We’ve been highlighting the actions of our government to renew, fix or eliminate Section 702 of the FISA act. Sadly, our US Congress isn’t taking reform too seriously. Protections for US citizens don’t seem in the forefront of their efforts. Mass surveillance works two different ways. So called upstream surveillance collects information as it travels over the internet backbone. Downstream surveillance collects information from companies like Google, Facebook and Yahoo. The very international nature of the internet might actually gain us more protection. Foreign countries are starting to use their court system to question the companies involved in the downstream collection of information. Court rulings are challenging those companies actions insofar as it infringes on their citizens protections. If this keeps up, those companies very existence will depend on our US Congress changing protection laws for us.(0 comment)

We talk regularly about the alternatives to the more popular social media sites. We understand the challenges to change. It’s hard, your friends aren’t there and you have to learn something new. Nonetheless, we will continue to share the alternatives, if for no other reason than to show that there are choices. For those who complain about censorship and discrimination, it is possible to vote with your wallet.(4 comments)

Last week, the “crisis” stories were all about how we were all vulnerable to this new threat to our internet life – the Krack vulnerability. We were all told to be scared of this vulnerability and that everyone who used anything wireless was going to be attacked. Well, it sounded more “exciting” than “threatening” to me, so it was time to turn information into knowledge. Here’s the real story, and a short tip: most of us have nothing … (0 comment)

Google’s larger mission to make the world’s information “universally accessible and useful. “I want to use the best technology we have at our disposal to begin to take on trolling and other nefarious tactics that give hostile voices disproportionate weight,” says Jigsaw founder and president Jared Cohen. “To do everything we can to level the playing field.” Google’s effort, Jigsaw is the new name for what used to be called Google Ideas. At first glance, their mission seems all sweet and wonderful. They want to stop the “bad” things in social media. An enlightened censorship for the common good. It’s scary when the elites come up with a plan to censor speech that they and they alone determine is “harmful”. Let’s remember for a second that they are a for-profit corporation. They don’t do things to be nice. They obviously are creating a product that is for sale, and for sale to the highest bidder. Even if trolling and other harassment on the internet is harmful, does the prior censorship of it make our country better? Does eliminating this harmful internet speech eliminate the real harmful thoughts? Encouraging discourse of any type is almost always better. As an aside, this kind of smells of some sort of “new world order” operation. Meddling in foreign affairs by a corporate entity won’t come out well in the end and is against every National and International law that exists. But I guess it’s ok if you are well-intentioned.

I’ve shared these thoughts with friends and on this blog for a long time. Stop thinking that Facebook, Google, Twitter and all of the other social media outlets are somehow some sort of good guys who exist only for the furthering of an educated and intelligent populous. They are a business. A business that wants to make a lot of money for it’s stockholders. Whatever they do or don’t do is designed to maximize profits. It’s kind of like CNN that everyone seems to hate. Well, everyone except the viewers that they have and the advertisers that want to influence the buying decisions of their viewers. We need to drop the notion that they are something special who somehow ascribe to some sort of code of ethics that makes them do socially responsible things. People are quick to organize to hold other corporations ethically responsible. It’s time to recognize the social media for what it is.

Online censorship is a contentious subject for most people. Many very mistakenly make the argument that it’s an attack on the 1st Amendment. The 1st Amendment of course is a restriction on the Government, not on businesses. Businesses can and do censor speech and actions every day and should have every right to do so. It’s their business and their corporate reputation. Obviously this censorship only applies to the workplace and folks who publicly identify with the corporation. A UPS driver can’t wear a Trump Hat or a Bernie sticker on their uniform or truck for example. A company can censor you from sending emails from a corporate account to a planned parenthood fundraiser. Most folks are ok with this. Amazingly, when it comes to social media, people have very different ideas regarding your “right” to post something. Makes no sense to me. You get to use a company’s product for free but then complain if you don’t get to post something that the company has decided doesn’t fit their corporate model or what they perceive to be their corporate reputation. For the social media companies, they are in the middle of a big dilemma. On the one hand, they built their companies on the notion of being a totally wide open opportunity for people to communicate and share ideas. Then they run into stock holders that want to pursue a social agenda. Then they have the “socially responsible” folks who want them to censor things that they find offensive (on both sides of the political spectrum). Then governments want them to censor things that governments find “dangerous”. In an attempt to accomplish all of this, many have come up with a computer program that identifies “key phrases” of sorts that might fit all of these categories. It would impossible to review every post manually. Facebook alone sees over 300 MILLION pictures a day being posted. The computer solution is a good alternative. Of course sometimes the computer is wrong. We all get excited and angry when something we like gets booted by the computer. The “boot” gets lots of attention. What gets little attention is when the computer ruling is overturned and the post being put up again. These companies have a very good system of allowing for appeals and posts get put back up regularly. This site has lots of examples and shows how to appeal.

As a general rule in America, if you have a blog/website that allows people to comment or otherwise post something, you can’t be sued for what they post. Makes sense in a way. If someone who owns a copywrited picture contacts you and proves that someone posted a copywrited picture on your site, you are supposed to take it down. Everyone is happy. Well, the courts have just added a new dimension to this. If you are irresponsible and let anyone post anything without you moderating it, you are still in the clear. If you try to be responsible and moderate posts, the courts decided that you can be sued. I’m completely in support of copy write law. People ought to be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor. It would be difficult to enforce a copy write if you had to search every web site everyday to search for copy write violations. With that said, what is the harm of an innocent post, particularly where the standard is that once you are notified, you take it down? We own a small business and understand the law regarding copy writes. One of the standards of enforcement is that you have to mark your product in some way to inform people that your item is protected by a registered copy write. If there is no making on a picture being used on your blog, it seems to me that the owner of the picture has no expectation that his picture won’t be used on someone’s blog. This ruling seems like an attempt to hamper the free exchange of ideas on the web.

Phishing. Phishing is the attempt to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and sometimes, indirectly, money), often for malicious reasons, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. We’ve all heard about it and sadly some of us fall for it every day. Well, there is a new way in which phishing is being used. For the most part phishing works in a random way. They send out a lot of posts and hope someone responds. Now they are targeting specific people and specific groups in an attempt to damage them. In a somewhat humorous gesture, the computer geeks call this new method spearphishing and they are targeting internet freedom groups. The phishermen are incredibly persistent and clever, changing tactics and being creative in their tactics. Clickbait is one of the more popular phishing methods and the headlines are tailored to what they believe you might be interested in. Political headlines that will please the left or the right are popular. If they think you hate Trump, you might see something like, “Porn star Jessica Drake claims Donald Trump offered her $10G, use of his private jet for sex,” If you love sensationalism, you might get, “Reality show mom wants to hire a hooker for her autistic son.” So far, it’s not that difficult to prevent. The lesson here is that hackers are using their techniques to target specific groups and ideas. Learn and use readily available security measures as spelled out in this article.