Opinion | Google and Facebook Are Quietly Tracking You on Sex Websites – The New York Times

“Dr. Maris argues that this lack of disclosure is similar to the issue of sexual consent. “As in any sexual interaction, silence must not be mistaken for consent,” she said. “Individuals should have a clear understanding of the power dynamics of the sexual exchange they are entering when visiting porn sites.” Those power dynamics, according to Dr. Maris, are deeply unbalanced. “You have some of the world’s most powerful companies here,” she said, noting that there’s very little redress for the consumer should the data end up in the wrong hands.

Affirmative consent is at the heart of digital privacy. Nearly all tracking is by default and governed by impossible-to-read privacy policies. And in an era that privileges and prioritizes mass collection of personal information, that means gathering information that is not only invasive but also superfluous. The leaky user data of pornographic websites is merely an extreme example of what has become standard practice online.”

Opinion | How Capitalism Betrayed Privacy – The New York Times

Quote

Tim Wu

By Tim Wu

Mr. Wu is the author of “The Attention Merchants: The Epic Struggle to Get Inside Our Heads.”

CreditCreditErik Carter

For much of human history, what we now call “privacy” was better known as being rich. Privacy, like wealth, was something that most people had little or none of. Farmers, slaves and serfs resided in simple dwellings, usually with other people, sometimes even sharing space with animals. They had no expectation that a meaningful part of their lives would be unwatchable or otherwise off limits to others. That would have required homes with private rooms. And only rich people had those.

The spread of mass privacy, surely one of modern civilization’s more impressive achievements, thus depended on another, even more impressive achievement: the creation of a middle class. Only over the past 300 years or so, as increasingly large numbers of people gained the means to control their physical environment through the acquisition of wealth and private property, did privacy norms and eventually privacy rights come into existence. What is a right to privacy without a room of your own?

The historical link between privacy and the forces of wealth creation helps explain why privacy is under siege today. It reminds us, first, that mass privacy is not a basic feature of human existence but a byproduct of a specific economic arrangement — and therefore a contingent and impermanent state of affairs. And it reminds us, second, that in a capitalist country, our baseline of privacy depends on where the money is. And today that has changed.

The forces of wealth creation no longer favor the expansion of privacy but work to undermine it. We have witnessed the rise of what I call “attention merchants” and what the sociologist Shoshana Zuboff calls “surveillance capitalism” — the commodification of our personal dataClose Xby tech giants like Facebook and Google and their imitators in telecommunications, electronics and other industries. We face a future in which active surveillance is such a routine part of business that for most people it is nearly inescapable. In this respect, we are on the road back to serfdom.

 

via Opinion | How Capitalism Betrayed Privacy – The New York Times

Opinion | A Way to Detect the Next Russian Misinformation Campaign – The New York Times

Quote

By Philip N. Howard
Professor Howard is the director of the Oxford Internet Institute and the author of “Pax Technica: How the Internet of Things May Set Us Free or Lock Us Up.”

March 27, 2019

Some of the Facebook ads linked to a Russian effort to disrupt the 2016 American presidential election, released by members of the House Intelligence Committee in late 2017.
Credit
Jon Elswick/Associated Press

“Despite the best efforts of several technology firms, there still seem to be secretive groups distributing political ads without disclosing who is funding those ads. Even if Facebook starts discouraging advertisers from targeting users on the basis of race, gender or age, as it recently announced, the wealth of existing data that it has already collected will still allow advertisers to do sophisticated ad targeting.

Social media firms want to regulate themselves, and Google has threatened to withdraw all political ads in Canada if it finds transparency rules too onerous. Facebook offers political ad archives in a few countries, and searching by hand is laborious. Independent researchers can investigate trends computationally, but Facebook, Twitter and Google are doing more and more to restrict access. There is negligible access to Instagram, where huge volumes of Russian-origin misinformation now flows. Banning political ads or creating partial ad archives in some countries won’t strengthen the world’s democracies. Ad bans give incumbent politicians an unfair advantage, and establishing partial ad archives gives political ad buyers an incentive to not declare their ads as political.

Elections officials and ad regulators in the world’s democracies urgently need to sort this out: Nearly a billion people in India and across Europe will prepare to vote in the next few months, and presidential campaigning in the United States has already started. The solution is to have all technology companies put all ads, all the time, into public archives.”

via Opinion | A Way to Detect the Next Russian Misinformation Campaign – The New York Times

How Tanning Changes the Brain – The New York Times

“People who frequently use tanning beds experience changes in brain activity during their tanning sessions that mimic the patterns of drug addiction, new research shows.Scientists have suspected for some time that frequent exposure to ultraviolet radiation has the potential to become addictive, but the new research is the first to actually peer inside the brains of people as they lay in tanning beds.What the researchers found was that several parts of the brain that play a role in addiction were activated when the subjects were exposed to UV rays. The findings, which appear in the coming issue of the journal Addiction Biology, may help explain why some people continue to tan often despite awareness about risks such as skin cancer, premature aging and wrinkles.”

Source: How Tanning Changes the Brain – The New York Times

Robocalls Flooding Your Cellphone? Here’s How to Stop Them – The New York Times

Turn to technologyDownload apps such as Truecaller, RoboKiller, Mr. Number, Nomorobo and Hiya, which will block the calls. YouMail will stop your phone from ringing with calls from suspected robocallers and deliver a message that your number is out of service.Mr. Quilici said phone companies, such as T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T, also have tools to combat robocalls. They work by blocking calls from numbers known to be problematic.Turn the tablesAnd then there is the Jolly Roger Telephone Company, which turns the tables on telemarketers. This program allows a customer to put the phone on mute and patch telemarketing calls to a robot, which understands speech patterns and inflections and works to keep the caller engaged.