Beyond the Cusp

April 16, 2018

Congress to Take On Facebook

 

Actually, Congress will be taking on Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Instagram, Vine, Google+, Pinterest, Flickr, and the Internet generally. They are addressing it as the problem that Facebook had the information of thousands of accounts used by another company. But this exact same exchange of personal information had occurred in exactly the same manner with a similar company without any big brouhaha coming about. Why all of a sudden is this an emergency to repair what is being described as a catastrophe? Well, that is easy to explain. The former use of Facebook information by forecasting company who advise political campaigns worked for President Obama and his two Presidential campaigns. This time the company which used the data also worked on a campaign, the wrong kind of campaign, for the campaign of President Trump in the last election. That became a criminal act as it worked to aid a candidate who does not desire to grow government fast enough for the political heavy hitters’ proclivities. These heavy hitters behind our politics do not hold office; they hold the office-holders. These are the people who fund the campaigns of almost every incumbent unless the incumbent did not dance to their music, then they finance the party’s choice in a primary challenge. These are the people whose names many would never recognize unless we sit on the boards of any of the Fortune 500 companies. These are the people that control those boards by the same means that they control our political parties and the Congress and often they have undue influence on the person in the Oval Office. The problem is they have no control over Donald Trump simply because he is the maverick from amongst their group, otherwise he would be one of such people.

 

Congress is now coming to the rescue of the presumed hoards of people demanding that their private information be protected from such misuse as happened when the Facebook information was used in predictions of where the Trump campaign dollars would have the greatest effect and may have assisted his victory. People are absolutely jumping out of their easy-chairs and calling their Congress critters demanding they act. Actually, there are very few people who even care after the initial fabricated uproar over the fact that a Republican used the same methods Democrats use to assist the effectiveness of their campaign. How dare a conservative compete on a level playing-field, do they not know they must campaign in the dark and not use any such predictive information, especially when it came from liberal people’s postings on Facebook. This is the story that Congress is playing out in the media to explain that they are on the case and they will pass legislation which will now protect people’s information on social media, especially Facebook. The Congress is going to do what Facebook had already warned people is something beyond their control. How can Congress pass any law which will make Facebook and other social media perform a function they have already warned is beyond their ability? So, let us take a slightly less cursory look and dive just into the shallow end of this entire situation.

 

Social Media Icons

Social Media Icons

 

Facebook warned people when they opened their account in their use of service contract that there was no guarantee intended or implied that anything you placed on your account, regardless of the level of privacy you may choose, was not secure and could become public and should such occur, Facebook was not liable in any way, shape or form. Hopefully nobody was shocked or surprised by this revelation. We know that the people who wrote the code for every piece of the social media were not idiots. They likely were amongst some of the brighter people in computer coding and their understanding of the internet and networking and all other things related to these fields. They are definitely far more proficient than any member of Congress and probably more knowledgeable than the entirety of Congress combined as well as the bureaucrats who will write the resulting regulations to fulfill the legislation the Congress passes providing President Trump is ill advised and signs the bill. Still, eventually there will be a President who will be more than willing to shackle the Internet and assist any Congressional legislation through which they will actually end freedom of speech on the Internet. Do not mistake the broad and wonderful sounding words about protecting your information and making the Internet safe and your information safe because they are not even able to prevent others from breaking into the most protected networks the government uses and they have been unable to protect your information they collect and have in the multitude of government networks. The breach into the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) was one of the seventeen largest computer data compromises in history, and they are going to protect your information on social media, right! From the article The hackers’ access was so extensive that U.S. officials said they think it is “highly likely” that every file associated with an OPM-managed security clearance application since 2000 was exposed. That was twenty-two-million people’s information stolen from a secure government database. We found other Federal Government data breaches with some of the worst being these three Department of Veteran Affairs with over twenty-six-million exposed, U.S. Voter Database where one-hundred-ninety-one-million exposed, and National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) had seventy-six-million made vulnerable. For a further list of breaches of Federal Government databases including the State Department and the White House can be found here. I feel much better now that the Federal Government means to secure my data and not the Federal Government desires to secure the Internet from information and other items they find troublesome.

 

The Federal Government has desired to sink their claws into the Internet and grab it by the throat and throttle it such that they can have control over what is allowed onto the Internet. The United States bureaucracy has salivated at each time there came discussions over perhaps finding some means of controlling the Internet which most often took the form of some form of net neutrality for the Internet. This was the idea that every source on the Internet would be required to present both sides of every subject and if they had articles or editorials which preferred right or left wing ideas, then they would be required to have a near equal number of the opposing side or they would be prevented from posting any more articles. This was to be something they were going to force the Internet providers to monitor and enforce. The main means which was often suggested was that the providers were to respond to complaints of lacking objectivity or too heavy a preference for one-sided political commentary. The reason for the enforcement based on complaint was simple and obvious, there would be more complaints against conservative bias than liberal bias which has been proven through previous imposing of net neutrality styled requirements which resulted in liberal imposed censoring. These previous discussions in Congress were heavily opposed by the Internet providers who simply all made the same claim, such an imposition would be onerous and result in their refusing service to all forms of societal and political opinion and news coverage in the Internet simply because otherwise they would need to hire an inordinate number of people to handle such requirements and simply refusing to carry such sites would be the only result. This, they claimed, would rob them of much of their paid usage and virtually all of their free sites. We will now admit out of fairness, BTC would be one of the sites which would be considered problematic and our ability to post and be carried in the United States would be terminated, and since our service provider is in the United States, we would be refused service under the ideas Congress has previously discussed. This discussion in the Congress, they will claim, will be different, they are simply going to make sure that social media will secure your information.

 

So, how can the government, particularly the Federal Government, guarantee to make your information on social media secure? Well, that is what is the interesting item, because the Federal Government does not do anything, they require other people, organizations or businesses to do things. The only thing the Federal Government produces are vague pieces of legislation which begets thousands of regulations produced by a myriad of bureaucrats. This is where we need to investigate what any Federal Government action to guarantee the security of your private information on social media would produce. First, it would put a scare across the Internet with many falling into a great panic with much hyperventilating and excessive flailing of arms while running around screaming, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling.” Then there would come the glum predictions of horrific changes and possibly the death of the Internet or at least social media. Eventually the screaming and running would end if for no other reason, people do eventually tire. Now would come the calmer and reasoned discussions with the wisest heads saying that the best approach would be to try to influence the regulations through lobbying and other means. As the regulations would be presented, the most important reactions would come from the Internet providers and the stockholders of the numerous social media providers. As the reactions to the regulations came in to the different agencies and pressures were applied to members of Congress and the department heads, then the different regulations would be adjusted, revised, retracted or doubled-down telling those complaining to just live with it. When each regulation was hammered out and reached the just live with it point, then the Internet providers and social media providers would have to find some means of meeting these requirements or closing up shop and thus avoiding culpability. Depending on what the consequences are for any and every data breach will be applied, some Internet providers and social media providers would choose to simply pay the price for such breaches and adjust the cost to their advertisers and members accounts which would very likely result in the end of free web sites and social media accounts. This would result in Facebook and the other social media providers losing much of their membership and people would be resorting to e-mail or even turning to some new system which uses radio networks which replace the Internet thus getting around the regulations being imposed on the Internet. There also is the long rumored Internet II which has had whispers for years about it being used by a limited privileged people who received invitations for Beta-testing and has thusfar not been brought to the general public. Even if there is no actual Internet II, should the Internet we currently utilize be overly regulated, then one can bet that a second Internet styled web will be developed and brought into direct competition.

 

Now for what is the most probable result of Congress deciding to make the Internet safe for the people and with guarantees that your information will be kept safe. First item is that no matter what regulations are pressed on Internet providers or social media providers, there will be very little actual changes as business is business and business has always found a means to minimize the problems, interruptions, complications and costs of regulations by some means as business only succeeds by providing their service or merchandise at the lowest possible price and with the minimalist imposition on their target customers. The quickest and easiest means for any business concerning the Internet to minimize the effect and interference of regulations will be altering their terms of service such that they warn that they will not be held responsible to protect you the customer or the advertiser from whatever ills the regulations try to make them be held responsible. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the other social media already indemnify themselves from being legally responsible for protecting the information which you post to their service. They will probably need to adjust the wording and may even need to have every user actually check the box claiming that the new agreement has been read and understood and found to be completely acceptable. That done, they will continue with business as usual until the next time there is an uproar over some conservative leaning company, institution or candidate utilizing the personal information gleaned from social media sites demands that such an unforgivable usage of liberals’ information for political use other than those which they agree with politically. For those who claim that an equal uproar would come from the right or conservatives over liberal or left wing political entities had used stolen Facebook personal information, allow us to point out that the reason that there was a need to use presumed hacked information was because the left has been having access to just this information and was used by Barack Obama in his Presidential campaigns and there was no screaming. Perhaps there is only one regulation to end this entire potential invasion on the Internet, make the information available to all who request such and not just to those with whose politics those controlling the information agree. The only problem with that idea is that it would cause even louder screaming, as that would permanently level the playing field. Actually, it would cause quite a deal of lawsuits demanding access to information and long drawn-out appeals such that the case continues until the election has passed. People controlling information will always do whatever it takes to make sure that only those with whom they agree politically have access to said information as information is power and those holding power wield it to their own advantage, and that is life.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

May 6, 2014

Can We Trust Future Technology?

Whether you call it Artificial Intelligence, the Singularity, Future Tech or any of probably a few hundred specific areas or identifiers of what future challenges are approaching faster than we are preparing safeguards or educating people to facilitate acceptance, and will acceptance even be desirable? Some of the recent big news stories have dealt with data mining and the use of massive amounts of data in predictive technologies. But there are other uses of these exact technologies which we do not appear to be anywhere near as concerned about other sources using these exact same technologies and very likely with less oversight such as charge card companies and retailers. Then there is the eerie side of the education system known best as Common Core which includes large amounts of data mining on the children as a part of their educational experience presumably to be better able to tailor the education system to each child’s predetermined preferences and likely path in life as determined by the data. One of the fears is this information could also be utilized to spy on and make determinations about the student’s home life and might be applied by the government to make determinations which families might be at risk for undesirable behaviors or activities. If you do not think that any of this is a fast approaching problem then try to explain why whenever you do a search for some retail item or make a few purchases online that your computer begins to display advertisements of related and similar items in the pop-up advertisements. This is accomplished through very similar technologies to what the NSA (National Security Agency) and other government law enforcement and spying agencies were accused of applying to the data mining information that caused such an outrage recently. Somehow the fact that Google, Target, Amazon, Wal-Mart and who knows who else including technology companies and advertising agencies are increasingly using to better mold their advertisements and sales promotions in order to increase their revenues by better targeting trends and potential approaching markets. The one truth we all are facing is that as technologies advance and are refined and improved our privacy becomes more threatened to the point where many of us have probably already redefined personal informational privacy downward lowering expectations of remaining anonymous.

 

There are those among us who have already altered our lives to attempt to forestall the onset of completely and totally compromised personal privacy. Some refuse to use Google when they search for items, but is Google actually contributing to the search engine you use instead and thus you still are feeding the Google data mining which they have admitted to using in their research to produce a better Artificial Intelligence software and predictive analysis algorithms all presumably to better serve us in the future. But are their intentions really all that altruistic or could there exist deeper and darker motivations in their use of our search terms and other on-line activities. With Google we are almost completely defenseless against their attempts to gather the data about us as they continue to swallow up new technologies and smaller companies to the point they are almost omnipresent in everybody’s on-line lives. Then there are so many possibilities for character data mining and experimentation which can be incorporated within the plethora of on-line games and interactive on-line experiences and sharing services such as Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Instagram, Flickr, MySpace and other social networking sites even including the one no one admits to ever using any longer, AOL, you know who you are, and so do the data miners. The one good side to using AOL is that the data miners likely refuse to store data on you. Many have probably forgotten but there was a time when AOL was the Google of on-line social interactive media and search engines but that was another time and almost seems like another reality and so innocent and almost primitive compared to Google and the rest of today’s on-line media and social activities. Still, these interactive social media and life sharing sites we provide so much telling information about ourselves that we really do not appear to really be concerned with the amount of information and personal data we provide or how it can and will be used and not necessarily in ways which we would be completely comfortable about. So, where should we draw the line and claim no further intrusions and should these lines apply to private industries and companies or solely apply to government agencies and departments which are presumably restricted from many of these type encroachments into our lives and information by the Constitution. Amendment IV states, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” The question will pivot on the definition of what is unreasonable and how invasive would we define an acceptable level of gathering data on us and recording our communications on open networks and public forums. The younger generations appear generally to be less concerned as their lives have been lived with the all-pervasive technology and universal data sharing and personal on-line presence which is openly available to almost any and everybody while those of us who were raised during the ultra-high-tech Etch-A-Sketch era probably fear these technological advances and intrusions far more.

 

The next concern, or at least it should be, is how far will these technologies go and what can we expect future society to resemble. Will we have precogs facilitating the arrest of people for future crime as in Minority Report or will we have to have a special law enforcement department to hunt down artificial humanoid life forms as in Blade Runner or will the future resemble the horrors and enslavement of humankind depicted in the 1927 futurist movie Metropolis. The decisions of how far is too far and what qualifies as unreasonable or too invasive is something which society needs to address and define now and not wait until the technology creates a situation where the consequences are so abhorrent and unacceptable that the decisions made subsequent to this almost predictable coming disastrous circumstance that many beneficial technological applications are made illegal or restricted causing a new problem where avoidable problems are not revealed as a result of the overreaction to the initial misuse of technology. The consequences of upcoming technologies will be astounding even to the most techno-savvy amongst us and quite probably horrifying to those of us less comfortable and acquainted with the possibilities and influences which are coming into existence spawned as a result to the power of information technologies. This will be an even more worrisome situation with the IRS now will not only hold a complete financial inventory of virtually every American citizen but will also have universal access to the health records of the vast majority of American citizens and all should Obamacare actually fulfill its objectives of instituting a single payer government provided healthcare system. Adding this level of data availability across the departments of the Federal Government to the potential metadata collected by the NSA and with the storage and retrievability capabilities of the new data storage complex built on a two-hundred-forty-acre site near Camp Williams outside Bluffdale, Utah, the ability to profile not only every single American citizen but also every individual holding positions of power in every national government in the world along with a sizeable percentage of people simply deemed of interest and you have an incalculable potential for evil pursuits beyond imagination. The coming technological society will be something so beyond anything we can imagine, as the people developing these technologies are far more imaginative than the average person and even if they have only the milk of loving kindness in their hearts, the potential for somebody with nefarious intentions within the companies at the leading edge of these abilities cannot be ruled out, or at least should not be ruled out. The future has the potential to make life enjoyable and promising beyond belief but with such ability it can also turn in a completely opposite direction, and since the government is partnering with these efforts and underwriting much of the research, can we trust the government which includes among their members the most hated politician of your choosing. Imagine the worst example of humanity from the White House or Congress and imagine their having their fingers on every piece of information about everybody and the ability to predict future actions with a believably high level of accuracy and try to find what would be considered off-limits to these politicians. If that does not scare you then you either live the most pure lives ever lived or have no reason as nobody is without sin when it comes to political expediency. I, for one, wish and hope that the future will be all flowers and sweet music but in order to make that so, I also will expect the worst from those with whom we place our trust to make the laws and run the nation and even the world. Watch, verify and constrict government for as George Washington quipped, “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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