A decade ago I bought my first smartphone, a clunky little BlackBerry 8830 that came in a sleek black leather sheath. I loved that phone. I loved the way it effortlessly slid in and out of its case, loved the soft purr it emitted when an email came in, loved the silent whoosh of its trackball as I played Brick Breaker on the subway and the feel of its baby keys clicking under my fat thumbs. It was the world in my hands, and when I had to turn it off, I felt anxious and alone.
Tag Archives: Internet
For all the raft of unanswered questions or dismissal as a nothingburger, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s two-day grilling at Capitol Hill hopefully may unleash a serious global debate about our virtual selves.
US politicians, it seems, have discovered the merits of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The EU is actually at war with the GAFA galaxy (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) and environs. The question for the US revolves around the immense legal twists and turns on how and what to regulate.
As much as Zuckerberg may have conceded that the industry needs to be regulated, scores of congressmen pressed him on whether Facebook would enforce GDPR for US customers. He dodged the question multiple times, promising GDPR “controls,” but never “protection.”
The plot was made for front-page headlines and cable-news chyrons: A scientist-turned-political-operative reportedly hoodwinked Facebook users into giving up personal data on both themselves and all their friends for research purposes, then used it to develop “psychographic” profiles on tens of millions of voters—which in turn may have helped the Trump campaign manipulate its way to a historic victory.
No wonder Facebook is in deep trouble, right? Investigations are being opened; calls for regulation are mounting; Facebook’s stock plunged 7 percent Monday.
Over the past two months, Google has started letting people around the world choose what data they want to share with its various products, including Gmail and Google Docs.
Amazon recently began improving the data encryption on its cloud storage service and simplified an agreement with customers over how it processes their information.
And on Sunday, Facebook rolled out a new global data privacy center — a single page that allows users to organize who sees their posts and what types of ads they are served.
While these changes are rippling out worldwide, a major reason for these shifts comes from Europe: The tech giants are preparing for a stringent new set of data privacy rules in the region, called the General Data Protection Regulation.
Much of the current hysteria about the technology industry is due to its highly ambiguous relationship with its users. Driven by the logics of both compassion and indifference, this relationship has always been erratic yet functional. These two clashing rationales, for example, allowed technology companies, frequently painted as Dr Evil, to claim the mantle of Mother Theresa. However, as the unresolved contradictions of these logics pile up, we can’t fail to notice the incoherence of the industry’s overall social vision.
The compassion story has some truth to it. Tech giants have pegged their business models on our ability to consume. Thus, their interests are somewhat aligned with ours: we need a paycheque to buy what’s being advertised. A charitable comparison might be to Henry Ford paying his workers enough to buy his cars; a less charitable might be to slave owners keeping slaves fed not to lose them to exhaustion. However, unlike Ford or slave owners, our tech moguls want someone else to fund their preferred solutions (eg the universal basic income).
The abolition of net neutrality and the use of algorithms by Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter to divert readers and viewers from progressive, left-wing and anti-war sites, along with demonizing as foreign agents the journalists who expose the crimes of corporate capitalism and imperialism, have given the corporate state the power to destroy freedom of speech. Any state that accrues this kind of power will use it. And for that reason I traveled last week to Detroit to join David North, the chairperson of the international editorial board of the World Socialist Web Site, in a live-stream event calling for the formation of a broad front to block an escalating censorship while we still have a voice.
“The future of humanity is the struggle between humans that control machines and machines that control humans,” Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, said in a statement issued in support of the event. “Between the democratization of communication and usurpation of communication by artificial intelligence. While the Internet has brought about a revolution in people’s ability to educate themselves and others, the resulting democratic phenomena has shaken existing establishments to their core. Google, Facebook and their Chinese equivalents, who are socially, logistically and financially integrated with existing elites, have moved to re-establish discourse control. This is not simply a corrective action. Undetectable mass social influence powered by artificial intelligence is an existential threat to humanity. While still in its infancy, the trends are clear and of a geometric nature. The phenomena differs in traditional attempts to shape cultural and political phenomena by operating at scale, speed and increasingly at a subtlety that eclipses human capacities.”
Cet article a été très compliqué à écrire. Pas seulement à cause des révélations retentissantes qu’il contient, mais parce que mon attention a sans cesse été détournée. Par mon chat Facebook qui clignote. Mon portable qui m’annonce un texto dont la lecture ne saurait souffrir un instant de plus. Ah tiens !, cette vidéo sur Twitter, il faut absolument que je la voie. Et que se passe-t-il sur Instagram en ce moment ? Vous-même, qui avez commencé à lire ce paragraphe, voyez déjà votre concentration se fragiliser. Accrochez-vous, nous sommes tous victimes des pirates de l’attention.
Des cœurs et des flammes
Ma quête a commencé par un rendez-vous avec Emma, 15 ans. Sur la table, posé à côté d’un Coca Light et à portée de ses mains ornées d’un vernis rose écaillé, son portable clignote comme un sapin de Noël perdu dans ce café du nord de Paris. Il n’arrête pas de nous interrompre, alors que je l’interroge justement à ce sujet. C’est surtout le petit fantôme jaune et blanc de Snapchat qui s’immisce dans notre conversation. « Tu vois, ça, ce sont des “streaks”, m’explique-t-elle, me donnant l’impression d’être une poule devant un couteau. Et si tu perds les streaks, tu perds tes amis… » Ces smileys permettent d’établir une typologie des relations comme les ados en raffolent. Cœur jaune pour meilleur ami, cœur rouge pour meilleur ami deux semaines de suite, double cœur rose pour deux mois, etc.
First France, Now Brazil Unveils Plan to Empower the Government to Censor the Internet in the Name of Stopping “Fake News”
Yesterday afternoon, the official Twitter account of Brazil’s Federal Police (its FBI equivalent) posted an extraordinary announcement. The bureaucratically nonchalant tone it used belied its significance. The tweet, at its core, purports to vest in the federal police and the federal government that oversees it the power to regulate, control, and outright censor political content on the internet that is assessed to be “false,” and to “punish” those who disseminate it. The new power would cover both social media posts and entire websites devoted to politics.
“In the next few days, the Federal Police will begin activities in Brasília [the nation’s capital] by a specially formed group to combat false news during the [upcoming 2018 presidential] election process,” the official police tweet stated. It added: “The measures are intended to identify and punish the authors of ‘fake news’ for or against candidates.” Top police officials told media outlets that their working group would include representatives of the judiciary’s election branch and leading prosecutors, though one of the key judicial figures involved is the highly controversial right-wing Supreme Court judge, Gilmar Mendes, who has long blurred judicial authority with his political activism.
To call Bitcoin the biggest and most obvious bubble in modern history may be a disservice to its surreality.
The price of bitcoin has doubled four times this year. In early January, one bitcoin was worth about $1,000. By May, it hit $2,000. In June, it breached $4,000. By Thanksgiving, it was $8,000. Two weeks later, it was $16,000.
This astronomical trajectory might make sense for a new public company with accelerating profits. Bitcoin, however, has no profits. It’s not even a company. It is a digital encrypted currency running on a decentralized network of computers around the world. Ordinary currencies, like the U.S. dollar, don’t double in value by the month, unless there’s a historic deflationary crisis, like the Panic of 1837. Instead, bitcoin’s behavior more resembles that of a collectible frenzy, like Beanie Babies in the late 1990s.