Opinion | How Capitalism Betrayed Privacy – The New York Times

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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 Citizens’ Guide to Regulating Big Tech – The New York Times

By Kartik Hosanagar
Mr. Hosanagar is a professor at The Wharton School of The University of Pennsylvania.

March 28, 2019
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CreditCreditSaul Gravy/Ikon Images, via Getty Images

“This election season, Americans are going to hear a lot about regulating big tech. Senator Elizabeth Warren has already kicked off that debate, and it would be the tone-deaf candidate who wasn’t alert to the increasing anxiety among the public over the power Silicon Valley giants wield. According to a 2018 survey by Pew Research Center, 57 percent of Democrats and 44 percent of Republicans feel that big tech companies should be regulated more than they are now.

A candidate who fails to address these issues in a meaningful way is not taking these concerns seriously. But how should we, as citizens, evaluate these proposals?

Any effort to regulate big tech will have to address two main issues. The first is consumer protection. When the private sector controls so much of our data, Americans should be able to know who has access to this data and how they use it. The second issue relates to “platform companies,” services that connect two or more sides of a transaction: Google Search connects people with websites, Amazon connects buyers with sellers, Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android connect consumers with apps, and so on. The concern is that platforms can build services that compete with third-party services running on their platforms, and can easily give themselves an unfair advantage.

The more visible concern is consumer protection, particularly protections for privacy. Any regulation addressing consumer protection should, first, specify whether consumers have the right to access data that companies store about them and whether firms are allowed to share confidential data with a third party.”

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

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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.
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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

Tracking Down Who’s Really Behind An Out-Of-State Travel Club – Angela Kennecke -Keloland Media Group

By: Angela Kennecke
Posted: Nov 06, 2017 10:03 PM CST

Updated: Nov 06, 2017 10:03 PM CST

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sioux falls, sd – Did you get a travel expo postcard in the mail?

Sioux Falls residents recently received a postcard for the Southwest Getaways Expo.

Look familiar?

It’s almost identical to a postcard residents got this summer, only in that case the man selling travel clubs was arrested for not following South Dakota law.

This latest offer to buy into a travel club may say “Southwest Getaways,” but it has nothing to do with Southwest Airlines.

KELOLAND News investigates what happens if you go to the high-pressure sales presentation.

While the organizer of the last travel club to come to town, John Barze, is currently facing felony charges in South Dakota, this latest company says it isn’t associated with Barze.

Source: Tracking Down Who’s Really Behind An Out-Of-State Travel Club

David Lindsay: I just got a card promising 2 free airline tickets and 2 nights free in a 3 or 4 star Hotel, by Southwest Getaways Anniversary!

Facebook’s Data Sharing: 5 Takeaways From Our Investigation – The New York Times

By Nicholas Confessore, Michael LaForgia and Gabriel J.X. Dance
Dec. 18, 2018, 66c
“You are the product: That is the deal many Silicon Valley companies offer to consumers. The users get free search engines, social media accounts and smartphone apps, and the companies use the personal data they collect — your searches, “likes,” phone numbers and friends — to target and sell advertising.

But an investigation by The New York Times, based on hundreds of pages of internal Facebook documents and interviews with about 50 former employees of Facebook and its partners, reveals that the marketplace for that data is even bigger than many consumers suspected. And Facebook, which collects more information on more people than almost any other private corporation in history, is a central player.

Here are five takeaways from our investigation.”

Why Are Democrats Helping Trump Dismantle Dodd-Frank? – The New York Times

“This week, the Senate begins debate on the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, known as the Crapo bill for its primary sponsor, Mike Crapo, a Republican senator from Idaho. The bill would roll back or eliminate parts of the Dodd-Frank Act.

The Crapo bill is unusual in today’s hyperpartisan environment: It has over 10 Democratic co-sponsors, many from swing or red states and up for re-election this year — like Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Jon Tester of Montana and Claire McCaskill of Missouri — making its passage possible.

Why would some Democrats provide support for a rollback of Dodd-Frank? Proponents argue that this bill provides much needed relief for community banks and credit unions, which, these proponents claim, face enormous difficulties. They also say that it doesn’t endanger financial reforms aimed against the largest and most dangerous players.

But that view is mistaken: This bill goes far beyond the health of community banks and credit unions. It removes protections for 25 of the top 38 banks; weakens regulations on the biggest players and encourages them to manipulate regulations for their benefit; and saps consumer protections.”

Forget Storing 20 Cleaners Under The Kitchen Sink – You Only Need Two | Greenopedia

With a cleaning product for every use imaginable, it’s easy to accumulate a ton of chemicals under the sink. And with all that clutter, how many times have you bought cleaners that you didn’t realize you already had?

Skip the clutter and the overbuying! There is almost nothing you can’t clean with just a spray bottle of white vinegar and a sprinkle of baking soda.

Clean With Vinegar & Baking Soda
Vinegar and baking soda are safe to use on nearly all household surfaces including porcelain, glass, fiberglass, chrome, steel, silver, vinyl, plastic and most fabrics.

They are a fraction of the cost of chemical cleaners. Both are non-toxic. And they are completely safe to use on dishes and glassware and around babies or pets.

via Forget Storing 20 Cleaners Under The Kitchen Sink – You Only Need Two | Greenopedia

Consumer Bureau Loses Fight to Allow More Class-Action Suits – The New York Times

“Senate Republicans voted on Tuesday to strike down a sweeping new rule that would have allowed millions of Americans to band together in class-action lawsuits against financial institutions.The overturning of the rule, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-to-50 tie, will further loosen regulation of Wall Street as the Trump administration and Republicans move to roll back Obama-era policies enacted in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis. By defeating the rule, Republicans are dismantling a major effort of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the watchdog created by Congress in the aftermath of the mortgage mess.

The rule, five years in the making, would have dealt a serious blow to financial firms, potentially exposing them to a flood of costly lawsuits over questionable business practices.For decades, credit card companies and banks have inserted arbitration clauses into the fine print of financial contracts to circumvent the courts and bar people from pooling their resources in class-action lawsuits. By forcing people into private arbitration, the clauses effectively take away one of the few tools that individuals have to fight predatory and deceptive business practices. Arbitration clauses have derailed claims of financial gouging, discrimination in car sales and unfair fees.

The new rule written by the consumer bureau, which was set to take effect in 2019, would have restored the right of individuals to sue in court. It was part of a spate of actions by the bureau, which has cracked down on debt collectors, the student loan industry and payday lenders.”

David Lindsay Jr.:

This is a sad day for the American consumer.
Breathe the air while it is still clean,
and take the longer view for solace.
When the pendulum swings too far to the right,
guess where it swings next.

Republicans Want to Sideline This Regulator. But It May Be Too Popular. – The New York Times

“Mr. Cordray says the criticism is a badge of honor. He believes the bureau’s work will have lasting ramifications.The bureau has curtailed abusive debt collection practices, reformed mortgage lending, publicized and investigated hundreds of thousands of complaints from aggrieved customers of financial institutions, and extracted nearly $12 billion for 29 million consumers in refunds and canceled debts.

This week, it began mailing out refund checks totaling $115 million to 60,000 people who had paid illegal fees to Morgan Drexen, a debt settlement company that collapsed two years ago.The agency has also rolled out the arbitration rule, and it has been putting the finishing touches on a rule that could reshape the multibillion-dollar payday lending industry.”

Making Sure Your Help Gets to Hurricane Harvey’s Victims – (Issues at the Red Cross) – NYT

“A 2015 investigation by ProPublica and NPR documented the Red Cross’s glaring failure to account for how it spent the $488 million it raised in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake in 2010, including such basics as how many people were assisted and how much money was spent on overhead.”

The comments are helpful. There are endorsements for the Salvation Army, The Houston Food Bank, and religious relief organizations like the Episcopal Fund for Relief.

There is an endorsement for the United Way, and another comment criticizing it. Everyone agrees that we have to spend time at Charity Navigator or Charity Watch.