Big data - Facebook style

To all my family and friends:

We, meetup online, share our day, have a friendly chat, exchange pictures,
vidoes, our feelings, memories of good times; we catch-up, renew
long lost friendships, share news, support each other in times of need,
wish each other well, as we succeed, and pass milestones in our lives.
Who can deny, the great benifits of online life, social, educational,
inspirational, and material (shopping in all it's many forms)?



while the Facebook data mining scandal is still fresh in our minds; i would
like to take this oportunity, to explain why, i think, we should all care more
about our online life, our privacy, our freedom, and our rights as citizens
of democratic nations.

I really want you all to have the, "Eureka!" moment i had recently,
concerning the way we are treated on the internet, and not protected
by the same laws, and common codes of fairness, with which we have come
to expect in our daily lives, in the 'real world'. The internet is now,
well and truly a part of our 'real world', and has been for many years,
and for most of us - an essential part of our lives
.
So, i feel it is about time to understand more about the internet, and the
services we all use on it.

( To learn how the internet works, why it was built, and the why it matters,
  i highly recommend this book:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Brief-History-Future-Origins-Internet/dp/075381093X

And to learn about some of the services we all use on the internet,
and the modern issues regarding the World Wide Web, the current situation,
and possible future of our online life, i recommend this recent book
by the same author:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gutenberg-Zuckerberg-Really-About-Internet/dp/0857384260
)


Just one example of the modern internet/online life: An internet service/Facebook:-

(i could have used Google also, did you know Google reads/scans your emails?
https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/google-sells-future-powered-your-personal-data-n870501 )

For something that many people depend on today for thier communications,
(sadly), me included (i would loose contact with many of my family and
friends without it, probably) - it might be sensible to know, in general
terms, how facebook (and companies like it, Google etc..) works.


    This is how Facebook works:

Facebook works by collecting, and organizing whatever you add to it;
and selling what it collects, to generate massive profits.

    Let us see what Facebook collects, and then how it generates
massive profits:

View this link to see the data Facebook can collect from you( scroll
down to see the table with fields, and descriptions of each data
element(Fields and Edges tables)):

https://developers.facebook.com/docs/graph-api/reference/user/

Now is a good time to think of all the fields you have filled with
data for Facebook. Basically you have just seen Facebook's database,
structure. All you need now do, is visualise the data you have added to
build a, probably (?), very detailed, 'personal',  record of yourself,
(this may well include all your conversations, you thought were private,
see the INBOX field).

    Let us now see how Facebook uses, the data it collects from you and
me, to generate massive profits:

View this next link, to see the way Facebook makes it's database of
'personal' information available to anyone willing to pay for it.
The database structure, is now organized to target groups of
individuals, for marketing purposes.
(how many individuals use Facebook right now? I was thinking earlier:
"I wonder how many people in the road i live in, have an account at
Facebook?" Much more than half i suspect.) Now lets see the marketing
targeting link:

https://developers.facebook.com/docs/marketing-api/targeting-search

Basically anyone can, 'query', the Facebook database, by using thier own
'specification', to target whatever audience they like.


    A case study:

I was chatting with a guy at work, (who is in the middle of a technology
related degree) who told me about his girlfriend, who worked for a small
music company. Her company, when they want to market thier products,
shows etc.. etc.. just get in touch with Facebook, with the
specification they have, which might be: target a group by age range,
musical tastes, location/area, etc... Facebook makes this easy. And as
my colleague said, it might cost from: "£5 to £500".It really made me
realize how Facebook can  make such massive profits, from the seemingly
'free' service they provide. Just think, how many thousands upon thousands
of companies [or individuals], buy data like this, like Cambridge Analytica?

My friend i just mentioned, had deleted facebook; and there has been
added momentum to the '#deletefacebook' movement on the net at the moment.
I would like to do the same, but it would mean possibly loosing contact
with many people, especially my extended family, who use only facebook
to keep in contact. There are plenty of options to using services like
facebook, however.

We have read about facebook's business model, and the same can be said
for many online companies, such as: google, instagram, whatsapp, (the last
two, now owned by facebook) twitter, youtube, the list is legion.
Apart from sharing the same business model, of offering free services in
exchange for your participation in manipulation by marketing companies
they all have one other thing in common:
They are all massively centralised services, where you log in to 'one'
website, which contains 'one' massive database on you, and tracks all
you do online.


    Web3:  A decentralised Word Wide Web.

There is an alternative to using massively centralised services, and this
is to use 'decentralised ' services or systems. The internet is the very
best example of a decentralised  system, it is not controlled by one central server,
or company, or country - and it was designed that way. The internet was, and is
constructed of lots and lots of networks, of otherwise incompatiple
technologies, and links all these together in such a way that
there can never be a central authority. Email: one of the services/applications
running ontop of the internet system, is also decentralised, you can run your
own email server at home if you want, or pick from zillions of email programs,
and companies willing to host them. The World Wide Web, is  another decentralised
service/application running ontop of the internet - just like email
(the WWW is only another program/application, it is not 'the' internet, it is just
another train, running on the tracks of the internet.). You can run your
own web server, to publish online by adding to the World Wide Web, it is
actually relatively easy.

To quote Tim Berners Lee, the creator of the Web:

"The web was designed to be decentralised so that everybody could participate by having
their own domain and having their own webserver and this hasn’t worked out.
Instead, we’ve got the situation where individual personal data has been locked up in
these silos. [...] The proposal is, then, to bring back the idea of a decentralised web."

Facebook is one of these "silos" a 'walled garden', which is basically just a webpage, on
the previously decentralised World Wide Web. We are all locked into the walled garden
of one website which keeps us their to manipulate us, for free, without
our consent in probably most cases.

The movement to decentralise the web is growing, and some of its lead advocates are
the "father of the internet", Vint Cerf, and the creator of the WWW, Tim Berners Lee:

https://blog.archive.org/2016/06/16/decentralized-web-summit-with-tim-berners-lee-vint-cerf-and-polyfill/


Security expert Bruce Schneier, sums up our relationship with those centralised services
on the web:
https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2012/12/feudal_sec.html
https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2013/06/more_on_feudal.html

    Never too late to regain your privacy:

When i suggested to run my own email server, or social networking server
to replace Facebookand Google's Gmail, a friend's reaction was: "But they
already have all our data!". While this is quite true,it does not mean you
cannot regain your privacy, by cutting dependancy on free online services
that gather our private information. Leave Facebook, Google's webmail, and
any of the other big boys and whilst still having your data,they will from
that moment onward no longer be able to collect any 'new' private information
on you.When we get a new job, move to a new house or area, start a new hobby,
get married, have children, visit a restaurant, visit a holiday destination,
go to a music concert or have a new conversation online with one of our 'contacts':
None of this will now be used to profile us, and in time our previous profile
will become very much out of date.

"Organisations can no longer make correct assumptions about their target
and lose their effectiveness at manipulating [our] behaviour."


    The layers of friendship

I mentioned to a friend online today, about deleting facebook. His reply
to my ideas were that, he himslef saw things in layers. He would communicate
via email, IRC (a very old, and still very popular, internet chat program),
facebook, twitter, and other ways, and that thier was no 'one', all encompassing
way to communicate online, only layers of different ways - with some
being more popular at any given moment. This is true for me also. I have
many places i socialize and communicate with people online, some i have not
used for a while, but come back to, to chat with old friends, and some i
use more than others on a regular basis; but i do not delete my account
at any place, just becuase i havn't been their in a while.

Faced with the solution to online privacy: deleting Facebook,Gmail/yahoo,
whatsapp/and Google's search engine; most people will probably feel it
too dificult; even though there are equally good alternatives to all of
these. So

Getting back to the layers analogy now:

Facebook is like an open, public place- like say a cafe, or bar (pub ;))
or club- here you can arrange to meet friends, have fun and be seen.

Although you would not use the same bar/club/cafe, 'all' the time, for
the rest of your life, would i, would you?

Some alternatives to facebook, are part of a decentralised network, which
means any individual or group can set up their own server, which they
control (unlike facebook's or google's massivly centralised  systems).

A decentralised social network server is like going round to your friends
house for a coffee, or even a party. It could also be thought of as going
to a a club meeting, of any kind. It is not open to the public, but can
be part of a larger network. It might have a few dozen or a few hundred
people on it, but not the few hundred millions, as on facebook.

Although you would not go round to see the same friend(s), 'all' the time,
we all sometimes hang out with other friends, and so with secure decentralised
systems, which are privately run, you can join any - and still take part
in the wider network/federation.

When in public, at a social spot or shopping, eating out, you would always
pay special attention to your privacy and security, it is second nature.
And so it should be, online with: Facebook, twitter, Google search and  
gmail and many others.

When with your friends, you can share more of who you are, especially
in the intimacy of close friends, and family. And so privately run servers,
might not need 'replace' Facebook et al.. for social networking, but be
a safer place to interact with your family and friends. A different way
to socialize.

I hope my own circle of family and friends, come to realize the real
issues of privacy, and trust, that thier online life is built upon.
The internet, and the World Wide Web, which runs upon it, were both built
with lofty ideals, by people who had no thought of profiting from you or
i, in the way Facebook, Google, and a hundred and one other online
services now do.  

Our children, who grow up, as an online generation, should know how the
online world operates (you don't need a degree in computer science). When
'in public' on facebook, the concepts of privacy and security should be
'second nature' to them,  as in a busy cafe or club. The right to privacy
with our loved ones, in secure free decentralised systems, should be just
as we all  expect when we share a conversation in real life, over a coffee,
at home with our friends.