A lot has happened technology-wise this year... Boston Dynamics has made leaps and bounds in the past 2 years with their Robotic Dogs [see below]
Whenever I see updates on these robotic dogs, In the back of my mind comically-so, I fear the point when they get machine guns mounted on them and when they become "Robo Cops"...
Announcements like this inspire companies to push the boundaries of what technology can do, but they also pave the way for the society prophesied by Orwell, where technology can be used against people. The things companies do with technology these days are a little scary, especially when coupled with the massive amounts of personal data that FaceBook and many other companies have compiled on us over the past 14 years.
A self Driving Uber car also recently killed a pedestrian in Arizona as a precedent that will create a very contentious debate in the courts about individual's rights against large companies - SOURCE: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-auto ... SKBN1GV296 . How can an individual sue a huge corporation without excessive funding? Laws are being created to erode personal rights against companies that have huge financial and political influence as a result of lobbying... What actions are being taken by government to protect us against those who wish to undermine our rights to privacy? We pay tax dollars for equal protection under the law, but what kind of personal protections do we have IN ADVANCE of companies breaching our trust or rights?
- These questions are being asked more and more every day when we realize that a lot of America's largest companies don't feel any responsibility to their audiences.
We're reaching a fork in the road where we, the people haven't reminded companies enough that they need to be held to an ethical standard of behavior, and if we don't continually do so, our lives are going to get worse than we ever imagined... Company leaders come under scrutiny frequently for breach of trust, as they're often some of the most responsible parties for wrong doing within their organizations, and they also make the most profit from bad corporate behavior. Companies have also more recently proven that they can hold more in assets than most governments, and operate outside of normal legal and geographical boundaries, and that creates a situation where they can more easily operate above the law... until those of us in the public find out and publicly protest this foul company behavior. It seems like the we the people (tax paying citizens) are more and more the only ones that find out about breaches of trust by big business before the government agencies that are tasked with that responsibility. Just recently, it was US citizens that noticed that FaceBook was tracking phone calls made on devices that ran their mobile application, and they found out about the issue long before the Consumer Protection Bureau of the US, before Congress, and Before UK Parliament did, which worries me greatly. Imagine if police in your community just sat back in an office and waited to hear a phone call before taking action to stop crime... This is probably likely why companies don't see much value in ethical behavior, because government entities don't pay attention to and understand technology enough to monitor ethical behavior within the industry.
Just over 2 billion people of this planet's 7 billion use Facebook, SOURCE: https://zephoria.com/top-15-valuable-fa ... tatistics/ . There is a much larger user base when you consider all of the people that aren't on FaceBook, but are tagged in photos and videos that subscribers post online. There is a huge catalog of names and faces that anyone with access can quickly use to locate people, and find information on their personal ideology, home address, family members, appearance, relationship history, tattoos, health incidents, etc... Just posting that innocent picture of when you broke your leg skiing in Aspen can inform everyone about your weaknesses... Which is obviously not what anyone intended. This information persists potentially forever as storage space becomes cheaper, and in just 10 years, this information may be available to people or companies that will use it against you when you apply for a job, or when you apply for health care, or when you apply for a home loan.
The number of users on FaceBook is staggering, and one can't imagine the shear volumes of storage required to store all that data, mostly images and text that FaceBook users have generated since FaceBook's inception in 2004. SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facebook
Google attempted to unseat FaceBook a few years ago yet failed to convince the world to adopt it's platforms, so they simply integrated user accounts into their wildly popular Chrome Browser, so the ideal that they're logging everything you do is much more subtle. These days companies can get whatever information they want from their customer bases as long as they require a user account to be registered as a part of the purchase process... It's the same reason why you can't get a good mobile phone without tying it to your personal email account.
The main point for those who don't get what I'm writing about, is that all of these online services are casually set up to pose as innocent companies that offer us new ways to communicate, share, and connect, but slowly, they turn into machines that create profiles about us in ways we don't know that can be sold and traded to anyone with the right amount of money. It's easy to think that the pictures and text you've shared don't really expose you, but in truth, these sites really work hard to casually gain your private information behind the scenes, and almost everyone falls for it at some point. These days, whenever you share anything, it's tied by devices to your real name, and associated in a record that trails you forever, as a beacon that identifies you, no matter whether it's true or not.
Cambridge Analytica, the company based out of the UK that is in headline news right now, created a simple online survey as a FaceBook app, which wasn't particularly popular, but Due to FaceBook itself having logged tons of user data over years prior to launch of the survey, app makers that launched tools on FaceBook's platform had access to private and sensitive data that users had on their profiles. Now I'm not going to debate whether or not this information was willingly surrendered or not, but what gets me about the situation is WHY a company like FaceBook would be warehousing complex information on people to begin with? It has been found that FaceBook has been logging calls and other interactions on Android phones, which have absolutely nothing to do with functionality on their site. We need to ask why they feel the need to gather this data to begin with, as it doesn't contribute well to the services they provide.
As a web developer myself, anonymous statistics about how visitors reach this site are extremely helpful in targeting my writing and promotion of this site, but we don't track users based on specific accounts attached to their real names, but FaceBook does. The US Government is bound by law to not compromise or sell information on private citizens because it's a not-for-profit organization. A private company like FaceBook that catalogs information on private citizens world-wide creates a huge loophole on surveillance and can be far more damaging to individuals than even government, because they are not bound to the same accountability for being corrupt, and they have no responsibility to report on their operations publicly like the US government does.
I remember the first time CVS (A large pharmacy chain in the US) brought up the idea of using a bonus card for purchases, and back in 2001, it worried me about how they could log all of my purchases through out my life, and how that information could later be used against me to deny me health care, or even used to blackmail me if the information about my purchases was hacked. Now today, data compromises are all too common, including institutions we've relied on for our entire lives like the Social Security Administration with the recent Equifax breaches. Many of the breaches go unreported due to the financial and political influence private companies have on major markets.
At this point in time, FaceBook shares have fallen over 100 Billion dollars in value due to the allegations levied against them. The cost for ignoring ethical principles in operating a business is always high, but they often profit far beyond the penalties when they plan unethical behavior in advance. We need to remind companies constantly of our rights to privacy and protection under the law, we also need to refrain from volunteering our private information to those who can't be trusted with it. We can't simply forget this incident of breach of trust, and let things go back to normal, we also have to look into all of the businesses that have the potential to do the exact same thing, and let them know that (even with consumer consent) this behavior is unacceptable.
So now that we know web sites log all of our moves and associations on the Internet, what do we do with that info?
My personal solution is often to not use apps I don't trust, and if so, to use a fake name, fake email, and fake phone number if it's not something my life depends on. Private companies cannot by law require you to use your personally identifiable information on sites that aren't related to official services. Government should write laws to make sure that companies don't harvest any information outside of the direct purpose of their applications, and that they aren't allowed to distribute that information without user consent, no matter if they run a free service or not. Social media sites do not currently fall under the spectrum of requiring your real name, the minute they officially require me to use my real name is the minute I opt out altogether.... I highly recommend that we fight to retain our rights to anonymity on sites, because the minute we need to use our social security number and real name to listen to music online, is the day I'll give up on listening to music on anything but my old vinyl records, which never cared what my age and date of birth are.
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