Who ‘owns you’ on the internet?

right to be forgotten


When you post a photo of yourself on Facebook, have you ever thought of who owns that photo?  Or better yet, if you are at a party, and your friend posts a photo of you, who really owns that image? Is it you, your friend, the Internet Service Provider, or the platform hosting the photo?

This is one of the many new contentious issues of a global nature that  has been brought about by the internet, whose development has outpaced international legislation (other issues include the digital divide, broadband access, net neutrality, and global governance of the internet).

The EU sides with the individual on this one, as seen in their their proposed data protection directive, which is intended to be an important component of EU privacy/human rights.

US-based Silicon valley cooperations are against this legislation, and are lobbying hard against it through the US government and the US Chamber of commerce.

Can ownership simultaneous infringe on others freedom of speech or expression? Think of it in an online context.  This is a messy issue–especially in the era of big data.




The Role of Culture in Communications Policy

As I begin my review of European internet policy, I wonder to what extent culture is a precursor to the technical and legal aspects to internet governance in Europe. It is generally thought that European’s tend to be more statist in their public policy, while the United States is more hostile to regulation.   This is not just a matter of public policy, but as previous polling has shown, it is also a reflection of cultural attitudes. Post-2012 US Election polling shows divergent views on the role of the individual freedom and an active state:

Individualism also continues to differentiate Americans and Europeans. Most Americans believe individuals largely control their own fate – just 36% agree with the statement “Success in life is pretty much determined by forces outside our control.” However, half or more in Germany, France, and Spain agree with this statement.

Europeans also believe in a very different relationship between the individual and the state. When asked which is more important, that everyone be free to pursue life’s goals without interference from the state, or that the state play an active role in society to guarantee that no one is in need, 58% of Americans choose the former. Majorities across Western and Eastern Europe, on the other hand, say making sure no one is in need should be a bigger priority.

Given the global nature of  the telecommunications industry, and with Silicon Valley is the Mecca of new media corporations, this is a potential flash point between US based tech companies, and European courts.

Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest: What are the differences?

This is not a which platform is the best. Rather, I’m interested in two things how one would use them differently, either as an individual or as an organization (for this post I can only talk from a personal level).

Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest function differently for me. Facebook is good for goofing off and for seeing what actual real life friends are up to–the same vibe that would be there if I was out at a dinner party or watching a game at a sports bar with intimate friends. I try to keep it to real life friends–no padding of the friends list (are people still doing that?). I also follow pages from interests.

Pinterest, I use it as a visual dream and inspiration book. Basically visual representations of whatever I’m interested in, whatever inspires me, etc etc. I don’t even use it to connect or network, it’s just me stuck in my head with my daydreams.

Twitter, now this is the interesting one. I’m on there to follow my academic interests–social media and also international politics but I find it the most problematic to use coherently. Several reasons for that:

  • Many accounts push out update after update of nothing but links. And I’m not talking spam, but actual organizations, just posting links, often to their own site.
  • Some public personalities and authorities in some of the areas, post a lot of intimate and personal stream-of-consciousness style, and sometimes at a rate of 10 posts an hour which crowds out the feed a little.
  • I am also interested in sports, and other things that I wouldn’t mind following on Twitter like events on my favorite series and what have you. Is Twitter necessarily only for following one area or one niche?
  • I do chat some political stuff. Nothing childish, and no flame wars, but political nonetheless. This is even though I only follow one political personality, but I have a list (maybe I should discontinue it?)

What I’m grappling with is how to resolve all of the above issues as far as my Twitter use. Even the political stuff which I initially was about to say is self-inflicted is a tough one, as politics is very much relevant to studying social media. Message diffusion, hashtags, agenda setting, media narratives, etc. are all interesting topics.  Any ideas?

The fourth platform, Google+ I’m completely stumped. Perhaps i can migrate the fan pages from Facebook to there, especially now that Google Reader has been retired. It may be relatively painless as I’m already in the Google ecosystem.

There’s of course Linkedn and Tumblr, but by now I think one would be getting over stretched.

Major from the anime, Ghost in Shell

We are already cyborgs

Over at CNet, they’re highlighting a few things to watch from Google. Two stand-out–the new “google glass” and a super-search engine being designed by futurist Ray Kurzwell.


First glasses, next contact lenses, next implants?

I am  fascinated by this.  I am not saying it is “good” or “bad”  as I tend to be neutral on technology. I am not all in with technology determinism nor am I a techno-skeptic like, say Evgeny Morozov. I was listening to a talk a few months ago, I cannot remember who it was, but the speaker was arguing that in many western and Asian societies, we’re already on the path to being cyborgs. His argument was that for all intents and purposes, phones have become part of people. If you don’t answer a text right away, it’s received in the same was as if you were snubbing the person face-to-face in conversation  Or if you look at any line anywhere when you’re out, people will be fiddling on their phones–they’re daydreaming through their phones.  I would argue that this  extension transference has already set us on a path to being hybrid robots–and I don’t mean having bionic arms, but what I mean is that in terms of functioning, computing devices are clearly integral to our sense of self and for routine tasks (for example, you don’t have to think of where the post office downtown is, just put in the GPS and it will walk you there).

You can see this with fashion too, the iPhone, iPod, etc are like clothes now, I mean, chic, swanky ladies don’t roll with blackberries–notice how they all are outfitted with iPhones?  Technology is already having an impact on the morphology of the human species, I wonder where this will lead to in a few years–these changes are happening very fast.

This will have future policy implications for cyber-security,  intellectual property rights, human rights and international commerce. For example, as it is, mobile phones are already wicked problems–see net neutrality in USA or Europe, the weaponization of cellphones in conflict zones such as in Iraq, etc.

Read the CNet article here.

Is Pinterest pointless?

The photo is a humorous take, but there’s some truth to it. At this time, Pinterest is dominated by wedding photos, womens fashion clippings, and sweet deserts. The improvements suggested here could improve it.

Is Pinterest pointless?  Not necessarily, although it certainly seems like that right now.  Right now for me it appears to be an aimless collection of photos, with a poor noise-to-signal ratio.  It could be more useful with some added functionality by Pinterest.  First of all they needed an app, but they just rolled one out yesterday so that’s good start.  The other two things I’d like them to do is to sort out the difference between likes and shares, to add private boards, and to enable a slideshow function.

Likes vs. Shares

What is the practical difference between a like and a share? I’ve seen explanations that likes are for storing photos that you don’t really have a board for.  But then why not just have a random board? And also, this means posters are notified twice, when you like their image, and then when you repin it.  If likes are seen as a draft board of sorts, then they should be no notifications attached to them (although they can be counted towards the photos stats) and also no need for them to be visible to the public.  Confusion is no good, you always want something as simple and straightforward as possible.

Private Boards

Come on Pinterest. Do it! I know platforms have to differentiate themselves and all, but there’s a big opportunity being missed here.   What if a company wants to tailor a board to a specific client list? Or one may be putting together a scrapbook for a babyshower, etc.  A good compromise might be to perhaps limit users to one or two private boards to test this out.  This way, Pinterests entire catalogue will not be hidden, and at the same time users can get some privacy.  Win-win.

Slideshow/Flipbook view

Again this is something that would also benefit businesses.  You can roll out a series of images instead of having to do a PowerPoint presentation for example.  For normal use, if one has a tablet they could do it such that you can maximize the photos and run through a board as if it’s your own custom made magazine, or scrapbook—they could even add the animated page turn.   Or these days HDTVs are starting to get apps.  Imagine a Pinterest app on your HDTV in which you can set images to flash on the screen in brilliant high-resolution.  This would be wonderful for boards based on travel places, architecture, etc.   Right now it’s a Web 2.0 software geared towards Web 1.0 devices and hardware.  Interactivity and syncing is a must in 2012.

There are other suggestions I have though I haven’t quite articulated them yet.  For example I think maybe something like mandatory descriptions and/or crediting of sources is something to look into. Also perhaps pinning an image through an image search galleries like ‘google images’ should be banned, as it increases the random/noise factor of Pinterest.  Let people pin from actual websites that they’re browsing—this will also help with some of the copyright worries that have come up.

What are your thoughts on the utility of Pinterest, and also on ways to improve it?

Google Fiber can be a game-changer in the US internet industry

With Google Fiber’s new roll-out of their internet service in Kansas City, MO, there is the potential for them to change the way internet is delivered and consumed in the United States.  First, they are offering VERY CHEAP (almost free) internet.  Second, NO CAPS.  This begs the question–if they can do this, why can’t Verizon or Comcast? Now a business or a corporation needs to make their money, nobody is expecting free internet from mainstream, traditional companies like ATT.  However, clearly there is some collusion in the industry as one can see in their refusal to truly innovate or increase bandwidth speeds.

There should also be a selfish incentive for the United States to want a fast internet.  It’s no longer the industrial age, it’s the information age now, and the global knowledge economy of the future may depend a lot on the robustness, breadth and depth of internet delivery available to populations. The United States is not even in the top 30 countries in the world on internet speed (full rankings can be found at the Net Index), which is strange for a nation in which elected officials often boast about their intent on keeping America number 1 in everything.

I am pro-google guy myself, I think they remain an innovative company, that is still generally consumer oriented.  While Google Fiber itself may not go nationwide, and while the internet is not going to be free, let’s hope that they can move the industry towards their vision.

Google Fiber— What You Get For:

$120/month (with 2-year contract)

  • 1 gigabit-per-second downloads and uploads
  • Cable-like “full channel TV lineup” (major networks plus standard basic cable offerings—Animal Planet to the Weather Channel)
  • Nexus 7 tablet
  • Set-top box, Ethernet/Wi-Fi router, 2TB DVR
  • 1TB Google Drive cloud storage

$70/month (with 1-year contract)

  • 1 gigabit-per-second downloads and uploads
  • Ethernet/Wi-Fi router
  • 1TB Google Drive cloud storage

$300 one-time startup fee (can be divided into 12 monthly payments)

  • 5 megabyte-per-second downloads, 1 megabyte-per-second uploads
  • Ethernet/Wi-Fi router
  • Free service guaranteed for 7 years

Visit the google fiber site for the full details on Google Fiber

Is Pinterest for girls?

Interesting comment on Pinterest, by Social Media specialist Tish Grier on the usage of PInterest. She had a recent blog post on “Why Women Prefer PInterest” in which she wonders:

Yes, a girl.  Pinterest has the odd effect of bringing out the girly girl in me, and Ibet that it does for a lot of women.

Maybe that’s a reason, too, that we like it: Pinterest is a diversion from the workaday adult world into a world of fantasy and inspiration.  Depictions of the possible and the impossible that fuel our daydreams and night dreams too.  Pictures of stuff that we want to remember, for whatever reasons.  It isn’t about winning, or losing, or gathering important information for our professional enrichment (maybe that’s why infographics don’t get repinned as much as shirtless hunks.)

It’s just plain fun.

I really hadn’t thought of that, but just by eyeballing my PInterst I can see that she’s on to something.   But why wouldn’t what she describes also pull in men by pinning super models, or sports cars or our favorite athletes?

Personally I like PInterest. I see it as a nice visual scrapbook that gives you insight into the types of thoughts that fill someones mind, I’d describe Pinterest as “public daydreaming”. It might take a while for the general public though, I mean between Facebook and Twitter there’s only so much attention to go around.  I’m studying Social Media, and Ms. Grier is a Social Media specialist, so people like us have an incentive to stretch ourselves.  I’ve observed that my Facebook that are most the most active on PInterest are relatively inactive on Facebook itself.

It will be interesting to see whether Pinterest will continue to grow.  Will it get taken over by corporations (MySpace) or irrelevant (Hi5, Friendster) or top out at being just steady but simmering under the surface (Google+)?  Lastly, in ending her post, Ms. Grier asks whether Pinterst has any value as a social media marketing tool.  I’d add to that and ask whether in addition to commercial issues, there is potential for socio-cultural or political change via Pinterst. For example, if in fact Pinterest is women-centric, that might affect how Presidential campaigns utilize the platform.  Can Pinterest change the dynamic of International Relations like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook have?

Plan X and the new war playground

Today’s Washington Post has an article highlighting plans from the Pentagon to ramp up cyber-warfare capabilities. The idea is to move beyond spying, espionage, and subterfuge orientation, that the US should be better prepared to act decisively, incisively, and on a large scale.

An interesting rationale for this is offered:

Daniel Kuehl, an information warfare professor at the National Defense University’s iCollege, said the Air Force built its history around attacks on infrastructure — in Korea, Vietnam, Serbia and Iraq.

“In all of those conflicts,” he said, “we went after the other side’s electricity with bombs.”

Today, he said, cyberweapons could be more humane than pulverizing power grids with bombs.

If a cyberwarrior can disrupt a computer system controlling an enemy’s electric power, the system theoretically can also be turned back on, minimizing the impact on civilians.

First, this can turn out working the other way, if it makes military officials more trigger-happy (or click-happy). There may be temptation to engage in more preemptive coercive acts since ‘less civilians will be affected’.  This would in turn create a more aggressive military stance from the country, so the policy implications here are not very predictable.  Imagine an aggressive application of the Bush Doctrine in which one is armed with such cyber-warfare capabilities.

Second, unsaid in the article, is the issue of sovereignty.  It is one thing to target a nuclear energy factory in a rogue state…or to freeze bank accounts of known or suspected terrorist networks ….but what are the implications of attacking an electrical grid remotely via a computer?  It’s easy to make the case for going after Al-Qaeda or obvious terrorists in cyberspace, but what about going after states?  If the electricity grid in a city of millions is shut down and thousands are without electricity, there’s a real impact on civilian population.   Third, is the optics, which look too similar to totalitarian regimes shutting down political activists for comfort.   Lastly, there’s domestic implications.  Military technology always trickles down into the government, then into the private sector, and then into regular mainstream civilian life.

Read the entire source article here: With Plan X, Pentagon seeks to spread US Military might to cyberspace.