Toronto’s Data-Laden Quayside Raises Surveillance Concerns

Quayside, as the project is known, will be laden with sensors and cameras tracking everyone who lives, works or merely passes through the area. In what Sidewalk Labs calls a marriage of technology and urbanism, the resulting mass of data will be used to further shape and refine the new city.

But extending the surveillance powers of one of the world’s largest tech companies from the virtual world to the real one raises privacy concerns for many residents. Others caution that, when it comes to cities, data-driven decision making can be misguided and undemocratic.

Source: The Seattle Times

Decentralization: The Future of Online Social Networking

Social networking forms an important part of online activities of Web users. However, social networking sites present two problems. Firstly, these sites form information silos. Information on one site is not usable in the others. Secondly such sites do not allow users much control over how their personal information is disseminated, which results in potential privacy problems.

This paper presents how these problems can be solved by adopting a decentralized approach to online social networking. With this approach, users do not have to be bounded by a particular social networking service. This can provide the same or even higher level of user interaction as with many of the popular social networking sites we have today. It also allows users to have more control over their own data.

A decentralized social networking framework described is based on open technologies such as Linked Data [Berners-Lee 2006], Semantic Web ontologies, open single-signon identity systems, and access control.

Source: MIT

A Former Facebook Manager’s Scathing Rebuke

Sandy Parakilas, a former operations manager at Facebook, recounts a third-party developer taking user information to create unauthorized Facebook profiles for real children. Facebook executives took little action in response. As Parakilas points out, Facebook has no business interest in regulating its advertisers or safeguarding its customer data from abuse. That’s because its advertising model is built on automation that serves up vast amounts of consumer data, rewards emotionally engaging content and makes it easy for anyone to spend a few cents on an ad.

Source: USA Today

Social Media and Psychological Health

Major social media companies now extend beyond apps and platforms, taking on the status of infrastructures and institutions. [As such, they] ought to consult with trained social researchers to design interfaces, implement policies, and understand the implications of their products. Social media are not just things people use, places they go to, or activities they do. Social media shape the flows of social life, structure civic engagement, and integrate with affect, identity and selfhood.

Source: Jenny Davis (Cyborgology) via The Society Pages

Chief Data Officers Need a Network

The reason the Civic Analytics Network is successful is the incredible support system they have in place. When the group published An Open Letter to the Open Data Community, I saw a group that shared many of the same thoughts as I do. What resonated was that the group was able to develop some consensus about where “open data portals” should be headed, share that out into the community; and that the private sector responded. We need this same support system too.

Source: Tyler Kleykamp via Medium

What Is a Federated Network?

In politics, a federation is a union of states (or other entities) that are partially self-governing and independent but have transferred a set of responsibilities and duties to a central government that unites them.

What’s a federated network, then? Alternative social networks such as Diaspora and Lorea have been described as adopting a federated structure, but their server architecture is often strongly reminiscent of [Paul] Baran’s description of a decentralized system. In Diaspora, for example, users become a member of a “pod,” and in principle only connect directly with their own pod; these pods in turn are connected to each other to allow users in different pods to interact with each other. This matches the “distributed network of centralized networks” description. Is federation just a synonym for decentralization, then? It depends on who you ask.

Source: Unlike Us via Institute of Network Cultures

The Scary Hidden World of Dark Social

We’d like to think that what we choose to share is a reflection of who we are, but the data suggests there’s a discrepancy between the persona we present to the world on open social versus our deeper desires and interests reserved for private sharing.

The rise of chat apps has led to more social sharing between individuals and small groups. There are different types of dark data, which has made engagement harder to track. There are two main ways for readers to share content online: use a share button or copy/paste the link. The first one is easy to track; the second isn’t. In 2012, The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal came up with the term “dark social” to describe the “vast trove of social traffic is essentially invisible to most analytics programs.” Per RadiumOne, 84 percent of sharing from publisher and marketing websites now takes place via private dark social channels such as email and IM.

Publishers and marketers could cut back on content if they only see a few shares per story. But they may want to rethink that. It could help to make sharing as easy as possible so readers don’t have to go dark. For example, you could create private sharing buttons on your websites for email, SMS, and chat platforms like WhatsApp.

Source: Contently

David Kirkpatrick: Nightmare Net Scenario ‘Already Happening’

Facebook’s Newsfeed and Google’s search results are the two most central sources of digital information for the world. For each of them, all decisions about what information is given priority and visibility are made by one commercial company whose primary goal is ad revenue and profit. There is no consultation with the public, no regulatory oversight, and no recourse for errors or distortions.

The least neutral places on the internet are the Newsfeed and Google search. There are no such mechanisms that might deter, regulate, or formally disclose distortions that arise from the Newsfeed and Google search. No credible proposals are being discussed anywhere that would address the absolute control these still-growing net colossi have over the public dialogue.

Source: David Kirkpatrick via Techonomy

Decentralized Systems Alone Won’t Address Threats

It’s not clear we can solve the nuanced issues of centralization by pushing for “re-decentralization” of publishing online. Most people do not want to run their own web servers or social network nodes. They want to engage through friendlier platforms, and these will be constrained by the same forces that drive consolidation today.

A better strategy would be to pursue policies that strengthen the environment for decentralized platforms, including data portability, interoperability, and alternatives to advertising-based funding models. For instance, if users have more control of their data, they’ll be more willing to experiment with new platforms.

Decentralized web advocates have good intentions, but there’s no silver-bullet technical solution for the challenges that lie ahead.

Source: Wired