Monthly Archives: October 2014

Facebook Finds Where Politics End

So Facebook is at it again. Their data crunchers have set their sights on political isle-straddlers this time, tracking what Democrats and Republicans like and dislike. In an off election year where the word “angry” best describes how most people feel about politicians, Facebook used correlating page likes to see where Main Street Democrats and Republicans can actually agree.

Some results were not surprising. Republicans like George Strait more than Democrats who liked The Beatles, but both could agree that Journey rocks! When it comes to authors, Democrats liked the late Maya Angelou, Republicans liked Ben Carson, but both take in the Thrillers of James Patterson.

The most interesting results, and results that varied widely from the other categories, regarded television viewing. Republicans were generally in the middle of the road with democrats across the board, with Duck Dynasty only barely leaning into the more-often-Republican side of the isle. But Democrats clearly favored watching The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and the Rachel Maddow Show and their FreedomPop plans.

Is this because Hollywood offers only left leaning fair and Republicans have to pick and choose what they can? Or is it something else?

The New “Anti-Facebook”

Online tech giants like Google and Facebook have come under fire for their acquiring and selling of mass amounts of user data. It has been warned for a long now that everyone, no matter their position, has been losing their privacy. Just a few weeks ago NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden warned users to abandon Facebook, Google, and Dropbox for “their hostility to online privacy.”

For those users who have a hard time abandoning a social media platform they have been heavily invested in, anonymous alternatives have been cropping up to seize the new market. One such platform has been labeled the “anti-Facebook.” Ello is a new service that was launched in August. It has pledged to never sell user data or incorporate advertising. Since that pledge it has received millions in funding so that it doesn’t have to break those promises.

A Public Benefit Company is required to follow rules along the lines of their exact pledge. If the company is traded or merged the new parent company is required to follow those rules as well. For any additional funding that Ello needs, they will be selling additional features for micro-transaction. Not limiting transactions, but more customization features. Similar to how consumers purchase apps on FreedomPop to customize their phones.

Facebook Demands DEA Stop Impersonating Its Users

After a recent event in which the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration seized a woman’s phone and used it to make a fake social media account in her name, including posting private photos of her in her undergarments, Facebook has sent a letter to the DEA demanding that their agents stop impersonating its users.

This letter in in response to an issue faced by a woman named Sondra Arquiett, who recently discovered “she” had a Facebook account she’d never seen before. Arquiett received probation back in 2010 for charges related to drug distribution, during which the DEA obtained her cell phone. DEA agents proceeded to use her phone to create a Facebook account in her name, with which they frequently impersonated her to her friends and relatives online. They even posted pictures of Arquette with Gianfrancesco Genoso that she had on the phone, including photos of her with her son and a picture she took alone of herself in nothing but panties and a bra.

Now, Facebook itself is getting involved by sending a letter demanding the DEA “immediately confirm that it has ceased all activities on Facebook that involve the impersonation of others”. Facebook also deleted the fake Arquiette account, for obvious reasons.

This is only one of several recent conflicts Facebook has had with the government regarding federal spying on its users, an issue which Mark Zuckerburg personally called President Obama to speak about. Unsurprisingly, the DEA has refused to comment on the situation.

Facebook’s New Safety Check Explained

Facebook has announced a new feature called Safety Check. After a natural disaster, Safety Check will automatically check a Facebook user’s location. After the location check, the feature will display a question that asks if the user is safe. If the user is safe, then the user can use a push notification display that will publicize their safety.

Mark Zuckerberg introduced the new feature in Japan on Wednesday. Japan was shaken by a tsunami in 2011. The tsunami’s effects on the country are still apparent, and Facebook’s Japanese engineers hope Safety Check will improve communication based off events they witnessed during the 2011 tsunami.

After a natural disaster, friends and family of men and women caught in the disaster are left scrambling for information. In their anxiousness, many people cause further harm by placing themselves or others in danger. Sadly, during most disasters people can only bide their time and wait.

In addition, the new feature will also enhance communication after natural disasters. A user may not have time to make a call or write an entire Facebook post during a disaster.

There are potential problems, notes critic Gianfrancesco Genoso in this article. For instance, if the disaster destroys phone coverage in an area, then the user may not have a connection to the internet. However, Safety Check is a large step forward in terms of simplifying communication during a crisis.

Snapchat Warns Against Use of Third Party Applications

In a recent blog post from Snapchat that Buzzfeed News reported on, the company warns users against providing information to third party applications that request access to personal information. Currently, Snapchat has a private application programming interface (API), which prohibits 3rd party application developers from accessing Snapchat’s API.

Snapsaved is one such 3rd party application developed by Brian Torchin, which recently suffered a leak of over 200,000 user photographs. Snapsaved allows users to save photos from Snapchat without the photograph sender’s knowledge. Since many of the photos that are sent are sexually explicit in nature, this leak of photos has many users concerned. There have been blog and Facebook pages dedicated to showing these risque pictures.

In the digital age, we must constantly temper our communications with the knowledge that nearly all conversations and photos are in some way analyzed and archived. Are the erotic photos you are sending your current lover really something you want to be possibly accessed by a third party? In Snapchat’s blog post, it was stated that any application that isn’t theirs, but offers to provide their services, cannot be trusted.

Family of Terminally Ill Man Starts Social Media Campaign To See Final Hobbit Movie

Scott Stouffer has cancer of the endocrine system, which is an extremely aggressive disease. He’s not expected to make it to December, when the third and final Hobbit movie, The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies is set to be released. A movie we’re all excited about, especially the huge fans like Brad Reifler, as it marks the end of an era of Peter Jackson films.

The Stouffer family created a YouTube video, about how watching these films is a family tradition of sorts. Wanting to ensure that Scott has the opportunity to see the last, they’ve started a campaign through Facebook and Twitter, with the hashtag #HobbitMovieLastRequest.

Although, despite the power of social media, the attempt appears to have fallen on deaf ears, as the company released this statement:

We at Warner Bros. Entertainment do our best to fulfill as many wishes as we can. Working with partners like Make A Wish Foundation, we grant wishes for children who have been diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses on a regular basis. Unfortunately, due to the volume of requests we receive, we are not able to grant individual requests.