Freedom & privacy

The dominant narrative of centralisation, surveillance, and unlimited data collection often fails to consider the basic human desire for independence, freedom, and privacy. Discovering alternative solutions benefit both the human individual and the provider of smartly designed services.

Homebrew Website Club Berlin #4 on 22 Mar 2017

Welcome to the fourth edition of our Homebrew Website Club in Berlin! After the first three meetings were rather unstructured, around a range of interesting topics – see the summaries of meetups #2 and #3 by Sven – we are thinking to try a “What are you currently working on?” agenda this time (but no worries, if you don’t have any website pet project going on right now: everybody interested in the IndieWeb is most welcome).

Past event

Homebrew Website Club Berlin

Salon Schmück, Skalitzer Str. 80, Berlin, Germany (Kreuzberg, U1 Schlesisches Tor)

Homebrew Website Club is a bi-weekly meetup of people passionate about or interested in creating, improving, building, designing their own website, in the same structure as the classic Homebrew Computer Club meetings.

RSVP on the IndieWeb.org wiki (if you have an Indieweb site), in the comments below, or just join us ex tempore.

If you get off work early, no worries: we are usually on site starting from 18:30 for informal chit-chat. Peek in, look for the IndieWebCamp sign and say hi.

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3

Bookmarked:

After PRISM Break, that I posted about last week, here is another valuable resource that aims to create a list of any tools related to personal privacy online:

privacytools.io is a socially motivated website that provides information for protecting your data security and privacy. never trust any company with your privacy, always encrypt.

As a community project, anybody can contribute via Reddit and GitHub.

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Homebrew Website Club Berlin #3 on 8 Mar 2017

Image caption: HWC Berlin #2 on Febraury 22 already grew from five to six participants, in our lovely location at Salon Schmück.

Two times is a series, three times is a tradition? Welcome again all IndieWeb-minded Berliners for the third meetup of our Homebrew Website Club:

It is more important than ever to have your own place to publish on the web. Have a blog? Want a blog? Are you building your own personal bot? Come on by and join a gathering of people with likeminded interests. Bring your friends that want to start a personal web site. Exchange information, swap ideas, talk shop, or help work on a project!

Past event

Homebrew Website Club Berlin

Salon Schmück, Skalitzer Str. 80, Berlin, Germany (Kreuzberg, U1 Schlesisches Tor)

Homebrew Website Club is a bi-weekly meetup of people passionate about or interested in creating, improving, building, designing their own website, in the same structure as the classic Homebrew Computer Club meetings.

RSVP on the IndieWeb.org wiki (if you have an Indieweb site), in the comments below, or just join us ex tempore.

If you get off work early, no worries: we are usually on site starting from 18:30 for informal chit-chat. Peek in and say hi.

PS: Sven has a brief write-up of some of the topics discussed last time.

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3

Bookmarked:

Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT and describing himself as part of the actors who established the ad-based web, investigates how and why advertising became the backbone of the fast-spreading web and the negative consequences it has brought along – making it “The Internet’s Original Sin”.

In the mid-to-late 90s at peak “Web 2.0”, the prevailing intentions (such as those of Zuckerman) was to give the broad public access to the communicational wonders that is the World Wide Web, which up until then required a core set of rather technical skill. And this no doubt worked:

An ad supported web grows quickly and is open to those who can’t or won’t pay.

It is very likely the web would never have grown this fast without the described advertising models.

But this is where the “but” comes into play. Zuckerman lists four downsides of advertising as the default business model of the web:

  1. the sheer possibility (and it is worth highlighting his note that it is not a precondition) of surveillance to improve profiling for ads leads to its escalation
  2. clickbait, traffic whoring, and “next page” buttons led to a web full of content who only exists because of the ad revenue model
  3. the need for advertisers to reach audiences fuels centralisation, which inevitably makes free speech vulnerable, as it is practised on monopolistic platforms
  4. the attempt by publishers to offset their users’ loss from surveillance with overpersonalisation as promised worth leads to algortihm-controlled opaque bubbles

Zuckerman comes to the conclusion that the ad model -regardless of any merits it may have had – being the default model for online business is a serious problem that needs to be overcome. Yet, solutions are only being explored.

There is no single “right answer” to the question of how we pay for the tool that lets us share knowledge, opinions, ideas, and photos of cute cats. Whether we embrace micropayments, membership, crowdfunding, or any other model, there are bound to be unintended consequences.

But 20 years in to the ad-supported web, we can see that our current model is bad, broken, and corrosive. It’s time to start paying for privacy, to support services we love, and to abandon those that are free, but sell us—the users and our attention—as the product.

This is an “old” article from 2014, but it has not lost any of its relevance.

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Bookmarked:

A Guardian’s op-ed on big data highlights the threat corporate surveillance poses not only on an individual level, but to democratic culture as a whole.

There are two kinds of privacy under threat in the emerging economy, where everyone is almost always connected to the internet, and has their lives enmeshed in big data. The first privacy is the kind that we intuitively understand […] But there is a second, more frightening loss of privacy as well. The unprecedented knowledge that the giants of the surveillance economy have acquired about us may disclose vulnerabilities of which we are ourselves unaware.

Thinking of the manifold ways “big data” corporations have to manipulate people and opinions, it is a stunning phenomenon how politically mature citizens happily feed a system that has (and actively makes use of) the power to undermine their personal and societal freedoms:

What we tell our smartphones about our lives, intentionally or otherwise, is far more than the most ambitious secret policeman of the last century could hope to discover by covert surveillance.

Often, “I don’t have anything to hide” is the easily used (yet flawed) excuse for the first privacy. It is much harder to come up with an excuse for giving up that second privacy…

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1

Bookmarked:

The PRISM Break project curates a comprehensive list of privacy-minded free and open source software projects that

Help make mass surveillance of entire populations uneconomical! We all have a right to privacy, which you can exercise today by encrypting your communications and ending your reliance on proprietary services.

I discovered quite a few interesting and new alternatives I had not heard about before.

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4

Bookmarked:

We are living in the age of data. “What It Takes To Truly Delete Data” by Mimi Onuoha tells the story of hard drive disposal to illustrate three key facts about data:

  1. “All data […] is stored on a physical device somewhere.” As long as this is not a single device under the user’s control, there is no physical access to it.
  2. “Data cannot be erased.” You can never be sure every copy of a file has physically destroyed.
  3. “Data is always easier to create than to destroy.”

On her Twitter feed, she further summarizes:

This cannot be stressed enough …and sadly enough, it’s a topic commonly absent from debates on “big data” and the hype over its benefits. As designers we are reponsible for the world we create (cue Mike Monteiro) – any project involving the storage of data should involve an audit on data collected and implement a “minimum actionable dataset” policy.

Also, the so called “consumers” need to be much better educated on this topic: how should a person who has a hard time to even grasp what “the cloud” is in the first place understand the implications of uploading private data to it?

via ind.ie

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Bookmarked:

I don’t use Facebook nor Chrome for the very reasons this project advocates, so cannot put it to the test myself, but Data Selfie by Hang Do Thi Duc and Regina Flores Mir looks like a great tool to bring closer to the user just how much social network providers know about them:

Data Selfie is a browser extension that tracks you while you are on Facebook to show you your own data traces and reveal how machine learning algorithms use your data to gain insights about your personality.

The tool explores our relationship to the online data we leave behind as a result of media consumption and social networks – the information you share consciously and unconsciously.

Here is how it works (if you prefer not to view embedded videos, watch it at Vimeo):

Static preview image for embedded contentClick to view video from Vimeo

PS: FastCoDesign has a comprehensive write-up on the project as well.

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5

Bookmarked:

“I have read and agree to the Terms” is the biggest lie on the web. We aim to fix that.

Terms of Service; Didn’t Read (ToS;DR) is a site that dissects the terms and privacy policies nobody ever reads and evaluates services based on these.

While the site states that the ratings are out of date, a recent blog post gives hope for a new breath of life to this project.

We have seen improvements in the past years on the wording of Terms of Services but no improvements of the practices and today, the situation is still worrying.

Chatting on Whatsapp, dating on Tinder, sending photos on Snapchat, saving work on Dropbox… those are parts of our everyday lives. Can we leave those services? What is done with our data? Who can access it? Those are questions that are still difficult to answer.

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1

“Facebook tracks me – so what?”

The blog post “What should you think about when using Facebook?” by Data Scientist Vicky Boykis is a thorough – yet likely not even close to exhaustive – summary of various ways how Facebook tracks, monetises and manipulates its users. It has rightfully gained quite some visibility over the last few days. And I will […]

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Reposting:

Post by Icon Tantek Çelik
at tantek.com/2017/034/b1/indie-microblogging-hits-stretch-goal-indieweb

Indie Microblogging Kickstarter Micro.blog Hits Goal & Stretch Goal For Safe Replies! #indieweb

2017-02-03

Tantek Çelik comments on the successful crowdfunding of micro.blog:

This is a huge step forward for the creation of an alternative to Twitter, in numerous ways, some obvious, many more subtle.

Reading through the project’s goals and philosophy, this truly looks like a promising contender to provide what earlier attempts to replace Twitter have been lacking. Tantek highlights:

Micro.blog is being built from the start to interoperate with heterogenous systems (i.e. not just with other micro.blog instances, a big distinction from many previous open source decentralized web efforts which focused primarily or exclusively on interoperating only with themselves).

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Homebrew Website Club Berlin: First meeting on 8 Feb 2017

It’s more important than ever to have your own place to publish on the web. Have a blog? Want a blog? Are you building your own personal bot? Come on by and join a gathering of people with likeminded interests. Bring your friends that want to start a personal web site. Exchange information, swap ideas, talk shop, or help work on a project!

Florian Weil and I think to kick-off a Homebrew Website Club for Berlin (joining about a dozen other cities worldwide). Drop in for the inaugural meeting on 8 February to discuss – among all things web – the potential of this idea:

Past event

Homebrew Website Club Berlin

Betahaus Cafe, Prinzessinnenstrasse 19-20, Berlin, Germany (Kreuzberg, U8 Moritzplatz)

Homebrew Website Club is a bi-weekly meetup of people passionate about or interested in creating, improving, building, designing their own website, in the same structure as the classic Homebrew Computer Club meetings.

RSVP on the IndieWeb.org wiki (if you have an Indieweb site), on the Facebook event, in the comments below, or just join us ex tempore.

If you get off work early, no worries: we’ll be on site starting from 18:30 for informal chit-chat. Peek in and say hi (look for the “HWC” sign on our table).

Read reactions |

21

Bookmarked:

“Browsing Histories” is a journalistic illustration of how even the most barebone meta data trail created while using the internet gives away identity, interests, and more:

[…] the electronic communication transactional records, or the communication data – such as the numbers dialed, recipients of text messages sent, IP addresses of the devices involved, and particularly records of web domains visited – sometimes reveal more than the content itself […]

The project (by Tactical Tech and Share Lab) demonstrates step-by-step how the trace of webpages visited by one user, as they are collected in the browser history but may also be intercepted by (for instance) a WiFi provider, can be assembled into a rich story about that person.

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Bookmarked:

There is a lot of interesting analysis and recommendation in the “Growing up digital” report from the UK’s Children’s Commissioner referenced in this article – and the simplified terms and conditions (that nobody ever reads) are only the most obvious of its gems – , but the truly interesting aspect is that it is not only children that lack the digital literacy required to understand what using “free services” on the web implies:

according to the report, only people with postgraduate levels of education could properly understand Instagram’s terms and conditions.

Similarly, the Commission’s policy recommendations could easily be extended to literacy work for the general (adult) public.

In particular, the second recommendation (write terms and conditions that children understand) would be of great benefit: just as accessibility features in a website improve usability for everybody regardless of their abilities, making terms and conditions simple to understand would improve their understandability for everybody regardless of age.

Seriously: how many of grown up Instagram users are aware of the few examples bolded by the Quartz editors here? These are (a small excerpt from) the rules under which millions of people upload their private pictures to the internet every day.

via The Engine Room

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IndieWebCamp Berlin 5.-6.11.2016

One week to go for IndieWebCamp Berlin! Join us:

Past event

IndieWebCamp Berlin


Berlin, Germany

Join us in Berlin (Brunnenviertel) for two days of a BarCamp-style gathering of web creators building and sharing open web technologies to empower users to own their own identities & content, and build blocks for the #indieweb!

https://indieweb.org/2016/Berlin

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