STOP! Using the Internet!
May 14, 2016 1:17 PM   Subscribe

Why a staggering number of Americans have stopped using the Internet the way they used to Nearly one in two Internet users say privacy and security concerns have now stopped them from doing basic things online — such as posting to social networks, expressing opinions in forums or even buying things from websites, according to a new government survey released Friday. This chilling effect, pulled out of a survey of 41,000 U.S. households who use the Internet, show the insecurity of the Web is beginning to have consequences that stretch beyond the direct fall-out of an individual losing personal data in breach. The research suggests some consumers are reaching a tipping point where they feel they can no longer trust using the Internet for everyday activities.
posted by robbyrobs (74 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
Good!
posted by STFUDonnie at 1:20 PM on May 14, 2016 [8 favorites]


When companies boasts that they knows exactly what you are doing, because it datamines your music listening habits, browsing habits, tracks you via built in GPS on your phone, and examines all your mail, one ought to give pause for thought. I don't recall that the Stasi ever did all of that.
posted by lilburne at 1:29 PM on May 14, 2016 [17 favorites]


I've stopped using the internet entirely. Now I just use my smartphone.
posted by chavenet at 1:38 PM on May 14, 2016 [83 favorites]


I think it's interesting to consider whether there will be a serious bifurcation in Internet use. The savviest* users will continue to participate in the arms race between privacy and data harvesting, and the least savvy don't even know they're at risk. The muddle in the middle, as it were, may be those likeliest to just disconnect - they understand that risks adhere to online activities but don't really feel as though they're up to the perceived** threat.

I would posit we may already be seeing service & content provision cleaving along similar lines.

* All due deference to Dunning & Kruger here.
** Whether the threats are as perceived is another discussion (worth having).

posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 1:42 PM on May 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


The needs of the beast must be tended to.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:43 PM on May 14, 2016


What we have is a fundamental structural flaw to the internet- it is far too accommodating to bad actors. You can't have an internet for public identities, privacy, and anonymity.

On the one hand, we have massive data collection and intrusion on privacy, on the other hand, women in public getting harassed by anonymous users. You cannot actually come up with a solution for both of those problems. The problem is baked into the origin of the internet.
posted by happyroach at 1:44 PM on May 14, 2016 [11 favorites]


chavenet, you jest, but research I'm doing right now suggests that in mobile-first communities, like the low-income NYC community where I'm gathering data, there may be a perception that somehow the path to access internet on mobiles and PCs is entirely different...
posted by gusandrews at 1:45 PM on May 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


This article is kind of a weird mix of concepts. Financial transactions, okay, but "expressing a controversial opinion" is something that people avoid because of "security concerns"? Like someone breaking into their Facebook account and reading friends-only posts?

Let me posit an alternative theory. Back when social networks and blogging were becoming popular, the mainstream media put out a steady stream of "be careful what you put online" articles about people who posted indiscreet party pictures or NSFW memes and got what was coming to them in the form of blacklisting by potential employers. These stories, aimed mostly at college students but clearly applicable to anyone, normalized the idea that there should be draconian social and economic consequences to "doing basic things online." It's not a matter how "secure" the Web is any more than being afraid to write a letter to the editor has to do with the insecurity of paper.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 1:46 PM on May 14, 2016 [17 favorites]


Expressing opinions in forums? Does the average internet user even know about forums?
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:47 PM on May 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Expressing opinions in forums? Does the average internet user even know about forums?

Am you seriously?

Of course they do. There's a forum for every damned interest, no matter how down-market or plebeian. FWIW, a butt-ton of "forums" are Facebook groups. Same difference, functionally.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:49 PM on May 14, 2016


Like someone breaking into their Facebook account and reading friends-only posts?

Anyone who's been on Facebook knows that the threat of making their friends-only posts public, their personal opinions visible to strangers, and their identifying information exposed, comes mostly from ... Facebook.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 1:54 PM on May 14, 2016 [14 favorites]


but "expressing a controversial opinion" is something that people avoid because of "security concerns"

For example, women expressing the controversial (to assbags) opinion that they are in fact people has resulted in severe security concerns for their own health and well-being. See: SWATting, etc.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:54 PM on May 14, 2016 [49 favorites]


I think they meant "computer security concerns", though, not "personal safety concerns", which would have actually made sense.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 1:56 PM on May 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


"expressing a controversial opinion" is something that people avoid because of "security concerns"?

Ever heard of trolls, harassment, stalkers, political opponents, and even simply, you know, employers?
Posting anything controversial or anything personal under your full name and surname may be a given to you, but for many it’s not without risks or concerns. And unfortunately not even anonymity is a guarantee.
I am not surprised at all by these findings.
posted by bitteschoen at 2:00 PM on May 14, 2016 [15 favorites]


Ah, well. If you distrust the internet, then perhaps we need to listen to experts who tell us how to encrypt, etc to prevent being spied on, easily hacked, and so forth. But then, your net now secured, there is this sort of thing: Hidden Microphones Exposed As Part of Government Surveillance Program In The Bay Area
posted by Postroad at 2:03 PM on May 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


Ever heard of trolls, harassment, stalkers, political opponents, and even simply, you know, employers?

Right, it sounds like they're blaming computer security ("I'm afraid my private information will be leaked to the public") when the problem is actually culture ("I'm afraid I will be harassed/blacklisted because I dared to exist in the public sphere.").
posted by Ralston McTodd at 2:04 PM on May 14, 2016 [8 favorites]


Oh I see - well I read it as personal safety concerns but in the end it’d also involve security concerns, doesn’t have to be hacking, someone may trace you or impersonate you, or doxx you etc. those are matters of security and safety together.
posted by bitteschoen at 2:05 PM on May 14, 2016


Financial transactions, okay, but "expressing a controversial opinion" is something that people avoid because of "security concerns"? Like someone breaking into their Facebook account and reading friends-only posts?

I'm scrupulous about not posting anything substantive on Facebook about my work, but I did, in fact, have someone in my (already rather small!) group of Facebook friends inform my supervisor that I had made a couple of job-related posts, such as that a surprising number of people had happened to be out of the office that day. As I don't work in national defense, I didn't really consider this (or the others) to be a potentially objectionable comment. However, my supervisor (who is older and not, I think, herself awfully net-savvy) didn't care for this, and I got a mild talking-to. Of all the things I've posted on the Internet over the years, really not the thing that I would have ever expected to cause me any trouble, but...there it is. I defriended a lot of people, put someone on the enemies list, and further chilled my already pre-chilled self.
posted by praemunire at 2:07 PM on May 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


NB actually the article doesn’t use the word "controversial" at all, just says "expressing opinions in forums", and "privacy and security concerns", so really seems clear enough.
posted by bitteschoen at 2:11 PM on May 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


The internet: soon to be sock-puppets all the way down.
posted by OHenryPacey at 2:39 PM on May 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


On the one hand, we have massive data collection and intrusion on privacy, on the other hand, women in public getting harassed by anonymous users. You cannot actually come up with a solution for both of those problems. The problem is baked into the origin of the internet.

I've been trying to figure out whether there's a way the Internet ideally would evolve into two separate networks- one strongly anonymous and one strongly non-anonymous. That doesn't even solve every problem - you still have little control over any data in the end but it seems to me that of the things the Internet is really "good for" some *only* work if you have accountability and some *only* work if you have anonymity so it would be nice if there was a place to go to do each.
posted by atoxyl at 2:59 PM on May 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


Well, when employers demand login information to their employees' social media sites, it's not really foolish to avoid using those sites. When Google continuously degrades the utility of Web searches*, it makes the whole Internet less useful. These and other unproductive developments are bound to convince some people to give up on the Internet entirely.



* Remember when Google would tell you which links in the search results went to PDFs? Remember when you could enter a phone number, and Google would tell you who owned it?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:03 PM on May 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


Financial transactions, okay, but "expressing a controversial opinion" is something that people avoid because of "security concerns"? Like someone breaking into their Facebook account and reading friends-only posts?

Nope, because since Snowden there's a palpable sense that "the NSA is watching" and this belief often gets referenced in a ha ha, only serious sort of way when people post about taboo topics or tell personally damning stories, if they do at all.
posted by iffthen at 3:04 PM on May 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's not so much the net that's insecure, it's computers and their users ... as hackers began to warn 30+ years ago. The net interconnected all of these unsecured machines and careless users.

Before the net took off, in 1998 'Identity theft' was already enough of a problem that the UK and US both passed data protection acts. Of course, insurance was soon available!!

Before the net, data about consumers was gathered by many means ... e.g. reponses to snailmail ads, mailed and telephoned 'consumer surveys', 'warranty' and 'registration' cards that asked waaay too many questions.

But if you 'give it away now, giveitaway, giveitaway', why act all surprised when it comes back at you?
posted by Twang at 3:12 PM on May 14, 2016


Google (USA) shows me a little [PDF] before any pdf in a search result, Kirth.

(I'd rather have /ncr back, myself.)
posted by rokusan at 3:14 PM on May 14, 2016


Remember when you avoided downloading PDFs because they were usually bigger than the equivalent web page?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:16 PM on May 14, 2016 [23 favorites]


Maybe I'm a little more counter-cultural than most people who use the interwebs (but if so only a little... I mean I'm old now) and even for me, not a day passes when someone with whom I'm speaking/chatting/e-mailing doesn't make a point to avoid saying something in plain language because "the NSA (or whomever) might be watching. I hesitate a lot myself, too, though I feel weirdly unclean doing so.

It wasn't like this on the internet 20 years ago, or even 10. People spoke much more freely online.

And I'm not even talking about things that are illegal, just perhaps not always socially acceptable to upright, conservative Christian-nation statists*.

So... yeah. A chilling effect, for sure.

* IME, this isn't the majority of Americans, but it sure does describe a lot of law-enforcement types.
posted by rokusan at 3:20 PM on May 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


Google (USA) shows me a little [PDF]

Right you are, rokusan. I carelessly blamed Google when what I use is StartPage, which is only "enhanced by Google," and does not have the PDF marker.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:23 PM on May 14, 2016


Remember when you avoided downloading PDFs because they were usually bigger than the equivalent web page?

I probably shouldn't say this since I'm a guy who does a lot of client-side development, but for all the cool stuff that it has brought us, client-side development has seriously fucked up the web.
posted by middleclasstool at 3:35 PM on May 14, 2016 [9 favorites]


client-side development has seriously fucked up the web

One of my favorite tricks is when there's no content at all unless you enable javascript for the site ...
posted by oheso at 3:59 PM on May 14, 2016 [8 favorites]


So I came in here to add how often I sit there, typing words forward and erasing them backward, on twitter or elsewhere, and then just don't but now I think I'll just step back out.
posted by infini at 4:13 PM on May 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


Expressing opinions in forums? Does the average internet user even know about forums?

The average internet user posts to Topix instead of Metafilter.

If you want a terrifying look into the average American mind, pick a city or county 150 miles away from your state's largest urban area and google for 'topix [insert city]'.
posted by T.D. Strange at 4:31 PM on May 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


Well, when employers demand login information to their employees' social media sites, it's not really foolish to avoid using those sites.

Yes, but : "The applicant says he has no Facebook site. What is he hiding?"
posted by thelonius at 4:36 PM on May 14, 2016


It wasn't like this on the internet 20 years ago, or even 10. People spoke much more freely online.

Yeah, seconding the claim there's been a palpable shift in the culture. It's scarier now than it's ever been in my lifetime in America to express oneself freely and honestly on matters of substance. Peepee and doo doo jokes, on the other hand, have never been more welcome at the party, so that's history's tango for you.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:42 PM on May 14, 2016 [8 favorites]


"I'm scrupulous about not posting anything substantive on Facebook about my work, but I did, in fact, have someone in my (already rather small!) group of Facebook friends inform my supervisor that I had made a couple of job-related posts, such as that a surprising number of people had happened to be out of the office that day. "

My kid was having some trouble at school and I posted to my facebook a question about "here's some very non-specific stuff with hardly any details going on with my kid and I'm not sure how to handle it" and it was 100% about my kid and 0% about his school (which was really not at fault, it was just normal kid bumps in the road), because there are tons and tons of parents and teachers on my FB feed and I've always gotten good advice that way, although I'm careful not to post details about my kids' stuff that might come back and haunt THEM in 20 years. ("Haha, you still had a blankie at 8!") ANYWAY, some utter assbag of a human being who nonetheless was on my friends list screencapped my post and e-mailed it to my kid's principal, who called me to be like "why are you posting nasty things about our school online?" And when I was like "Who the hell shared that with you?" they refused to tell me, citing the privacy of the assbag who violated mine. (You may imagine the rest of my giant tantrum about "in what universe is it appropriate for you to confront me with this?" and "why would you even accept this sort of nonsense gossip from an obviously horrible person?" and "in what universe is asking for help with my kid somehow reflecting poorly on your school? Although this ridiculous fucking conversation is definitely reflecting poorly and is going all over my social media, you can be damned sure.")

This was like two years ago and TBH I'm still furious. Pruned the shit out of my friendslist. Hesitate to ask for parenting help online anymore. Once bitten, twice shy.

I also hesitated to shop for, for example, potty training supplies online, since there are so many trackers, and I know amazon knows how old my kids are based on my other purchases. Does amazon really need to know how old they were when they became reliably night-trained? Is that a fair thing for me to do as a parent, make their potty training ages theoretically available to hackers now or 20 years in the future? There are just whole categories of really innocuous things I'm hesitant to buy online anymore because they're about my kids and maybe my kids don't want their entire childhoods recorded by big corporations. Anything related to illness or developmental speed bumps or bad behavior or anything like that ... maybe I DON'T want to buy that really great book about problem X, because maybe I don't want it in my amazon history, and for recommendations for related books to be chasing me all over the web.

Kid problems obviously randomly generated for this post and not related to my actual kids' actual problems.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:08 PM on May 14, 2016 [47 favorites]


Pyromania, animal cruelty, and bedwetting are supposedly the big three in the FBI childhood behavior transistioning to adult violent criminality but you can be sure that is going to be big and false-positive-abundant and moving targets.

Have you considered becoming Amish?
posted by bukvich at 5:46 PM on May 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've long treated the internet as a fully public space. I'm just as careful online as I am offline. For example, I don't tell jokes on Facebook that could cause me professional trouble, nor do I tell them at the office – I tell those jokes at the bar.

In my mind this is an extension of how it's always been. We present one side of ourselves to the public, and hold another one private. While the internet adds a layer, it's not a new dynamic.
posted by elwoodwiles at 5:49 PM on May 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


For example, I don't tell jokes on Facebook that could cause me professional trouble, nor do I tell them at the office

The problem is that you can't reliably predict what may eventually cause you professional trouble. And, well, as someone who earns her living in part contriving negative interpretations of documents by scrutinizing them with hostile intent...hostile intent can get you a long way with apparently innocuous statements.
posted by praemunire at 6:08 PM on May 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


hostile intent can get you a long way with apparently innocuous statements.

Well, of course. But to function on a reasonable level we tend to not optimize for the edge cases. For example, I know - or at least can reliably predict, I'll never run for President. I can give myself the correspondent amount of latitude when commenting on a public forum.

If I was that worried about being scrutinized with hostile intent, I wouldn't tell jokes at the bar (or be seen in a bar) either. Instead I have a pretty secure sense of what my goals (and liabilities) are and I behave accordingly. Which is, to my point, exactly what most people have been doing all along, internet or no.
posted by elwoodwiles at 6:25 PM on May 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Well, I'm convinced.

*returns to yelling opinions on random street corner*
posted by jonmc at 6:49 PM on May 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


Have you considered becoming Amish?

I tried finding info online, but their website sucks.
posted by rokusan at 7:19 PM on May 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


So I came in here to add how often I sit there, typing words forward and erasing them backward, on twitter or elsewhere, and then just don't but now I think I'll just step back out.

Ah yes, but even that is not enough when we know that Facebook, at least, records your typing before you even submit the form.
posted by indubitable at 7:24 PM on May 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


The internet has real world consequences for the victims of bad actors but no real world consequences for the bad actors themselves. In the "real world" (unless the bad actors are corporations or white or rich or some combo thereof), actions mostly have consequences.

One of the things the internet gave to us was a reason for everyday folks to own a computer. One of the things it stole from us was the ability to trust that computer.
posted by maxwelton at 7:28 PM on May 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


Research I'm doing right now suggests that in mobile-first communities, like the low-income NYC community where I'm gathering data, there may be a perception that somehow the path to access internet on mobiles and PCs is entirely different...

This is my mother. After several hours of trying to get her to fucking get it, it occurred to me that she thinks of the phone and her older computer as accessing completely different Internets, she thought the desktop and the laptop had different Internets as well. There have been few times in my life where I was rendered utterly speechless. That was the biggest one. She couldn't wrap her head around logging into amazon the exact same way on three different devices.

(Not "mobile first," but wow)
posted by nevercalm at 7:45 PM on May 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Have you considered becoming Amish?
I tried finding info online, but their website sucks.


Please, it's not terrible.
posted by Mezentian at 7:56 PM on May 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


Even my dog stopped using the internet because no one knew he was a dog despite all the tracking.
posted by AugustWest at 9:13 PM on May 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Your dog should have worn Runkeeper.
posted by Mezentian at 9:38 PM on May 14, 2016


Once upon a time my internet activities were under my real name. This was before there was effective searching. I thought of it as similar to talking to my friends in a restaurant or club--yes, it was public, and yes, it could potentially be overheard, but that seemed unlikely. The idea that someone would go looking for what I did online was about as weird as the idea that someone might dig through my trash to find out what restaurants I went to regularly, and then follow me there in order to eavesdrop.

And then effective searching was invented and it became clear that people are really fucking nosy and controlling. The only reason they don't demand to know what you say to your friends when you're at a restaurant is because those transcripts aren't yet easily available.

(Yet.)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:32 PM on May 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


"On the one hand, we have massive data collection and intrusion on privacy, on the other hand, women in public getting harassed by anonymous users. You cannot actually come up with a solution for both of those problems. "

"And when I was like "Who the hell shared that with you?" they refused to tell me, citing the privacy of the assbag who violated mine."

It's amazing how literally every single person is stalked all over the place online and is constantly tracked EXCEPT FOR ANY MAN WHO HARASSES WOMEN ONLINE. Oh noes, those guys just can't be found!
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:42 PM on May 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


| It wasn't like this on the internet 20 years ago, or even 10.
| People spoke much more freely online.

Yeah, seconding the claim there's been a palpable shift in the culture. It's scarier now than it's ever been in my lifetime in America to express oneself freely and honestly on matters of substance. Peepee and doo doo jokes, on the other hand, have never been more welcome at the party, so that's history's tango for you.


I'm new to MetaFilter posting, so please complain gently to me if I'm breaking local courtesy rules (I skimmed the 'About MetaFilter' page and the questions list in the MetaFilter FAQ.)

Would it be out of place to suggest that if acceptance of regular people's transgressive discussion of 'matters of substance' declines far enough, the national standards for quality in such discussion might fall? Then many regular people desperate for an alternative in a wasteland of discourse might turn to a fifth-rate presidential candidate who was offered up to them by the corporate mass media as a ridiculous clown?

Like, a half-accidental clampdown on constructive, substantive discussion produces a horrible mess for everyone.

Or was it always this bad?
posted by cattypist at 11:13 PM on May 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


Ah yes, but even that is not enough when we know that Facebook, at least, records your typing before you even submit the form.

Thank god I'm not trying to be intelligent on FB. Do you know if Twitter is keylogging my words yet?
posted by infini at 12:58 AM on May 15, 2016


Research I'm doing right now suggests that in mobile-first communities, like the low-income NYC community where I'm gathering data, there may be a perception that somehow the path to access internet on mobiles and PCs is entirely different...

ICYMI, there have been a few recent studies, particularly those by LirneAsia, that demonstrate for the majority of newbies going online for the first time, especially via their phones, they don't know that Facebook and the Internet are one and same.
posted by infini at 1:01 AM on May 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


that demonstrate for the majority of newbies going online for the first time, especially via their phones, they don't know that Facebook and the Internet are one and same.

So, what I heard Web TV and AOL before it were, back in the day?
posted by Mezentian at 4:46 AM on May 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yes, that actually makes sense. While the actual device/access ecosystem might change, the underlying conceptual framework of the "newbies entering journey" is probably the same.
posted by infini at 4:49 AM on May 15, 2016


Or, as we recall it: Eternal September.
posted by Mezentian at 5:02 AM on May 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


It seems like newbie-ness is actually prized now? Like calling blog posts "blogs" and believing that Internet consists of a few established walled-garden social networks -- this is what people mean when they say that they need to hire more Millennials because of their "digital native" status. Poor tail-end X-ers -- when we first got on the Internet we were mocked for being part of the eternal September, and now we're obsolete because we remember something before Twitter and Tumblr.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 5:37 AM on May 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ah yes, but even that is not enough when we know that Facebook, at least, records your typing before you even submit the form.

If that is true (which I don't question), they are effectively installing a keylogger on your machine. How is that not utterly criminal?
posted by ojemine at 5:40 AM on May 15, 2016


How is that not utterly criminal?

Did you read the EULA?
posted by Mezentian at 6:27 AM on May 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


This has always been the case with any medium of communication. Data is valuable...mass data is even more valuable.

Not so sure it has ever been this weaponized....
posted by CrowGoat at 10:13 AM on May 15, 2016


I keep Facebook euthanized on a spare browser. Its for a handful of family and friends
posted by infini at 10:45 AM on May 15, 2016


I suppose we're long past the point where we can take refuge in the idea that the sheer volume raw data that's generated every hour on the internet protects us from being 'spotted' by actors with 'special interests' (e.g. .gov or amazon.com). Still, couldn't a concerted effort to inject noise into the signal help slow those efforts down? I used to speculate, for example, about a tool that would create completely made up identities and connections into Friendster, i.e. generate noise.
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 1:44 PM on May 15, 2016


A couple of things have made me pull way back on social media in general, and I've always been pretty circumspect about what I do online. The first is having a couple of Facebook posts that were pretty innocuous about my job — mostly, like, "This member of the public was bafflingly rude to me" — and a couple of MeFi comments about other aspects get me hauled into a meeting with a board member over my discretion levels, because someone at another organization in our coalition had thought I was insulting them or something. So I had to do multiple tiers of privacy lists, etc. and that just takes more effort to post, so I don't as much.

The other big thing was that a couple months ago, I chided — using more gentle language than I would here, even — somebody on a public, regional Facebook group who was freaking out about somebody spray-painting on temporary construction plywood, and I basically told them to lighten up, Francis. They got super agitated about how their whole identity was public through Facebook, but mine was (at that point) still a first-name-last-initial, and they reported me. I'd had that identity through Facebook since they first opened it up to .edu addresses, it had never been a problem, but all of the sudden I had to go through Facebook's opaque, terrible identity verification system, and every interaction was relentlessly stupid. I felt, and still feel, that the name was an authentic identity — I'd had it for years, it was what plenty of my friends knew me as, I wasn't being nefarious, and I had ID that ostensibly met their criteria (work ID; membership cards) with that identity. The process went like this: They made a request, I told them why I thought it was legit, they suspended the account. Then they asked for ID; I sent them ID that their FAQ listed as legitimate. Twenty-four hours later, they sent me a request for the same ID. I sent it again. Another day goes by. They ask for the same thing again; I try to escalate, and they refer me back to the list of acceptable ID. I tell them that I've provided it. Eventually, I just accept that I have to change my name on their to one that matches my driver's license, and still try to get some clarification on it. It would have been Kafka-esque, had Kafka been submoronic.

AT EVERY SINGLE STEP OF THE PROCESS, I GET A CANNED RESPONSE THAT DOESN'T ANSWER MY QUESTION, AND EACH TIME THAT HAPPENS IT TAKES AN ENTIRE 24 HOURS.

It was one of the most user-hostile, braindead processes I've ever been through, and the only reason I went through it is because since I work with non-profits on digital communication, I have to have a Facebook page along with a handful of other social media accounts. It took me over a week to resolve this, with basically zero actual human interaction — it was impossible to find a phone number that anyone answered except to sell ads.

But by the end of it, my feeling was, "Y'know, fuck you. I'll use this to a mild extent to keep up with my friends, but there's no real reason for me to provide free content for your platform, and since you clearly don't give a shit about me and have forced me to go through this idiocy in order to prop up an incoherent policy based purely on marketing me more shit, fuck off."

Part of sharing this information is some basic trust that they're going to at least consider my interests in how they distribute it, but since I can't trust them, and because I can't actually communicate with them in any meaningful sense, I'm not going to share any more than I have to. They're not my friend. They're a system meant to extract value and to push me to behave in ways that increase their profit, not my well-being.

While I have reservations about Google, in general, sharing my corpus for mining seems a decent exchange for their great spam filters on my inbox and still consistently the best search results (I want to like DuckDuckGo, but they can't filter out the content farms and black-hat SEO).

I'll also say that I'm someone with weird, esoteric interests, and the blunt fact is that I just don't consider that anyone else's business.

Maybe it's that my father got an FBI file for helping to run a jazz club in Chicago in the '70s, or maybe it's that my background in journalism means that I think protecting sources has to start before you even start writing the story — or maybe it's just good ol' '90s cyberpunk/Shadowrun paranoia. But I don't trust these platforms to either have my best interests at heart nor to be things I have a lot of meaningful control over, so hell yeah, I run privacy badger, browse incognito even for innocuous stuff, and encrypt things that I don't have to. Without meaningful privacy protection, self-censorship becomes one of the few ways to have some feeling of control — who knows, maybe it's the digital equivalent of an eating disorder, attempting to impose control in small ways to combat a larger feeling of helplessness. In any event, "none of your goddamned business" is a response I wish more people would give, or at least be aware that they're being asked all of these intrusive questions by seamless interaction.

" I used to speculate, for example, about a tool that would create completely made up identities and connections into Friendster, i.e. generate noise."

This is why any time that Facebook exhibits pareidolia, I just click yes that that is my wife's face and not a chair back, good job robot!

But see also: The Aaron Brown art project.
posted by klangklangston at 4:52 PM on May 15, 2016 [9 favorites]


"To keep reading, please enter your email address."

Irony.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:27 PM on May 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


I keep Facebook euthanized on a spare browser. Its for a handful of family and friends

I'm pretty sure that kind of sandboxing ain't great.
If there's no one better (AND THERE MUST BE) I'll big into it, but because of the Facebok shadow archives and the EFF Panda thing (may not be Panda), they can pretty much track you anywhere to a degree of accuracy.
posted by Mezentian at 4:38 AM on May 16, 2016




"Y'know, fuck you. I'll use this to a mild extent to keep up with my friends, but there's no real reason for me to provide free content for your platform, and since you clearly don't give a shit about me and have forced me to go through this idiocy in order to prop up an incoherent policy based purely on marketing me more shit, fuck off."

Facebook discovers to its shock and horror that original content posting has dropped by double digit percentage points. Wrings hands and wails but what did we dooooo?


I'm pretty sure that kind of sandboxing ain't great.
If there's no one better (AND THERE MUST BE) I'll big into it, but because of the Facebok shadow archives and the EFF Panda thing (may not be Panda), they can pretty much track you anywhere to a degree of accuracy.


Oh yes, by the folks they're digging up to offer me as "friends" (other than that moron, zuck) I can tell their scraping and linking database is growing on a weekly basis. But they haven't fingered "me" yet. The day they do I'll delete the account again.
posted by infini at 8:46 AM on May 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that kind of sandboxing ain't great.

Yes and no. Its a mobile browser downloaded on a PC and used with a SIM card based modem. Twitter chased me around for a while but I linked my two accounts for them and its subsided. Its not like it was a secret, just work and personal, but these shifts signal the changes in their internal monitoring.

Oh, and btw, here's a nightmare from Amazon.
posted by infini at 8:52 AM on May 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


Can they track across browsers? Can they keylog the activity on the rest of the device? Yet? Then they're part of the apparatus.
posted by infini at 8:57 AM on May 16, 2016


So I went to take a look at it. I don't use that browser for anything else. And its a new account. The types of people listed in the "friends you should make" seem to be of three sorts:

1. Friends of existing 30 friends.
2. A layer of people from around 10 years ago, so they seem have an older profile or guesswork
3. Pure lures eg. a student of a certain religion from a certain location

2 and 3 are unconnected to anyone else in my network and seem to designed to either trap or triangulate.
posted by infini at 9:07 AM on May 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Can they keylog the activity on the rest of the device?

No, it's just JavaScript running in the browser sandbox. You know how when you go to a search engine's page, it will pop up query suggestions as you type? Same principle.
posted by indubitable at 9:41 AM on May 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


I just assume everyone everywhere sees everything I do on the internet. Simple...
posted by judson at 11:16 AM on May 16, 2016


/me reads the article about FB wringing its hands about less original content being shared

Oh, FFS, Facebook, you brought this on yourself. You can't make an algorithm that prizes links and photos and other commercially valuable stuff and pushes it up in the feed, and make it trivially easy to re-post other people's stuff or react to things with an icon, then wonder why your site prizes people who game that system to the exclusion of others who just wrote up their thoughts.

Cry me a river. You're worse than IBM. At least they try to be useful.
posted by gusandrews at 6:52 PM on May 16, 2016 [1 favorite]






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