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Links for August 13th 2011 through August 15th 2011:
- Google looks to ‘supercharge’ Android with Motorola Mobility [guardian.co.uk] – Wow, Google take their ball and head straight onto Apple’s turf (and Microsoft’s by way of Nokia): “Google is to acquire Motorola Mobility, the US mobile company’s smartphone business, in a $12.5bn (£7.6bn) cash deal. The takeover will boost Google’s increasing dominance in the nascent smartphone and tablet computer market. The $40 a share deal is a 63% premium on Motorola Mobility’s closing price on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday. Larry Page, Google chief executive, said: “Motorola Mobility’s total commitment to Android has created a natural fit for our two companies. Together, we will create amazing user experiences that supercharge the entire Android ecosystem for the benefit of consumers, partners and developers. I look forward to welcoming Motorolans to our family of Googlers.””
- Schools employ company to monitor students online [ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)] – Inevitable, but deeply troubling: “Independent schools are using private companies to monitor what their students say and do online on sites such as Facebook. An internet monitoring company, SR7, says it is been employed by some private high schools around Australia to keep track of students’ social media activity. Privacy advocates have expressed concerns, but the “social media intelligence” company says its work will help prevent cyber bullying. S7R partner James Griffin says the company identifies and “attempts to stop” cyber bullying that is increasingly occurring on Facebook and another social media platform, Formspring. Mr Griffin says the increasing number of fake profiles is “striking”.”
- “If you don’t like it, don’t use it. It’s that simple.” ORLY? [Social Media Collective] – Great post by Alice Marwick looking at the problems with the idea that you can simply stop using social media and other technologies due to issues or challenges they pose. Refuting (easy) opting out, or technology refusal, is important is showing how much people actually have to give up if they do opt out, and why it’s a decision many people can’t (or won’t) readily make.
- Sexting punishment is unjust says magistrate [SMH] – “A senior Victorian magistrate who presided over a case in which a youth pleaded guilty to teenage sexting offences has condemned as ”so unjust” the mandatory laws that meant the young man was registered as a sex offender. The magistrate, who works in country Victoria, said the lack of judicial discretion in such cases meant severe consequences for young people who posed no threat to society and were often guilty of little more than naivety. The magistrate, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he had made the unusual decision to speak out because he was troubled by cases recently identified by Fairfax. He presided over the case of the country youth, then aged 18, who was sent four uninvited text message pictures of girls, aged between 15 and 17 years, topless or in their underwear. Police found the pictures on his mobile phone and laptop and charged him with child pornography offences.”
- Don’t shoot the instant messenger: David Cameron’s social media shutdown plan won’t stop UK riots [The Conversation] – Axel Bruns refutes the logic of social media control or blocking in times of crisis (regarding the UK riots): “David Cameron’s thought bubble (let’s be charitable and call it that) in the UK parliament on Thursday, in which he said it might be a good idea to shut down social networking services if there were to be a repeat of the riots that have rocked Britain, is one such moment. It is, to be blunt, just staggeringly dumb. Where do we even begin? Consider, for example, the fact that Cameron, along with just about all the other leaders of the Western world – you know, we who claim to believe in freedom of expression – lauded the role of social media in the “Arab spring” uprisings in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen and elsewhere. But now he wants to shut Twitter and Facebook down, just because someone, somewhere might use them to plan criminal activities? You must be joking. By the same reasoning, why not take out the entire Internet and phone network as well?”
- Panicked over social media, Mr. Cameron joins company of autocrats [The Globe and Mail] – “Eight months ago, as Egyptians flooded the streets of Cairo in protest, the government tried to stem the tide by cutting off access to Twitter and Facebook – social networks that had been so associated with democratic uprisings that labels such as “the Twitter Revolution” were being bandied about. On Wednesday, British Prime Minister David Cameron addressed the rioting that swept his country and declared that he was looking into blocking unspecified troublemakers’ access to Twitter and another network, BlackBerry Messenger. With the speed of a looter on the make, social networks have gone from heroes of the Arab Spring to the newly-anointed villains of the British riots. One day, implement of utopia; the next, yob’s best friend. Throwing his digital lot in with Hosni Mubarak is hardly a flattering comparison for Mr. Cameron. But his choice of target reflects a very real public unease with the way social networks seem to inspire people to action.”
- London riot social media blocks ‘totalitarian’ [The Age] – “Social media and legal experts have ridiculed a proposal by British Prime Minister David Cameron to restrict the use of services like Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerry Messenger to prevent riots. The services were used by rioters to organise looting and vandalism across London and beyond, prompting Cameron to demand the companies take more responsibility for content posted on their networks. Home secretary Theresa May is due to hold meetings with Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion this week. But social media experts and free speech campaigners have rejected the idea, saying it is an impractical knee-jerk response that is akin to moves by Arab rulers to block online communications during this year’s pro-democracy uprisings.”
Links for August 6th 2011 through August 10th 2011:
- Gamification is Bullshit [Ian Bogost] – Bogost gets straight to the point: “In his short treatise On Bullshit, the moral philosopher Harry Frankfurt gives us a useful theory of bullshit. We normally think of bullshit as a synonym—albeit a somewhat vulgar one—for lies or deceit. But Frankfurt argues that bullshit has nothing to do with truth. Rather, bullshit is used to conceal, to impress or to coerce. Unlike liars, bullshitters have no use for the truth. All that matters to them is hiding their ignorance or bringing about their own benefit. Gamification is bullshit. I’m not being flip or glib or provocative. I’m speaking philosophically. More specifically, gamification is marketing bullshit, invented by consultants as a means to capture the wild, coveted beast that is videogames and to domesticate it for use in the grey, hopeless wasteland of big business, where bullshit already reigns anyway.”
- London Police Use Flickr to Identify Looters [NYTimes.com] – “As rioting continues to roil the streets of London, local police forces are turning to the Web to help unmask those involved in the torching and looting. On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Police of London posted a set of photos on Flickr showing people they believed to be participants in the riots. Right now the images are primarily from the Croydon and West Norwood neighborhoods in south London, although the site says that more will be posted soon. With the initiative, called Operation Withern, the police are asking the public to identify anyone they recognize from photographs captured by CCTV surveillance cameras in areas where stores were looted. They say on the Flickr page that they hope to “bring to justice those who have committed violent and criminal acts.””
- Real name sites are necessarily inadequate for free speech [Bernie Hogan] – Important take on real names: “Offline people say things appropriate to the group they are in. That doesn’t mean they are two-faced, insincere or liars. It means people are context aware. People observe walls, clocks, furniture, fashion and music. These things guide us as to the appropriate way of acting. The guy writing his novel at the bar on Friday night is out-of-place. The guy who shows up to work drunk on Monday morning has a problem. Offline people don’t have to worry about their real name, because their behavior is tied to the context and the impressions the foster in that context. In fact, I’ll say that even more strongly – if your speech is not confined to the context you are in – but available to a potentially unknowable audience – you are online. This is why real name sites are necessarily inadequate. They deny individuals the right to be context-specific. They turn the performance of impression management into the process of curation.”
- How Blackberry, not Twitter, fuelled the fire under London’s riots [Tech Crunch] – All ‘social media caused it’ reports are exaggerated, but it is noteworthy that Blackberries are popular for communication in this context specificially because they are encrupted and not open: “Over the weekend parts of London descended into chaos as riots and looting spread after a protest organised around the yet unexplained shooting of a man by Police. Of course, there was huge amounts of chatter on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, with the latter coming under enormous amounts of criticism from the UK press for fuelling the fire. But while Twitter has largely been the venue of spectators to violence and is a handy public venue for journalists to observe, it would appear the non-public BlackBerry BBM messaging network has been the method of choice for organising it.”
- Facebook’s Photo Archive Can Be Used for Face Recognition in Real Life – “Facebook has had its share of problems over face recognition — a feature that connects a photo of a person’s face with their Facebook profile, making it easier to tag people in photos — but researchers from Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University recently proved that Facebook’s vast photo archive can be used to identify people on the street, too. […] They used publicly available data — photos from Facebook profiles of students — and then used face recognition technology to recognize these students as they look into a web camera. The results? Using a database of 25,000 photos taken from Facebook profiles, the authors’ face recognition software correctly identified 31 percent of the students after fewer than three (on average) quick comparisons. In another test, the authors took photos from 277,978 Facebook profiles and compared them to nearly 6,000 profiles from an unnamed dating Web site, managing to identify approximately 10 percent of the site’s members.”
I Can Stalk U is another one of those very simple websites which highlights how information already being shared by people everyday may be used in ways we’ve not necessarily thought through. In a similar vein to Please Rob Me, which highlighted tweets where people indicated they were leaving their home, I Can Stalk U illustrates how much information many people are inadvertently sharing via the geographic photo tagging in many smartphones (including iPhones). On the I Can Stalk U website, each tweet that includes geotagged photos is translated (ie the metadata is read, and presented), showing the approximate address, this address on a Google Map, the picture it was attached to, and a link to the original tweet. All of this information is publicly accessible, the website is simply putting the geotag information up front, rather than the original tweet. Here’s an screenshot from the website:
Often these sort of websites can be a bit confronting for people who’ve not thought about their privacy in relation to geotagged photos. The whole concept of metadata – literally, ‘data about data’ – which can so easily be embedded in photos, is a bit disconcerting for many people who may not have realised it was there. Thankfully, despite the initially confronting website, I Can Stalk U is set up as an educational tool, showing what data is unknowingly being shared, and telling you how to fix that if you don’t want this information out there on the web. On their ‘How’ page, the I Can Stalk U folks provide details on how to disable geotagging for iPhones, Blackberries and some other popular smartphones. If you’ve got one and it’s not on the list, it’s worth disabling the geotagging unless you’re 100% comfortable with every photo you take (and share) embedding the where, when and on what that photo was taken.
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