Losing a Grip on Your Facebook Account? You’re Not the Only One

Having a Facebook page is becoming more and more of a liability. Surely we’ve heard it all before, though. Journalists, authors, bloggers, and even occasionally incredulous Masters’ students love talking about the potential negative Facebook effects, from loss of self-esteem to increased anxiety or jealousy. But there’s a much more tangible one: you can be expelled or not hired based on what is posted on your Facebook wall. This is hardly a newsflash depending on how jaded you are about invasions of privacy, but the situation has gotten worse. In 2009, the University of Oxford’s student population discovered that their […]

What Privacy Advocated DO Get About Data Tracking on the Web

This post is a clarification of some recent work I have done, which I think has been taken in slightly a different manner than I intended it. The clarification is substantive. I wrote a piece recently for The Atlantic entitled, “It’s Not All About You: What Privacy Advocates Don’t Get About Data Tracking on the Web.” The thesis of this piece was, essentially, the power that massive user and behavioral data gives private corporation (and the asymmetry between them and everyone else) is more important ramification of this new ecology than any individual level breech of personal information. Creepily targeted […]

Free Speech in Databases: Martians on Facebook

The European Data Protection Directive contains a list of seven principles governing recommendations on protecting personal data. One of them–‘access’–includes the right to view data being held about us and correct them if they are wrong. The purpose of this is to ensure that data about me are not used in contexts that I do not want them used in. It allows me to complete incomplete information and correct mischaracterizations of my character that I would consider damaging if they were viewed and/or used by someone. Say, for instance, that someone had a database with my gender written down incorrectly. I […]

Playing with New Toys

Last week, I found myself in Nuffield College, watching a bright-eyed lecturer, Ilmo van der Lowe, in fascination. Believe me when I say that I knew less about the topic, ‘co-rumination,’ than you did. But knowing Ilmo’s background in social psychology (a field in which I had received my bachelor’s degree), I had trekked over to glean what I could. Luckily for me, the lecture topic seemed almost extraneous. Ilmo laid the foundation for how the field of social psychology was waiting for its next theoretical breakthrough, and then broke out his real reason for speaking: to show that network […]

Facebook’s IPO–Outsourcing the push to shrink privacy

Facebook has been accused of shrinking the public’s “right to be let alone.” Soon they will be able to call on shareholders to demand that the government leave Facebook alone. If you’re a privacy advocate, this is worrying. Facebook’s IPO will increase the number of voices shouting on their side when regulators eventually threaten their pursuit of profit. Goldman may have a large stake right now, but if Goldman, Morgan Stanley, and shareholders-like-you own a piece of the pie, the desire to increase the size of the pie is spread more broadly. Facebook is our case study, but their situation […]

Is Linkbait the new Classifieds?

The news has always been subsidized; it has never been a money maker. Print newspapers were mechanisms that bundled content and the lucrative parts – automotive, home and garden, classifieds – subsidized the difficult to monetize but incredibly socially valuable national and international news sections. According to a 2010 presentation by Hal Varian, classified ads once accounted for about 32% of total newspaper revenue. Craigslist, monster.com, and other online venues have removed this revenue source for newspapers – even in their online manifestations. Total classified ad revenue declined over 70% between 2000 and 2010 industry-wide, from a robust $19.6 billion […]

Slow Down, Apple: How to Look at Technology in Education

  On January 20th, Wired published an article reporting the results of a pilot study jointly conducted by Apple and Houghton Mifflin on the impact of iPads in a middle school classroom. The title (“iPad a Solid Education Tool, Study Reports”) reflected the optimistic and surely-not-conclusive need for digital supplements to enhance educational outcomes. To keep it brief, the study basically put iPads in the hands of middle schoolers and told them to read their algebra textbook using its interface. 78% of the students who were given iPads tested at proficient levels or higher in algebra, compared with 59% of […]

Cyber Negligence: Sending My Grandma to Jail

Confession time: Both my grandmother and I routinely fail to keep our home computer and web-browser security up to date. Are we bad ‘netizens’ if we leave the keys in the ignition of our unlocked computer? Is it reasonable to complain about Anonymous without ensuring that my laziness (her inability) isn’t giving them easy ammunition for their cyber-dissent? Is our activity criminally negligent, and if so why can’t we be punished for it? Last year, authorities in Spain arrested three suspects for allegedly downloading and booting up a program (called a Low Orbit Ion Cannon or LOIC) that lets the […]