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Not Everything Online Is Created Equally – Some Are Factual, Others Are Bias, And Others Are Neither.

gettyimages-528840251_slide-aafe70a075e3ed520323d24dcaf7b3bdd9503258-s800-c85

Link to image and article:

https://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/12/05/503581220/fake-or-real-how-to-self-check-the-news-and-get-the-facts

 

This week we went over an activity on the topic of ‘how much of the internet is what’s fake or real.’ This topic is one that comes across as two-sided, since you have people who take everything they see on the internet for granted, but other who think twice of what they see. But a bigger question to ask from all this is: is everything on the internet created equally? Just because a pen (tool) is culturally used for writing, it doesn’t mean it is can only be used for writing. I am one of those individuals who uses a pen for many things. I simply find this tool to be useful for so many things besides writing (poking, marking, cleaning, tapping, pointing, and for playing between my fingers).

Personally, I can say that nowadays I approach everything online with great precaution. This is not to say  that there is nothing completely factual on it, but most of the times a lot of the information found is changed for certain purposes (depending on the distributer of the data or information, and their purpose). In a sense, this is to be expected. Websites online, articles, PDFs, applications, and other programs or software are made with a goal in mind. Because of this, changes to the actual data need to somewhat happen, according to their standards. This alone is more than enough reason for me to be cautious. On a normal basis, I find myself visiting different websites everyday – some which are almost necessary for me to use (online bank account, emails, school website, the weather on Google, and few others). These don’t really worry me much with the type of information I receive, since they are not actually distributing information based on opinion, arguments, or with a rhetorical purpose. But the other websites, I come across, I do take more into account, such as online articles, blog posts, or any commentary type of source. Perhaps the reason for me to be more skeptical about these is because deep down I know that they bring ‘opinion/persuasion’ to the table. And wherever there is opinion, there is a high chance for it to be wrong in many levels. It is common sense to think of it like this.

In the case of reason articles online, even if they have a source page, I still don’t fully trust the information I am reading. The reason for this is because it might be true that a certain article I am reading is using well-researched data as a source, but even so, you have to understand that the amount of information share that article is going to be divided between the data and the opinion of the author. The amount percentages for such division between the two might vary per article, by the format of narrative it still remains present. Similarly, when reading blog posts or even sites based on commentary, I find myself coming across the same format of narrative, as a form of distributing of information by the people behind it. There is a lot of ‘opinion’ to be found in these.

However, I do have to be honest that at some point in my life, I was more careless with the information I found online. In fact, I never even considered such argument. But perhaps this is because during this time in my life, I was younger and the content I viewed had a different functionality. I used to only use the internet to watch my TV shows, anime, movies, and play games. I also did most of these in the near library near my house, and I was always monitored by the librarian with the content I viewed. It is obvious from this that I was kept from a darker side of the internet – a side we grown adults with as part of our daily lives for work, school, argumentative discussions, research and much more.

This brings me to the conclusion that not everything you find on the internet is created equal or should be seen as such. As a user of the internet, you must understand and know which places are to be trusted from which. Having this understanding of the different possibilities can help your overall usage of the internet for whatever purposes you may have.

[Fieldguide] Responding to: ‘The good, the bad and the ugly sides of data tracking’

URL to article:

https://internethealthreport.org/2018/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-sides-of-data-tracking/

According to the article ‘The good, the bad, and the ugly side of data tracking‘ by Internet Health Report,  data tracking is more common than we think it is nowadays. And the worst part of it, is that it is happening to us almost every time we go online with our electronic devices that have connection to the internet. This includes laptops and smart phone.

Upon reading this article, I couldn’t help but to be remind (once again) of the reality that is part of the web. More often than not, I tend to forget about how unsafe it can be because I have been exposed to the internet for almost my entire life. This makes it all the harder for me to notice or be aware of this menace. Still, the truth is that data tracking is constantly happening to us, and I am no exception.

One thing that got me thinking from the article is of how data tracking works. Basically, it happens as you visit certain sites or use certain programs or applications. In an instance, much of your personal information can be tracked and used to figure out things about you. In addition,  this collected data from you can be shared between third-parties. I can’t imagine how much of my data has already been tracked by strangers. But it should be a lot. This creates a bit of stress and anxiety over the websites I use or my activities online. In a sense, I feel like minimizing even further the amount of cyber-software I use online, as I know that this is the reason why the next day, I will come (randomly) across ads that I visited in another site. The feeling that these ads are following me is not to be ignored. But there is only so much that we can do to protect ourselves or go against this phenomenon. This is simply because, after all, we live in an age of an cyber-dependency  world, where most of the our chores and activities need to rely on the internet in some ways.

 

Rating of blog (dark/light): 5

Trying out PANOPTICLICK (tracking tool)

panosticlick

 

This site argues that it will will analyze how your browser and add-ons protect you against online tracking technologies. It also analyses if your system is properly configured. In order to continue with the service of the website, you will need to consent, through the ‘TEST ME’ button. After this, you can see the results of how your browser is operating. All in all, I can say it is quite easy to use, fast, and there is no need to be downloading any required files onto your device or system.

I have to say that I was a bit skeptical of using this site to help me track the activity and safety of my browser, but upon seeing the results, I thought otherwise. It appears that this site is pretty good at helping you find out if your browser is protected enough for the dangers of the internet. This being the case, I visited the site with that in mind, and these (above) were my results. As it appears, my browser is not protected well, at all. This was sad news to me as I always think my browser is pretty safe, since I keep my antivirus running at all times, and keep my  ads-pop-blocker on.  Now, I will try and find more ways to keep my browser safe. Thanks Panopticlick!

Money-making and Data-stealing Algorithms! Where? Anywhere (online)!!

Published on YouTube, by TED, on Nov 17, 2017.

youtube.com/watch?time_continue=28&v=iFTWM7HV2UI

 

This week, we covered an interesting video about the darkness of the internet: TED talk by Zeynep Tufekci. In the video she argued that “We’re building a dystopia just to make people click on ads.” We learned that these softwares, such as Youtube and Facebook, use algorithms for the purpose of keeping people addicted to them. These were ideas that we normally don’t think about, since the common person just uses these applications or software without thinking how they really work.

 

Upon touching on this matter, I found myself thinking more not just about how Youtube and Facebook work with algorithms, but other applications like Ebay and even Amazon. It is scary to even think that there are so many others out these which are following the same technology. One of the things I thought deeply about was why is the main purpose for them to even use such technology in the first place. At first, I found myself surfacing the skin, with the simple noticeable reasons: to better under us, to make the software more user-friendly, and for better efficiency of software processes within the program. But then, under this skin of facts, I found there was another scarier one: to make more revenue and keep the people addictive. If you think about it, it makes total sense, especially with how the technology is being used. The people behind the software understand that at the end of the day, it is all business. And therefore, they will think in ways of making more money or keeping the business going. What better way to do this, than by keeping your users addictive and growing in popularity. With this in mind, it is then up to the hired engineers to develop and enforce technologies that use algorithms, steal and collect our personal data unnoticed. It is scary to think that such highly developed programming can be used to even understand human behavior. But as scary as it is, it is here with us now, and it appears to want to stay.

This brings me to the other point: these businesses are getting rich at the cost of our own data and mental health. For some people, this might not seem as a serious case, but the rational person understands otherwise. Some people might think that they have nothing to worry about using Youtube, since it is free. But is it really free? Let’s think about it again. As I mentioned before, we have an understanding of how they are making some money (at the cost of the collecting of our data, which is later used to only improve these technologies, as it is sold and exchanged between those who seek it). Now, we think twice about what using YouTube might be doing to us. And it is not just YouTube, it is also Facebook, Amazon, and others. This raises another question: what are they doing with the money? Well, we can assume that part of it is used to keep enhancing the quality of performance of such technologies at their disposal.

Overall, these were some really deep topics we covered this week, and they were engaging enough to keep me think for more information. I had the opportunity to learn about a darker side to some of programs I already use everyday. And, despite know that I probably won’t stop using them anytime soon, I will definitely consider a safe approach of my usage. After all, knowing something (negative in case) and not doing anything about it would make me ignorant about what’s real and what’s not.

“Surveillance Capitalism”? Not on My Watch!!!

 

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Photo by: https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/talkingtech/2017/03/10/webcam-security-cover-wikileaks-comey-zuckerberg/98953462/

 

An interesting topic (for me, at least) we covered this week on online digital spaces, was the darkness that inhabits the world of the web. This was one that mainly focused on “Surveillance Capitalism” and the possibilities of social sites to be spying on us all. It was scary to think of the idea that the government could be spying on us through our systems or devices. But it was scarier to think of the possible fact that this is done through the collection of our data usage, and undetected (by the public) surveillance-software that affect us without much cognizance.

One of the things we went into details was on the spying of citizens through their devices, mainly those that have a camera as part of the hardware. With this advanced hardware capability, and the advance in technology today, it is not only possible but also very easy for all of us to be victims of surveillance. Just imagine having you’re the cameras on your Smart TV, opened laptop, or phone recording (unnoticed) your every action, and being streamed live to other online networks by hackers or even the government. This is not something to be unconcerned about, but rather all the opposite. I think it goes without saying that no person would like to have their bedroom, living room, kitchen, or even bathroom, being recorded by some strangers. This is simply a violation of privacy.

This brings me to the question of: are we really powerless against such advanced technology oppression by those who chose to violate the privacy of the citizens? To some extent, I guess we are somewhat incapable of fighting such huge already-established system. This is mostly because nowadays we have become so used to the technology we have, we felt overly dependent on it. But, after careful think over this matter, I came to the conclusion that if we are truly in need of such technology to live our everyday lives, and to catch up to the world, we can still take appropriate measures and actions.

You might ask now how is this possible. Well, for starters, the users of such technology are already in power to do so. This is because as the user of the technology, you have some control over the things you use, and how you use it. Yes! How we use it makes a huge difference. Some simple measures would be probably covering the camera of your devices while not being used. Or perhaps, pointing the camera of these devices at directions where you or your things of importance won’t be visible. Taking precautions is not a silly idea, although some might disagree. But whatever the case is, the point here is that we are not completely helpless at the mercy of the technology we use. And if we truly are vulnerable to this type of unnoticed surveillance, then we can take precaution to keep our privacy in check.

Gaining A Greater Insight on Post-truth and Networks (Digital and Worldly)

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Illustration by:

http://thegovlab.org/proposal-1-for-icann-get-smart-with-expert-networks/

 

The topics of “post-truth” and “networks (digital and real-world networks)” were some interesting topics we covered in class this week. Perhaps, the main reason to why I found them interesting was because they were topics I’ve never dove deep into for analysis. Not surprisingly, I found them to be interesting and worth learning about. As I learned from class and by myself, post-truth is a real thing that is now part of the web in 2019. Simply put, its meaning can be interpret something like this: something might be true for an individual (their perspective), rather than a general fact; it is less influential in shaping public opinion because it appeals more to emotion and personal belief. Today, we find this concept in the web, especially in sites like Youtube or Facebook. These are site where people have the freedom to freely comment, say, or argue whatever they believe in. This is the case because such sites are intended to be used for a casual setting, rather than a professional one. In a professional setting, normally arguments are backed up research an sources, which are later cited. This way, any factual information that someone might sharing can be proven and gain credibility. However, in a casual setting, such idea goes out the window, and this means that there is more space for personal opinion and less facts with comments, posts, or even arguments that are found in these sites.

This brings us to question another factor which we covered in class this week: is everything we find in the internet credible? This could be a double edge sword. For starters, we are now living in an age where we have trained our minds to only see things are factual, if they have credibility (this includes sources from research or experiments). This is mostly because only such methods can come close to proving and arguments. On the other hand, it is hard to accept an argument by someone online, who as no credible sources. The reason for this is because we come to believe that such person might be basing their argument on personal opinion and what they perceive to be truth. And just because they perceive something does not make it right factual, as we are used to truth more data collected research. The problem with this constant need to only accept something as factual if they have credible sources, is also a bit of a problem. Why you may ask? Well, let’s be considerate here on the possibility of someone who doesn’t have credible sources on being correct about an argument. The possibilities are still there. And completely ignoring them, just because there was no research behind the claim or argument, doesn’t mean it should be cast aside. If we do this, we are only limiting our possibilities on finding more accurate data and information.

The other topic we covered this week was that of network, both in the real world and in a digital space (online). To be honest, this one caught me by surprise, mainly because when I think of networks, I directly think of the web and online spaces. Maybe my mind has been programmed by such an idea, due to been exposed to the internet for so many years of my life. The obvious digital networks that came to mind when touching this subject was websites like Youtube, Facebook, Twittter, Instagram, and a few other popular (2019) social media sites. But then, the second part of this topic we covered was about networks in the real world. At first I was mentally frozen, and even questioned my thought with a simple “Wait, what? Networks in the real world?” Then I realized that such thing was more than a possibility. Why does a network only has to be digital to begin with? In fact, why does it even have to be limited to only these two? I quickly started to think about how would a network work in the world, and I found it would be in a similar but just different way. So, the first thing I used as example was my school. As I puzzled it together, my school (Kean University) had all the qualities to be a network. It had a function, a connected community, constant interaction between the members, it was alive in a sense, and if a piece of this network was missing or broken, there would be changes or consequences to the flow of the network. I felt so good to have figured this out. My joy was such that I even used the idea for another of my homework assignments that same day.

Overall, this was an interesting week learning and expanding my knowledge with activities that challenged me critically and analytically. They were fun activities for sure, and got me to think about these topics in various ways that I had never done before. Thanks to this, I have gained a deeper understanding of both “post-truth” and “networks”.