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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Facebook Could be a Powerful Organizing Recruitment Tool, If We Could Afford

New Orleans   There was an intriguing and in some ways unsettling piece in the New York Times recently about the growing power of Facebook and friends called “The Ads That Know Everything” by Burt Helm. The title of the piece in the online version lowered the “fright” index by calling it “How Facebook’s Oracular Algorithm Determines the Fate of Start-Ups.” No matter how they cleaned it up, trust me, it’s both compelling and scary.

True enough, the story was centered around a couple of buddies who ended up taking a deep dive into Facebook to create a multi-million dollar business. The heart of the piece was about the power of the Facebook algorithm matched to the vast billions of people on its platform and its ability to match smaller and smaller subsets of like-minded people or characteristics to sell stuff. Much the same could be said for Google’s work, but a social network is a social network, and one that sells stuff between friends and followers is crack to businesses.

No news there, right? But, as the Russians, hate groups, the women’s march, and #MeToo have all shown, it is also a way to combine people in affinity groups, and as sales are to businesses, recruitment of new members or activists is to mobilizations and organizations. By the time I read the piece my partner, a veteran community organizer, had pockmarked the article with scores of underlined passages and notes.

No news there either, right? Many leads in opening new countries for ACORN International have begun when I’ve received a random Facebook message over the transom of my own page. Our British affiliate has excelled in using Facebook’s public and private groups to recruit new members, especially in the Bristol area where they immediately visit, and usually sign up, any new “likes” their site.

The interesting takeaway from the Times article was how quickly one could scale the organizing if an organization had the resources to do similar experiments with the recruitment pitches and was all over it like “white on rice.” In fact, I’m sure there are large nonprofits, especially among the deeper pocketed groups like Planned Parenthood or some of the enviros that have digital organizers who use similar strategies to recruit donors or perhaps members as well. If there were unions willing to recruit general membership in the United States like there are in some cases in the United Kingdom, they could still probably finance the ad buys and constant feeding capacity to identify and recruit new members. Political campaigns like those run by Sanders, Trump, and Clinton probably were all over this technology. I don’t know for a fact that any of them are doing so, but they certainly have the opportunity following the same trail-and-error methodology to build a mass base of support.

There’s a huge opportunity here to build a mass organization if one coupled social networking recruitment with a real program and direct action involvement to build power. It was hard to escape the conclusion as I read the article that it could be done, and even done globally, but it would take real vision and patience combined with very deep pockets ready to feed Facebook and its friends.

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Please enjoy Khruangbin’s Maria Tambien.

& All That We Are by Haneen.

Thanks to KABF.

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