Intent to Intimidate – Why the World is Watching

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By writing this blog, I could be self-attaching a target on my back. Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press are under siege in America. Make no mistake. It is “fake news” if you believe otherwise. Paranoia, or déjà vu? Felt it during the Nixon regime. War of words with the press. And how much of a leap would Nixon’s old school “Enemies List” be from the Department of Homeland Security high-tech bid for a “Media Monitoring Services” to compile a database of hundreds of thousands of journalists, bloggers and “media influencers” for the federal government?

According to an article in Bloomberg Law, DHS is “seeking a contractor that can help it monitor traditional news sources as well as social media and identify ‘any and all’ coverage related to the agency or a particular event…” Very open-ended “or a particular event,” wouldn’t you say?

Yes. A Department of Homeland Security spokesman has since commented “this is nothing more than the standard practice of monitoring current events in the media” — but for what purpose?

If it is just a listing, what is the significance of requiring “contact details and any other information that could be relevant, including publications this influencer writes for, and an overview of the previous coverage published by the media influencer.” There it is again, “overview of the previous coverage,” another open-ended category.

And chillingly, there is no restriction that the database of hundreds of thousands of journalists, bloggers and “media influencers” must be Americans only.

Watchdog organization Freedom House said in its Press Freedom Report – 2017 that global media freedom had dropped to its lowest level in 13 years.

Every day, journalists face serious consequences including physical violence, imprisonment and death. A few days ago, the Committee to Protect Journalists launched its annual Free The Press campaign to raise awareness about imprisoned journalists throughout the world. On May 3, UNESCO will once again mark World Press Freedom Day “to inform citizens of violations of press freedom — a reminder that in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down, while journalists, editors and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered.”  —Forbes.com

Intent to intimidate.

One more consideration, if Facebook, with its well-paid top tech geniuses, could not protect all the data they collected on users, how can we be confident that this mass database of info being authorized by the government to the lowest bidder, would be any more secure?

Let’s say this low bid “Media Monitoring Services,” agency exists. And for sake of argument, we call it, oh say… Big Brother. And, it scoops up this blog. And, you consider a response to my comments.

You could write in your blog or FB post or tweet, “Anthony, you are one strap short on a straitjacket.” Or you could write, “Anthony, there is merit in your postulation.” Either way, Big Brother would note not only that you commented, but also the intention of your comment.

What if you say nothing, because it is safer?

Intention to Intimidate.

You just gave up your Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press rights because you were afraid to express yourself as an American. Some might hear echoes of Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia. They laughed as well. Until it was too late.

{Call to Action: Contact your elected representatives in the House & Senate. Tell them you find this DHS action anti-American. Or, tell them you see nothing wrong. What??? That is how Freedom of Speech works. Everybody gets a say.}

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Which Is Worse: Facebook’s Poor Stewardship of Our Data or Its Lack of Transparency?

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For me, the cynically dark phrase “too big to fail” comes to mind in describing Facebook management’s precarious position in light of the current Cambridge Analytica News. “It’s not a data breach.” You say tomato and I say BS. Compound this situation with the targeted disinformation campaign lodged by Russian hackers to manipulate Facebook groups into organizing divisive political protests. Something bad happened during Facebook’s stewardship of our info, that we willingly gave them permission to collect.

Facebook was too big and powerful and too well run to make mistakes.

Just look at the bullet points of this CNBC article:

  •  Facebook’s reaction to a year of scandal has vacillated between defensive cluelessness and aloof silence.
  • Users are getting the message that information they post on Facebook can be used in ways they did not intend, and usage is starting to decline.
  • Meanwhile, executives are selling shares like crazy, including a plan by Mark Zuckerberg to sell almost $13 billion worth of shares by mid-2019.

Don’t just read the article, watch the video clip as well.

These areas should give readers and advertisers cause for concern. If you can’t trust Facebook’s word that your personal info is safe. If you can’t trust Facebook to own up/remedy quickly any breaches.  How can you trust anything FB tells you about reach and engagement data?

Ian MalcolmI “became an adult” during the Cold War. “Trust no one” and all that. In fact, I never had a FB page until I needed it to join Facebook groups. But, I never trusted this whole data mining / re-selling is good for business. (See Dr Ian Malcolm quote).

Anything and everything during the Cold War that could be turned into a weapon would be. It’s a lesson forgotten that painfully needs to be retaught. Data may be coin of the realm. But it is also power. And power corrupts in the wrong hands. As we are seeing in the headlines.

So, what happens now? Life goes on, but there is a price to be paid.

Which Is Worse: Facebook’s Poor Stewardship of our Data or Its Lack of Transparency? You decide.

I am advising my clients to scale down on FB and use an alternate means of engaging with readers & customers.

Technology Giveth & Taketh Away

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Delete ButtonGmail’s “undo send” button just got electronic sand kicked in its face with the arrival of Dmail— this is a new Google Chrome plugin, which puts real power in the hands of the sender with complete control over how long the recipient can view the email.

Ananya Bhattacharya writing in 7/24/15 edition of CNNMoney explains that the “undo send button only works for up to 30 seconds. Dmail gives you as much time as you like. You can preset timing such as ‘in 1 hour’ or ‘in 1 week’ and the message will self-destruct accordingly.”

As Sarah Perez writes in TechCrunch (7/23/15 edition) “What’s clever about Dmail is that, unlike some other secure messaging products, recipients don’t have to use the service themselves in order for it to work. When a user sends a Dmail, the body of that email is encrypted locally on the user’s machine.”

This means you could also code it “never,” leaving yourself the option to revoke it at some future point, be it one day or one year later.

Point is, your small business emails may out of necessity contain confidential info and proprietary designs as you struggle to make friends, gain trust and forge relationships during the critical first three years of operations. With email hacking on the rise, wouldn’t you like to know that your info now won’t just be sitting in some office computer waiting to be ripped off?

For procedural and technical specifics about Dmail, click the links to the above two referenced articles.

(Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)