Category Archives: Privacy

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.