Category Archives: Privacy

My Apologies For The Troll(s)

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Friends:

Please accept my apology, one offered to all those who may have seen some particularly hateful commentary.

Someone I know is struggling with alcoholism and mental issues. The prognosis is such that it’s not going to improve. The truth is that I’m going to simply have to tolerate it until he’s no longer able to behave inappropriately. On the one hand, what he’s doing is completely objectionable; on the other, he’s often not in charge of his own faculties, so it’s difficult to hold him accountable like I would a normal person. While what he’s doing is a crime, I ask that you ignore anything bizarre that might appear in the comments for a short time. I’ll clear, delete, and block all the offending content as soon as it’s brought to my attention. I can block by email, name, and IP; as you know, however, these are not sufficient to thwart someone who actively seeks to inflict distress or inconvenience on another person.

If you see or hear anything crazy, threatening, or angry, please let me know. (Not from me – from him. You can ignore my stupidity and treat it as normal day-to-day craziness.)

I’m not posting this to draw sympathy, prayers, or well-wishes.

It’s literally to let you know that you might see some startling things across my blog and social media. I’ll correct them as soon as they appear. I’ve spent 50+ years adjusting to the insanity of anger and addiction; a little bit more probably won’t ruin the remnants of my own sanity. I have to admit the latest round of hatred and bile thrown at me was a bit over-the-top.

Thanks, X
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Financial Advisory

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For all of my friends who aren’t aware… In 2017, Equifax suffered a huge security breach, likely the largest ever. About 1/2 of all Americans had some or most of their private financial identifiers stolen. Most of the people I’ve mentioned it to seem to have no idea that it happened, much less that they are at severe risk of having their identities stolen or their credit ruined.

Equifax is offering a settlement, and the details are being finalized. While it is possible to easily file a claim and get a check of slightly more than a $125, I would recommend that you forego the money and opt for the 4 years of credit monitoring through the 3 major credit reporting agencies. Also, Equifax is offering an extension of 6 more years after the compulsory 4-year term lapses.

While I can’t force you to check your status on the settlement page, I can’t stress enough how important it is that you do so. I’ve always maintained that privacy is a unicorn; however, in events such as the Equifax data breach, I can promise you that you are gambling with your entire financial future if you ignore the risk. Here’s the direct link:

Link to check your eligibility and risk…

My name resulted in a positive. I, of course, signed up for the credit monitoring from all 3 of the major credit bureaus. This will allow me to reach out and expect assistance if and when my identity or credit history is used without my knowledge. It’s difficult to put a price tag on this sort of service. Anyone who knows someone who has suffered the agony of attempting to recover his or her history and identify after such misuse will tell you that is a personal hell of bureaucracy and paperwork.

Hopefully, your name will not result in a positive result. Even if it doesn’t, you should at a minimum be requesting a copy of your credit report once a year. Also, don’t get comfortable with the mistaken idea that you already participate in a credit monitoring system via your smartphone or one which is included with a credit card you might own. The truth is that the ones which are easily used often do not provide you the peace of mind and certainty that you believe that they do.

P.S. The website through which you can immediately see and download all 3 of your credit bureau reports: Link to get your annual credit reports…

Thanks, X

The Secrecy Ricochet Certainty

 

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Several days ago I wrote about vagueposting.

This isn’t a polished post. It’s just what is running through my mind. Do not take the time to read it if you might get triggered by my stupidity or errant abuse of words and ideas. This post is going to make a few people uncomfortable. Because I suffered the effects of it directly when I was younger, I feel competent to blather about it.

A couple of days later after my vaguepost commentary, a relevant enigma emerged, one involving a tertiary acquaintance and an unexpected death. Instead of just stating what happened, people involved circumspectly concealed the details, which of course is their right. That’s a tough sell in the era of social media. They tried, though. They stepped on toes, left ominous overtones by what was omitted, and generally made many who initially heard of the untimely passing say the worst about ‘how.’ I cringed to read what was missing by implication. As a bona fide lout and perennial foot-in-mouth sufferer, I learned more by what was NOT said.

That’s what people always do. If you think they don’t, you’re fooling yourself. Humans fill in the gaps with whatever information they have and preconceptions they possess. You have the absolute right to live your life in the manner you see fit and to not share things with those you choose not to. You also have the right to remain silent, but as Ron White paraphrased, “That ain’t happening.” Part of the damnable compact with social media is that people are going to ask “What happened?” Some will be tactful and some will not.

I had another one of ‘those’ conversations with my wife: if I get a DWI, shot and killed while impersonating a bank robber, or die in a horrible misunderstanding involving a case of stolen pepperoni, I want her to tell everyone. Publicly. On Facebook. Text blast, too – and even email, if the five people who still use it for personal communication are interested. She can just tell a couple of friends who are worse than a 1950s telephone switchboard operator. She can simply add the don’t-tell-anyone clause, thereby guaranteeing immediate repeat and publication on the hidden channels we all use when we find out anything interesting or salacious. I have one family who is so gossipy that people allege she knew about a family member’s death before the family member even kicked the bucket.

Everyone is going to find out, anyway. Worse, they’ll write, DM, private message, text, call, Skype, or ask 3,587 people what happened until they find out. We all have that one acquaintance who will resort to kidnapping and extortion to find out what we know. It’s easier to spill the beans before the water-boarding commences. Death is a resounding knock on everyone’s door. It is one of the two unifying life experiences we are all guaranteed to share. It is hard-wired into our genetic makeup to ask and inquire.

I’m already going to be hurt, dead, or otherwise encumbered by whatever it is that people want to know about. That people know immediately in no way worsens the situation. In many circumstances, it will improve the sanity of those around me. If whatever happens to me isn’t my fault, there shouldn’t be any embarrassment about it. If whatever happens to me is my fault, it still happened – and everyone is going to find out about it. I just hope I’m wearing clean underwear.

If no one is sure why someone passed, then simply say that. I experienced this same horrific uncertainty myself years ago. Even after getting some answers, all my questions weren’t addressed. It’s okay to say, “We don’t know” if the reasons and details aren’t clear. You can of course also say, “It’s none of your business,” which is the equivalent of throwing gasoline on a fire and ensuring that the person will not rest under the ‘why’ of it is uncovered.

Watching this particular incident unfold once again proves to me a LOT of people were seeking answers behind the scenes. One group was working to find out what happened. The other, of course, was working to keep the details secret, which means that about 1/2 of those whispering were finding out through informal sources. In short, everyone is going to know.

I knew that if I used my particular skills and punched away at it, that I would find someone who knew and had posted on social media. I did so, because I was asked to. Using the most arcane and plodding system you can imagine, I found a post from two days after the incident involving the acquaintance. The route I used to find it resembled a map hand-drawn by a cocaine addict after nine days without sleep. The person posting knew the family by acquaintance. She had been given a minimal explanation, probably in hopes of dissuading further questions. It didn’t, of course. She passed along what she knew. The family of the deceased didn’t overlap much with the person sharing the information so the Control Headquarters For Family Information couldn’t stifle the sharing.

Before you launch into a weird ‘privacy’ argument, it’s important that you remember that the word you’re using doesn’t mean what you think it does. The same holds true for etiquette, manners, or decorum. In the same way that the first question following death is, “What did he or she die from?” attempting to conceal details is only going to make it look like you’ve got something to hide or that an element of shame is involved. Again, yes, of course, it is your right to say nothing. Saying nothing, though, brings consequences too.

It’s true that it is considered bad manners to ask about someone’s death if you are not directly connected. Our brains, though, continue to seek an answer even when etiquette tells us to shut up.

Equally important for you to understand is that I earned this viewpoint in the most horrific manner possible. It’s one of the reasons I’m so hardcore about it. It’s not that people have a right to know your business. I’m not making that argument. People will know your business, though, even if you miss the whispers and back channel communications. I am, however, shouting at you that trying to keep anything quiet is the equivalent of having a picnic and bbq in the trunk of your car during rush hour.

I didn’t come by my opinion lightly.

Got a DWI? Yes, everyone’s talking about it.

Sick? People will feel immense sympathy and many will reach out to help. But they still want to know.

Talk? Yes, of course. Every single time. About everything and anything.

When our social groups were smaller, concealment of the particulars was impossible. In our larger world, one fueled by communication, people still feel that need to know.

You don’t have to like it or embrace it.

Ignore it, though? At your peril.

If I die unexpectedly and the people around me are being coy about it, you can be sure that I died horrifically, as if I suddenly started liking Donald Trump or became a fan of milk as a beverage, watching sports, or testing high voltage wires with my tongue.

You are welcome to make up any story you want to.

Because you’re going to anyway.

And you should – if the people left behind when I sprint off into the unknown won’t tell you what stupid thing I did to hasten my demise.
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The Secrecy Ricochet Certainty
Divulging private information immediately invariably lessens the quantity and intensity of the inquiries which otherwise result in an avalanche.

The Vagueposting Admonition

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If you vaguepost on social media, it’s important that you understand that doing so gives me the right to creatively fill-in-the-blank to anyone, anywhere, about what you’re actually talking about. I’ll be the Rudy Giuliani for your personal news.

Most of us squint our eyes when we see a vaguepost. “What in the heck is he or she talking about?” Of course, our guesses immediately turn darkly comedic, ranging from ‘arrested in Thailand‘ to ‘hid the body in the swamp in Monroe County.’ It’s your fault. Despite all the food and vacation photos, we often assume that you’re just one mojito away from becoming a prison pen pal.

I’ll preface my news by saying, “I heard,” as in “I heard from the voices in my head.” You should never willingly provide an opportunity for someone like me to provide an explanation that you won’t share yourself. I will gladly be the Gossip Girl. With Tourettes.

Social media works best when you use it to communicate to eliminate doubt. On the other hand, it works really well when your intent is to say something highly crazy, such as “Sports are really important,” or “Here’s my opinion on politics, religion, and the best type of beer to drink.”

If you choose to do otherwise, don’t be surprised when everyone who knows you say they heard that you burned down your house while trying a new meth recipe.

If you’re not going to use social media to concisely inform us about important and actual goings-on in your life, I request that you vaguepost about every other topic in life, too. Let’s keep it consistent, unlike the mashed potatoes you make for Thanksgiving.

I’ll your ignore this admonition, I’ll use a random list of buzzwords to fill in the blanks you’ve left: pregnant (regardless of sex), arrested, hoof-and-mouth disease, and LSD-induced, all to keep your friends, family, and school classmates from 30 years ago entertained. And that guy Steve, the one who lurks and accidentally hits like on your 2008 beach photos.

While it is your account and you can post literally any nonsense that you want to, as I obviously do myself, you’re only making your situation worse.

You’re welcome. X

P.S. I’m sorry I told your mom that you hit the preacher over the head with a guitar.
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Even If You Leave, You’re Not Going Anywhere

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I know it’s fashionable to say, “I’m leaving Facebook,” especially for the seemingly never-ending data scandals.

But for those who don’t know, Facebook (and most other media companies) can and will follow you across your life, even if you’ve never had a social media account of any kind. I’ve written so much about the unicorn of privacy that I find it impossible to believe that someone thinks they have privacy if they are using electronic devices of any kind.

If you close your social media accounts, it will have almost no effect on the quantity and quality of information collected about you. Your behavior and history are unflinching indicators of everything about your life. Even non-electronic information is being used, so unless you opt for a life in a shadowy cave, there’s no escape from being included in the heap of other consumers.

Yes, you might be leaving Facebook, but it’s not leaving you. And neither are any of the other companies watching you. (FB and Google directly control about 70% of the entire digital ad market.) Whoever you use for your internet is allowed to sell your history.

You might as well set fire to your own underpants.

We’ll film it and upload your fire dance to social media for you, though.

Amazon will show you an ad for burn cream or new underwear to let you know they’re interested in your well-being and business.

Move Over Russia, Here I Come

I went through the process to be vetted to run political ads and content on Facebook’s platform. (Which, as you may or may not know, isn’t limited to the site itself.

Because of the fallout from the 2016 debacle otherwise known as the election, Facebook instituted some exacting rules to ensure that people and organizations are whom they claim to be – and live where they claim to. The rules don’t affect what you post on your private pages; rather, they affect what you post on pages you control and advertising platforms you access. Facebook reaches a couple of billion people. In some respects, it is the biggest communication platform in our shared human history.

Regardless of what content is on Facebook’s platform, it is our responsibility, not theirs, to use our brains in the way they were designed. We don’t adopt attitudes or prejudices at gunpoint; we are the guilty party in almost every case in which advertising is claimed to have been misused. It’s too glib to blame Russia or Facebook for undue influence. We own our collective stupidity.

The 2016 election proved that voting sometimes has less power when compared the reach of a determined voice, even if the voice is shouting disinformation. You can get your opinion and voice heard more effectively than by voting or arguing in a closed system. Even though we know that shouting doesn’t work to change minds, only cement them, we still do it, instead of using appeals to humor, persuasion, and targeted communication.

The most persuasive voice is another human presence, one of open mind and ear. The only sermon or speech which spreads your message is one of example. As we learned from the last election, the next best thing is a communication platform which allows anyone to reach a staggering number of people. The effect is amplified when people are engaging with passion at the expense of their intelligence.

You’ve read my words and creations in other places, many times without realizing that they were mine. You shouldn’t assume that they were the ideas, words, or images you would expect from me, either. None of us is the imagined version in the minds of others.

In an open society, that’s perhaps the best way. The best idea should be given consideration, even if it is disruptive to the beliefs and certainties we all cling to. Buried in the illusion of tribal affiliations of today, we automatically flinch and recoil away from the opportunity to hear new information. Our motto should always be: “I change my mind with new information.” This tendency is necessary for learning and growing. The greater our tendency to fight against flexibility, the more likely we’ll experience a breakage. 7 billion people in the world demand that we stop seeing ourselves as the torchbearer for truth.

I rarely share anything from another source on social media. It’s almost exclusively mine, even if it only my opinion, full of error and disinterest. Much of the problem with social media is that it is too tempting and too easy to use others to give voice to our presence. Much of the time, the voice we choose is whispering – or shouting – information which is slanted, incorrect, or completely false.

This is part of the reason why it is amusing to think that I now can anonymously sway your opinion across the entire platform of social media. The last election demonstrated the power and reach of interactive content. Why hack the vote when we can convince large groups of people that up is down or that everyone falls into neat categories of political and religious ideology? Obviously, most of us don’t recognize that we are being swayed or led astray – that’s precisely why it is such a powerful tool. All of us feel immune to it. Reality proves otherwise.

All of us, every day, see information on social media that we know isn’t true. We think, “What an idiot!” We rarely stop to consider that the idiot in our scenario is often us in the other idiot’s mind.

P.S. Facebook has trusted me to access your eyes, ears, and minds. Good luck to you all. It’s my turn to be the idiot. You’ll find me all over the internet, thanks to the largest communication project ever created. You’re welcome.

DNA and the Golden State Killer

In regards to the Golden State Killer being identified by using genealogy indexing, this is an area where I have experience. I’ve written so much about privacy over the years that I forget that people have an unusual and mistaken perception of their own privacy. DNA is the universal math of identification. Like our fingerprints, we leave it everywhere we go and transmit it through our intimate family web. To believe that we will one day not have a database of every living person’s DNA is to ignore the pull and push of history. The same arguments against DNA indexing are the same as those once used to push back against fingerprinting.
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In those cases where I have tracked down missing fathers and absent family members, DNA would have immediately unlocked those doors.
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I don’t ‘worry’ about my genetic profile being misused because I understand that it is already something out of my control, much like my identity and credit history. Before you accuse me of it, I will agree that I’m decently ignorant about some of the ramifications.
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DNA unlocks the lies and misconceptions we have about our own family trees and the mechanics of our biology. Genealogy was already sufficiently fascinating for me prior to the DNA component; now, it is ethereal and scientific magic, opening doors and both answering and asking questions about what we think we know.
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For years, I’ve predicted the scenario such as the Golden State Killer breakthrough.
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For anyone related to me, you can relax. They already have our entire genetic code. Like with most puzzles, a relatively small sample size of the populace is enough to identify everyone. Even if you don’t ‘choose’ to share your DNA profile, statistically it is almost a meaningless decision on your part. It’s difficult to be able to piece together the math and science of this truth and even more frustrating to find a way to like it if you find yourself in disagreement.
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The services I used don’t sell or transmit my genetic profile without my consent, which is more than I can say for other companies I’ve dealt with. Most people are unaware just how often they might consent to DNA indexing or sharing, especially when dealing with clinics, hospitals, or insurance companies.
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When the Facebook hyperbole surfaced, I cringed at people’s over-reactions. Google, for instance, maintains massively larger databases about all of us, yet receives much less press for it. During the data breach at Equifax, most people simply didn’t understand what had happened. It certainly didn’t stop Congress from rewarding Equifax with an exclusive contract with the federal government.
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Your DNA, like your fingerprints and credit history, is already ‘out there,’ beyond your control.
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I have several concerns, of course, but know that my personal opinion won’t divert the trends already beyond my reach. Right now, I am grinning a satisfied grin, knowing that what I predicted for years finally happened.