Strategies for Dealing with Privacy as a Lost Cause

New Orleans     As Facebook slips off its pedestal of pretense and posturing about its contribution to the common good that has disguised its brutal capitalist commitments and real priorities, it’s worth wondering if claims to protect consumers’ privacy are just more empty promises.  Personal privacy may be just a lost cause and a battle engaged too late.  Many of us use Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Amazon and the rest for work, so we’re simply stuck in the muck of social media:  we can’t get out, so we’re hoping it doesn’t pull us under.

There may be some strategies though.

We could ask the European Union to regulate these companies.  They seem better at it.  In the United States, there’s too much “oh, gee!” and too little “oh my god” from politicians and potential regulators.  Asking the EU to do the job would be cheaper.  We could just enter a “me, too” agreement.  What’s good for them, would be great for us.

One of the priceless ironies is the intramural dispute between Facebook’s Zuckerberg and Apple’s Tim Cook over regulation.  Cook is saying it may be needed now even while he hedges with language about “careful crafting,” which is usually a euphemism for allowing lobbyists to write the regs.  But, look, Apple has to be the most consumer indifferent company in Silicon Valley.  Inexplicably, passwords won’t work.  They control obsolescence by weakening I-Phone batteries.  They jack their prices to try to make their products luxury items around the world.  They believe in privacy so much that they block you from their products after you buy them!

If we can’t go Euro, some people have embraced alter egos and misinformation.  There was an article where Facebook was complaining that saying you were 113 years old for example messed with their algorithms.  Their whine seems to be a mandate to try this strategy.  Monkey-wrenching their algorithms sounds like a way to go to the heart of the beast and get their attention for real!

Multiple identities are anther prospect many have used.  Some are fabricated.  Others use middle names, nicknames, maiden names, nom de guerres, or whatever in order to participate, but to create their own bubble around their privacy.  Facebook claims you can’t have two accounts, but, hey, people are doing it everywhere, so don’t tell me with 2 billion users or the recent headlines that they are on top of their business, ok?

Or, another way you can protect yourself on Facebook, which many young people are doing, is simply never join.  Of course, when they go Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, they defeat the purpose, but the Facebook growth engine is not being fueled by young people in the West, but by new users around the world.

Some of these strategies might work, but believing we still have privacy in the modern world of the internet and social media, come on, really?  If you do, please contact me, there’s a bridge in Brooklyn that I think would be a perfect purchase for you.  Message me on the FB!

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The New HUD Seems OK with Racial Discrimination

Facebook settings on exclusions when ad posting

Little Rock       It has become a modern foundation of public policy, following Rahm Emanuel, now the Mayor of Chicago, and earlier when the comment was attributed to him when he was chief of staff for President Obama, to “…never let a serious crisis go to waste.”  Like Katrina a dozen years ago, many governmental policy makers saw the $28 billion in community development recovery funds going to Houston, the Gulf Coast, and Puerto Rico in the wake of hurricanes Harvey, Maria, and Irma as just such an opportunity.   They might have been right except for the devastation being wrecked on the Housing & Urban Development department by Hurricane Ben Carson, its turn-back-the-hands-of-time Trump secretary.

Carson claims he’s not going soft on the mission of HUD to assure fair and equal housing and therefore to combat racism in public policies.  This claim is despite the fact of all evidence to the contrary.  He has removed the words “inclusive” and “free from discrimination” from HUD’s mission statement according to a report in The New York Times.  He has put a hold on various fair housing investigations he inherited from the Obama administration.  He canceled a settlement conference with Facebook over fair housing violations in their ad targeting that have led fair housing organizations from around the country to join in filing suit against the department and Facebook in federal court in Manhattan recently.  He has gone soft on big developers over disability access.  He tried to reverse an Obama pilot, years in the making, that would allow section 8 vouchers to be used in more affluent neighborhoods.

Most disturbingly is the way HUD and local officials have handled a housing development in Houston, long recognized despite its gung-ho growth and prosperity in recent years as one of the most segregated cities in the country.   Before the Obama administration turned over the keys to the HUD building, they had slapped back hard at Mayor Sylvester Turner’s attempt to nix a 233-unit mixed income, racially diverse project called Fountain View in the upscale, largely white area around the Galleria.  Under Carson’s regime, a watered-down settlement was approved that bypassed HUD’s own lawyers and negotiated directly with Turner, despite his opposition to the project.  A proposed $14 million penalty that the developers would have had to pay to the Houston Housing Authority if the Fountain View project was scuttled also disappeared from the negotiations.

Not surprisingly, since HUD under Carson no longer has much interest in enforcing fair housing, national and local groups have now sued the city and HUD to block $5 billion in funds that are desperately needed for rebuilding neighborhoods until this issue is resolved.  This is a classic devil-and-the-deep-blue-sea situation.  For the sake of rebuilding Houston, are we supposed to join HUD and say racial discrimination is now hunky-dory?  We know that any delays in recovery funds can be fatal to neighborhoods.  On the other hand, allowing continued racial segregation, HUD-sanctioned or not, in Houston or any other city will eventually kill the city’s very heart and soul.

The choice seems clear.  Even if Carson and HUD are now OK with racial discrimination in housing and elsewhere, we must oppose it at every opportunity, no matter the pain.

Housing ad on Facebook with exclusions

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