Is spying on your kids the best way to keep them safe?

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Earlier, I introduced the problem that troubled teens can make social media friends who are a way bigger problem than their parents.

Parents can be misguided about what is good for their children but usually they want what is good, in principle. And in most communities, the resulting conflicts iron themselves out over time.

Strangers may not be so particular about what is good for the kid. So how can we help kids understand the risks of trusting interesting strangers (instead of the boring, oppressive ordinary folk one lives with in everyday life)?

Here's a site that offers to help us snoop on kids. (More than a monitoring service, uKnowKids is Parental Intelligence. We help you understand your child’s digital footprint so you can focus on what you… click here to read whole article and make comments



A young teen needs to be on social media? For what?

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Sure, just like the kid needs the keys to the car or the liquor cabinet. On the other hand, kids need to learn to drive and to drink (if at all) responsibly. That said, two cautionary tales of our times:

A chilling recent story in Ars Technica recounts:

On November 10, a 12-year-old girl left her home in the Baltimore suburb of Nottingham at 7:30am, heading to her middle school. She never returned home. When her mother called the school later, she discovered that her daughter had not even arrived. Suddenly, Baltimore County Police were calling in the FBI to assist in their search for a missing person.
According to police reports, “an… click here to read whole article and make comments



What’s this about Net Neutrality? Is it a good thing?

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I’m not sure. In Britain’s Guardian, we read that American cable companies are “stunned” by U.S. president Obama’s “extreme” proposals and “strongest possible rules” to protect net neutrality—equal treatment for all traffic on the Internet:

“The cable industry strongly supports an open internet, is building an open internet, and strongly believes that over-regulating the fastest growing technology in our history will not advance the cause of internet freedom,” said NCTA president Michael Powell, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which is now rewriting the internet rules.

In essence, under the Obama regime’s proposals, Internet providers would be reclassified as “common carrier” services like telephone companies, which means more regulation of prices and services. This will almost certainly mean a rise in prices because the ISPs must… click here to read whole article and make comments



Why Big Data will not solve any problems just by getting Bigger

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Visualization of all editing activity on Wikipedia, as illustration of Big Data/Fernanda B. Viégas

As noted earlier, the Internet can be a tool for oppression or freedom, depending on who is using it and how. Recently, I’ve been writing about Big Data, the belief that the world will know itself better if government and private concerns can just monitor our lives cheaply and efficiently in sufficient detail, via our actions and transactions on the Internet. That was the basis of Facebook experimenting on one in 2500 of its unsuspecting users (here) and (here).

There are good statistics-based reasons for doubting the claim. Big Data also risks joining evolutionary psychologyclick here to read whole article and make comments



Does the Internet aid human trafficking?

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Of course, to the extent that it makes everything, whether good or bad, faster, cheaper, and easier.

From Reuters:

The number of people locked in slavery in Britain rose by 22 percent last year, with online dating, social media sites and Internet job advertisements used increasingly to recruit victims, a new report showed on Tuesday.
Britain's National Crime Agency (NCA) identified 2,744 people, including 602 children, as potential victims of human trafficking in 2013 with more than 40 percent ending up in the sex trade and almost 30 percent forced into manual labour.
The third annual human trafficking report listed Romania as the most prevalent country of origin for victims for the third consecutive year, with more than half exploited for sex, and Poland as the most common… click here to read whole article and make comments



Social security numbers - are they so secure?

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This story should especially interest North Americans, but residents of all countries where “numbers” are issued should pay attention. Many numbers that have been issued to identify citizens contain far more revealing data than we realize. That is probably because no one back in the day considered possible criminal use.

Here is an example: My own social insurance number begins with three key digits. That just means I turned sixteen in a given time period. But it tells you something if you know the time period that it represents and the country of origin. 

My mother tells me that when she, now 90, turned the same age, she was expected to show up at the Post Office and get a number. No one considered the possibility back then of international fraud.… click here to read whole article and make comments



How big is Google? Is it really a googleplex?

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A googolplex is 1 followed by 10 to the power of 100 zeros. Search engine Google was named after 10 to the 100th power (googol, a physically impossible number, we are told, because the elementary particles in the universe number only 10 to the 80th power). A googolplex (a large number equal to 10^(10^(100))) is hard to even think about. So, no, Google is not a googolplex. But it is still formidable.

First, we all know Google as a search engine, but it is also a very big enterprise. It owns about eighty companies (including Android, Youtube, smartphones, advanced robotics, smart systems, artificial intelligence), mostly based in the United States, and continues to… click here to read whole article and make comments



Instead of James Bond-style secrecy, why not shine a spotlight on terror?

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Using social media?

Franklin Carter at the Book and Periodical Council's Freedom of Expression Committee and I were recently discussing the Canadian government’s attempts to address Islamic terror, in the wake of the fatal shooting of Nathan Cirillo, an honour guard at the World War I memorial in Ottawa. (The assailant was later shot dead by the Sergeant-at-Arms.)

The federal government is wondering if it should try to limit terrorists’ access to the Internet. As noted in the Globe & Mail,

A joint statement from 15 privacy and information commissioners raised concerns that new police powers could infringe on civil liberties and privacy rights.
“We acknowledge that security… click here to read whole article and make comments



Control of the Internet is not a tinfoil hat cause. Please read this.

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Recently, I covered defamation law and the Internet. To give you an idea how unsettled defamation law now is, American comedienne Lena Dunham is threatening to sue a Web site for quoting her own words.

Copyright law on the Internet is similarly unsettled. The United States is negotiating to turn it into a regime that can quite easily lead to control of the Internet.

In the age of print media, I was at one time a permissions editor, and Disney’s fierce protection of the copyright on all its products was legendary. That attitude has become a U.S. government obsession today.

As Internet copyright specialist Emma Woollacott puts it at Forbes,

Wikileaks has released a new draft of the intellectual property chapter of the Trans-Pacific… click here to read whole article and make comments



Are Facebook Friends replacing real friends?

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Facebook Statistics

What’s your Dunbar number? As Maria Konnikova tells it in the New Yorker, Oxford anthropologist Robert Dunbar calculates that the average human being has about 150 people in their social group (100 to 200 on average):

From there, through qualitative interviews coupled with analysis of experimental and survey data, Dunbar discovered that the number grows and decreases according to a precise formula, roughly a “rule of three.” The next step down, fifty, is the number of people we call close friends—perhaps the people you’d invite to a group dinner. You see them often, but not so much that you consider them to be true intimates. Then there’s the circle of fifteen: the friends that you can turn to for sympathy when… click here to read whole article and make comments


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Connecting is MercatorNet's blog about social media and the virtual self. We'd love to hear from you. Send us your tips and suggestions. Post comments. We want to make it as lively as possible. The editor is Denyse O'Leary, a Canadian journalist. 

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