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back to article Big Brother? Social networks are far worse, says Estonian president

Fears about states' Big Brother-style invasions of peoples' privacy are outdated, and citizens should instead be worrying about how social networks and supermarkets are using their private data, says the president of Estonia. Toomas Hendrik Ilves explained today at the annual International Conference on Cyber Conflict that …

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Spot On!

That is all.

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Big Brother

Human swarm

There was an excellent programme on called "Human Swarm" (www.channel4.com/programmes/human-swarm) that covered some very useful points on how businesses capture and use data to predict how groups of people will act in a given situation.

A bit like the fictional "Pyschohistory" proposed by I Asimov.

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Meh

Re: Human swarm

With so much data on me being processed by all these businesses, why is it that I have absolutely no interest in the advertising they target me with.

Pretty much says all there is on the matter

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Happy

Re: Human swarm

"With so much data on me being processed by all these businesses..."

What's amusing to me is they think all the data's accurate :-)

//lies, all lies...

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Re: Human swarm

>What's amusing to me is they think all the data's accurate :-)

Everyone else is doing it, so we have to too is the dumbest argument in business, small surprise it always occurs in commodity businesses or ones on their way there.

So we will keep mining the noise to predict the future when we could have just gotten drunk and guessed nearly as accurately. It seems to me that like all the data businesses have on consumers, social sites' data are lagging indicators.

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Shops

But Tesco can tell how much bog paper I get through, whether I'm a loyal customer or one of those vultures that hit the 'reduced' section.

It's possible with a lot of work and cross-referencing with other Facebook, mail, on-line news, etc etc. to find out more about me but the big retailers know the size of my shoes.

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Re: Shops

I'm sure there are many folks who twit/status update the amount of bog paper they use.

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Not wrong

> "No government follows you as much as a social network,"

The thing about democratic governments is that they have institutions that are meant to protect citizens (whether from the government, other citizens or other institutions is a point worth debating over at least 4 pints). Social networks haven't even evolved a fully developed sense of mob rule yet - though I'm sure it's on its way.

The time to get worried is when an online group starts to wield significant influence and therefore gets courted by "real" politicians. Mumsnet is a possible example. Until something like Facebook can declare itself a state, use it's cash pile to finance hard or soft power (it probably already has more soft power than the majority of countries) and comes up with a political agenda, we're probably OK. Fortunately none of the internet power brokers have any natural resources, so they are all kept under control by their advertisers. Even more fortunately, their users are a fickle lot. So it's unlikely that any particular social website will ever last long enough to do any serious damage - except to the generation of children who were innocent enough to tell it all their secrets.

Let's hope none of those kids ever stumbles in to a position of power.

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Big Brother

Re: Not wrong

If you're scared about Facebook wielding political power, I suggest you look up Fwd.us

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Devil

Re: Not wrong

No natural resources? Right... So you are trying to tell me that Google is not investing into power generation?

You are probably right about f***book - it will go the way of the MySpaces and Bebos of yesteryear. Google however... Hm, I am going to disagree with you here:

* They already have a lobbying arm on par with petrol companies and farm unions

* They are not here for a day or two.

* They are so big that they now control how advertisers behave. So the natural "money flow" check is no longer applicable.

Be afraid, be very afraid...

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Anonymous Coward

"whether I'm a loyal customer or one of those vultures that hit the 'reduced' section."

Loyal customer = iPhone owner?? Paying a stupid tax!

You go pay 3 times the price, we'd both be enjoying the same quality item!

The advertisers are excellent at sucking in our youth and ripping them off, whilst they "like" them on some psyco network.

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Anonymous Coward

except the stasi would kill you where as facebook want to sell you things/sell you for ads.

It's the main difference between governments and intelligence agencies having the tools to mine such data and store such data versus a retailer. YOU are not interesting to retailers, you as part of an audience to purchase things are, but it's an abstract model of you, your data is only interesting to them for what they can sell you and people that you have been dropped in a bucket with because you have similar data.

The data isn't the problem, it's how people intend on using it.

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You seem to overlook that whatever data is available to Facebook is also available to the government via Facebook.

As for what purposes data is used for, you're thinking small. You can always tack on the purposes later and once the data is out there, the ship has sailed. I say the day when services that offer analysis of your social profile will be used to evaluate how suitable you are for employment in a particular position. To an extent this has already happened, however it will become a lot more widespread and automated. Guess what not having a social network presence will mean for your employability?

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Meh

Look! A Pink Horse!

I agree social networks intrude on personal privacy and are composed of 98.7% stupid. However Facebook isn't going to arrest me or my family for not bending to their will. The same cannot be said of any government 'Big Brother' apparatus. Effectively comparing Facebook to the Stasi or the KGB is demeaning to all those whose lives have been impacted by such organizations.

If anything, this is Big Brother at its most effective, pointing to the actions of others to lessen the perceived impact of their own policies.

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Re: Look! A Pink Horse!

> "However Facebook isn't going to arrest me or my family for not bending to their will."

You're right; they won't.

Not yet, anyway.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Look! A Pink Horse!

Are you talking about the future? Nothing is guaranteed! As governments become more fearful or stretched they may use back doors into commercially held social networks in 'special circumstances'. I imagine incidents such as the Boston bombings count as special circumstances. One would hope that all data collected on innocent parties captured in the investigative process would be promptly deleted . But who can say for sure? The TV show 'Person of Interest' is over the top snooping. But to some in power it might seem like a means to an end...

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Re: Look! A Pink Horse!

What, they know I have a preference for Ivory brand soap so they're going to stake out the supermarket to make me by Lifebouy soap or my wife and kids will be disappeared? An unreasonable and emotional response from the people is exactly what announcements like this are made to elicit.

Privacy is a major concern, but social networks are not a great threat to the citizen; you have the option to not engage with them simply by not engaging. The same can not be said for government surveillance. Having the people be scared of Facebook while ignoring the ever growing government programs is pure propaganda gold. With Facebook you know exactly what they want, money. With a state apparatus you never known until they've got you locked up. The failure of the paranoid to understand risk priorities kind of makes the paranoia a waste of resources.

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Big Brother

I don't agree, with social networks, clubcards etc... you are trading one bit of information for a service.

With government snooping, they are after your data for their purpose, and you get nothing in return, and most importantly you can choose to NOT be on facebook, you can choose to NOT be on twitter... and even more critically, you can choose what to share...

Governments like ours that want to snoop on every bit of information we share electronically don't give you any level of control and just say its in our own good.. I don't care if Tesco's knows I buy certain products, but I do care if the government knows what websites I visit and when.

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Well, it's not like Facebook, Twitter or Google don't collect information about you if you don't use their services.

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Pint

1. We can lie. My occupation according to Facebook? Systems administrator at Aperture Laboratories. Likewise, I don't have my address, phone number, or real e-mail address listed. My gender, political leanings and sexual identity are listed, but these aren't things I even consider private. Everyone I know knows these things, including people who don't know me very well at all. It would be a problem if I lived in Iran, but suffice to say that if I did, I would just lie about them. This makes Facebook a particularly unreliable source for information about things the state wants to suppress, don't you think?

2. "Data on smartphones shows how peoples' weight loss plans or even how many push ups they make every day," he added. So? How is that information going to be useful to anyone at all? One of my friends on the other hand, is what the police here refer to as a "Code 3", which means he can kill people with his bare hands or any nearby object that could serve as a weapon. He's also known to be a little, um, twitchy. Which is something that *is* useful to police, and it *is* recorded by them, in no small part because there have been incidents where the police have been involved. They write that stuff down, you know.

3. The supermarket has records about how much KD I buy and how much toilet paper I buy, which, while being highly personal, is again, useless to anyone besides the supermarket. It's highly unlikely that my insurance company will ever get this information, and you could just as easily glean it from my garbage anyway, which requires no specialized knowledge.

4. The current public attitude about Facebook is that if you want it to be private, don't put it on Facebook. Personally, I don't have much of a problem with the public knowing what the route I bike is, and how fast I bike it. Some stalker might find it vaguely useful, but since I'm male and I don't make a habit of pissing people off, I don't see that as particularly dangerous.

5. If, for any reason I decided that I would prefer not to be found, Facebook makes this particularly easy. I can change my name. birthday, address and gender on a whim, and I could feed it information that is completely ridiculous. I could stop using applications that track my whereabouts (there's only one anyway). I could change my bike route (which is necessary at my level of fitness anyway). Again, this makes Facebook a really unreliable method of getting personal information, if any such information exists on Facebook to begin with.

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Anonymous Coward

@ "gromm"

Your comments show some very serious limited thinking on your part.

Maybe you should listen to what others have to say and see if you can gain something from them.

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Big Data

Being anti-social, I don't do social networking.

The collection of all this data by commercial entities is for commercial purposes. Of course, any government can demand or subpoena (depending on the type of government) the information.

Regarding the commercial purposes of data collection, it is no different from what commercial entities have been doing for a long time; trying to figure out who is going to buy their stuff. Statisticians can put forward probabilities regarding the behavior of masses but it seems human behavior remains somewhat of an enigma otherwise how would one explain New Coke and the multitude of products and services that have relied on big data and bright minds to go into the marketplace only to find no one was interested.

I think it was Henry Ford who said that half of the money he spent on advertising was wasted but he didn't know which half. Much of what we are seeing here is the continuing push by those whose business is advertising, that they can deliver customers. This is what all companies in the business of advertising promise. And advertising companies measure their contribution by click through, coupon redemption, promo codes, sign ups, hits etc.. It's all the same stew it's always been but with additional spices and a few more styles of kitchen sink.

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Anonymous Coward

Geniuses they are not

I have house insurance and a credit card with one major supermarket brand but yet the credit card side still ask me when my insurance renewal is due. I think we overestimate how clever they are with the data they have.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Geniuses they are not

That said though, once information is out there, sooner or later there will be an automated process examining it in some way.

It's only a matter of time. There are quite a few, such as Google, who are already there.

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