Don’t Quit Facebook, Delete and Lock Your Data

Facebook has revealed itself as the BP of social networking.   According to McQuaid its only a matter of time before their oil – our personal data – springs a leak. In many senses it already has.  Facebook surfaces data that makes you vulnerable to stalkers, identity thieves, and employers with a big brother complex.  Facebook’s troubled CEO hasn’t exactly been helping his company out PR wise: calling some who trusted him with their personal information “dumb fucks”.

Yet at the same time, a call to quit Facebook on May 31st has a mere 3000 signers, a splash in the bucket when it comes to Facebook’s millions of users.   The alternative to Facebook, Diaspora, faces a number of logistical hurdles to truly become a viable competitor.  This creates a situation in which the reason many of us are on Facebook – “all our friends and family are there” – keeps us from going elsewhere.  Yet at the same time we have an urge not to support a company that has lured users in with false promises of safety and privacy, only to display a massive amount of greediness in their rush to exploit the information we’ve trusted them with. After all, we are simply their users, their natural resource.   Their customers are the advertisers.

With that in mind, I’d like to suggest a course of action that can send a message to Facebook, protect your data, and preserve your account to keep using Facebook in a way you find valuable: Delete or Lock Down all of your data.

Why Keep Your Facebook Account?

Any number of reasons.  Maybe its an easy way for you to keep in touch with people.  I find I use it to keep in touch with friends who are no longer neighbors, to plan events, and to share pictures and links.  The point is you’ve decided to have your facecake and eat it privately too.  (Though if you want to quit, more power to you!)

Deleting Your Data

This is the best way to protect yourself.  Start with your profile.  Delete anything risky like an address, birthdate, phone number or alternate means of contact.  If someone wants to skype you, and they don’t already have that info, they can send you a message.  Next, delete your likes, activities, musical preferences, etc.  Delete as many pages as you can, keep only the bare minimum.  ALL of this data is used to refine the demographic your age, race, location and gender place you into.  Movie preferences make it easier for the entertainment sector to target you in their advertising.  Deleting this information cuts at Facebook’s value to advertisers.

Take a look at your pictures.  How many of them could be moved to flickr?

Now for the big one: applications.  Applications present one of the largest, least understood security risks on Facebook.  Like that farm game?  Hope you also like sharing ALL of your private data with them.  Imagine your entire profile without any security or privacy controls.  That is what applications have access to.  So unless that app is from a trustworthy source and absolutely necessary, delete it.

Locking Your Data Down

Keeping images on Facebook?  Have an email address associated with the account?  Restrict who can see it to Friends Only.  Remove yourself from the public search listing.  This is a big one, as without it your facebook page shows up in google!  Keep in mind when someone sees your facebook page any liked musicians, politicians, religious or political groups etc shows up on that profile, along with your profile picture, regardless of your privacy settings.  (Hence deleting as much as you can is your best bet for privacy).  Removing yourself from the public listing goes a long way in mitigating that vulnerability.

Read Up

Check out tips and tricks for locking down Facebook (new and old).  Facebook is so frequent and arbitrary about how they change their privacy settings, that the best advice I can give is every few months google “Facebook and Privacy” and look for up to date tips.  With Facebook, today’s locked down private data is tomorrow’s public data bonanza for advertisers.

Spread the Word

The more people remove the very data Facebook is after from their accounts, the stronger the message we send Facebook:  “Hey, your user base is savvy to your goals and won’t let you exploit us”.  Advertising and social networking can work together.  The problem Facebook faces is a fundamental failure to grasp that trust and consent must figure prominently in such a scheme.

In Zuckerberg’s words, we are all currently dumb fucks for trusting his company with our privacy.  Let’s send a message that the trust is no longer there.

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Invasion of Love and Privacy

The people who brought you prop hate have decided to go after existing gay marriages:

The sponsors of Proposition 8 asked the California Supreme Court on Friday to nullify the marriages of the estimated 18,000 same-sex couples who exchanged vows before voters approved the ballot initiative that outlawed gay unions.

The religious right is literally tearing families apart.  How many of these married couples have kids together?  What will there status be?

That doesn’t matter at all to the theocratic  freaks who would rather force the government stop anything not approved by their interpretation of the Christian Bible.  (And these are the types of people Obama is trying to reach out to).  They aren’t pro-family, they are pro-theocracy.

They need to be stopped.  They do not have the right to ruin lives because they think their God disapproves of homosexuality.  While I approve the irony and creativity behind the initiative to ban divorce in California (petition and more details here), I think we need to come up with a sharper plan of attack.  We need to find a way to make areas of discourse that have been regarded as politically safe, dangerous.  We need to shift the overton window of religion’s role in public life to expose the ridiculousness of allowing irrational faith of some to dictate the rights of all.

Sean Tavis vs the Creationist

Via Majikthise, Sean Tavis is running a campaign for state representative in Kansas (inspired by xkcd and the 300) against a regressive fundamentalist.

He is running against this guy:

Arlen Siegfried (R), who is anti-choice, anti-gay, pro-creationism, anti-privacy, and pro-censorship.

His blog is here, and you can donate here (lower right).

Arlen Siegfried is a guy who ought to be defeated, Sean Tavis might be just the geek to do it.  (Dig the anti-regressive sales tax position)

Facebook and Your Data

Facebook is watching youFrom the article:

Berteau claims the results of the tests prove that Facebook is able to collect information about its members’ surfing habits on affiliate sites, regardless of whether permission has been granted.

Facebook replied to CA’s concerns in a letter describing the ease with which user’s can opt out of having the purchasing information listed on the “mini-feed” on their profile.

“I replied explaining that I was not particularly worried about the feeds, which are only shown to friends who I have previously vetted, but that I was more concerned about the silently collected data, particularly the possibility of that data being sold to third parties,” Berteau said.

Facebook has since released a statement claiming that it has no choice but to collect the data so that it can be used should the user decide to “opt-in” to the service.

This is Bullshit.  They could submit a list of users who opt-in to affiliates, and have them *only* transmit data for those users.  Which leads me to an interesting question.  Has Facebook submitted a list of users to collect data from?  (If so, their “no choice” argument is already a flat out lie on its part).  If not, do affiliate sites send data for *every* user, regardless of whether they have a Facebook account?

Facebook is saying they do not use the data.  They haven’t said they will not.  But they also fail to understand that sometimes people just don’t like the idea of a corporation tracking them, whether the data is erased and “never used” or not.

Analysis: Obama’s Argument on FISA

The last thing Obama wants to do is move closer to John McCain and George Bush on issues of constitutional rights.  But take a look at his own rationale for his terrible decision to vote for the FISA bill (TPM, emphasis mine):

Obama on the FISA ‘Compromise’ …

“Given the grave threats that we face, our national security agencies must have the capability to gather intelligence and track down terrorists before they strike, while respecting the rule of law and the privacy and civil liberties of the American people. There is also little doubt that the Bush Administration, with the cooperation of major telecommunications companies, has abused that authority and undermined the Constitution by intercepting the communications of innocent Americans without their knowledge or the required court orders.”That is why last year I opposed the so-called Protect America Act, which expanded the surveillance powers of the government without sufficient independent oversight to protect the privacy and civil liberties of innocent Americans. I have also opposed the granting of retroactive immunity to those who were allegedly complicit in acts of illegal spying in the past.

“After months of negotiation, the House today passed a compromise that, while far from perfect, is a marked improvement over last year’s Protect America Act.

“Under this compromise legislation, an important tool in the fight against terrorism will continue, but the President’s illegal program of warrantless surveillance will be over. It restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance – making it clear that the President cannot circumvent the law and disregard the civil liberties of the American people. It also firmly re-establishes basic judicial oversight over all domestic surveillance in the future.

This is crucial, and its great Obama fought for this.

It does, however, grant retroactive immunity, and I will work in the Senate to remove this provision so that we can seek full accountability for past offenses. But this compromise guarantees a thorough review by the Inspectors General of our national security agencies to determine what took place in the past, and ensures that there will be accountability going forward. By demanding oversight and accountability, a grassroots movement of Americans has helped yield a bill that is far better than the Protect America Act.

Ok.  So there is no accountability for the President or the Telecoms in the past, but moving forward they are now restricted from freely spying on Americans.  The bill’s supporters essentially carved out what they could with the intention of going back later and pursuing actual accountability for crimes committed.

It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives – and the liberty – of the American people.”

I don’t like that.  Its a very Republican argument to make.  Essentially “There are scary bad men so we need to spy on some of you but don’t worry it will be the right ones”.  I don’t like the FISA courts, its just that since Bush ignored them they seem downright transparent and democratic by comparison.  How sad our country is becoming.

So in essence, Obama and the bill’s other Democratic supporters (like Jim Webb) seem to have decided to trade accountability for past actions for assurance that as of this bill’s passing the illegal spying will stop.  Personally I feel this was a poor decision to make, and that this bill should have been used to embarress the politicians who supported giving complete and total freedom to the administration and the telecoms to spy on Americans “above the law”, with no stated intention of “fixing it later”.  But its an understable decision.  However now Barack Obama has another part of his platform whether he acknowledges it or not: “If elected I will hold the Bush administration and the Telecoms responsible for breaking the law, and work to ensure they are fully prosecuted”.  Although I wonder if we just saw that chance sail by?

Roll Call: Telecoms Allowed to Spy Illegally

I don’t see any reason to pretend this is anything other than an incredibly shitty decision to allow illegal and unconstitutional behavior.  Here’s roll call highlights:

Voting For this travesty: Obama, Lieberman, Hagel, Snowe, Specter, Webb, Warner, Hatch, Graham

Missing the bloody vote: McCain, Kennedy, Sessions

Voting Against: Clinton, Kerry, Feingold, Boxer, Schumer, Leahy

To the constituents of the Senators who missed this important vote, ouch.  To the constituents of Obama and Webb, we need to be clear this was a betrayel of trust on their part.  What a stinging dissapointment.

I want to salute those who voted against it, but at the same time I remember many of those Senators voted against the confirmation of Alito while refusing to fillibuster.  Sometimes logging an ineffectual “Nay” vote just doesn’t cut it.  The entire Senate failed us.  But they did a great job for the telecoms, so at least we can spend a little less as individuals next election season, they’ve apparently got that covered.

To be clear, I agree with Glenn completely.  McCain isn’t fooling anyone with his no show, and Obama is fucking up his own campaign:

Stanford Professor Larry Lessig has been a hard-core Obama supporter since before the primaries even began. He knows the candidate himself and has all sorts of contacts at high levels of the campaign. Yesterday, Lessig wrote a scathing criticism of what the Obama campaign has been doing over the past several weeks: “All signs point to an Obama victory this fall. If the signs are wrong, it will be because of events last month.” This is what Lessig said about the Obama campaign’s attitude towards the FISA bill:

Yet policy wonks inside the campaign sputter policy that Obama listens to and follows, again, apparently oblivious to how following that advice, when inconsistent with the positions taken in the past, just reinforces the other side’s campaign claim that Obama is just another calculating, unprincipled politician.The best evidence that they don’t get this is Telco Immunity. Obama said he would filibuster a FISA bill with Telco Immunity in it. He has now signaled he won’t. When you talk to people close to the campaign about this, they say stuff like: “Come on, who really cares about that issue? Does anyone think the left is going to vote for McCain rather than Obama? This was a hard question. We tried to get it right. And anyway, the FISA compromise in the bill was a good one.”

So the highest levels of the Obama campaign believe this bill is “a good one.” Lessig adds that the perception of Obama’s craven, nakedly calculating behavior as illustrated by his support for the FISA bill is by far the largest threat to his candidacy as it “completely undermine Obama’s signal virtue — that he’s different”:

The Obama campaign seems just blind to the fact that these flips eat away at the most important asset Obama has. It seems oblivious to the consequence of another election in which (many) Democrats aren’t deeply motivated to vote (consequence: the GOP wins).

[Emphasis Here is Mine – Dan] I can’t count the number of emails I’ve received demanding that I stop criticizing Obama for his support of this bill on the ground that such criticisms harm his chances for winning — as though it’s the fault of those who point out what Obama is doing, rather than Obama himself for completely reversing his position, abandoning his clear, prior commitments, and helping to institutionalize the destruction of the Fourth Amendment and the concealment of Bush crimes.

I still support Obama, but he needs to understand he’s making it a hell of a lot harder to do so effectively.

Specter Calls to Finally Investigate Illegal Spying On Americans?

That’s what I first thought when I saw an opinion piece from SI.com on google news.  I quickly realized the venerable congress critter was talking about investigating a fucking football spying scandal.

The chances of anyone in the Bush administration ever seeing justice for illegally spying on Americans?  Still zero.