Big Brother Is Watching You

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Social media is a force for good. It enables family and friends to stay in touch across the world, enables children to communicate with their friends by smartphone and Facebook, companies to promote their goods through viral seeding and news to spread like wildfire around the globe. It leads to more open societies, more scrutiny of wrong-doers, more accountability through shared knowledge.

So why are some people increasingly disturbed about the rise of social networking, and the technology that facilitates it?

Disturbing Findings 

The news this week that Carrier IQ has been contacted by a US Senator to explain the workings of their smartphone software, with its troubling security and privacy implications, is causing a storm. Carrier IQ insist that the information their software collects is simply to enable their operators to diagnose glitches in the operating systems. But security analyst Trevor Ekhart reports that he found the CIQ software was recording users’ locations, keystrokes and the sites they visited, without asking their permission or offering an opt out clause. In effect the company could record every single action performed on a smartphone without the owner knowing, since the software was installed as standard, and details of it don’t appear on menus. The software has been installed on Samsung handsets and on some HTC Android phones. Carrier IQ initially tried to silence Eckhart by resorting to court action, but digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation intervened. Now Senator Al Franken, chairman of the Senate subcommittee on privacy, technology and the law has weighed into the debate, and Carrier IQ have until 14th December to reply to his letter to them, asking for urgent clarification on the matter. The software is estimated by Carrier IQ to be installed on more than 140 million devices, but Apple have moved to remove the software from the iPhone 4S and other devices running its iOS5 system software.

Privacy and Security Implications 

The spat raises interesting questions about the privacy of our data and the information being gathered by mobile phone operators without our knowledge. If it is possible that our personal information, including the contents of emails, SMS and social networking interaction can be gathered and used without our knowledge and permission, then questions must be raised about the potential for exploitation of this information by hostile parties, or even government.

The recent riots in the UK, during which some MPs called for the suspension of Blackberry’s BBM and messaging system, and Twitter, highlights the threat that politicians feel that social networking capacity poses. They argued that rioters were using social networking to ‘orchestrate’ riots, to co-ordinate attacks on police and to evade detection. The UK government refused to comply with the requests to suspend the service, but later information was gathered from social networking sites and used as evidence during the prosecution of rioters.

Blackberry and Facebook representatives pointed out to a Home Affairs Select Committee that although social media had been used ‘maliciously’ in some instances, it had to be viewed in a balanced way. Facebook and Twitter were use for social good during the riots too, reassuring family that their loved ones were safe, warning to the police about areas to watch, and co-ordinating the clean-up in the following days. Data gathered from Blackberry communications enabled the police to prevent incidents as they were able to follow the thread of planned attacks.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
 

But, as Juvenal asks, who watches the watchmen? If the technology exists to collect this kind of data for commercial reasons, it would be unsurprising if the security services were not keenly interested in the data too. But who decides what sort of activity is deigned ‘hostile’ or ‘subversive’. And where does individual freedom lie? The prospect of governments being able to track citizens through software such as Carrier IQ, without our knowledge, is a hellish vision of the future. What better way for security agencies to monitor terrorist activities? And that’s a good thing, right? Security agencies can already gain access to electronic data retrospectively, in order to obtain convictions. MPs calling for a suspension of social networking sites during times of disorder are opening up issues of privacy, policing and state control that need addressing urgently. We don’t want riots and terrorism, but we don’t want software installed on our mobile phones, which collect private communications without our knowledge either. Big Brother could be just around the corner, and we need to support Senators like Al Franken who are keeping a close eye on this issue.

Those are my thoughts; do you agree or disagree?

Want to connect with me?  That is easy, I am always on!  You can Friend me on Facebook, Follow me on Twitter, add me to your Circles on Google+ and connect with me on LinkedIn.

 

 

Insignificant? Not at all!

I was blessed today to have another morning on this earth, and to be able to enjoy a cup of coffee on my deck as the sun started it’s journey across the sky.  I snapped this photo of the moon agains the backdrop of the blue sky and clouds and started pondering our significance in the universe.

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         Watching the final Space Shuttle mission and the landing of Atlantis took me back to my childhood; like most boys, I wanted to be an astronaut!  I still want to fly into space and look down upon the earth.  That would be so cool! Alas, that is not an option at this point, so I will just keep looking towards the Heaven’s and keep that dream alive!Looking to the stars and the vastness of the universe, or even our own lives, it is easy to feel insignificant, but that is not the case. We all touch countless lives as we live our life.  The people we see each day and interact with, our family, friends, co-workers, we impact them all.  Are you impacting those lives in a positive manner?  Am I?  That is the constant question.Working in and spending a considerable amount of time in social media, I communicate with thousands of people. I am always aware of this and strive to make a positive impact in those lives.  I hope I do.  If you spend time in social media or social networking, you have a similar opportunity.  You have the opportunity to  make a significant impact or difference in the lives of others. Before you send that next Tweet or post something to one of your profiles, think about that.  Think about how it will impact your friends and followers, as well as your own reputation.  Will it be positive and supportive or negative?  However you choose to impact others, just know you do, and treat those “virtual” relationships with care; these are real people on the other side of the screen.How do you make a significant difference in the lives of others? 

Changes

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I must admit to you, my readers, that I have been remiss in putting out frequent blog posts lately.  I accept full responsibility for that.  Business and life has been busy, but that is no excuse!This post is to let you know that, while life is great, and getting better every day, I am making some changes in my professional and personal life that will enable to me to connect more and communicate more with each of you! As the saying goes, “it’s all good.”So, thank you for reading and stay tuned; the best is yet to come!  I appreciate you sticking with me as I revamp my site too; the support you provide to me is amazing!

Twitter Etiquette – NO Automatic DM’s

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This is an ongoing series of blog posts on Twitter Etiquette. My first post, Ten Things Not To Do On Twitter can be a a good starting point for new users and a good reminder for us veteran Twitter users.Twitter and other forms of Social Media is about relationships. Learn it, live it, and love it; or suffer damage to your reputation when you attempt to shorten the time it takes to develop these relationships! One of the quickest ways to torpedo a new social media relationship, before it even has a chance to begin forming? The Automatic DM (Direct Message). Twitter DM’s can be a tool to communicate privately with one of your followers; but it is NOT a method to automatically send your followers information they have not requested!When you receive a new follower, send them a personal tweet, engage them in conversations and ask to learn more about them or their business. Remember, it is about relationships, not initially trying to sell something!Here are some personal favorites; actual DM’s received by me or some of my followers: I just created a new group for you to join, please check out my blog!It is great meeting you, keep smiling and spreading your good cheer! Hey, help spread the word about this link, video, site You know how to use Twitter, check out my site and give me your valued feedbackNo one knows about this, but I have stock tip that you will want to act on nowFor me, any of these types of DM’s will simply cause me to unfollow you!If you want a good tool for reducing the number of Auto DM’s, check out SocialToo; it is a great service and worth checking out.Let me know some of your “favorite” Auto DM’s and don’t be THAT person that abuses a new relationship. [Read more…]