waves in the 1979.

What the Zuckerberg testimony brings to the surface is yet another example made clear to the public of the two tier dispensing of free speech. What worries the public more is that justice seems to be operating under the exact same framework. What the Channel 4 programme exposed with respect to blatant hate speech is incontrovertible. Yet will authorities arrest, charge and jail them as they would a Tommy Robinson? Not a chance. To encourage the murder of people that aren’t part of an ideology can’t be viewed as anything other than a willful threat.  Will the judiciary demand that scholars have their pages scrubbed from social media?

The shoes are on the wrong foot. Earlier this year, Austrian conservative Martin Sellner and his girlfriend Brittany Pettibone were arrested on arrival in the UK, detained and deported. Sellner for wanting to deliver a speech at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park (later delivered by Robinson) and Pettibone for wanting to interview Tommy Robinson (which he later conducted in Vienna). Neither look in the least bit dangerous. In this case, social media backfired on the state. In both cases, the public once again saw the double standards and the pervasive political posturing to beat the ‘controllable’ element into submission. Just as it is easier for the police to fine speeding motorists than actively pursue solid leads on catching grooming gangs the public rightly grows increasingly livid. Social media is being used more widely as a policing tool, with negative connotations. It isn’t just being used to foil terror plots but stomp on the rights of the average citizen.

Still there is some sympathy for Zuckerberg in that many people volunteered their information. If it was used in ways that violated ethical and more importantly legal rights it only goes to prove that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. To that end, can we really expect lawmakers to cramp their own style when Zuckerberg has only highlighted how powerful the information he possesses can be used to sucker us more than they already do. That is the real crime we are seemingly becoming powerless to stop. Talk about the real Big Brother!

Be careful of what you wish for

IMG_0275.JPG

Be careful of what you wish for. It might come true. What astounds me is that there is still a large contingent of people that will stop at nothing to bury Trump. They almost have lost complete perspective of what they are doing such is their thirst to see him kicked out of office. All the while his popularity continues to rise with 55% of Americans in a Rasmussen Reports approve of his job as POTUS. However perhaps more disturbing is the idea that intelligence agencies are deliberately leaking sensitive information in an attempt to overthrow the government.

Two things here. One is wrong doing. Of course illegal activity whether a homeless man or a president can’t be condoned.

Second is the manner of how such information is handled. Many articles and posts I have read are ecstatic that information has been leaked to a biased mainstream media. There are official ways to conduct proper investigations. Those who condone sliming by technically illegal manners need their heads read.  One would think they could put Julian Assange out of a job at the same time be because why not give everyone access to everything? .

I have written in the past that how one leaves a job is more important than how one starts a job. After the election victory of Trump, Obama went on a rampage laying landmines in the White House lawns. At almost every turn he set out to undermine the incoming man. I think this typifies his legacy. I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed such political vandalism before. While he has every right to exercise presidential powers TIL his last day in the interests of the country one would think that consulting the incoming president would be the honorable thing to do. However there he was signing refugee deals with Australia, spitting on Israel, cutting sizable cheques to the Palestinian Authority and the big one!

In its final days, the Obama Administration expanded the power of the National Security Agency (NSA) which enabled it to share globally intercepted personal communication with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying any privacy protections. No longer would communications be screened before sharing opening a whole new can of worms of more people sifting through data which may have no relevance.

The new rules were issued under section 2.3 of Executive Order 12333 after they were approved by two of Obama’s own administration officials: Attorney-General Loretta Lynch and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

Second, as the NY Times described on Jan 12,

“Previously, the N.S.A. filtered information before sharing intercepted communications with another agency, like the C.I.A. or the intelligence branches of the F.B.I. and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The N.S.A.’s analysts passed on only information they deemed pertinent, screening out the identities of innocent people and irrelevant personal information…Now, other intelligence agencies will be able to search directly through raw repositories of communications intercepted by the N.S.A. and then apply such rules for “minimizing” privacy intrusions.”

While the argument is made that this EO was to improve coordination between government intelligence agencies in effect we’ve got too many cooks spoiling the broth. Handling sensitive information is a tough business. If there aren’t enough safety nets to prevent people leaking information to the press then we set up a situation where sabotage is masked as whistle blowing. I am quite sure there are so many dark secrets held in the vaults of the US intelligence apparatus over the decades that were people to discover everything about what laid in its vaults there would be marshal law. Freedoms would have to be curtailed because there would be rioting at the revelations.

I am not condoning lies, deceit or duplicitous behavior but intelligence agencies live and die by the “competitive intelligence” they hold with respect to their enemies. If the wrong type of data is leaked as an act of revenge we are inviting anarchy and from what I read on social media some do not seem to comprehend this point.

People voted in Trump to drain the swamp of exactly this type of ‘deep state’ (for the conspiracy theorists). However let us not kid ourselves to what Mr Obama has been up to since leaving office. It isn’t all about hanging out with Sir Richard Branson. 10 days after leaving office Obama’s spokesman Kevin Lewis said, “President Obama is heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country.” 

Paul Sperry wrote,

“Obama has an army of agitators — numbering more than 30,000 — who will fight his Republican successor at every turn of his historic presidency. And Obama will command them from a bunker less than two miles from the White House.

In what’s shaping up to be a highly unusual post-presidency, Obama isn’t just staying behind in Washington. He’s working behind the scenes to set up what will effectively be a shadow government to not only protect his threatened legacy, but to sabotage the incoming administration and its popular “America First” agenda.

He’s doing it through a network of leftist nonprofits led by Organizing for Action. Normally you’d expect an organization set up to support a politician and his agenda to close up shop after that candidate leaves office, but not Obama’s OFA. Rather, it’s gearing up for battle, with a growing war chest and more than 250 offices across the country.

IMG_0276.JPG

Since Donald Trump’s election, this little-known but well-funded protesting arm has beefed up staff and ramped up recruitment of young liberal activists, declaring on its website, “We’re not backing down.” Determined to salvage Obama’s legacy, it’s drawing battle lines on immigration, ObamaCare, race relations and climate change.

img_0278

Obama is intimately involved in OFA operations and even tweets from the group’s account. In fact, he gave marching orders to OFA foot soldiers following Trump’s upset victory.”

img_0284

I’m sure my liberal acquaintances will tell me that Obama’s actions are legit and within the realms of free speech and democracy but never have I heard of other leaders going to such lengths to sabotage a sitting president. Tony Blair runs a distant second on his Brexit Remain preaching.

Obama is forgetting the first rule of democracy. The people voted in Trump in because they repudiated Obama’s failure over 8 years to restore their destroyed fortunes. Talk about obstruction in the House till the cows come home, George W Bush wasn’t out there in a Stetson, cowboy boots and a lasso trying to corral Obama from destroying his legacy (albeit not much to defend). A growing number of people are getting fed up the biased narrative and obstruction to let Trump complete a task of doing what he promised. Many of them may be struggling, white and only possess a high school diploma but they want their livelihoods fixed and Obama proved he was as useless as many former presidents in arresting the gap between the haves and the have nots. That is why Clinton was not going to win. She was totally out of touch with the deplorables.

Yes, people will throw sub 5% unemployment and a raft of Occupy Democrats fact sheets (which are actually comical to the extent that the claims are often completely irrelevant) at me but I throw 12mn (+33%) more people on food stamps back at them for starters. Ineffective foreign policy, a doubling of the debt, the most pages of regulation of any president period and the disaster that has become Obamacare. That’s why Trump won. People had enough and the fact that the press still go to default defilade only infuriates them more. As mentioned earlier, Rasmussen notes his popularity is rising.

Switching  back to leaking confidential information. You have to question many people’s love of country to wish for the downfall of a democractically elected leader by ANY means including unethical, illegal practices or sabotage that would have them foaming at the mouth were it Obama or one of their own side. Were Trump to be booted on the basis of a targeted campaign I would wager that his supporters would not take it well and perhaps become unhinged themselves. They desperately want change and to have him taken out of the picture on spiteful trivialities would shatter their hopes and dreams.

The actions of the regressive left speak volumes. They still do not comprehend what led Trump to the White House. It doesn’t matter that many don’t agree with all he is doing and the manner in which he does it. Many may dislike his inability to sound eloquent and his press conference where he dusted the media again actually won him hearts and minds among his followers even if others blast him for blathering.  Trump doesn’t have a troupe of image creation flunkies to polish his presentations to make him sound like a seasoned politician. Yes, as a politician he is deeply flawed which is the attraction. People don’t want politicians who let them down time after time. The press still don’t know how to play him. What people see, for all of the bravado and hyperbole, is the real article. The same man that won the election. I wrote time and time again in the election campaign that he came across as genuine. Hillary Clinton looked old hat. More of the same.

Sadly I view so much of what I read on social media as a reflection of our society today. Full of self entitled people telling others how to live their lives. Mocking them without taking the slightest bit of time to understand why they feel that way. Retweeting or sharing articles that are baseless in content and even shallower in quality. Even left leaning Bill Maher said he was inviting Milo Yiannopoulos on his show because journalists who boycott the show, such as Jeremy Scahill, are the reason “liberals will continue to lose elections.” MILO responded to Scahill with “if you can’t turn up and defend your ideas, you lose. It’s that simple.”

Like the title says – Be careful what you wish for. Pushing for every possible avenue to undermine a man put in a job by citizens who had enough of being forgotten will not take kindly to those actions. While liberals think they are attacking him and him alone they are in reality targeting 64mn others and potentially many more. That is a dangerous fight to be picking. But of course you won’t hear that from the mainstream media. They’re accomplices in the quest to play the man not the ball. Is it any wonder a NY Times subscription is still 50% off? Wait a minute it is now 60% off.

img_9409