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 admits they support age and gender discrimination in advertising

  • “Like other major ad platforms, we enable targeting based on age and gender”

Because, you know, everyone discriminates based on age and gender so we do it too!

They also have features to target ads based on race and ethnicity. Which also means they enable advertisers to discriminate by race and ethnicity for say, things like housing or jobs. Facebook mostly hems and haws and says its a hard problem to solve.

Facebook can not prohibit racial, ethnic and gender discrimination automatically so they have instead created policies telling advertisers that discrimination is naughty so do not do that.

Source: US Congress

 

#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.

Riding a “bike generator” for 30 minutes will power a house for a day? No, not even close. #Facebook #Bicycling #nonsense

This made me laugh – can you see why?

A typical bicyclist may generate 100 to 200 watts per hour on a bike. A very fit bicyclist might generate up to 300 watts per hour (and their peak output – like a sprint – can produce 500 or more watts briefly). (Good explanation here. Another way to look at this is that 1 horsepower is 746 watts. Are you as powerful as a horse?)

Consequently, for most people, 30 minutes of bicycling produces in the range of 50 to 150 watt hours (.05 to .15 kwh) (or stated another way – 100 to 300 watts per hours is 50 to 150 watts per half hour).

American homes have an average consumption of about 11,000 kwh per year or about 30 kwh per day. (The amount consumed varies greatly by where you live in the country, and depends on local climate and local sources of energy, particularly for heating and cooling.)

See the problem? Let’s say .1 kwh produced relative to 30 kwh consumed per day. 30 minutes of bicycling produces less than 1/2 percent of the electricity consumed by an average home in a day.

This type of propaganda uses the simple method of assertion, making a claim (30 minutes of bicycling could power a home for a day). Few people will fact check – few have an intuitive sense of what a “watt” means or how much power they actually consume per day.

Consequently, many people think this assertion sounds great and quickly jump “on the bandwagon” to share this item with their friends.

While the above is from Twitter, the link is to a Facebook page that has been viewed 6.2 million times, shared 89,000 times!

People who ride stationary bikes tend to listen to music or watch TV (visit a gym to see this), which means they are producing less electricity than is being used by the TV. It’s possible for a group of riders, in a gym, to collectively out produce the TV’s demand, but that’s about as good they will do. They still need to power the lights, which they would not be doing! Effectively, riding a bike in the gym is likely to be a net loss of energy versus not riding that bike.

Yet this “meme” will likely takeover and people riding bikes in gyms will be sanctimonious about their behavior, virtue signaling how wonderful they are for the planet. When in fact, they are likely increasing energy consumption 🙂

#Facebook to hire Chief Apology Officer, to free up time for Zuckerberg and Sandberg to find new ways to share your data

As this humorous news item notes, Facebook spends an inordinate amount of time apologizing for its repeated screw ups regarding storing massive amounts of personal data on everyone and constantly leaking it to partners.

Source: Facebook apologizes. It does other stuff too, but mostly it apologizes

“#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.

#Facebook COO says they never realized Facebook was an easily manipulated propaganda platform

Seriously. They had no idea Facebook was a propaganda platform because there was “so much in the good” of Facebook. Their naivety is stunning.

Source: Sheryl Sandberg: Facebook didn’t do enough to stop risks

She says she will work harder to address the problems. But her naivety continues as she does not acknowledge that few trust Facebook executives.