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Tag: security (Page 1 of 6)

And One Thing To Forget

At the start of the pandemic, way back in March 2020 when there was much confusion around how the virus was transmitted, many people decided public surfaces must be at least partially to blame.

Which led stores, hotels, airports, and other public spaces to jump into a very conspicuous effort to disinfect every surface in sight. Assigning workers to continually wipe down everything someone might touch, resulting in a distinct disinfectant odor hanging in the air everywhere you went.

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Redefining National Security

Tomorrow is the first of the presidential debates for this election cycle. If tradition holds, one of the major topics that will be addressed over all these events is the concept of “national security”. And most, if not all, the questions related to that phrase will center around the military, Russia, terrorism, and other topics that involve ships, bombs, and the other stuff of war.

However, that thinking is far too narrow for the world in which we currently live. We need to expand the definition of “national security”.

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It’s Not About Safety

homeland security

Lots of discussion in my feeds last week about school surveillance. Most of it was concerning a New York Times article about a small district near Niagara Falls that recently switched on a facial recognition system in it’s eight schools.

While they are one of the first K12 districts in the US to adopt this technology, the writer notes that similar systems are already being used in many public spaces like airports and sports arenas. In addition, more than 600 “law enforcement agencies” have adopted facial recognition software from a company called Clearview AI in just the past year.

All in the name of “security” and public safety, of course.

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The Problem Is Greater Than Facebook

Following up on the previous post, a few more random thoughts related to the current Facebook data security mess.

First, the problem with the collection and use of personal data extends far beyond Facebook. Google, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp1, SnapChat, and many other social media companies all offer services you don’t pay for.

All make money through selling you, their “members”, to advertisers. All have long, legally detailed terms of service, which you agreed to (even if you didn’t read it), that allow them to use your contributions and data in pretty much any way they want. Which brings up copyright issues that are a whole ‘nother rant.

But it’s not just social media collecting your data. Plenty of companies that charge for products and services – Apple, Samsung, Amazon, your phone and cable companies, your supermarket, gas station, and big box stores (remember your loyalty card?) – collect valuable data on your buying habits. And pretty much anything else they can find. Information they can use to make even more profits.

It will be interesting to see whether Europe’s new data security laws, which take affect in May, will impact the behavior of Facebook and the others. One major goal of the legislation is to give users more control over their data, including the ability to have some of it deleted. Facebook and other data-driven companies, on the other hand, are dependent on users willingly giving over their information and not caring what happens next. 

Over here in the US, despite calls for investigation and pending lawsuits, our current laws probably don’t cover this situation. It’s also very unclear what new regulations on Facebook and other social media companies would look like, considering the long tradition of free speech rights in this country. Plus, if actual data breaches of the past are any indication, there isn’t a lot of political will to do anything related to consumer protection.

I’ve seen many calls on Twitter and elsewhere to delete your Facebook accounts. That’ll show them. Except it probably won’t since the people who actually follow through is a very, very small fraction of their overall membership. Plus, Facebook will still have your data and has the infrastructure in place to continue following you around the web.

On top of everything else, Facebook makes it very difficult to actually delete an account. Bill Fitzgerald, my go-to guy for understanding data security and privacy issues, has some recommendations for people who want to try. If you’d rather continue using Facebook, check out Wired’s guide to the complicated world of their privacy and security settings.

Finally, when Mark Zuckerberg’s name comes up in the news, does anyone else picture Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network? Considering Zuck’s shall we say “relaxed” attitude towards the privacy of his customers, I’m beginning to think the portrayal of him in that film wasn’t all that far from real life. Maybe he needs to hire Eisenberg to front him and get Aaron Sorkin to write the script. Certainly would be more entertaining.


Cartoon is by the wonderful Randall Munroe, posted at his site xkcd and used under a Creative Commons license. Check out his book What If? in which he answers absurd hypothetical questions with real science.

1. Instagram and WhatsApp are both owned by Facebook.

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