[Tech Tuesday] Loosen Facebook’s Uncomfortable Grasp On Your User Data

Somewhere between the excitement of the pure breadth of the internet and the desire to connect communities within it, Facebook was born.  And the world as we once knew it has never been the same.  My friends and I have casually joked about how we sit on the edge of an era, and we’re watching our counterparts on either side crumble from either too much, or too little, engagement with it.  The irony of social media’s evolution lies in two places.  First, instead of growing up with physical board games like Scrabble, people are  playing games like ‘Words with Friends‘ with absolute strangers that they have no intention of meeting.

Secondly, there’s this: over the course of our history as a country, Americans have felt a pretty specific way about Big Brother keeping all eyes and ears out of their business. Historically, the people to report for the census have by in large been representative of the middle to upper class white Majority in America.  By in large, it’s been the under-educated,the  low-income and first generation citizens of this country who either lack the capacity to fill out the forms, our a residence at which to receive the census.  As a Statistician and a Californian, I don’t put much stock in anything beyond AC Nielsen viewer data; but apparently the government doesn’t either, because they’re currently sitting on and turning to a wealth of data that we don’t even realize we’re contributing to on the daily.  Yep, you guessed it: Facebook.

Let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment, the government has always wanted this demographic data on citizens – but with something like Facebook, where we as users choose what to share, or not share – if what they originally wanted was a molehill, what we’re now giving them is an entire mountain of information.  Every click, every mouse hover, every statement typed out and then deleted – it’s stored somewhere.  All of your friends, and then non-friends, and even those sometimes boyfriends and your now significant other, they’ve become data points:  documented, analyzed and stored forever.  On your parents, your loved ones, your future children, your feelings – they’re bitcode players in this new cyber-board game of the world.

According to Martin Smith, the producer of the exceptionally well done PBS Frontline series on ‘The United States of Secrets‘: “If the FBI came to your door and demanded photos of your wedding, the names and daily habits of your children, the restaurants you frequent, who you’ve called and texted for the past month, and where you’ll be staying on your upcoming vacation, you’d call your lawyer….But that’s exactly the sort of information we’re all sharing by living our lives digitally — and the government has taken notice in a big way.”

Facebook MessengerFor the better part of the past decade, I’ve been an active, eager and more than willing participant  in this social experiment. At first glance, they’re loaded words words but dive a little deeper and you’ll discover the unfortunate truth that it’s really not that far from it.  Our Facebook profiles are a better mirror of pop culture than personality.  In effect, they’ve become a written version of ‘The Sims’ where we’re allowed to embody and pursue any facet of our psyche – but now, advertisers profit from it and the government covets it.  So, it’s has to be time for us to break free from the ties of social media.

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried deleting your account – but I have, and I can tell you that it’s a paradoxical statement. Your account will stay ‘live’ for two weeks just in case you have buyer’s remorse of that newfangled free time; and now there’s options to essentially put your account on temporary pause instead of deleting it.  Why?  Let’s face it, over time there’ll be better, brighter and bolder ways to analyze your clicks, catch-phrases and chat messages, so why not keep it stored somewhere in a digital locker until you need it?  From a data standpoint, it’s genius; too bad this is our lives we’re talking about here – and that’s no one’s fault but our own.

Facebook privacy changes roll out on a gross level fairly frequently, but whether we’ve been made aware or not, on a more nuanced level these changes constantly on our profiles. It’s not that I’m happy to announce this but every month or so I scour the internet in search of the latest in Facebook’s privacy predilection.  Partially, because I’m curious – and the other part, is as active as I am online I also want to be aware of how my data’s being used, especially if it’s being used without my permission.  There are so many uninformed people simply giving into this seemingly self gratifying system of social media – and I can say this, because I was one of them; but I’m not anymore and I’d love to share the wealth of my information. So, take some notes as I show y’all how to take back the reigns of your Facebook privacy settings.

A New, Optional Way to Share and Discover Music, TV and Movies_2

 

Earlier in May, Facebook altered the standard sharing setting of new users from ‘Public’ to ‘Friends’ – which was always a head scratching moment for me – and they let in on a new feature ‘audio sampling.’ If opted, Facebook can now access the microphone (if opted) and pick up on the soundtrack of your day, whether it’s ‘The Breakfast Club’ or ‘NOISIA’.

One thing that’s never made much sense to me was why Facebook Messenger needed a standalone application; sure, the UI is a little bit nicer, but functionality wise they do the same thing.  In the back of my always moving mind, it makes me wonder if it’s simply to store an even bigger wealth of user data for analysis.  So, it came as very little shock to me to me that Facebook continues to roll out impressive bold options with dire consequences.

Unfriending Facebook Messenger 

Just this week, there are two tweaks coming to the application that yes, helps streamline the process – but to what end?  If we download the actual messenger app, we can not only send pictures – but now, we can record and send videos via the Facebook app.  Video recording capabilities imply use of both the camera and our microphone, meaning that Facebook has access to both features on our phone.  The punchline? Since Facebook is part of PRISM: the government has access to them, too.  There’s an incredibly quick fix to this problem: stop using the application.  Yes, the stickers are adorable and there are so many ways to share – but put it in a text message and leave the third party applications (and the government) out of it.

Stop Facebook From Sharing Browser History

Last week, Gizmodo – one of my favorite Tech sites – raised some red flags about Facebook’s new advertising policy.  Since it’s gone public, the general public has been made increasingly clear just how much money Zuck has in his pocket and how much Facebook makes off of users via third party applications like Candy Crush and who knows what else.  Now, in an effort to streamline ads (read: increase revenue) Facebook’s browsing through our browser data for prime placement. Thankfully, there’s a way to ‘Opt Out of Ad-Sharing’ – head over to the Digital Advertising Alliance on each of your browsers and unsubscribe those snoopers. As a general rule with all things Facebook: when in doubt, opt out.

Don’t Give In To New Snapchat Rival, Slingshot

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about internet fads, everyone loves ‘New’ – and more often than not, the younger generation doesn’t want anything to do with Facebook or social media commitment of any kind (re: Snapchat).  It should be as no shock then that Facebook has produced a ‘worthy’ competitor with a different purpose.  With a catchy name and technology forward approach, Slingshot is a photo sharing app that only lets the viewer see a picture after they’ve sent one in response.  I love the concept – like a ‘Telephone’ game of photography, but don’t for one second think that this data – like Snapchats – is sitting somewhere, waiting to become a statistic.

After all this time, the photo albums, the Timeline updates, finding the perfect words for a status only to know that you’ve stored the previous 27 awkward versions -Facebook has truly become the government’s ‘long con’- so, how much longer are you going to give in? Phone a friend, step outside with a polaroid camera, write your parents a letter – but become an active participant in your life, as opposed to a passive member of this Matrix.

[Tech Talk] Apple Unveils new iPads + Free OS

It’s that time of year again! Autumn was ushered in by beautiful LA weather, Pumpkin Spice Lattes have more than taken over the coffee world and Halloween is just around the corner – but that’s not exactly what I’m talking about.

It’s the time of year where our friends at Apple HQ loop in their loyal customer base about their latest and greatest products and projects.  I’ve touched on this a bit in the past, but I’m an Apple girl through and through – well, minus the fact I’ve refused to cave into the iPhone madness for the last few years and love my HTC Droid to pieces – but I digress.   The tech talk started at 11 EST/ 10am PST and is being hosted by the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater up in San Francisco. For loyal customers running iOs4.2 you’ll be able to stream the event in multitudes of ways and if you have Safari 4 or later, the event is being live-streamed right here.  If you care less about talking heads and more about talking points, one of my favorite tech sites – Gizmodo – is live-blogging the event right here.

Now, without further ado – some of the highlights from today’s press event:

Map Updates on OS 10.9 Mavericks

Image thanks to NBC

The New OS 10.9 is called Mavericks. Unlike previous OS X’s – like Mountain Lion, Tiger, Panther, Snow Leopard – this marks the first OS X that isn’t named after a killer cat but instead after a killer wave.  To boot, Mavericks marks the first OS released by Apple that is free (Yes, FREE!) for everyone to update – and it’s available starting today.  This update contains about 200 changes, including but definitely not limited to these arenas – Web Browsing (Safari will show users what their social networks have been reading), Maps with a 3D Flyover view, Notifications, Power Efficiency (To quote the Senior VP Federighi:  “On a 13″ Macbook you’ll get an hour longer web browsing on a single charge.”) and more.

Image thanks to Gizmodo

They also introduced a few new sibling in the iPad family.  First – we have a new iPad Mini! The 16GB iPad Mini 2 finally has a retina display and hosts twice the resolution as the original with 324 pixels per inch and a resolution of 2048 x 1536 for you number ninjas out there.   This makes the iPad Mini 2 a definite contender against the Nexus 7 and the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX.  The iPad Mini 2 is a little on the expensive side – $530 with the works (LTE/WiFi) and $400 for WiFi Only.  The good news?  The old iPad Mini is now only $300; and with Apple – I’ve learned to take what I can get.  Next up,  the iPad air.  It clocks in at approximately 1lb and 9.7″, making it roughly half a pound lighter and much thinner than previous versions.  The CPU inside is two times as fast as the last iPad update – which was twice as fast as the first; the final result? An iPad that’s eight times faster than the original iPad.

Apple’s Mac Pro Core Processor

Last, but certainly not least – let’s take a look at the new Mac + MacBook Pros.  The Mac Pro contains that sexy beast of metal above – Intel’s Xeon E5 Processor with between four and twelve cores.  The Xeon Processor holds 12GB of high performance RAM (GDDR5 if you want to get specific).  As far as graphics are concerned, the Mac Pro runs with an AMD FirePro which means 4k video output. Other specs for the Mac Pro include: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, HDMI, 4 USB Ports, 6 Thunderbolt ports and 2  Ethernet Ports.  Per usual, the Mac Pro will cost a pretty penny – approximately $3000, and is available starting this December.  Then there’s the kid sister laptop version – the MacBook Pro. Much like the Mac Pro, the 13″ and 15″ MacBook Pros boast the latest OS, Thunderbolt ports and the 802.11ac Wi-Fi radio.  The 15″ gets an Intel Pro GPU, a 256 GB Solid State Drive and a 2 Ghz Quad Core Processor with 8GB of Dynamic RAM and runs at $2000.  The kid brother, the new 13′, is less than3 pounds and 3/4 of an inch thick.  Inside, you’ll find a 2.4 Ghz Core i6, 4GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD and an enhanced retina display.  It runs at about $1300 and both models – the 13″ and 15″ Mac Book Pros – ship today!

What are your chances of splurging on any one of their new products?

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” 
― Apple Inc.

[The Audiofiles] Required Listening for HARD Summer, Day 2

Well, it’s happened – it’s August!

 It’s been officially one year, 200+ posts and 80+ subscribers since I started this amazing blog last Summer and I have to admit – it’s the best kind of therapy a girl can have.  Thoughts stream from my brain, through my veins and onto the screen with beautiful synchronicity and I’ve watched myself grow from a confused young lady to a less confused woman.  Also, I’ve realized that it’s a crying shame I never formally created a 2013 Bucket List because there’s a lot of things I could be crossing off right now – like this:

My first Drive Thru Car Wash!

To that effect, this week has been beyond bonkers and full of wonderful food and good company [ per usual; noticing a theme, yet? 😉 ].  First things first though, I love the way that new months are announced! Whether it’s a friendly ‘Rabbit, rabbit’ or someone posting Bone Thugs n Harmony, the first of the month is always full of wonder [ e.g. ‘I wonder how the fuck this year has gone by so fast! ]  I remember last Summer when I was getting ready for HARD – while most girls are sitting around debating about outfits, getting excited about makeup; I’m sitting around drafting schedules and figuring out who I must-see this weekend.

Tracklist:

  1. Justice – Helix
  2. Bassnectar – Upside Down
  3. Empire of the Sun – Walking on a Dream
  4. Zedd – Spectrum
  5. Crystal Castles – Plague
  6. Disclosure – You & Me (Baauer Remix)
  7. Dillon Francis – IDGAFOS 2.0
  8. Etc!Etc! x Brillz – Callisto
  9. Flosstradamus – Rollup
  10. Gesaffelstein – Control Movement
  11. Mr. Oizo – Secam
  12. Busy P – Still Busy
  13. Claude Vonstroke – Beat That Bird
  14. Breakbot – Baby I’m Yours
  15. Brodinski – Let The Beat Control Your Body
  16. Felix Catral & Clockwork – The Fire
  17. Rudimental – Feel The Love
  18. Justin Martin & Eats Everything – Feather Fight
  19. Eats Everything – Jagged Edge
  20. Paper Diamond – Can We Go Up
  21. Breach – Jack
  22. J.Phlip – Big Ass, Party Hat
  23. Cashmere Cat – Mirror Maru
  24. Don Diablo – M1 Stinger (gLAdiator Remix)

Unfortunately, with how much vacation I’ve taken and the limited amount of time I’ve been able to update, I haven’t done a ‘Wednesday Watercooler’ piece in forever.  And, with the amazing news that I’ve been hearing and reading about lately it’s truly a shame! So, before we get into the fun and fabulous post I had in store -I thought I’d hit you with a dose of awesome links and reads to make your cheeks hurt from laughing and turn that pretty mind of yours in circles.  We’ve got the whole spectrum: science, silliness and of course – cats, so let’s dive in

So, here it is – your Friday Fun Links:

Music: Revealed: The Part of Our Brains That Makes Us Like New Music

Funny: 16 Problems Every Petite Girl Deals With, illustrated by cats

School: Teacher Takes Student’s Phone, Sets Passcode as Math Problem Answer

Science: The trouble with teleportation: It could take quadrillions of years

Cats: Cat Stowaway Survives On Freighter From Philippines To LA

Equality: 75 Unforgettable Moments From Minnesota’s First Day Of Marriage Equality

And a few videos – just because they’re AWESOME:

Homeland Season 3 Preview:

Living in a Van Down By The River…

And with that, a fabulous weekend to you and yours! Xx