[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.

Wednesday Watercooler: Week of August 28th, 2013

“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances:
if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”
― C.G. Jung

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

It’s almost been 31 days since August rushed in and it feels like it’s exiting my life is essentially the same fashion; the weeks get shorter, and the weekends – doubly so, but the memories I’ve made over the course of the past month are set to last me for a lifetime. As if it weren’t obvious, I’m beyond in love with the most wonderful man; he makes me feel equal parts sexy, intelligent and hilarious – what a hat trick, right?!   To me, the best part about being in a relationship is constantly evolving myself to be the best person I can be; and he completely does that for me.  I’ve been all over the map (literally and figuratively) for the past few weeks.  I had a master plan to shake things up and I did! I cruised to LA State Historic Park for downtown’s now annual event HARD Summer, I had the luxury of heading to San Diego for an exciting weekend on the sea, I introduced my boyfriend and his housemate to the wonders of the J Paul Getty Museum and for the upcoming long weekend I’m taking my boyfriend home to meet the rest of my family and friends. A whirlwind for sure….but I couldn’t think of a more beautiful one to be stuck in!

Sunset from the J Paul Getty Museum

Before I get to the gusto of this post; I think it’s time for a teensy tinsy confession.  The Wednesday Watercooler piece slowly but surely became my favorite post to churn out on a biweekly basis; but as I’ve been honing in on my writing style – and niche – I’ve enjoyed devoting full posts to interesting topics instead of glossing over them like stepping stones on a riverbed.  I’ve gone head over heals about Doing It Right, a series of pieces on the way I play – my favorite vacations, staycations and day-ventures with friends; I’ve been creating my own visual quotations and adoring every second of the process – especially the photo editing, which I also do in my Oh, Snap segments; and last but definitely not least, I can’t help but want to write for days about my love of music – whether it’s the EDM scene, new artists, concerts or the community – if I’ve experienced, felt, laughed, screamed or cried about it, I want to share it with the world.  In the past year, this blog has catapulted into over 100 followers and 200 unique and, at least in my opinion, well researched posts – all inspired by the effervescent and ever changing world around me.  As I’ve developed personally over the past year, this blog has manifested into something bigger than I can imagine – and that’s thanks to my wonderful readers, like you! Anyways, now that’s out of the way let’s get down to business.

The 50th Anniversary of I Have a Dream

Today is an extra special day in History; if you haven’t seen the Google Doodle or been inundated with posts from your favorite social media outlets – then let me break it to you nicely.  50 years ago today, one of the most influential characters in our Civil Rights Movement gave one of his most famous speeches.  There’s a kickass interactive website set to capture and chronicle the voices of today discussing the changes and state of race relations in the United States today.  Currently, the site contains almost 100 interviews from people involved in the civil rights movement – from leaders and activists, to elders and clergy members; if they had a voice, they’re telling their stories.  If you feel inclined, you can head over to the website and submit your own story commemorating the 50 year anniversary of the event.

Twerk Somethin’

One thing’s for sure about the upcoming Generation – I’m a little nervous about their role models!  Working for Disney maybe I’m hyper aware of this – but I’ve seen more than a handful of child stars that were plucked from the masses and put on pedestals completely disengage their fanbase and – essentially – say fuck the media, I do what I want. Currently, the Queen Bee of this scene is none other than ex-Disney star Miley Cyrus.  Now, a girl can do what she wants – shake what her momma gave her, twerk sometin’, hang with the cool kids and run rampant on the streets; but in my opinion, once you’ve garned the power of popularity you should also have some semblance of social responsibility – mmm, yeah…right.  This past weekend at MTV’s infamous VMA Awards, Miley treated us all to a lesson in Twerking; something I’d much rather soon forget.  Between shaking her money maker on Robin Thicke, raging with Borgore and living the good life – I have to say, she’s doing something right; I’m just not sure what it is!

Concerning Consciousness 

I’m no psychologist – but I’m earnestly and honestly fascinated by the human mind, how it can be manipulated and how it relates to others; as far as consciousness is concerned, it’s beyond interesting. What makes something sentient and self-aware?  How can we possibly assume that because we cannot quantify consciousness in other things – a cat, a rock, a shooting star – that it ceases to exist?  As far as humanity is concerned, I believe in a massive,collective unconscious that slowly gets siphoned in and out of reality and in and out of our constrained, physical bodies.  But like they say in Fight Club: that’s just me, and I could be wrong. However, Aeon Magazine published a magnificent article about the condition of consciousness and I’m so exited to share it:

“We can’t help it, and the fact that we can’t help it ought to tell us something about what consciousness is and what it might be used for. If we evolved to recognize it in others – and to mistakenly attribute it to puppets, characters in stories, and cartoons on a screen — then, despite appearances, it really can’t be sealed up within the privacy of our own heads.” [Read More Here]

Pendulum Swinging Back Into View

At the beginning of last week I heard maybe the best EDM news of the entire Summer! A few years ago, one of my favorite groups decided they were done with their signature drum & bass sound in favor of evolving their craft the way of the industry – Trap, Dubstep, Drumstep, etc.  They went from having 3 members to 2 members, and from being a live group to essentially being a DJ Set.  If you haven’t put it together by now, the group I’m talking about is Pendulum – made of the trio Paul Harding, Gareth McGrillen and last but definitely not least Rob Swire; and Knife Party – their offshoot, is made of only the two later members.

In Spring of ’12, right after Coachella, one of my friends and I moseyed over to Funktion Wednesdays at Avalon to see a Pendulum DJ Set; I remember explicitly asking what the difference between a Pendulum DJ set and a Knife Party set was and they honestly couldn’t tell me.  Low and behold, three months later Pendulum announced they were going to stop touring together in favor of pursuing Knife Party – much to the dismay of the majority of their fan base, including myself.  Now, don’t get me wrong because I love me a bloody Knife Party – but there’s absolutely nothing like a live set from Pendulum!  I’m definitely doing my happy dance in eager anticipation of their next album; bring on 2014!!

Who Gave Us Numbers

One of the greatest debates a mathematician or scientist can get into is distilling their craft to this: when it comes to numbers, did we as a society invent them or are numbers divinely created and handed down to us?  I’m sure your side of the debate weighs heavily on your views of this world, or even worlds beyond this; but regardless of your stance, the following video from PBS’ Idea Channel asks the simple following question – does math exist; as a statistician, I’m sure you already know my response but I’ll leave the job of answering that question to you guys 😉