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Unprecedented ‘Architecture of Surveillance’ Created by Facebook and Google Poses Grave Human Rights Threat: Report

A new report from Amnesty International says Facebook and Google have a “surveillance-based business model.” (Photo: Flickr/GostGo/cc)

By Andrea Germanos | Common Dreams

A new report from Amnesty International accuses Facebook and Google of having a “surveillance-based business model” that threatens users’ right to privacy and other human rights.

The tech giants, said Kumi Naidoo, secretary-general of Amnesty International, have amassed “unparalleled power over the digital world by harvesting and monetizing the personal data of billions of people. Their insidious control of our digital lives undermines the very essence of privacy and is one of the defining human rights challenges of our era.”

Facebook and Google, according to the report, deserve to be singled out of the so-called Big 5 for their outsize influence on internet users.

With Facebook controlling not only its eponymous social media platform but also WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram, and Google parent company Alphabet in control of YouTube and the Android mobile operating system as well as the search engine, the companies “control the primary channels that people rely on to engage with the internet.”

In fact, the report continues, the two companies control “an architecture of surveillance that has no basis for comparison in human history.”

The use of the platforms isn’t really free, the report argues. Users are faced with “a Faustian bargain, whereby they are only able to enjoy their human rights online by submitting to a system predicated on human rights abuse.”

The companies hoover up user data—as well as metadata like email recipients—and “they are using that data to infer and create new information about us,” relying in part on artificial intelligence (AI).

The report says that “as a default, Google stores search history across all of an individual’s devices, information on every app and extension they use, and all of their YouTube history, while Facebook collects data about people even if they don’t have a Facebook account.”

Smartphones also offer the companies a “rich source of data,” but the reach of surveillance doesn’t stop there. From the report:

This includes the inside of people’s homes through the use of Home Assistants like Google’s Assistant and Facebook’s Portal, and smart home systems connecting multiple devices such as phones, TVs, and heating systems. Increasingly, data extraction is also stretching to public spaces through ‘smart city’ infrastructure designed to collect data throughout an urban area. Facebook is even developing technology that would enable tracking the inside of the human brain.

The trove of data and metadata—which represent a “honeypot” for potential government eyes—”potentially could be used to infer sensitive information about a person, such as their sexual identity, political views, personality traits, or sexual orientation using sophisticated algorithmic models.”

“These inferences can be derived regardless of the data provided by the user,” the report adds, “and they often control how individuals are viewed and evaluated by third parties: for example, in the past third parties have used such data to control who sees rental ads and to decide on eligibility for loans.”

Amnesty’s report says that “the very nature of targeting, using data to infer detailed characteristics about people, means that Google and Facebook are defining our identity to the outside world, often in a host of rights-impacting contexts. This intrudes into our private lives and directly contradicts our right to informational self-determination, to define our own identities within a sphere of privacy.”

The companies have a track record of privacy abuses. Among the examples noted in the report:

  • In 2018 journalists discovered that Google keeps location tracking on even when you have disabled it. Google subsequently revised the description of this function after the news story but has not disabled location tracking even after users turn off Location History. Google now faces legal action by Australia’s competition watchdog over the issue.
  • Facebook has acknowledged that it knew about the data abuses of political micro-targeting firm Cambridge Analytica months before the scandal broke.
  • Facebook has also acknowledged performing behavioral experiments on groups of people—nudging groups of voters to vote, for example, or lifting (or depressing) users’ moods by showing them different posts on their feed.

Facebook and Google, the report says, “have conditioned access to their services on ‘consenting’ to processing and sharing of their personal data for marketing and advertising, directly countering the right to decide when and how our personal data can be shared with others.”

The potential violations don’t end with privacy attacks because “a person may only give up some seemingly innocuous data such as what they ‘like’ on Facebook. But once aggregated, that data can be repurposed to deliver highly targeted advertising, political messages, and propaganda, or to grab people’s attention and keep them on the platform.”

Keeping users on the platform, the report says, means they see more ads and potentially click more ads, thereby creating more data in a cycle of corporate surveillance.

That, in turn, threatens people’s right to autonomy and the free development of ideas because these targeted ads “can influence, shape, and modify opinions and thoughts.”

From the report:

The starkest and most visible example of how Facebook and Google’s capabilities to target people at a granular level can be misused is in the context of political campaigning—the most high-profile case being the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The same mechanisms and tools of persuasion used for the purposes of advertising can be deployed to influence and manipulate people’s political opinions. The use of microtargeting for political messaging can also limit people’s freedom of expression by “creating a curated worldview inhospitable to pluralistic political discourse.”

Such abuses and potential abuses, says the report, make clear the era of tech self-regulation must come to end, with governments and companies alike taking steps to address the rights violations.

The report calls on governments to ensure companies are prevented from making access to their services conditional on user consenting to the collection, processing, or sharing of their personal data for marketing or advertising. They must also enact legislation to ensure the right not to be tracked and to “ensure companies are held legally accountable for human rights harms linked to such systems.”

Companies must switch to a model that respects rights and provide transparency about abuses they identify and remedies they will provide. They must also not lobby for weakened data protection and privacy legislation.

“Google and Facebook chipped away at our privacy over time,” Naidoo added in his statement. “We are now trapped. Either we must submit to this pervasive surveillance machinery—where our data is easily weaponized to manipulate and influence us—or forego the benefits of the digital world. This can never be a legitimate choice.”

“We must reclaim this essential public square,” he continued, “so we can participate without having our rights abused.”

Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share it widely.

Read more great articles at Common Dreams.




Mainstream Media Vs. The Age Of Information

By Ethan Indigo Smith | Waking Times

The information age is changing the entirety. It has changed and continues to change so rapidly that many of us, many times, find ourselves playing catch-up, not just with trends of communication but also with shifts in the flow of information itself.

The internet provides access to information and education on everything from politics to physics. Indeed we are presently more capable of being knowledgeable than other groups of people to have ever lived. Internet communication devices are almost like having a key to the Akashic Field; we can tap into practically all information anywhere on Earth.




Google is Secretly Harvesting “Detailed” Health Data From Millions of Americans, Report Reveals

By Eoin Higgins | Common Dreams

A “bombshell” new report from The Wall Street Journal describes a secret project from Google and healthcare giant Ascension to store data on millions of Americans, a move that critics of the tech conglomerate decried as another example of overreach.

“When will someone go to jail?” wondered mathematician and musician David C. Lowery. “That would stop this shit real fast.”

According to the Journal, Google and Ascension made the decision last year to collect the data across 21 states in an initiative named “Project Nightingale.”

Google in this case is using the data, in part, to design new software, underpinned by advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning, that zeroes in on individual patients to suggest changes to their care. Staffers across Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent, have access to the patient information, documents show, including some employees of Google Brain, a research science division credited with some of the company’s biggest breakthroughs.

The Journal reported that Nightingale’s scope “pertains to lab results, doctor diagnoses and hospitalization records, among other categories, and amounts to complete health history, including patient names and dates of birth.”

Neither patients nor doctors have been notified. At least 150 Google employees already have access to much of the data on tens of millions of patients, according to a person familiar with the matter and documents.

The project is legal under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, though some staffers at Ascension are reportedly concerned over the ethics of the collection.

Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.

Read more great articles at Common Dreams.




Meet the People Whose Lives Have Been Destroyed by Memes

Scumbag Steve Thumb-compressed

By Darius Shahtahmasebi |  The Anti Media

(ANTIMEDIA) Have you ever stopped to consider that the photos, videos, or memes you’re currently laughing at might have been uploaded to the internet without the consent of the person involved? Have you ever considered how that person would feel, waking up one morning to see themselves plastered all over the internet—not as a hero or celebrity, but as a joke?

Have you considered how you would feel?

Before we can go any further, we must first understand what a meme is. The term “meme” was coined by evolutionary scientist Richard Dawkins in his best-selling book, The Selfish Gene, to refer to a “self-replicating unit of information.” This includes ideas, information, or behaviors that spread across groups. The term seems rather fitting for the modern age given social media’s ability to spread information and ideas like wildfire.

In order to understand how something that could potentially be so advantageous can have such a devastating effect on the life of an individual, we need to look no further than the story of Ghyslain Raza (a.k.a. Star Wars kid). Raza is famous, unfortunately, because, on one regretful day in 2003, he felt confident enough to take a video of himself swinging a broom around as if it were a lightsaber from theStar Wars movies. Unfortunately, this video fell into the wrong hands and was uploaded to the internet. It has now been viewed over one billion times.

So how did Raza feel about this sudden rise to fame?

What I saw was mean. It was violent. People were telling me to commit suicideNo matter how hard I tried to ignore people telling me to commit suicide, I couldn’t help but feel worthless like my life wasn’t worth living,” he said, as quoted by the Telegraph. Raza was even offered invitations to be interviewed on a variety of talk shows, including Jay Leno’s. He turned them down, however, because his intuition told him “they wanted to turn me into a circus act.” Raza then became deeply depressed and was forced to drop out of high school and hire a private tutor due to the increased levels of bullying.

“I want my life back,” Raza sadly stated.

In an impressive attempt to flip every one of his bullies the middle finger, Raza was able to turn all of this around, and despite dropping out of high school, he went on to study law. He now offers hope and advice to those who have also found themselves the subject of internet bullying.

Another meme equally as well-known is that of Blake Boston, a.k.a. “Scumbag Steve,” who attracted unwanted fame in 2011 when a photograph from his Myspace page was uploaded to create a meme. According to Know Your Meme, the theme “generally centers around unethical behavior regarding drugs, partying, and other hedonistic behaviors.”

His life spiraled downhill when cyberbullies took the liberty of tracking him down on Facebook to message him. They even obtained his phone number and called him in the middle of the night. One bully went so far as to post an ultrasound picture of Boston’s unborn child, hoping it would die.

Contrast this with an overview provided by Business Insider, entitled, “What 7 Viral Internet Meme Stars Look Like in Real Life”:

“Hundreds of millions of people have watched ‘What Does The Fox Say.’ They’ve also seen funny photos of the Overly-Attached Girlfriend, Scumbag Steve, and Grumpy Cat on Reddit or BuzzFeed. Each of those is Internet memes.”

There is no mention whatsoever about the devastating effect the spread of these memes has had on the individual victims. There is no acknowledgment at all that some—if not all—of them have suffered because of this unwanted fame. In fact, publications like the latter even seem to encourage and exacerbate meme culture to the detriment of those who are most negatively affected.

Of course, there will always be those who are able to embrace their unexpected rise to fame. This will always depend on the nature of the meme and the intentions behind it. Even Boston provides hope for other victims, as he was kind enough to write an open letter to another victim, known as the “Annoying Facebook Girl,” to remind her it would pass. However, even those who enjoy their fame are subject to all manner of bullying, story fabrications, and death threats. One victim of widespread internet mockery, Aleksey Vayner, subsequently died from an overdose.

Finding oneself the subject of a meme is something that could potentially happen to anyone who uses social media, as blogger Helene Sula found out the hard way. The simple message from all of this is to stop sharing and uploading memes that have a photo or video footage of someone that is not intended to be shared by the individual—unless you’d be fine with it happening to you.

Memes can be creative, funny, informative, and witty. However, they can also achieve all of these things without victimizing young adults to the point they are too depressed to finish high school.


This article (The People Whose Lives Have Literally Been Destroyed by Memes) is free and open-source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Darius Shahtahmasebiand theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11 pm Eastern/8 pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, please email the error and name of the article at edits@theantimedia.org.

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The Internet of Things Is a Formula for a Global Trance

By Jon Rappoport | Activist Post

I’m following up on my previous article about the Internet of Things (IoT). Here is the psychology in a nutshell:

MAKE PEOPLE PASSIVE. PUT THEM IN A TRANCE.

IoT is the absurd plan—now rolling out—to connect every conceivable device to the Internet. Worldwide. This means life will become automatic for a large chunk of the population in due time.

Your car will drive you. Your fridge will order new food items. Your heat and air conditioning will operate beyond your control. Your toaster will decide how brown the bread will be. Your whole home will run on prescribed algorithms, deciding how much energy you can use and when.

You will become a spectator.

Passivity IS hypnosis.

Why would you care about what’s happening beyond your bubble? As long as “functions are functioning,” all is well.

Of course, as you enter a decline in health, owing to the introduction of wireless 5G, the harmful technology necessary to implement IoT, and as your home devices spy on you and register your “symptoms,” there will be mandatory doctors’ visits. But don’t worry, you won’t have to leave your house. The diagnosis will occur on a screen in your hand, and the toxic medicine will arrive at your door. These drugs will make you more passive.

No, all this won’t happen tomorrow, but up the line, that is the plan and the picture. Brave New World.

Ambition? Achievement? The will to succeed?

These former qualities will fade into extinction. No longer required. They existed merely to bring us to the point where technology would take over.

And if you think the present education system is grossly inadequate, imagine what it will look like when “IoT homes” proliferate. If you can sit back and let your life run on automatic, why would you need to learn…anything?

“At one time, my cardinal skill was flipping a switch that would automate all devices in my apartment. But now I don’t have to do that. The apartment is always ON. I can’t turn it off. Who cares?”

A huge numbers of people won’t have IoT homes. The promise will go unfulfilled. This fact will set up a new class system. But with enhanced (automatic) security systems and the backing of State force, the fortunate ones will be protected in formidable fashion.

Hypnosis works by “freeing” a person from making choices. He sits there. When he is suitably passive, he receives suggestions. In the case of IoT, those suggestions will be provided by his AI environment: “I’m here. I serve you. I give you what you need. I decide what you need. I’m your guide to happiness. By doing less and less, you get more and more…”

If you say, “Well, this is already happening,” you’re right. But with IoT, the difference will be extraordinary.

On a broad scale, the basics of hypnosis—trance plus suggestions—will revolutionize human relationships. Interactions will occur at much lower levels of energy. The content of future communication will make today’s Facebook posts seem like conversations among university scholars.

But it’s all good.

If you want your children and grandchildren to float in a passive electronic dead sea.

If not, you’d better reinstate the “old virtues.” Ambition. Achievement. Will power. Independence. Self-reliance. Self-sufficiency.

The trance-breakers.

Finally, for now, as the IoT moves forward, people who accept it are going to start believing that the objects around them are seeing and perceiving and thinking. People are going to develop a strange metaphysics, in which objects are conscious and alive and “all-knowing.” People are going to hold fast to this premise. They are going to take the trance to a whole new level, in which the hypnotic suggestions are “coming from gods.”

That will increase the power of the suggestions by many degrees.

It always works this way. The source of the trance is elevated, until it becomes, for the faithful, the Vatican of ultimate truth…

The author of three explosive collections, THE MATRIX REVEALEDEXIT FROM THE MATRIX, and POWER OUTSIDE THE MATRIX, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. He maintains a consulting practice for private clients, the purpose of which is the expansion of personal creative power. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world. You can sign up for his free emails at NoMoreFakeNews.com or OutsideTheRealityMachine.

Read more great articles at Activist Post.




A Guide to Improving Your Company’s Online Appeal in Chicago

The internet is a difficult place to get a foothold. The online ladder, on which huge sites like Google and Facebook sit on the highest rungs, is very tricky to climb and the sheer number of company websites out there makes sure this is the case. There is an unbelievable number of websites all in competition with each other, and this is the case no matter where you look or what avenue of business you’re in. If you have a company based in Chicago, it’s just as hard as anywhere else; you’ll have rivalries no matter which way you look. That’s why it’s important that you get as many clients and customers on your side as possible, as these are the people who make or break the success of a company. However, this is a lot easier said than done. Making sure your online sites and tactics are in tip-top shape is a good start, though. So without further ado, here’s my quick guide to improving your company’s online appeal in Chicago.

My first piece of advice when it comes to improving your online presence would be to hire a digital marketing company. These guys can help you with a wide variety of tasks, and their main goal is to make you as visible as possible to as many potential clients as they can. They’ll sit down with you and determine what kinds of clients you’re looking to attract and work with, before moving on to establishing some advertising techniques that are sure to work. This will allow them to make you look as attractive as a company as possible, making sure you’re seen in all corners of the internet. It’s all about being seen, after all, as the more people that see you the more people will want to work with you. Hiring a digital marketing agency will also allow you to focus your efforts on other aspects of your company, meaning you can focus better and won’t be as distracted. For an example company, check out: Chicago Digital Marketing Company | SERP Co

I’d also recommend making sure you have a good presence on social media. This is one of the best places to get lots of people to see you (over 2 billion people use Facebook actively alone) and if you can get yourself a popular page then there’s every chance you could increase your client list. There are a lot of different social media platforms out there (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.) so it’s all about determining which will be the best for you to get clients on. Different kinds of people react differently on each social media platform, so make sure you’re an expert before any advertising takes place. If you don’t want to set up your own page, you could even ask a social media platform to advertise your page for a price. Again, the more people that see you the better and this is a great way of achieving this feat.




The Weaponization of Social Media

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dL8vt1n-f8

Video Source: corbettreport

Now openly admitted, governments and militaries around the world employ armies of keyboard warriors to spread propaganda and disrupt their online opposition. Their goal? To shape public discourse around global events in a way favorable to their standing military and geopolitical objectives. Their method? The Weaponization of Social Media.

This is The Corbett Report. Full transcript and MP3:

https://www.corbettreport.com/?p=25740




How the Content You Consume Becomes Your Reality

Brainfood-1-compressed

By Steven Maxell | Activist Post

“A man’s mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind.” — James Allen in As A Man Thinketh.

I’m a ravenous consumer of content. I bet you are, too. If we are what we eat, for better or worse, the content we consume becomes our reality. It becomes the story we tell ourselves, the principles we believe in, and it may even determine our health. Some content is detrimental and some is beneficial.  Because we’re bombarded with information from every direction, it’s never been more important to carefully curate what we consume.

Practically everything we observe and experience now seems to be “content.”  From music, movies, books, news, politics, gossip, work, friend feeds and texts, even to our immediate surroundings like how our homes are decorated.  Sometimes the noise and choices can get overwhelming. This overload is like decision fatigue.

Steve Jobs popularized the idea of “decision fatigue” when he chose to wear the same outfit of clothing every day to eliminate wardrobe decisions from his daily decision bank.  Decision fatigue describes when we make too many decisions in too short a time, we significantly reduce our decision-making ability.

The video below is an excellent explanation of decision fatigue and its potential effects:

Some common effects from decision fatigue are losing self-control over things you normally refrain from doing, decision paralysis, or beginning to avoid making decisions altogether. Significantly, life starts happening to you instead of for you. High performers like Steve Jobs require life to happen for them, not to them.

Often we’re tempted by the emotional clickbait headlineswithout considering the consequences on our psyche. There are some things we cannot unsee or unhear. Words and images affect us. They mold our reality. We have to ask ourselves if we really want to manufacture more rage in our lives. Rarely do we stop to deliberately protect ourselves from the content we consume.

But like the James Allen quote above says, the mind will grow harmful weeds if not deliberately cultivated. These weeds can be damaging. They seem to manifest as stress or anxiety which can lead to a host of mental and physical ailments. And much like decision fatigue, we seem to lose room for critical thought and productive ideas to blossom.

For me the flood of content I was consuming caused me anxiety. I was in my mad-as-hell stage of awakening and I was rabidly rage-clicking on endless reels of content that confirmed my rage. I thought to be awake meant “if you aren’t angry, you aren’t paying attention.” But I was wrong.

Then I had a simple epiphany: the best way to better the world around me is to better myself. I was responsible for the content I consumed and how it made me feel. I realized that I was planting the wrong seeds in my mind and they were producing choking weeds. The rage I felt toward the machine dramatically subsided.

As a Man Thinketh was instrumental in shaping this epiphany. Listen to it for free below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sn_eg3xDp8s

Upon focusing my thoughts to more fruitful purposes, my life started getting better. Suddenly it made sense that this strategy, individually, would be far more effective activism than merely raging against the machine.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s healthy to be angry at the right things. But when we’re experiencing information overload, it’s all too easy to become angry over trivial differences in tribalism, for example.

So the next time you catch yourself tempted to click on “rage clickbait,” ask yourself if that’s the type of garden you want to cultivate in your mind. Does rage make your life better? What will?

Now you’re awake.

Steven Maxwell writes for Activist Post. This article is free to be shared in full with attribution and source link.

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Why You’re Addicted to Your Cellphone

Video Source: CBC News

By Dr. Joseph Mercola | mercola.com

STORY AT-A-GLANCE

  • The featured CBC Marketplace program, “Why You’re Addicted to Your Smartphone,” goes behind the scenes, talking to tech insiders about how cellphone addiction is manufactured, and the effects thereof
  • Internet addiction — the inability to unplug — has been shown to take a toll on cognition and focus, as it’s a constant source of distraction
  • The “Moment” app tracks the amount of time you spend on any given app, allowing you to see just how much of your life you’re frittering away
  • Silicon Valley companies use artificial intelligence and neuroscience to create more engaging and persuasive apps, maximizing the addictive potential of your smartphone
  • Commonly used habit-forming tools include pleasure hooks, variable awards, “the infinite scroll” and loss aversion techniques

This article will focus on the social addiction issue of cellphone use and does nothing to address the electromagnetic field (EMF) exposures, which I cover carefully in my next book “EMF’d,” slated for publication in early 2020.

As a lover of technology, it pains me to see what technological advancements are doing to the psychological health of so many, especially our youth. Children today cannot even fathom a life pre-internet — a life where school work involved library visits and phone calls required you to stay in one spot (since the telephone was attached to the wall).

Children and parents alike now spend an inordinate amount of time on their smartphones, communicating with friends (and possibly strangers) via text, on Twitter and Facebook, and work to keep up their Snapstreaks on Snapchat.

Even many toddlers are proficient in navigating their way around a wireless tablet these days. Smartphones have changed the way people interact socially, especially teens, and this has significant ramifications for their psychological health.

This is a topic covered in-depth in Jean Twenge’s book “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood — and What That Means for the Rest of Us.”1

A majority of teens’ social life is carried out in the solitude of their bedroom via their smartphones, Twenge points out in a 2017 article2 adaptation of her book, published in The Atlantic, and this lack of face-to-face interaction has a steep psychological price: loneliness. Internet addiction — the inability to unplug — has also been shown to take a toll on cognition and focus, as it’s a constant source of distraction.

Your cellphone — A necessity or a convenience?

The featured CBC Marketplace program, “Why You’re Addicted to Your Smartphone,”3 goes behind the scenes, talking to tech insiders about how cellphone addiction is manufactured, and the effects thereof.

According to Marketplace, people use their cellphones for an average of three hours a day, and as shown in the footage, many are in the habit of perusing their cellphones while walking — completely oblivious to their surroundings.

Over their lifetime, teens will spend “nearly a decade of their life staring at a smartphone,” CBC reporter Virginia Smart writes in an accompanying article.4 If you frequently feel you don’t have enough time in the day to get more productive things done, perhaps your cellphone usage is part of the problem, siphoning off valuable time from each day.

Still, most agree their phone has become a “necessity” rather than a convenience. Forgetting their phone at home, or losing it, is frequently described as a disaster.

“My entire life is on my phone,” one man says.5 “I don’t know where I’d be [without it].” Just how did we get to this point? “It’s part of a plan you didn’t even know you signed up for,” CBC correspondent David Common says.

Variable rewards and other mind tricks

To investigate real-world usage, CBC Marketplace enlists an Ontario family of five in an experiment: An app on their phone will track each family member’s usage over a two-month period. The app, called “Moment,”6 tracks the amount of time you spend on any given app, allowing you to see just how much of your life you’re frittering away. Get a reliable internet provider and download this app.

Tracking the usage of all users, everywhere, is also being done by Silicon Valley companies in an effort to figure out how to make us use their apps even more. One of them is Dopamine Labs, founded by Ramsay Brown, which uses “artificial intelligence and neuroscience to track your usage, loyalty, and revenue.”7

As explained by Brown, they use AI and the science of the mind to “make apps more engaging and persuasive.” In other words, they use science to maximize the addictive potential of your smartphone.

The secret is rather simple. Apps that trigger pleasure become addictive. As noted by CBC Marketplace, it’s rather telling that the two leading creators of the smartphone revolution, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, both admitted limiting their children’s use of their revolutionary devices — probably because they knew something the rest of us didn’t.

We’re not really designing software anymore,” Brown says. “We’re designing minds.” Just how is this done? Some of the most commonly used habit-forming tools include:8

Pleasure hooks — This could be a notification of “Congrats!” or “Good job!” or a high-five icon after you’ve completed an action, for example. On social media platforms, getting “Likes” accomplishes the same thing. The ability to collect followers is yet another hook.

Variable rewards — As explained by Marketplace, a key method used to trick your mind into addictive behavior is known as “variable rewards.” In a nutshell, it means you’re never sure what you’re going to get. How many “Likes” will your post garner? How many followers or points can you get? How long can you maintain a streak?

As with other types of gambling, this uncertainty coupled with the prospect of a pleasant reward is what feeds the compulsion to keep going.

The infinite scroll — Another “hook” perfected by social media is that never-ending stream of content and commentary that can keep you going indefinitely.

Loss aversion — While starting out as a pleasurable activity, at a certain point, your continued usage morphs into a prison of your own making — you “can’t” stop using the app, or you’ll experience let-down and disappointment. Snapchat’s Snap streak is a perfect example of how apps cash in on loss aversion.

“Brain hacking” techniques such as these have led to 6% of the global population now struggling with internet addiction, according to a 2014 study,9 rivaling that of illicit drug use.10

The problems with overuse and abuse of cellphones lead to sleep disturbances, anxiety, stress and depression,11 as well as increased exposure to electromagnetic field radiation, which also places your health12,13 and mental14 well-being at risk.

Internet addiction is on the rise

Marketplace interviews Lisa Pont, a social worker at the Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, where people are now coming into the program because their smartphone usage has become a problem.

“Research is starting to show that technology has an impact on memory, concentration, mood, [causing] anxiety and depression; it has an impact on sleep, it has an impact on overall well-being,” Pont says.

Children, Pont stresses, are particularly vulnerable due to their innate lack of self-control, and really need parental guidance and limits on their device usage. “It’s too tempting at that age to mitigate their own use,” Pont says, pointing out that children’s brains are not fully developed, hence they lack impulse control and the ability to foresee the consequences of their behavior.

Cellphone use and depression

As noted by Twenge in her article15 “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” rates of teen depression and suicide have dramatically risen since 2011, and data suggest spending three hours or more each day on electronic devices can raise a teen’s suicide risk by as much as 35%.16

Spending 10 or more hours on social media each week is also associated with a 56% higher risk of feeling unhappy, compared to those who use social media less, and heavy social media users have a 27% higher risk of depression.17

“It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades,” Twenge writes,18 adding that “Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones …

There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives — and making them seriously unhappy.”

How much time are you spending on your phone?

After tracking Jackson, age 8, for two months, his average daily screen time came out to five hours and 32 minutes, but on some days, he spends nearly 11 hours on his tablet — basically the whole entire day. At his current pace, his projected lifetime screen time amounts to a whopping 15 years.

His mother admits being worried about her young son’s screen time, especially as she’s noticed he typically prefers spending time on his tablet over all other social interactions and activities. Meanwhile, the family’s 16-year old, Emily, trades her sleep for social media. She admits getting caught up in the infinite scroll; before she knows it, hours may have passed.

As noted by in Twenge’s Atlantic article,19 sleep deprivation among teenagers rose by 57% between 1991 and 2015. Many do not even get seven hours of sleep on a regular basis, while science reveals they need a minimum of eight and as much as 10 hours to maintain their health. Twenge writes about the habits of the teens she interviewed:

“Their phone was the last thing they saw before they went to sleep and the first thing they saw when they woke up … Some used the language of addiction.

‘I know I shouldn’t, but I just can’t help it,’ one said about looking at her phone while in bed. Others saw their phone as an extension of their body — or even like a lover: ‘Having my phone closer to me while I’m sleeping is a comfort.’”

Emily is no different, admitting that checking her phone is part of her morning and evening routines. It’s the first thing she does upon waking, and the last thing she does before bed. For Emily, a large part of her day revolves around Snapchat. She uses the app continuously to keep in touch with her friends — even when they’re sitting right next to her.

As mentioned, Snapchat uses a technique known as “loss aversion” to keep its users using. Emily has a Snapchat streak that has been going for nearly two years, and now she feels compelled to not break it, which is what loss aversion is all about.

On many days, Emily’s phone stays in use for nearly 7.5 hours. The Moment app clocked her picking up her phone up to 100 times a day during the monitoring period. On average, she spends 30% of her waking hours on her phone. Her parents are not far behind, each averaging about 21%.

Symptoms of internet addiction

Symptoms of the internet or cellphone addiction are similar to other types of addiction but are more socially acceptable. As noted in one study, internet addiction (IA) is:20

“[G]enerally regarded as a disorder of concern because the neural abnormalities (e.g., atrophies in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) and cognitive dysfunctions (e.g., impaired working memory) associated with IA mimic those related to substance and behavioral addiction. Moreover, IA is often comorbid with mental disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and depression.”

According to Psycom.net, conditions that can increase your risk of internet addiction or compulsion include anxiety, depression, other addictions, and social isolation or awkwardness.21 Common emotional symptoms of internet addiction include:22

Boredom with routine tasks Dishonesty and defensiveness Feelings of guilt, fear or anxiety; mood swings
Experiencing euphoria while online Procrastination; inability to prioritize tasks or keep schedules Avoidance of work

Physical symptoms of internet addiction disorder can include:23

Backache, headache, neck pain Carpal tunnel syndrome Dry eyes and other vision problems
Insomnia Poor nutrition; weight gain or weight loss Poor personal hygiene

Notifications take a significant toll on your cognition

If you’re like most, you probably have an array of notifications set on your phone. According to Marketplace, these notifications concern experts, who warn the constant pinging, beeping, and buzzing actually has significant consequences for your cognition.

Marketplace correspondent Commons visits Western University, where a lot of cognition research is being conducted. He participates in a test to evaluate his ability to focus and to see how distractions from his phone affect his attention and cognition.

First, Commons performs the attention test without his phone. For the next round of testing, his phone is left on, nearby. And, while he can’t see it, he can hear it — incoming phone calls, texts and the pinging of incoming social media notifications.

For the third part of the test, Commons has to recall numbers being texted to him. “It reflects how we normally interact with our phones,” the researcher explains. You might text details to a coworker, for example, or your spouse might ask you to buy milk on the way home.

Commons admits the distractions caused by his phone significantly interfere with his ability to concentrate on the task at hand. Even vibration without sound causes problems. Just how big of a problem? Commons’ verbal comprehension declined by nearly 20% when phone distractions were allowed.

One simple step that can eliminate many of these distractions is to simply turn off all notifications. Still, simply having your phone nearby can be enough to take your mind off what you’re doing.

A study24,25 using a group of more than 50 college students found that performance in complex tasks was worse when the participant could see a cellphone present, whether it was the study leader’s phone or their own, as compared to the performance of tasks when no cellphone was visible.

As noted by Brown, smartphones are here to stay, and app developers are getting increasingly sophisticated at capturing your attention. Smartphone users, therefore, need to become savvier and learn to make conscious choices about how they use their devices.

The question is, “Who do we want to be?” Brown says. Modern technology really requires you to shape yourself (or be shaped by software developers) and to use your devices in a way that helps you rather than hinders you from living your best life.

Read more great articles at mercola.com




Can We Bring Back the Old YouTube? An Overview of the FairTube Campaign

By Sophia Zaldivar | MCSC Network w/Niko House

Editor’s Note: You have no doubt heard numerous articles and read some articles about changes to YouTube’s handling of user content over the last 2 years. Very popular “Youtubers” have lost revenues through “demonetization” and have found that their ability to reach their current and targeted audiences have been adversely affected by their treatment in Google’s/YouTube’s algorithm, which determines rankings for the various videos on YouTube. Worse, some video channels have actually been taken down by YouTube. One problem with this phenomenon is that, for the most part, users do not even know why they have been demonetized or shut down. Some have also been concerned that some content is favored over other content. Even certain names will get a channel demonetized. Suspiciously, some of those words are “pizzagate”, “pedophilia”, “Epstein”, and “Tulsi Gabbard.” One group is taking action in this regard, a group in Germany, called Fairtube. The 2 videos below tell you more about this. Please spread the word, comment below, and get involved if you feel that this is an important issue for you.

Below is the video referred to in the above video:

Robert O’Leary, JD BARA, has had an abiding interest in alternative health products & modalities since the early 1970’s & he has seen how they have made people go from lacking health to vibrant health. He became an attorney, singer-songwriter, martial artist & father along the way and brings that experience to his practice as a BioAcoustic Soundhealth Practitioner, under the tutelage of the award-winning founder of BioAcoustic Biology, Sharry Edwards, whose Institute of BioAcoustic Biology has now been serving clients for 30 years with a non-invasive & safe integrative modality that supports the body’s ability to self-heal using the power of the human voice. Robert brings this modality to serve clients in Greater Springfield, Massachusetts and New England (USA) & “virtually” the world. He can also be reached at romayasoundhealthandbeauty@gmail.

 




Train Your Lil-Champ To Be a Cyber Warrior

We, as parents always want the best for our kids; we want them to learn everything – right from crawling to driving – at the right time in the right manner. It’s 2019, today’s kids are more interested in being tech-savvy than to be an athlete; though gadgets are not that bad, the internet is also not just about p***, even growing up immersed in social media is not that threatening, if used appropriately. But we can’t ignore the growing vulnerabilities attached to it.

Kids are independence-seekers, naive, innocent, curious, fearful of being punished, easily influenced, in nature; these are the reasons they are way easier targets for both offline and online threat artists.

Saving a kid from a pick-pocket or bullies at a high school is easier, but what about those invisible culprits sitting everywhere in cyberspace, finding ways to blackmail, harras, bully, fraud, and whatnot to trap the young minds.

“The gap between Generation Y with X making it harder for parents to keep up with the tech. changes that are affecting their lil champs.

We chauffeur our kids to school, to the playground, worry about their grades, try to serve them in the most perfect manner, but unfortunately, don’t take their online privacy and security seriously; who will take this responsibility? Do you know, computer viruses, identity theft, ransomware, cyberbullying and many other threats are affecting children every day.

Let’s take a look into a kids exposure to the so-called world of internet.

Your Kid and the Internet – An Inside out!

A study back in 2015, revealed that teens spend nearly nine hours using social media, while kids between 8 and 12 spend an average of six hours per day; what about yours? Find it out, not only hours but his/her online practices.

When your child is online, normal safeguards and security tips are not enough! You may think your kid is playing a game, researching a paper, or just typing a homework, so, how could he/she be harmed?

You are right to an extent, but what if, while playing a game, the child unknowingly click a malicious notification – reflecting a mesmerizing edition of their favorite game- or unintentionally delete your important file? There could more “what ifs,” the worst is when your child doesn’t realize what has happened and don’t share with you because of being punished.

Get to know them ASAP!

Is Your Kid at Risk While Online? These Figures might be of Help

If you think, malware, spyware, and other cyber attacks are adult-only, then you are wrong; anyone with a high level of trust and limited knowledge is hackers’ best target. The propensity of threats increases when kids and teens are active in chat rooms, video streaming, social-media surfing, and online gaming.

To play our part in the manner expected, we should know the internet consumption practices of our young minds; thanks to iamcybersafe for conducting a comprehensive internet usage survey among kids of grade 4-8.

Let’s see what the survey holds;

  • 31% of kids download adult music.
  • 21% watched adult programs.
  • 29% of kids use the internet inappropriately (something their parents won’t approve.)
  • 6% shopped online with a credit card without their parents’ consent.
  • 2% searched for the adult content.
  • 62% clicked to adult site after a search.
  • 53% access the internet other than homework every day
  • 31% lied about age to stream restricted content; isn’t a status offense?

The same study has also revealed that 40% of kids chatted to strangers online; let me brief how much information they have shared already.

  • 53% of them revealed their contact details.
  • 11% met a stranger personally.
  • 15% tried to meet.
  • 6% shared their address.
  • 21% spoke on phone.
  • 30% texted a stranger.

Does anyone want their kids to share any piece of information or even talk to strangers online?

Nobody wants any such thing to happen with their kids; it’s our duty to provide a safer and secure online freedom for protecting kid’s future, keeping them away from increasing risks and threats.

There are so many threats lurking for kids in cyberspace, right from bullying to ransomware, but the most credit goes to identity theft.

Just imagine, what if your kid is in foreclosure on a property in another state.

Your Kid’s Online Identity Holds his/her Future – So, Don’t Risk it!

Why I am saying this, you will understand with the results of a study “CHILD IDENTITY THEFT” conducted by Research Power; it was conducted back in 2011, but still relatable.

  • 2% or 4,311 of the children in the report had their Social Security number used by others – it is 51 times higher than the rate for adults.
  • The largest fraud of $725,000 was against a 16-year-old girl.
  • The youngest victim was just five months old; 826 were between the ages of 6 to 10, 303 were under the age of five, 1212 were between the ages of 11 to 14, while 1849 were between 15 to 18 years of age.

This is not enough, even your kid’s identity can also be used to sell and purchase homes and automobiles, open credit card accounts, obtain a driver’s license, and for secure Employment.

You must be thinking how could an unused social security number be beneficial to hackers? Find the reasons below; you will be surprised!

What Happened with Unused Social Security Numbers?

Unused Social Security numbers are more valuable than one can think of, thieves pair them with any name and birth date; making it useful for illegal immigration and other organized crimes.

A child’s identity is blank with the least discoverability; since the child doesn’t use it for an extended time and even parents also take it lightly, that’s why it becomes an easy target.

What happened then? This destroys a child’s ability to win loans approval, acquiring a phone, obtaining a job or else.

Anyways, kids need to be protected! But, how? That’s what I will tell you, don’t worry about that!

Hey Parents! Understand These Top Cybersecurity Concerns

For better understanding, I am dividing the measures in four different aspects, have a look.

1) Messaging, Where Hackers Wait for Their Targets

All the social media sites have direct message features that letting our kids to connect with friends, family, and strangers. Cybercriminals use such platforms, placing links that redirect to malicious downloads and phishing sites.

These are some signs that you can teach your kid to be aware of;

  • Messages with unusual misspellings, typos, and/or oddly punctuated.
  • Messages asking for personal information like credit card password or pin, SSNs, etc; legitimate social media sites never ask such things through direct message.
  • Messages claiming your account will be blocked unless a specific action will be taken.
  • Mismatched links, to check, keep the over a link with; make sure the bar address matches the destination.

You can also visit the sites like scam-detector and teach your lil champs some common ways how cybercriminals spread viruses via direct messaging.

2) Video Games – If It’s Online, It’s Dangerous

 Can you spot a kid who doesn’t love video games? You can’t; thanks to games for letting our lil warriors to share their experiences with others; there you will find a social component (chat or direct messaging).

Although this practice encourages game-build imaginations and relationships but also helping hackers to find their potential targets; don’t forget, there are 22 apps that are malware-loaded.

Playing games don’t infect systems; it’s only when our multi-taskers leave one game open and land on another.

Teach your kids to avoid such practices of hackers:

  • Chat links or Pop-up ads – they often lure with avatars, skins, free coins, and even upgrades; once clicked, it leads to download an executable file. When you open, the malware program infects and steal data, that could be your credit information.
  • Fake login pop-ups, asking username and password to continue; sometimes it could be “under maintenance” requests – a social engineering ploy to lock and steal kid’s profile.
  • Fake ads, asking them to click for freebies; hackers use botnets to run a fraudulent ad scheme – more clicks, more money for hackers.

To avoid phishing scams while playing video games online, you need to empower kids with these tricks.

  • Set the chat “friends only” options.
  • Help your child to learn “no free lunches” lesson.
  • Keep reminding hackers’ common tricks to them on and off.

3) Anonymous Sharing – An Easy yet Disastrous Practice

Anonymous sharing is what teens and tweens love the most; thanks to apps like Snapchat, Instagram, and others, allowing image posting and temporarily messages, but sadly, nothing on the internet is temporary, everything remains there in the cloud.

Cyberbullies take screenshots and use as a weapon against our young minds; although anonymous sharing reflects a healthy and open expression of freedom, but also make oversharing easier.

Before letting your child use such apps, discuss what information is suitable enough to share with the world and make them wary of messages with links or attachments; teach your kids to use the internet smartly.

4) Streaming Sites – Kid’s Loved it!

Again, streaming sites like Netflix, YouTube, and others don’t bring viruses along, but yes, their comment section can host; don’t click any link randomly in the chats.

Teach your kids the problem areas: how video ads look like, the comments section, and where descriptions of links are inserted; you can also turn the comment section off.

Kids learning is not sufficient, we parents also need to play our part; only then we can protect our kids from Cyber thieves and data suckers.

Let’s practice together!

Role of Parents in Securing Kids Online Presence

  • Enable YouTube Restricted mode to filter out inappropriate content.
  • Encourage your kids, to use the YouTube Kids App, so that the content remained under control.
  • Opt Parental Controls for all your kids’ devices and apps; let them or help them set their Facebook privacy “Friends Only” and block certain content to restrict their streamings.
  • Be engaged – Be it playing games, researching a topic, or creating a family newsletter, try to get involved with everything he/she does.
  • Set-up two-factor authentication – It is an extra layer to protect from hijacking.
  • Partition the system into accounts – Restrict their accessibility and privileges; this way you can keep an eye on whatever he/she is doing on the internet.
  • Is your kid’s computer in an open area? If not, then do it; keeping the system in a high-traffic area help you monitor his/her activities.
  • Get the security toolkit ready – Installing a comprehensive software like antivirus, Firewall, and others, can solve many of the problems that I have mentioned earlier. These tools will keep malicious actors and activities away from your kid’s online world.

Is Your Kid Online? If YES, then Control his/her Digital Moves

Cybersecurity is something that we don’t actually bother until a disaster happens; so, now it’s all in your hand – whether to wait for a disaster and react or be proactive.

Our responsibility towards our kids are not restricted to necessities and luxuries, we have to make them understand the importance of their online presence and the growing vulnerabilities.

Before wishing the kids a healthy and wealthy future, I want to pat on the back of all the parents out there for being conscious about their kids’ internet safety. But mommies and daddies, only concerned never works, practical actions need to be taken; as the future of our kids is at stake.




Recent Music Video Celebrates Great Women in History

By Anouk | Anouk

As so much is controversial in the news these days, it is nice to have something we should all be able to agree about. Music is a type of universal language, and we should all agree that there have been some great women in history. Even if you disagree with their views at times, they were pioneers in their respective fields, and in some way(s) changed history. Why not enjoy this wonderful video with some of the great women in your life.

Robert O’Leary, JD BARA, has had an abiding interest in alternative health products & modalities since the early 1970’s & he has seen how they have made people go from lacking health to vibrant health. He became an attorney, singer-songwriter, martial artist & father along the way and brings that experience to his practice as a BioAcoustic Soundhealth Practitioner, under the tutelage of the award-winning founder of BioAcoustic Biology, Sharry Edwards, whose Institute of BioAcoustic Biology has now been serving clients for 30 years with a non-invasive & safe integrative modality that supports the body’s ability to self-heal using the power of the human voice. Robert brings this modality to serve clients in Greater Springfield, Massachusetts and New England (USA) & “virtually” the world. He can also be reached at romayasoundhealthandbeauty@gmail.




SURPRISE YouTube Is In Major Pain After Censoring YouTubers!

By Luke Rudkowski | We Are Change

In the mainstream media’s ongoing efforts to control the publication of so-called “fake news,” Google and YouTube are just some of the companies which have been called upon to assist with policing social media. As with other companies, YouTube and Google use algorithms to do this kind of work, and certain websites which do not pass muster can get “demonetized.” This act of demonetization can cause great hardship on the YouTubers behind these websites.

The following video shows how YouTube’s efforts are not without consequences, as many of the demonetized websites have been so popular – apparently in many cases because the viewers see them as being more truthful than the mainstream alternatives – that YouTube’s revenues are suddenly down nearly 10% – which translates into $70 Billion in total losses for this huge company.

Robert O’Leary, JD BARA, has had an abiding interest in alternative health products & modalities since the early 1970’s & he has seen how they have made people go from lacking health to vibrant health. He became an attorney, singer-songwriter, martial artist & father along the way and brings that experience to his practice as a BioAcoustic Soundhealth Practitioner, under the tutelage of the award-winning founder of BioAcoustic Biology, Sharry Edwards, whose Institute of BioAcoustic Biology has now been serving clients for 30 years with a non-invasive & safe integrative modality that supports the body’s ability to self-heal using the power of the human voice. Robert brings this modality to serve clients in Greater Springfield, Massachusetts and New England (USA) & “virtually” the world. He can also be reached at romayasoundhealthandbeauty@gmail.

 




We’re All Being Judged by a Secret ‘Trustworthiness’ Score

By Tyler Durden | Zero Hedge

Nearly everything we buy, how we buy, and where we’re buying from is secretly fed into AI-powered verification services that help companies guard against credit-card and other forms of fraud, according to the Wall Street Journal.

More than 16,000 signals are analyzed by a service called Sift, which generates a “Sift score” ranging from 1 – 100. The score is used to flag devices, credit cards and accounts that a vendor may want to block based on a person or entity’s overall “trustworthiness” score, according to a company spokeswoman.

From the Sift website: “Each time we get an event — be it a page view or an API event — we extract features related to those events and compute the Sift Score. These features are then weighed based on fraud we’ve seen both on your site and within our global network, and determine a user’s Score. There are features that can negatively impact a Score as well as ones which have a positive impact.”

The system is similar to a credit score – except there’s no way to find out your own Sift score.

Factors which contribute to one’s Sift score (per the WSJ):

• Is the account new?

• Are there are a lot of digits at the end of an email address?

• Is the transaction coming from an IP address that’s unusual for your account?

• Is the transaction coming from a region where there are a lot of hackers, such as China, Russia or Eastern Europe?

• Is the transaction coming from an anonymization network?

• Is the transaction happening at an odd time of day?

• Has the credit card being used had chargebacks associated with it?

• Is the browser different from what you typically use?

• Is the device different from what you typically use?

• Is the cadence of the way you typed out your password typical for you? (tracked by some advanced systems)

Sources: Sift, SecureAuth, Patreon

The system is used by companies such as Airbnb, OpenTable, Instacart and LinkedIn.

Companies that use services like this often mention it in their privacy policies—see Airbnb’s here—but how many of us realize our account behaviors are being shared with companies we’ve never heard of, in the name of security? How much of the information one company shares with these fraud-detection services are used by other clients of that service? And why can’t we access any of this data ourselves, to update, correct or delete it?

According to Sift and competitors such as SecureAuth, which has a similar scoring system, this practice complies with regulations such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which mandates that companies don’t store data that can be used to identify real human beings unless they give permission.

Unfortunately, GDPR, which went into effect a year ago, has rules that are often vaguely worded, says Lisa Hawke, vice president of security and compliance at the legal tech startup Everlaw. All of this will have to get sorted out in court, she adds. –Wall Street Journal

In order to optimize scoring “Sift regularly evaluates the performance of our models and tries to minimize bias and variance in order to maximize accuracy,” according to a spokeswoman.

“While we don’t perform audits of our customers’ systems for bias, we enable the organizations that use our platform to have as much visibility as possible into the decision trees, models or data that were used to reach a decision,” according to SecureAuth Vice President and chief security architect Stephen Cox. “In some cases, we may not be fully aware of the means by which our services and products are being used within a customer’s environment.

Not always right

While Sift and SecureAuth strive for accuracy, sometimes it’s difficult to decipher authentic purchasing behavior from fraud.

“Sometimes your best customers and your worst customers look the same,” said Jacqueline Hart, head of trust and safety at Patreon – a site used by artists and creators to allow benefactors to support them. “You can have someone come in and say I want to pledge $10,000 and they’re either a fraudster or an amazing patron of the arts,” Hart added.

If an account is rejected due to its Sift score, Patreon directs the benefactor to the company’s trust and safety team. “It’s an important way for us to find out if there are any false positives from the Sift score and reinstate the account if it shouldn’t have been flagged as high risk,” said Hart.

There are many potential tells that a transaction is fishy. “The amazing thing to me is when someone fails to log in effectively, you know it’s a real person,” says Ms. Hart. The bots log in perfectly every time. Email addresses with a lot of numbers at the end and brand new accounts are also more likely to be fraudulent, as are logins coming from anonymity networks such as Tor.

These services also learn from every transaction across their entire system, and compare data from multiple clients. For instance, if an account or mobile device has been associated with fraud at, say, Instacart, that could mark it as risky for another company, say Wayfair—even if the credit card being used seems legitimate, says a Sift spokeswoman. –Wall Street Journal

A person’s Sift score is constantly changing based on that user’s behavior, and any new information the system gathers about them, according to the spokeswoman. From Sift:

We learn in real-time, which means Scores are constantly being recalculated based on new knowledge of fraudulent users and patterns. For example, when someone logs in, we’ve found out a lot of information in the meantime about suspicious devices, IP addresses, shipping addresses, etc., based on the activity of other users. Add this to the fact that there may have been some new labeled users since their last login, and the scores can sometimes have a significant change. This is also more likely if the user hasn’t had much activity on your site. –Sift.com

While Sift judges whether or not one can be trusted, there’s no file with your name on it that it can produce for review – because it doesn’t need your name to analyze your behavior, according to the report – which seems like total BS.

“Our customers will send us events like ‘account created,’ ‘profile photo uploaded,’ ‘someone sent a message,’ ‘review written,’ ‘an item was added to the shopping cart,” says Sift CEO Jason Tan.

It’s technically possible to make user data difficult or impossible to link to a real person. Apple and others say they take steps to prevent such “de-anonymizing.” Sift doesn’t use those techniques. And an individual’s name can be among the characteristics its customers share with it in order to determine the riskiness of a transaction.

In the gap between who is taking responsibility for user data—Sift or its clients—there appears to be ample room for the kind of slip-ups that could run afoul of privacy laws. Without an audit of such a system, it’s impossible to know. Companies live under increasing threat of prosecution, but as just-released research on biases in Facebook ’s advertising algorithm suggest, even the most sophisticated operators don’t seem to be fully aware of how their systems are behaving. –Wall Street Journal

“I would argue that in our desire to protect privacy, we have to be careful, because are we going to make it impossible for the good guys to perform the necessary function of security?” asks Anshu Sharma – co-founder of Clearedin, a startup which helps companies avoid falling victim to email phishing attacks.

His solution? Transparency. When a company rejects a potential customer based on their Sift score, for example, it should explain why – even if that exposes how the scoring system works.

Read more great articles at Zero Hedge.




Greenlighting ‘Censorship Machine,’ EU Adopts Controversial Copyright Rules

Open Internet advocates are criticizing European Union member states’ passage of the Copyright Directive. (Photo: SaveYourInternet.eu)

By Andrea Germanos | Common Dreams

European Union member states were accused of threatening freedom of speech and online expression—and ignoring the will of millions of people—after they adopted controversial new copyright rules.

Six member states—Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Finland, and Sweden—voted against the proposal. Three others—Belgium, Estonia, and Slovenia—abstained. Nineteen voted in favor.

The completion of the final hurdle of the new Copyright Directive comes after the European Parliament passed the rules last month—a move German MEP Julia Reda called a “dark day for internet freedom.”

“With today’s agreement,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Monday, “we are making copyright rules fit for the digital age. Europe will now have clear rules that guarantee fair remuneration for creators, strong rights for users, and responsibility for platforms.”

Not so, says the Save Your Internet campaign, which argues that the overhaul “only benefits big businesses.”

The devil is in two provisions, which the Wikimedia Foundation summed up last month. They are Article 15, which was formerly called Article 11, and Article 17, formerly called 13.

Article 15 will require certain news websites to purchase licenses for the content they display. As a result, many websites that helped people find and make sense of the news may choose not to offer this type of service, making it harder to find high-quality news items from trusted sources online. Article 17 will introduce a new liability regime across the EU, under which websites can be sued for copyright violations by their users. This will incentivize websites to filter all uploads and keep only “safe” copyrighted content on their sites, eroding essential exceptions and limitations to copyright by making platforms the judges of what is and isn’t infringement.

The end result, says the Save Your Internet campaign, is detrimental to users, creators, and competition:

  • Users will have access to less content and will be unable to share their content with others, even when it’s legal. Moreover, any complaint mechanisms will be easily bypassed if blocking is done under the pretense of terms and conditions violation, rather than as a result of a specific copyright claim.
  • If platforms become directly liable for user-uploaded content they will arbitrarily remove content based on their terms and conditions. As a result, many creators will see their content get blocked too. And, as fewer platforms survive the burden of this provision, creators will have less choice on where to share their creations
  • Only platforms with deep pockets will be able to comply with the Article 13 requirements and even if small enterprises get an exemption from its scope, this simply means they are not allowed to scale up and compete with the big U.S. platforms, under the motto ‘in Europe, small is beautiful’!

Given such impacts, Catherine Stihler, chief executive of the Open Knowledge Foundation, said the adoption of the rules is “a deeply disappointing result which will have a far-reaching and negative impact on freedom of speech and expression online.”

“We now risk the creation of a more closed society at the very time we should be using digital advances to build a more open world where knowledge creates power for the many, not the few,” she said.

Still, Stihler said that all hope is not lost.

“The battle is not over,” she said. “Next month’s European elections are an opportunity to elect a strong cohort of open champions at the European Parliament who will work to build a more open world.”

Read more great articles at Common Dreams.