YouTube: Unsafe for all ages
For the first time in the history of the Weekly, I'm including a link at the end of this post that I don't want you to follow. In a November 6, 2017, article on Medium, James Bridle warns right off the top that what follows is "disturbing," and he states, "You don’t have to read it, and are advised to take caution exploring further."
The subject is YouTube dangers, particularly to children. As Bridle writes, even though he doesn't have children, what he found on YouTube makes him "want to burn the whole thing down." (Note that I didn't read the entire article. TMI.)
I hate this stuff. I don't want to write about it, I don't even want to think about it. But children are being targeted by evil people through YouTube videos. The upshot is that YouTube filters are porous, resulting in terrible content being served to children who are attracted to it by bad guys misusing characters that are popular with young people.
Solution: Stay off YouTube. Securely's "Safe, Kid-Friendly Alternatives to Google, YouTube, and Beyond" suggests the Kideos site as a good YouTube substitute for kids.
WikiHow explains how to enable YouTube's own Restricted Mode on PCs and mobile devices. Since this mode has been shown to be ineffective, it's safer to block YouTube from the outside. The same WikiHow article describes the process for editing the hosts file on Windows PCs and Macs to prevent YouTube from opening. It even covers how to block YouTube at the web server level, which not many people have to worry about, thank goodness.
Do internet platforms have a responsibility to keep reprehensible people away from us? They invite evil doers to join their services and make it easy for bad people to do bad things via their incredibly profitable products. What burden does Facebook, Google, Twitter, and other internet common carriers bear to prevent crime by blocking bad guys from operating on their networks?
Going to extremes to prevent being surveilled
It's no surprise that one of John Bains' 50 tips for avoiding the UK Snoopers charter is "Never use Facebook, Amazon or Google. Ever!" Bains offers his advice in a November 4, 2017, post on Medium.
The Snoopers charter is the nickname for Britain's Investigatory Powers Act of 2016, which granted the British government access to 12 months of the browser history of all web users. The Guardian's Alan Travis reports on the law in a November 29, 2016, article.
Under the Snoopers charter, law enforcement and other agencies can hack into computers and phones; as Sam Woolfe reports in an October 19, 2017, article on the Canary, the UK government is also scooping up social media data, perhaps on "millions of people." Woolfe cites a report issued by the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). He closes by stating that "privacy is hard to come by."
Bains' list of privacy protections demonstrates just how difficult it can be to stay below the government's radar. In addition to the standard advice to delete your browser's cookies and keep your antivirus and other security software up to date, Bains recommends that you wipe your computer every month, avoid all internet-of-things (IoT) devices, never use Uber or any other service that tracks your location, and never use credit cards or bank accounts -- use only bitcoin and cash.
Hmmm. Bains also recommends that you move to Spain or South Korea (great privacy laws), don't go to Starbucks, don't use your correct name (at Starbucks or anywhere else), never let anyone take your picture -- let alone tag you in a photo, and never fly or take a train (if you must, buy your ticket on the day you travel, using only cash).
Are you starting to feel like a double-naught spy yet?
I guess we're all going to have to live with Bains' last bit of advice for privacy-seekers: "Assume the worst."
Admitting you spy on your employees non-stop? Okay. Claiming your employees understand that the surveillance is for their "betterment"? Now you're sounding like a Nazi. Or a White House spokesperson. (Hard to tell them apart sometimes.)
That's the claim made by an executive for a company that sells the employee-watching systems to organizations, as the Guardian's Olivia Solon writes in a November 6, 2017, article. Of course, managers have the power to decide when they want to activate the cameras and microphones that are pointed at the managers themselves.
Monitoring all communications of employees is required in the financial services industry because companies can be punished if one of their workers says the wrong thing (such as an act of insider trading). Now the tracking extends to all industries, often for the purpose of preventing harassment and "inappropriate behavior" before it can occur, according to the employers.
One action that can raise a red flag is when one party in a communication suggests moving to a different method of communicating, perhaps one that is encrypted, such as Signal or WhatsApp. This is called "context switching," and according to an executive for another surveillance-product vendor, such "small clues" have "surfaced in prosecutions."
When your employer is scanning your social media accounts, they may be looking for things like a change in your relationship status from married to divorced. According to one industry executive, this could indicate increased financial pressures, and a higher risk of committing fraud or theft. I guess you can kiss your holiday bonus goodbye, too.
Facebook knows "everyone you've ever met." That's the conclusion Kashmir Hill comes to in a November 7, 2017, post on Gizmodo. It's all about the contacts: The first thing Facebook asks for when you create an account is access to your contact lists. However, it doesn't matter whether you give up your contacts or not. Somebody, somewhere (probably a lot of bodies, a lot of wheres) has your name and private info in their contacts, which they handed over to Facebook without a second thought.
Knowing how Facebook operates, maybe the contacts were surrendered without a first thought, either.
The result has been some uncomfortable, embarrassing, and downright spooky friend suggestions from Facebook's People You May Know feature, or PYMK. This is the list you see in your feed that offers to connect you to potential new friends. It's how a psychiatrist's patients got recommended to each other, for example.
Hill writes that a secret sperm donor had the child that resulted from the donation presented as a potential Facebook friend. In another case, a woman was invited to become friends with her father's mistress from 40 years earlier (the woman was six years old at the time her father left the family for the mistress).
Even if you object to such "shadow contacts" appearing in Facebook's algorithmic stew, you can't do anything about it. Facebook considers your contact information the property of the person who uploaded it to the service. So if you don't want Facebook to know you like a book, just notify everyone who has ever entered your information into their contact list. Easy-peasy.
Here's the link I referenced in the top item to James Bridle's November 6, 2017, Medium post: Something is wrong on the internet. Follow at your own risk.
Just a reminder that the United States has now been without a legitimate government for going on one year. The coup that took place last November has left corporate criminals in charge of everything. I only hope I live long enough to witness their day of reckoning.