Archive for February, 2012

I Shared What (the blog)

February 25th, 2012
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The blog at I Shared What?!? has ceased updating (for now) but the posts are still around. Since I authored many of the posts there, I’ve copied those posts to this blog for reference. Other posts were written or co-written by Joe Andrieu (the man behind I Shared What?!? and Show Me First–an app for displaying the information you’d share if you used Facebook’s tools to log into a third-party site), and can be found on Joe’s blog. A list of posts with local links follows. Read more…

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The Facebook Empire

February 25th, 2012
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This article was originally posted at the I Shared What?!? blog on 9 March 2011.

Noting Facebook’s continued and expanded efforts to “drive external content in, own that content per its user guidelines, and continue exploiting users’ data,” Geoff Livingston has taken a stand: The Facebook Empire Ends Here. In a move that could be characterized as being “user driven,” Livingston says to his readers and commenters: Read more…

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A Data Use Policy

February 25th, 2012
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This article was originally posted at the I Shared What?!? blog on 28 February 2011.

Facebook’s “privacy policy,” criticized as being “5830 words of legalese,” is being re-imagined as a data use policy. True to form, privacy is a misnomer in describing the data use by Facebook. In an article called Facebook Proposes ‘Data Use’ Policy To Replace ‘Privacy Policy’, Thomas Claburn of Information Week notes that:

Complexity is not just a matter of words per page. It’s a matter of time to comprehension. And unfortunately, Facebook’s “Data Use Policy” remains irreducibly complex because Facebook and its platform developers employ user data in many different ways. The company admits that is has “tried not to change the substance of the policy…”

And therein lies Facebook’s problem: Neither its “Privacy Policy” nor its “Data Use Policy” includes an option for actual privacy, which is to say unidentified use.

The problem isn’t in the complexity of the policy as much as it’s in the variable and unpredicted uses that Facebook has over a user’s data. Claburn describes the tensions between using the site and applications found there, and personal information disclosure that’s required by Facebook. Since you are required to give accurate data about yourself, and your interactions on their site may paint new and interesting patterns about you, Facebook may think of new uses for your data. The bottom line, however: it’s still lipstick on a pig.

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Internet Driver’s License?!?

February 25th, 2012
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This article was originally posted at the I Shared What?!? blog on 7 January 2011.

Calling for an “Internet driver’s license” is a bit of a stretch, for now. Technology Review has an article, Facebook Wants to Supply Your Internet Driver’s License, that explores this possibility:

Facebook’s identity system might very well supply something that VeriSign, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google have all struggled to offer: a single “driver’s license” for the Internet. (This leaves aside the question of whether it’s a good thing for one company to hold such a position of power.)

Putting aside necessary notions of sharing best practices (which might cut down on the amount of successful phishing that goes on) or a licensing body (whose “rules” we would need to agree to abide by), the article is really talking about user authentication and authorization: access to all the sites that you have accounts on. We use an account name and password for each site, and tracking them has long been recognized as a problem–how do we keep it all straight? Facebook, Technology Review points out, is positioning themselves to be THE single sign-on (SSO) site. The article continues:

Unfortunately, Facebook still has two important vulnerabilities that makes its website significantly less secure than those of most U.S. banks: its reliance on a single user name and password to gain access to an account, and its use of an unencrypted cookie for tracking which web browsers are logged in.

At the risk of turning everything digital that I care about over to a company whose practices are inconsistent at best and arguably not in their individual user’s interests, I’ll wait until a “driver’s license” is required. Meanwhile, to control my digital assets I’ll keep looking at new tools as they become available.

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On Being Popular

February 25th, 2012
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This article was originally posted at the I Shared What?!? blog on 2 January 2011.

Facebook chartSo what if “Facebook youth are an angry, foul-mouthed, selfish bunch,” or that “we Facebook users–at least the U.S. English speakers, anyway–start the day in a good mood, but as the day goes on and the coffee wears off we become increasingly demoralized?” These observations were among several in NetworkWorld’s article Facebook Offers Tips On Being Popular. Is this really something we want to know?

Well, yes we do want to know these things. There is much to learn and gain from an information-rich society. There is more to learn when the information is offered voluntarily, and tremendous untapped value when such information is within our ongoing control. So it is acting as a double-edged sword that Facebook wants to help show us a thing or two. From their recently published study, Facebook notes:

People use status updates to share what’s on their minds, to tell others what they’re doing, and to gather feedback from friends. The different ways people use status updates form some interesting patterns. In this study, we looked at the usage of words in different “word categories” in status updates. This led us to discover some patterns in how people use status updates differently, and how their friends interact with different status updates.

Facebook shared their findings in a recent post entitled “What’s on your mind?” The data was based on the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC), text analysis software that–as NetworkWorld pointed out#&150;uses word categories such as “past tense verbs, prepositions, religion and positive feelings.”

The part about a tremendous untapped value? What if this information could be used for new product and service discovery? Yes, caffeine drink makers might have a customized audience in the afternoons, but what if we could see a widget that would help with a common task, or a product that needs to be created? Or what if we could learn the source of our anger and demoralization? How would that change our society?

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