News: Click bait versus actual news headline

I’m so old, I was taught that a news headline encapsulated a brief summary of the news article. Today, the purpose of a headline is to act as “click bait”. This screen capture from Google News illustrates the concept – the one at the bottom is the “old school” approach.

The past week has seen a flood of “news” reports about immigration issues-some were mostly correct yet some, may be many, were poorly researched, left out context, and were intended primarily as propaganda messaging. The Administration is daffy in its understanding of propaganda – and oblivious to the public response to its actions. I was traveling so I ignored most of it but I have saved aside some items for possible posting here, later.

It seems the primary purpose of both social media and news media is propaganda. The concept of an objective, unbiased news media has vanished.

Google has also fallen off the deep end. I looked up a topic related to news media publishing. Google Search helpfully provided several highlighted quick answers at the top. The first quick answer I looked at was sourced to an anonymous post on an investment forum! The anonymous poster had made nearly 7,000 posts mostly about marijuana legalization. Google elevated an anonymous online forum post from a drug fan to an authoritative answer about publishing! Mind blown.

Should reporters pay government employees bribes for leaked info?

FBI agents were enticed to spill the goods from reporters who plied them with meals, invitations to parties, tickets to sporting events and golf outings

Source: FBI Report Shows Leak Investigators Leak Like a Sieve – Bloomberg

From the IG report:

“FBI employees received tickets to sporting events from journalists, went on golfing outings with media representatives, were treated to drinks and meals after work by reporters, and were the guests of journalists at nonpublic social events,”

Can you spot the problems with reporters paying bribes to government employees for favors? Think about that for a while if its not obvious …

News: When is a scientific study, or the reporting on it, just propaganda?

Today’s news brings the following announcement:

By modifying their lifestyle, including diet and exercise, people can lower their blood pressure just as effectively as with medication, according to a study.

Researchers studied the effects of adapting the Newstart Lifestyle program, which includes a vegan diet, daily outside walks, substantial quantities of water, adequate daily sleep and optional spiritual activities.

Source: Healthier lifestyle as effective as medication to lower blood pressure, study says – UPI.com

Most people will read only the headline and possibly the first few paragraphs.

Disclaimer – I personally lowered my systolic blood pressure by more than 30 points and my diastolic blood pressure by 20 points through lifestyle changes alone (different than those recommended in this study). My comments are not about whether this is effective but about the use of this study as a propaganda piece – without any useful analysis by the news media.

There is more to this news report that is important for context:

Second Disclaimer – based on personal experience I strongly agree that personal lifestyle choices can have a profound influence on health and blood pressure! If the Seventh Day Adventist Lifestyle program is right for you, by all means look in to it!

My comments are not about Seventh Day Adventists (I assume they are fine people). My comments are about “stenographer reporters” who copy press releases, enabling public relations propagandists to spin the story and control your mind. At a high level, this study comes across as a propaganda piece, defined as persuading the target to adopt someone’s agenda. The press release makes effective use of Appeal to Authority arguments, notably a university and an Institute affiliation, and linking to similar ideas from the American Heart Association and the Mayo Clinic.

This item is a wonderful example of how studies are presented by public relations (a.k.a. propaganda experts) to persuade others to adopt someone’s agenda. This item also illustrates how the news media works together with propaganda experts to deliver powerful propaganda messages to you. The news media ought to be in the business of sorting spin out of the reporting and disclosing potential conflicts of interest of their sources – and sometimes they succeed at doing that. But far too often, they become a party and a conduit for propaganda messaging.

#Facebook logs everything about you, including much that you would never expect them to collect

In a document provided to Congress by Facebook we learn that Facebook is a massive spying operation recording everything about you, including the names of files on your device, data about other devices on your network or near to you (including from people who never gave Facebook permission), and records things you buy from other web sites (meaning, not on Facebook – see note)... literally, everything. Mark Zuckerberg repeatedly lies about the massive spy operation conducted by Facebook.

1. information from “computers, phones, connected TVs, and other web-connected devices,” as well as your “internet service provider or mobile operator”
2. “mouse movements” on your computer
3. “app and file names” (and the types of files) on your devices
….
6. information “about other devices that are nearby or on their network”
….
11. “purchases [users] make” on off-Facebook websites
12. contact information “such as an address book” and, for Android users, “call log or SMS log history” if synced, for finding “people they may know”

….
14. “location of a photo or the date a file was created” through the file’s metadata
15. information through your device’s settings, such as “GPS location, camera, or photos
16. information about your “online and offline actions” and purchases from third-party data providers
17. “device IDs, and other identifiers, such as from games, apps or accounts users use

Source: Here Are 18 Things You Might Not Have Realized Facebook Tracks About You

Note

When I visit Amazon.com, a total of 25 “trackers” are invoked, including from DoubleClick, Yahoo, Advertising.com, Taboola, Adobe and many, many more.  A visit to Walmart indicates Facebook Custom Audiences are tracking us. Target shows Bing advertising tracking, Google tracking and many more in use.

Google Reads All of Your Email and Stores Detailed Notes About Your Correspondence

If you go to your Google Dashboard and poke around, you’ll find that Google actively and automatically reads all your emails.

No – not scans your emails – Google uses artificial intelligence software systems to read, analyze and interpret your private email correspondence and then stores detailed records about you. For example, I used to use Gmail. Here is some of the information that Google logged (permanently) in their archive based on reading my email.

Google’s spying software recognized each time I booked a flight and interpreted and stored this in their archive. This data is not bulk delete-able – you have to select each order, individually and go through some options to delete each item, one at a time. Which is impractical for an account that has been used for any length of time. It may be possible to bulk delete this data by deleting all of your emails on your GMail account (I’ve deleted most of them already).

Google also read emailed confirmations of purchases and logged this information in their database:

Because I used to be a user of GMail, and all of my Amazon purchases were confirmed with an email sent to my GMail account, Google has a detailed record of every purchase I ever made on Amazon and EBay.

Google claims that as of 2017, they have stopped reading emails for the purpose of ad targeting. Then why are they assembling this database of purchases? What is it being used for? I have been unable to find an explanation of why this information is collected.

They do note in the pages of “privacy” stuff that they scan emails. Note the bullet point “Order receipts or confirmations received in GMail” – which confirms their machine intelligence reads all of your emails, makes notes, and logs their interpretation. We do not know what Google does with this information.

Without question, Google is reading your financial related emails and bills/invoices from services such as your utility company.

Presumably Google is also reading personal information such as emails that may contain medical and financial information. Including emails you have sent to and from your spouse.

I RECOMMEND EVERYONE AVOID USING GOOGLE SERVICES. VERIZON/YAHOO ACKNOWLEDGES THEIR SYSTEMS READ YOUR BANKING AND FINANCIAL RECORDS SENT TO YOU IN EMAIL.[1]

This is not a matter of whether or not their database of private information is secure (it’s questionable). Because my email address at Gmail was a <common-first-name common-last-name> form, numerous people send me their own private email too! Google reads all of that and draws erroneous conclusions.

Every week I receive email destined for other people, on my account.

  • I have received private correspondence about a divorce proceeding (alleging law violations) that was intended for a lawyer with a name similar to mine.
  • I recently received announcement of someone going to hospice (has since passed away as I received that too) – for someone that was allegedly my father! (My Dad passed away a long time ago – this email was sent to me incorrectly.)
  • I received a full draft copy of the final comprehensive exam of a Paris, France European business school, seeking last minute comments. I could have posted this comprehensive exam online in advance of the exam date.
  • I received an advanced copy of a well known newspaper’s story exposing corruption – the story was intended for the contract graphic artist’s pre-publication review. His name is similar to mine and the item was mis-addressed to me. I could have posted it on my blog in advance of their publication.
  • Every week I receive announcements of bills not being paid or accounts being cut off (not mine but of other people who entered the wrong address).
  • There’s a new Paypal-like service called Venmo where someone entered the wrong email address. I receive all of their purchase info.  If I want, I have full access to their Venmo financial account (all I need to do is say I forgot my password).

Meanwhile, Google is looking over my shoulder and reading emails that have nothing to do with me – and compiling a dossier of all my purchases.

Because of this, I avoid using Google services where possible. Because I have an Android phone, there are some things I cannot readily opt out of. However, I have moved 99% of my email elsewhere. I keep location services turned off when I can. I routinely log in and delete my Google records – of those that I can access.

As we learned by downloading our Facebook and Twitter dossiers, these online services are amassing databases containing large quantities of garbage. This is the dark secret of online surveillance companies – first they don’t want you to know what they collect, but second, much and sometimes most of what they collect is crap. Yet they are selling this crap to third parties to use for advertising and propaganda campaigns.

Facebook and Google are both acting evil and not being honest with us about what they collect (in detailed terms), specifics of what they use the data for and how they use it and who else has access to it (in any form). Most of us now know – vaguely – that these companies collect data. But we do not know why they collect what they do, how it is interpreted, who has access to the information and when, or if, it is disposed of. In the case of Facebook, the public has received about a hundred different explanations and a hundred apologies for oops, we did it again!

Note

[1] Apple and Microsoft say their business models do not depend upon collecting voluminous data about you and selling it to other people. Both companies sell products and services directly, rather than selling access to dossiers. Microsoft says they only collect personal information when it is used specifically to improve your experience and then only for that purpose. It is not used for advertising, they say. This suggests email provided by Apple or Microsoft has less spying going on than those of the ad-based companies. A former Microsoft information security manager, and a former senior vice president told me that Microsoft is far less invasive than Google or Facebook and both said they have chosen not use to certain social media services because they had read their privacy policies and found them to be, effectively, antii-piracy policies.

“#Facebook Gave Some Companies Special Access to Additional Data About Users’ Friends – WSJ”

This is separate from the apps that had access to friends of friends data such as those affiliated with Cambridge Analytica, and many others.

This is separate from the 60 hardware partners like Chinese phone maker Huawei, that were given access to private data on Facebook.

This is new – Facebook gave secret access to many additional partners too:

Facebook Inc. FB 0.49% struck customized data-sharing deals with a select group of companies, some of which had special access to user records well after the point in 2015 that the social-media giant has said it cut off all developers from that information, according to court documents, company officials and people familiar with the matter.

Source: Facebook Gave Some Companies Special Access to Additional Data About Users’ Friends – WSJ

Facebook did announce this week that it has cut off Huawei’s data sharing agreement as of this week. But that is not relevant to anyone who has owned a Huawei product the past year or two or three. What happened to our data? Is the data sharing burned into the existing phone’s firmware – hence, ending the agreement is irrelevant?

Facebook has been reckless in its disregard for privacy and continues to steadily obfuscate its tall tales about how they have shared our private data with everyone on the planet – and presumably well beyond the planet, at this point.

Zuckerberg and Sandberg are liars.

‘Looks like #Zuckerberg lied to  Congress’ – Congressman #Facebook #DeleteFacebook

As I posted yesterday, it appears that Facebook executives have been routinely lying to everyone about their massive surveillance network and data sharing systems. Congress takes notice:

“This needs to be investigated and the people responsible need to be held accountable.”

Source: Dem lawmaker: ‘Looks like Zuckerberg lied to Congress’ | TheHill

The New York Times (see earlier post) found that Facebook had signed private agreements with 60 companies who made use of Facebook data. The New York Times demonstrated this by using a 2013 Blackberry device, and starting with a FB account having 550 friends, was able to gather personal data on 295,000 Facebook users.

#Facebook shared “friends” data with EVERYONE #Zuckerberg

Facebook has reached data-sharing partnerships with at least 60 device makers — including Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Samsung — over the last decade, starting before Facebook apps were widely available on smartphones, company officials said.

…. Facebook allowed the device companies access to the data of users’ friends without their explicit consent, even after declaring that it would no longer share such information with outsiders. Some device makers could retrieve personal information even from users’ friends who believed they had barred any sharing, The New York Times found.

If true, will Facebook executives be going to jail?

It looks like Zuckerberg and Sandberg have been telling some large fibs to consumers and Congress.

“There is nothing wrong with your social media feed. We are controlling transmission”

A long time ago, in a generation far away from the present, there was a TV show called “The Outer Limits” famous for its opening sequence narration:

There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to – The Outer Limits.

Little did they know then, they were describing the future Facebook and Instagram services which use algorithms to determine what you see in your news feed. Both services control the content you see – imagine the possibilities for propaganda when all you see is what a giant corporation’s secret algorithms choose to show you.

Instagram says it uses three main factors, based on your past actions and behaviors, to determine how to build your feed: Interest: How much Instagram predicts you’ll care about a post, with higher ranking for what matters to you, determined by past behavior on similar content and potentially machine vision analyzing the actual content of the post. Recency: How recently the post was shared, with prioritization for timely posts over weeks-old ones. Relationship: How close you are to the person who shared it, with higher ranking for people you’ve interacted with a lot in the past on Instagram, such as by commenting on their posts or being tagged together in photos.Instagram adds that it also considers the frequency with which you open Instagram, the number of people you follow, and how long you generally spend in the app during each session.

Source: Instagram explains how its feed algorithm works, and says it’s not considering a chronological option | 9to5Mac

George Orwell’s 1984 was not intended as operating instructions for the future, but as a warning.

Sadly, Mark Zuckerberg adopted 1984 as the operating guidelines for Facebook and Instagram.