Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Information and Power - A Few Examples

My dissertation was on privacy and I concluded that the consequences of exposure is the critical issue and thus the privacy debates are basically about power.  It's about the power to keep others out of your physical space and the ability to prevent access to information about yourself.  My conclusion was that given changing technology, if someone really wants to know about you badly enough, they will be able to do.  There is no way to protect yourself from someone determined to get into your life.  The only protection, and it's certainly limited, is to have everyone equally vulnerable so that people don't invade others' info because they could have the same thing happen to them.  We are protected thus only by enlightened cooperation or observation of the Golden Rule.

Time has confirmed my predictions made back in the 1970s.

This all is a preface to some articles in the LA Times today that illustrate different aspects of this power to hold one's info and the power to get into someone's info.

  • Malik’s Facebook clues Shooter sent two private notes sharing jihadist longings to Pakistani friends online, officials say.
Let's start with US security officials failing to find private Facebook messages written in 2012 and 2014 in Urdu by Malik.  It's a little scary to think that anyone thinks the FBI should have been able to find those messages.  It's just mind-boggling to think of the level of intrusion into private communications that security agencies would have to do to detect such messages.  

This guy traded in his truck for a new one.  The dealer stopped him from scraping off the lettering with his company's name and phone number.  The dealer didn't want him to scratch the paint and assured him they'd do it.  But then his truck shows up as an ISIS vehicle on ISIS websites with weaponry in the back.  The picture quickly went viral resulting in hateful calls and emails.

Las Vegas' newspaper has been secretly bought.  The owner isn't being disclosed.  What does that mean for readers?  The article says this is unprecedented.   Unfortunately, most people aren't willing to cancel their subscriptions until the owner's identity is revealed.

The Chinese government is trying a key human rights attorney.  He's blogged openly, but his trial is secret.  How many Chinese officials get away with corrupt behavior because criticism of the government is so strictly limited?

  • A BROKEN PLEDGE Officials let China Shipping ignore emissions-cutting requirements
Here, LA Port officials, in response to protests of pollution, promised to require ships reduce emissions while in port, to turn off their engines and to plug in for power,   But the LA Times, through a public records act request, found out the port authorities gave the Chinese shippers permission to ignore the regulations.

Anonymous emails threaten terror at LA schools and the district decides to shut them all down.  Who sent the emails?  How can the officials know if they are real or not?  And how many school districts are going to get similar threats just to shut them down?  And how many times will it take for the districts to ignore the threat?  Think of the sense of power this gives a disgruntled school kid.

The movie Stink! which I saw at the Anchorage International Film Festival chronicled how corporations hide toxic chemicals in products by preventing the FDA and other agencies from even knowing what's in their products, let alone disclosing them to consumers.

Just keep your eyes open for examples of the power to hide or expose information and who wins and who loses.

1 comment:

  1. A few days ago, just caught the tail end of a report of a press conference -- in Europe I think -- that was called to "explain" to the press that the venue of a meeting was being changed at the last minute due to an undisclosed reason. "This press briefing was called to TELL you we can't tell you anything." No questions taken. Hmmmm. First casualty of war is transparency. But why call it at all? It was the shroud of "openness" and how soon before that form will be disbanded.


Comments will be reviewed, not for content (except ads), but for style. Comments with personal insults, rambling tirades, and significant repetition will be deleted. Ads disguised as comments, unless closely related to the post and of value to readers (my call) will be deleted. Click here to learn to put links in your comment.