Is this a pigeon? The story behind the internet’s new favorite meme

A still from The Brave Fighter of Sun Fighbird is being used to mock everyone from men that mansplain to high school Tv shows

The Brave Fighter of Sun Fighbird was created to be the Japanese version of Transformers: all androids, intergalactic police force and merchandise opportunities. First broadcast 25 years ago, it has never been especially popular outside of Japan, but in the past month it has become responsible for one of the more popular images on the internet, posted to Twitter and Instagram thousands of times a day.

The image comes from a scene in the depict where an android is trying to convince a police detective that he is human. He’s a long way from Westworld standards of artificial intelligence, however, and keeps incorrectly identifying the objects around him. He guesses rises are violets, and asks if a butterfly is a pigeon.

A screengrab from that scene first appeared in 2011, mostly on Tumblr and anime forums. Back then it was primarily used for anime in-jokes, such as superfans taunting each other for misidentifying Pokemon. But in the last couple of months it’s gone mainstream.The meme has become extremely popular- new iterations are being created constantly, with some of the best going viral on social media, or trending on the meme library knowyourmeme.com.

Cat Graffam (@ catgraffam)

pic.twitter.com/ k90ssimgos

May 4, 2018

fullmullet alchemist (@ rfetts)

i attained one pic.twitter.com/ LwiyqyoJfE

May 11, 2018

After the official Netflix account use the meme to comment on the questionable casting of actors in high-school drama, its popularity soared.

Netflix US (@ netflix)

pic.twitter.com/ uh1ztR0wam

May 3, 2018

But what’s so special about this scene? He’s just a boy, standing in front of a butterfly, asking if it’s a pigeon.

Some have said the meme has a melancholy quality; some iterations involve mistaking likes on Twitter for friendship, while others joke about” buying expensive things with money I shouldn’t spend” in a quest for self-care. Vice has suggested the meme acts as a window into people’s psychology, and” could help demystify the process of dealing with depression and other mental health issues “.

But the truth is that, like any memetic form, it can’t be contained to a single topic. It’s already been adopted by the left and right, feminists and” incels“, and used to comment on everything from Ohio environmental politics to rape culture.

ghost science class chalkboard doodle (@ frimairist)

sorry for the butterfly meme pic.twitter.com/ eQq7 2teFZW

May 10, 2018

Dan (@ strngephtoghrpr)

My take on’ is this a pigeon’ meme pic.twitter.com/ NeJwCXPX2 4

May 7, 2018

This sudden popularity is likely down to its similarity to the” confused boyfriend” stock image that has been doing the rounds since last year.

popular comedy account” the pixelated barge” (@ pixelatedboat)

pic.twitter.com/ wey5DjJvQQ

August 24, 2017

Previously, most memes consisted of ugly text laid over a single image, inducing it easy for anyone to adapt. But confused boyfriend generated the feeling of a comic strip- constructing it staggeringly popular and spawning a whole new genre of meme.

Finding an image that can tell a story so perfectly isn’t easy, but” is this a pigeon ?” fits the bill, which is likely why it remerged. It also helps that anyone with the most slapdash editing skills can give it a go, even me.

Is
Photograph: Sunup

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Google wants to cure our phone addiction. How about that for irony? | Matt Haig

It helped us get hooked on tech , now it wants to wean us off by employing more tech. Is this about business , not wellbeing ?, says author Matt Haig

Worried about the hours you spend scrolling your phone, sinking into despair, gazing at glamorous Instagrammers leaning against palm trees while you try to get out of bed?

Worry no longer: help is coming. And it’s coming from, um, Google. Yes, that’s right. Google is now trying to improve our” digital wellbeing'” by making our telephones less addictive. Its newest version of Android includes an array of features with the stated objective of maintaining us from our phones.

Among the many latest additions is a “dashboard” app that tells you at a glance how- and how often – you’ve been using your telephone. It will enable you to set time limits via an app timer, and give you warns when you’ve been using it for too long.

This is Google doing what it always does. It is trying to be the solution to every aspect of our lives. It already wants to be our librarian, our encyclopedia, our dictionary, our map, our navigator, our billfold, our postman, our calendar, our newsagent, and now it wants to be our therapist. It wants us to believe it’s on our side.

There is something suspect about deploying more technology to use less technology. And something ironic about a company that fuels our tech craving telling us that it holds the key to weaning us off it. It doubles as good PR, and pre-empts any future criticism about corporate irresponsibility.

Google may be the world’s most valuable brand, but it is has been consistently dogged by criticisms including over privacy, search neutrality and paying its fair share of tax. Amid a new era of scepticism towards the privacy-neglecting practices of Silicon Valley behemoths and awareness of technology’s potential harm to our mental health, Google’s move looks like a classic attempt to get ahead of the game. People no longer want a life-work balance, they want a life-tech balance. And Google is here to assist.

” Seventy percent of people want more help striking this balance ,” told Sameer Samat, vice-president of product management at Google at its annual showcase last Tuesday. So they could be seen to be acting as the will of the people, a wise move for a company which boasts- for its search engine alone- route over a billion users.

The trouble is that while Google professes to acknowledge the dangers of technology taking over our lives, it keeps on attempting new ways for, well, technology to take over our lives. At the very same showcase, it unveiled something else it is working on. A Google Assistant, straight out of a dystopian sci-fi movie: a type of AI that constructs telephone call on your behalf.

An audience of tech fans watched with palpable exhilaration as Google CEO Sundar Pichai proved a demo of Google Assistant booking a hair appointment over the phone. The bit that really got them when the “assistant” dropped a casually affirmative “mmm-hmm” into the call. Pichai told the crowd,” The amazing thing is that Assistant can actually understand the subtleties of conversation .” It also unveiled Google Lens, a visual search tool that looks for information in the objects around you, and proved a demo of it identifying everything in your friend’s apartment, even the blurb of a Zadie Smith novel.( Zadie Smith, as a self-described” luddite abstainer”, was a brave selection .)

Ultimately, it looks like Google is ready to wean us off our telephone craving because tech is no longer just about phones and laptops. Google’s ultimate award is to be involved with every aspect of their own lives. Like an overbearing mother, it wants you to sit down and take it easy, as it does everything for you, even telephone the hairdresser. It wants to know everything about you. It wants, quite literally, to get inside your eyeballs. And it will sell us this, the way it sells everything: without us even noticing. It will construct something so convenient we’ll wonder how we got by without it.

In the name of convenience, Google is not just mining our data, it is eroding our unique humanity. We require a time-out. Technology is evolving far faster than we are. We need to be asking Google bigger topics than:” Can you book my hair appointment ?” Starting with: if tech can do everything we can do, what is the point of us?

* Matt Haig is a novelist and journalist. His book Note on a Nervous Planet is published in July

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Google loses landmark ‘right to be forgotten’ case

Businessman wins legal action to force removal of search results about past conviction

A businessman has won his legal action to remove search results about war criminals conviction in a landmark” right to be forgotten” occurrence that could have wide-ranging repercussions.

The ruling was make use of Mr Justice Warby in London on Friday. The magistrate repudiated a similar claim brought by a second industrialist who was jailed for a more serious offence.

The claimant who lost, referred to only as NT1 for legal reasons, was convicted of conspiracy to account falsely in the late 1990 s; the claimant who won, known as NT2, was convicted more than 10 years ago of conspiracy to intercept communications. NT1 was jailed for four years, while NT2 was jailed for six months.

Granting an appeal in the case of NT1, the judge added:” It is quite likely that there will be more claims of this kind, and the fact that NT2 has succeeded is likely to reinforce that .”

Both men demanded that Google remove search results mentioning the cases for which they were convicted. These include links to web pages published by a national newspaper and other media. Google refused their request and the men took the company to the high court.

The decision in NT2′ s favour could have implications for other convicted crooks and those who want embarrassing narratives about them erased from the web. Warby ruled out any injuries payment, however.

Explaining his decision, the judge said NT1 continued to mislead the public, whereas NT2 had shown repentance. He also took into account the submission that NT2′ s conviction did not fear actions taken by him in relation to” consumers, clients or investors”, but rather in relation to the intrusion of privacy of third parties.

” There is not[ a] plausible suggestion … that there is a risk that this wrongdoing will be repeated by the claimant. The datum is of scant if any apparent relevance to any record-keeping activities that he seems likely to engage in ,” the magistrate added.

He said his key conclusion in its relationship with NT2′ s claim was that” the crime and punishment information has become out of date, irrelevant and of no sufficient legitimate interest to users of Google search to justify its continued availability “.

In the case of NT1, however, the judge was scathing about the claimant’s stance since leaving prison.” He has not accepted his remorse, has misled the public and this court, and depicts no compunction over any of these matters ,” he said.

” He remains in business, and the information serves the purpose of minimising the risk that he will continue to misinform, as he has in the past. Delisting would not erase the information from the record wholly, but it would make it much harder to find .”

In 2014 the European court of justice( ECJ) ruled that “irrelevant” and outdated data should be erased on request. Since then, Google has received requests to remove at the least 2.4 m connections from search results. Search engine firms can repudiate applications if they believe the public interest in accessing the information outweighs a right to privacy.

At a high court hearing in February, Hugh Tomlinson QC, representing NT1, told the high court that the visibility of the articles on the search engine caused” distress and upset” to his client.

Tomlinson, who is also chairman of the press regulation campaign group Hacked Off, told the court the businessman was not a public figure and now made a living from commercial lending and funding a property developer.

” Before anyone gratifies a new person these days they Google them ,” Tomlinson told. He added that many people engaged in misdeeds when they were young and if the misdeeds were constantly brought to the attention of others then they would permanently have a negative effect.

NT1′ s sentence was now expend, Tomlinson continued, and the law was designed to allow for the rehabilitation of wrongdoers so they could go on to lead normal lives.

But Antony White QC, representing Google, argued the ECJ’s” right to be forgotten” ruling was ” not a right to rewrite history or … tailor your past if that’s what this claimant would like to use it for “.

White said the business malpractice that gave rise to NT1′ s sentence was ” serious and sustained “.

NT2, in a separate hearing, also argued that his conviction was legally spent and he therefore had a right to be forgotten. Google defied taking down search results linking to articles including reports on his financial affairs, his conviction and interviews given by him several years later containing his account of the circumstances surrounding his conviction.

A Google spokesperson said:” We work hard to comply with the right to be forgotten, but we take great care not to remove search results that are in the public interest and will defend the public’s right to access lawful info. We are pleased that the court recognised our efforts in this area, and we will respect the judgments they have built in this case .”

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Trump’s feud with Amazon is really about the Washington Post’s success | Jill Abramson

The paper owned by Amazons CEO, Jeff Bezos, has relentlessly investigated the president and Trump is out for revenge

Donald Trump’s savage attacks on Jeff Bezos and Amazon mark a sharp escalation in the president’s attacks on the free press. Trump v Bezos is really a proxy war: the president’s ultimate target is the Washington Post, which Bezos purchased from the Graham family in 2013.

The Post’s return to financial health since 2013 has been good for the media, which flourishes on healthy competitor. Since Trump became president, the Post and the New York Times have engaged in a thrilling, old-fashioned newspaper war, with each trading off, day after day, with deep reported stories and scoops that hold the Trump administration to account. The Post has been relentless in investigating the Trump administration’s abuse of power and the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia during the 2016 election.

Bezos isn’t known for ideological ardor or partisanship. He dedicated donations to support gay matrimony in his home nation, the other Washington, but hasn’t had a high political profile. Since the 2016 campaign, when Trump began attacking him on Twitter, Bezos has displayed restraint.

Despite the intensifying bitterness of Trump’s tweets about him, Bezos has avoided being positioned as Trump’s nemesis. To preserve its freshly recaptured global credibility, the Post can’t be seen as the opposition party.

Of all of Trump’s assaults on Bezos, the most poison lie is that he uses the Post to lobby for Amazon. When Bezos bought the paper, he did so with personal funds, to keep the newspaper’s interests and mission completely separate from Amazon’s. The Grahams would not have found him a fit owned if they supposed Bezos wanted to use the Post to wield influence.

According to the many journalists who work there, Bezos has had a light touch as owned, focusing on areas in which he can make a difference, such as improving the paper’s technology. He has entrusted the running of the paper to Marty Baron, hired by the former publisher Katharine Weymouth, whose contributions to safeguarding her inheritance have been insufficiently credited and appreciated.

If newspapers were originally foreign to Bezos, the Post’s special place in the history of American journalism has come to have great meaning for him, according to several close associates. In 2017, he purchased an antique clothes wringer, which is now displayed in a conference room at the Post’s downtown Washington DC headquarters that is dedicated to the Graham family.

The significance of the wringer is known by any student of Watergate. Furious over the Post’s coverage of Richard Nixon’s criminal cover-up, the then us attorney general, John Mitchell, threatened that “Katie Graham’s gonna get caught in a big fat wringer” if the Post continued publishing its Watergate tales. For years, Katharine Graham proudly wore a charm of a wringer on a necklace as the golden symbol of her defiance.

Graham risked fiscal wrecking by standing up to Nixon. Bezos, too, has much at risk. After a week of assaults from the president, Amazon considered its stock cost drop sharply( though it afterward recovered somewhat ). Bezos’s stratospheric net worth also took a reach.

There is real reason to fear that Trump can win his war against the press. He has significant friends, including Rupert Murdoch’s Fox empire and Sinclair Broadcasting, which controls local television stations across the country and is seeking to acquire more through a planned buy of the Tribune Company.

Katharine
Katharine Graham, the publisher of the Washington Post, with executive editor Ben Bradlee in 1971. She risked fiscal ruin by standing up to Nixon. Photograph: Associated Press

Fox and Sinclair are conservative propaganda machines, eager to amplify Trump’s lies and support him at the barricades. The chorus of Sinclair newscasters spouting the same, Trump-inspired assaults on reputable news providers as” fake news” was nothing short of chilling.

A recent poll showed that a majority of Americans agree with the president’s rants about” fake news”, More than three in four among 803 American respondents, or 77%, said they believed major traditional television and newspaper media outlets report” fake news”, according to a Monmouth University poll released Monday.

It is the hour for Americans to stand up for the first amendment and to stand against the Foxes and Sinclairs. They should also stand with the Washington Post.

The president has very real legal, regulatory and spending tools at his disposal to retaliate against Bezos and Amazon for the Post’s unflinching coverage. On the revolutionary aim of the spectrum, there are antitrust laws to unfurl to break up the tech retail giant, which Trump says is wiping out Mom-and-Pop stores across America. There are regulatory tools, including demanding stricter privacy rules. There are billions in government contracts for cloud computing that could disappear.

Amazon is no angel, but Trump’s urge to punish it is for all the incorrect reasons, triggered by his churlishness over the Post’s coverage of him and his government. All of this could create a confrontation with the health risks to be every bit as dramatic as Graham’s clashes with Nixon in the 70 s. But as was true then, the president may end up being on the losing end of a White House war against the press.

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A radical proposal to keep your personal data safe | Richard Stallman

The surveillance imposed on us today is worse than in the Soviet Union, tells president of the Free Software Foundation, Richard Stallman

Journalists have been asking me whether the revulsion against the misuse of Facebook data could be a turning point for the campaign to regain privacy. That could happen, if the public induces its campaign broader and deeper.

Broader, entailing extending to all surveillance systems , not only Facebook. Deeper, meaning to advance from regulating the use of data to regulating the accumulation of data. Because surveillance is so pervasive, restoring privacy is inevitably a big change, and requires powerful measures.

The surveillance imposed on us today far outstrips that of the Soviet Union. For freedom and democracy’s sake, we need to eliminate most of it. There are so many ways to use data to hurt people that the only safe database is the one that was never collected. Thus, instead of the EU’s approach of mainly governing how personal data may be used( in its General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR ), I propose a law to stop systems from collecting personal data.

The robust style to do that, the style that can’t be set aside at the whim of a government, is to require systems to be built so as not to collect data about a person. The basic principle is that a system must be designed not to collect certain data, if its basic function can be carried out without that data.

Data about who travels where is particularly sensitive, because it is an ideal basis for repressing any chosen target. We can take the London develops and buses as a case for study.

The Transport for London digital pay card system centrally records the journeys any given Oyster or bank card has paid for. When a passenger feeds the card digitally, the organizations of the system associates the card with the passenger’s identity. This adds up to complete surveillance.

I expect the transport system can justify this practice under the GDPR’s regulations. My proposal, by contrast, would require the system to stop tracking who runs where. The card’s basic function is to pay for transport. That can be done without centralising that data, so the transport system would have to stop doing so. When it accepts digital pays, it is appropriate to do so through an anonymous pay system.

Frills on the system, such as the feature of letting a passenger review the listing of past journeys, are not part of the basic function, so they can’t justify incorporating any additional surveillance.

These additional services could be offered separately to users who request them. Even better, users could use their own personal systems to privately track their own journeys.

Black cabs demonstrate that a system for hiring vehicles with drivers does not need to identify passengers. Hence such systems should not be allowed to identify passengers; they should be required to accept privacy-respecting cash from passengers without ever trying to identify them.

However, convenient digital payment systems can also protect passengers’ anonymity and privacy. We have already developed one: GNU Taler. It is designed to be anonymous for the payer, but payees are always identified. We designed it that way so as not to facilitate tax dodging. All digital pay systems should be required to defend anonymity utilizing this or a similar method.

What about security? Such systems in areas where the public are acknowledged must be designed so they cannot track people. Video cameras should make a local recording that can be checked for the next few weeks if international crimes pass, but should not allow remote viewing without physical collection of the recording. Biometric systems should be designed so they are recognise people on a court-ordered list of suspects, to respect the privacy rights of the rest of us. An unjust nation is more dangerous than terrorism, and too much security encourages an unjust state.

The EU’s GDPR regulations are well-meaning, but do not run very far. It will not deliver much privacy, because its rules are too lax. They permit collecting any data if it is somehow useful to the system, and it is easy to come up with a way to make any particular data useful for something.

The GDPR stimulates much of requiring users( in some cases) to give consent for the collection of their data, but that doesn’t do much good. System designers had now become expert at manufacturing permission( to repurpose Noam Chomsky’s phrase ). Most users consent to a site’s words without reading them; a company that required users to trade their first-born infant got permission from plenty of users. Then again, when a system is crucial for modern life, like buses and trains, users ignore the terms because refusal of consent is too painful to consider.

To restore privacy, we must stop surveillance before it even asks for consent.

Finally, don’t forget the software in your own computer. If it is the non-free software of Apple, Google or Microsoft, it spies on you regularly. That’s because it is controlled by a company that won’t hesitate to spy on you. Companies tend to lose their scruples when that is profitable. By contrast, free( libre) software is controlled by its users. That user community keeps the software honest.

* Richard Stallman is president of the Free Software Foundation, which launched the development of a free/ libre operating system GNU

Copyright 2018 Richard Stallman. Released under Creative Commons NoDerivatives License 4.0

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Spotify’s stock market debut: all you need to know

Music streaming firm has 157 m customers and could be valued at $25 bn in its New York IPO

Spotify is poised to make its stock exchange debut on Tuesday, in a flotation on the New york stock exchange that could value the company at $20 bn- $25 bn( PS14. 2bn to PS17. 8bn) according to analysts.

The music streaming business was launched 12 years ago as a free-to-use service, shall be financed by advertising. Spotify now has 157 million clients, and has managed to convert 71 million of those into paying users of its premium subscription service.

However, Spotify has never made a profit, making it more tricky for potential investors to value the firm. It also counts the likes of Apple and Amazon as challengers, a daunting prospect given the depth of their pockets.

Here are some of the key questions as the Swedish firm prepares to go public.

What is different about this flotation ?

Unlike most companies that float, Spotify is not issuing any new stock, which means it has not set a price for the market share in advance. Instead it is selling shares currently held by its private investors, rather than handling it in the usual way with the process managed by investment bankers. It will save the Swedish company fund but it is likely to create volatility when the shares go live on Wall street( 14:30 BST) as investors try to settle on a price. The company has constructed losses of virtually EUR1bn( PS870m) over the past three years, so investors will not be able to rely on a traditional price earnings ratio as a guide.

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Why does Spotify want to float ?

Spotify made a commitment to its original investors that they would have the opportunity to cash in their investment, and this is it. The flotation will help to fund expansion of the business, but it will also ramp up pressure on the management. By going public, Spotify’s strategy and performance will come under increased scrutiny, and investors will expect progression, fast.

What is it worth ?

Analysts are predicting Spotify could be valued at $20 bn- $25 bn on its debut on the New york stock exchange but the reality is no one knows. It is more difficult to predict than usual, because no advance cost for the shares has been set. Investors will be weighing up possibilities for growth against the fact Spotify has failed to turn a profit in its 12 -year existence. The company’s costs- including the royalties it pays to record labels and artists- are greater than its revenues, although that gap is constricting. A successful float will depend on whether or not investors believe Spotify’s claim that it can become profitable and fend off bigger challengers such as Apple and Amazon.

What are Spotify’s strengths ?

Spotify has proved be permitted to drive strong revenue growth, with revenues rising from EUR7 46 m in 2013 to a predicted range of between EUR4. 9bn and EUR5. 3bn last year. With an estimated 40% share of the global music streaming marketplace, Spotify is the dominant player in key sectors, increasing its bargaining power with labels and artists over the royalties it pays them. Meanwhile user numbers are expected to increase to 170 million this year, with paying subscribers expected to rise from 71 million to 90 million. One of current challenges will be persuading more non-paying customers to sign up for paid-for services.

What are the threats ?

Simply put, it’s possibilities for competitor. Spotify is currently the market leader but tech giants such as Apple and Amazon have deep pocket and could cause some injury should they decide to mount a key challenge. Both companies already offer hardware such as the iPhone and Amazon Echo which are available with their own, pre-loaded music-streaming services. Spotify’s restriction supplier base, with only four music companies controlling the rights to 87% of the music streamed on Spotify, is another hazard, according to analysts at Hargreaves Lansdown.

What will it mean for customers ?

The flotation will mark a new era for Spotify but it is not yet clear what changes the firm has schemed. Analysts say it are gonna have to diversify over day, to ensure that it stands apart from rival streaming services. One alternative would to be create more original content, in accordance with the video shot for Spotify by Taylor Swift for her single Delicate. Spotify has already moved into podcasts and rendering original music.

How have other recent tech floats performed ?

Recent technology floats have proved volatile and investors have been selling off shares in the wider sector, concerned by the prospect of greater regulation for tech firms such as Facebook. Cloud storage company Dropbox is up 40% since it floated last month, but shares in Snap- the company behind social media app Snapchat- are down 15% compared with their float price.

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Beware the smart toaster: 18 tips for surviving the surveillance age

Weve gone a long way since the web was just a fun place to share cat gifs now its a place mostly dedicated to finding and selling your personal info. Heres what you need to know in this new era

On the internet, the adage runs , nobody knows you’re a puppy. That joke is merely 15 years old, but seems as if it is from an entirely different era. Once upon a day the internet was associated with anonymity; today it is synonymous with surveillance. Not merely do modern technology companies know full well you’re not a dog( not even an extremely precocious poodle ), they know whether you own a dog and what sort of dog it is. And, based on your preferred category of canine, they can go a long way to inferring- and influencing – your political views.

Just over a week ago, the Observer transgressed a tale about how Facebook had failed to protect the personal information of tens of millions of its users. The revelations sparked a #DeleteFacebook motion and some people downloaded their Facebook data before removing themselves from the social network. During this process, many of these users were shocked to consider just how much intel about them the internet behemoth had accumulated. If “youre using” Facebook apps on Android, for example- and, even unknowingly, dedicated it permission- it seems the company has been collecting your call and text data for years.

It’s not me, it’s you! So Facebook protested, following the completion of widespread anger about its data-collection practises. You acquiesced to our opaque privacy policies. You agreed to let us mine and monetise the minutiae of your existence. Why are you so upset?

Facebook’s surprise at our outrage is not unreasonable. For years, technology companies have faced very little scrutiny as they mushroomed in sizing and power. Ultimately, however, the tide is turning. We seem to have reached a watershed moment when it comes to public attitudes towards the use of our private datum. We are more aware of a consequence of our online behaviour than ever before.

Awareness of our digital footprint is one thing, but what are we to do about it? In the wake of the Facebook revelations, it’s clear that we can’t all keep clicking as usual if we value our privacy or our republic. It’s still comparatively early in the internet era and we are all still figuring it out as we go along. However, best practises when it comes to security and online etiquette are starting to emerge. Here’s a guide to some of the new rules of the internet.

1. Download all the information Google has on you

You may well have downloaded your Facebook data already; it has become something of a trend in recent days. Now take a look at what Google has on you. Run to Google’s “Takeout” tool and download your data from the multiple Google products “youre supposed to” use, such as Gmail, Maps, Search and Drive. You’ll get sent a few enormous files that contain information about everything from the YouTube videos you have watched, your search history, your place history and so on. Once you’ve seen just how much information about you is in the cloud, you may want to go about deleting it. I highly recommend deleting your Google Maps history, for a start, unless you are particularly eager to have a detailed online record of everywhere you have ever been. You may also want to stop Google from tracking your place history. Sign in to Google, open Maps, then click on “timeline” in the menu. At the bottom, there’s an option to manage your place history.

2. Try not to let your smart toaster take down the internet .

These days you can buy a “smart” version of just about anything. There are connected toasters, which let you personalise your toast puts and advise your phone when your breakfast is ready. There are Bluetooth-enabled forks, which vibrate when you are eating too quickly. There are internet-connected umbrellas, which alert you if it looks like it’s going to rainfall. There are even smart tampons, which let you monitor your flow.

Not merely are most of these contraptions unnecessary and expensive, most of them have shoddy security and are a liability. In 2016, for example, hackers created a zombie army of internet-connected devicesand used them to take down most areas of the internet, including sites such as Netflix, Facebook, Spotify and the Guardian. So think twice about whether you really need to buy that fancy connected contraption. There’s enough to worry about today without having to wonder if your toaster is plotting against you.

3. Ensure your AirDrop decideds are dick-pic-proof

If you are an iPhone user, turn off your AirDrop function while in a public place or limit it to contacts. This stops strangers on the train from sending you unsolicited dick pics via AirDrop, which is a thing that actually happens because of course it does.

4. Secure your old Yahoo account

You may have an old email account “youve never” use any more and can’t be bothered to delete. That email account is a treasure trove of personal information just waiting to be hacked; indeed, if it’s a Yahoo account it was hacked in 2013. You don’t need inevitably to delete your old account but you should secure it. Change the password and turn on two-step verification. Make sure you’ve disconnected any linked services( such as cloud storage) in your settings.

5. 1234 is not an acceptable password

Nor is “password”. Nor is “monkey”- which, for some reason, is one of the most popular passwords there is. The more secure passwords are very long ones, so start thinking in terms of “passphrases” instead of password. For example, “nomonkeyisnotagoodpassword” would take a computer 128 undecillion years to crack.

6. Check if you have been pwned

“Pwned” is internet-speak for, among other things, having your email account compromised in a data breach. It’s a good idea to check this regularly. Simply go to haveibeenpwned.com, enter your email address, and the website will let you know if and when your details have been compromised so you can take appropriate action such as changing your password.

7. Be aware of personalised pricing

We’re all familiar with dynamic pricing- the vexing route in which airline ticket prices fluctuate according to supply and demand. Increasingly, however, we’re insuring the rise of” personalised pricing “~ ATAGEND, as retailers analyse our data to gauge how much we’re likely to pay and charge us accordingly. Uber, for example, knows that you’re more likely to pay surge pricing if your telephone battery is about to die– although they assert not to have acted on the information collected. And Staples has displayed different costs to clients based on their location. It’s hard to know just how widespread personalised pricing is as retailers are understandably discreet about it. However, you should assume that it’s happening. So, before making a big purchase online you might want to see if use a different device or utilizing the incognito or private mode in your browser has any effect on the price. There are also tools you can download that let you spoof your place. It’s the modern equivalent of haggling.

8. Say hi to the NSA guy spying on you via your webcam

Even scares need a little social interaction.

9. Turn off notifications for anything that’s not another person speaking immediately to you

Sometimes this will be easy: is it a single-player game? It doesn’t need notifications at all. You can find out if you’ve got more gems, or extra energy- or whatever other fake currency the game hopes you are able to am worried about- in your own time , not when it wants to drive your involvement. Other times, this will be harder. Instagram’s rubbish-” a famous puppy simply posted a picture that received 12 likes”- can be turned off, but you’ll have to dig down in the puts to find it. Are there exceptions? Sure. The odd breaking news alert never hurt anyone, and maybe you really do want to let Duolingo prod you to practise your Spanish. But if you would be annoyed by a robot calling you up to tell you something, why are you letting it interrupt your thought process in another way?

10. Never put your kids on the public internet

Maybe it’s fine to upload pics to a shared( private) photo album, or mention their day in a group DM. But if it’s public, Google can find it. And if Google can find it, it’s never going away. How are you going to tell your child in 16 years’ time that they can’t get a drivers’ licence because Daddy set a high-res photo of their iris online when they were two and now they trip-up alarms from here to Mars?

11. Leave your phone in your pocket or face down on the table when you’re with friends

Unless you want to signal, repeatedly and obviously:” I would rather be hanging with someone else than you .”

12. Sometimes it’s worth merely wiping everything and starting over

Your phone, your tweets, your Facebook account: all of these things are temporary. They will pass. Free yourself from an preoccupation with digital hoarding. If you wipe your telephone every year, you learn which apps you need and which are just sitting in the background hoovering up data. If you wipe your Facebook account every year, you learn which friends you actually like and which are just hanging on to your social life like a barnacle.

13. An Echo is penalty , but don’t put a camera in your bedroom

Do we really need to break this one down?

14. Have as many social-media-free days in the week as you have alcohol-free days

This can be zero if you want, but know that we’re judging you.

15. Retrain your brain to focus

Save up your longreads use Instapaper or Pocket and read them without distraction. Don’t dip in and out of that 4,000 -word article on turtles: read it in one run. Or maybe even try a volume!

16. Don’t let the algorithms pick what you do

You are not a robot, you are a human being, and exercising your own free will is the greatest strength you have. When that YouTube video ends, don’t watch the next one that autoplays. When you pick up your phone in the morning, don’t simply click on the narratives at the top of Apple News or Google Now. Exercise selection! Workout liberty! Exercise humanity!

17. Do what you want with your data, but guard your friends’ info with their own lives

Yes, you should think twice before granting that fun app you downloaded access to your place or your photo library. Do you trust it not to do weird things with your images? Do you know it won’t track your every motion? But ultimately, those are your decisions, and they are for you to make. But your friends’ data isn’t yours, it’s theirs, and you are a trusted custodian. Don’t think twice before authorising access to your address book, or your friends’ profiles: guess five or six periods, and then don’t do it.

18. Finally, remember your privacy is worth protecting

You might not have anything to hide( except your embarrassing Netflix history) but that doesn’t mean you should be blase about your privacy. Increasingly, our inner lives are being reduced to a series of data points; every little thing we do is for sale. As we’re starting to see, this nonstop surveillance changes us. It influences the things we buy and the ideas we buy into. Being more mindful of our online behaviour, then, isn’t just important when it comes to protecting our datum, it’s essential to protecting our individuality.

Make sure to visit: CapGeneration.com

‘It might work too well’: the dark art of political advertising online

Digital campaigns have evolved from flag ads 20 years ago to Cambridge Analytica harvesting our Facebook data. Has the rise of micro-targeting become a threat to republic?

Alan Gould was hitting a wall. It was the late 1990 s, and the political advertising operative had an idea about use a relatively newfangled tool- banner ads on web sites- to promote political nominees.” It was pretty clear to me at the time that the ability to target and tailor messaging was perfect for political campaigns ,” Gould recollected recently.” I did a whole presentation on the internet and the power to connect, way, do fundraising, target .”

But when Gould finished his pitchings, he would be met with blank stares.” I was a very lonely pied piper ,” he says.

Finally, in 1998, Gould find a political nominee who was so far behind in the polls, and so strapped for money, that he was willing to take a risk and spend $ 100,000 on flag ads on the New York Times homepage. Peter Vallone, then a New York City council member challenging George Pataki for the governorship, gave Gould the green light for an ad buy that had now been entered the history books as the first significant use of online advertising in a political campaign.

The ads themselves are lost to internet history- Gould believes he may have transcripts somewhere on floppy disc. But it’s not hard to draw a line from that moment to Robert Mueller’s 16 February indictment of the Internet Research Agency, which alleges that Russian agents carried out a conspiracy to interfere with a US presidential election, in big proportion by buying targeted Facebook ads designed to” promote US minority groups not to vote “. Or to the news lately revealed in the Observer that 50m Facebook profiles were obtained and misused by data mining company Cambridge Analytica to target voters during the 2016 presidential election.

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The Vallone ads contained rudimentary versions of many of the attributes that induce digital ad such a powerful- and terrifying- force-out today: the ability to target specific audiences with tailored messages, then track their reaction.

” Come November 2000, I expect the issues to will no longer be whether web-based political advertising works ,” wrote Cyrus Krohn, then the manager of political advertising for the Microsoft Network, in a prescient 1999 column for Slate,” but whether it works too well .”

Nearly 20 year later, the world has caught up to Krohn’s fears, with some critics attaining the not entirely hyperbolic debate that micro-targeted” dark advertising” on Facebook is an essential menace to republic itself. Is it too late for democracy to fix itself?

Game-changing

In February, Donald Trump named Brad Parscale as his 2020 re-election campaign administrator. The decision gives credence to what Parscale has been saying for the past year: that his Facebook advertising operation won Trump the election.

Brad
Brad Parscale, the digital media director of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, has been hired to lead his 2020 presidential re-election campaign. Photo: Drew Angerer/ Getty Images

Parscale had been a little-known digital marketing executive working out of Texas when he was tapped to construct Trump’s campaign website in 2015. Until then, digital advertising was barely a rounding mistake in campaign budgets. In 2008, the year Barack Obama became the first social media candidate, candidates spent merely $22.25 m on online political ads, according to an analysis by Borrell Associates. That number grew significantly in 2012, but the real explosion came in 2016, when campaigns pumped $1.4 bn into digital ads.

US presidential campaigns are often recollected- and understood- by their ads. Lyndon B Johnson’s” Daisy” ad powerfully( and controversially) defined the stakes of an electoral in a nuclear world. George HW Bush’s” Willie Horton” attack ad still typifies the racist dog-whistle politics of the tough-on-crime epoch. The message, as much as the messenger, is a key part of the discussion about who is best equipped to lead the country.

But no such public debate took place around Trump’s apparently game-changing digital political ads before election day.

This is partly due to a loophole in the prevailing campaign finance statute, which was written in 2002 and did not include internet ads in the class of regulated” electioneering communications “. But perhaps even more important is the very nature of online ad, which is self-serve( just sign up with a charge card and go) and highly iterative.

Parscale asserts he typically ran 50, 000 to 60,000 differences of Facebook ads each day during the Trump campaign, all targeting different segments of their constituencies. Understanding the meaning of a single one of those ads would require knowing what the ad actually said, who the campaign targeted to see that ad, and how that audience answered. Multiply that by 100 and you have a headache; by 50,000 and you’ll start to doubt your grasp on reality. Then remember that this is 50,000 a day over the course of a campaign that lasted more than a year.

” The reason I said it might work too well ,” Krohn said in a recent interview with the Guardian,” is that mass marketing is away and micro-targeting- nano-targeting- came to fruition .”

Any candidate using Facebook can put a campaign message promising one thing in front of one group of voters while simultaneously operating an ad with a wholly opposite message in front of a different group of voters. The ads themselves are not posted anywhere for the general public to insure( this is what’s known as” darknes advertising “), and opportunities are , no one will ever be the wiser.

That undermines the very idea of a” marketplace of notions”, says Ann Ravel, a former member of the Federal Election Commission who has long advocated stricter regulations on digital campaigning.” The route to have a robust democracy is for people to hear all these ideas and make decisions and discuss ,” Ravel said.” With microtargeting, that is not happening .”

Parscale and his staff told reporters with Bloomberg that they used Facebook ads to target Hillary Clinton advocates with messages designed to make them sit the election out, including her own forays into dog-whistle politics from the 1990 s, which the Trump campaign hoped would discourage black voters from turning out to the polls.

That degree of political manipulation might be unsavory, but it’s also comparatively old-fashioned. One digital campaign staffer( not affiliated with the Trump campaign) compared it to Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy, merely” technologically savvy “.

But new reporting by the Observer has revealed that the data analytics squad that worked for Trump, Cambridge Analytica, ran far beyond Nixonian dirty trick. The firm obtained Facebook data harvested under the auspices of an academic examine, the Observer has disclosed, and then utilized that data to target millions of US voters based on their psychological flaws.

” We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles ,” whistleblower Christopher Wylie told the Observer about the data steal,” and constructed models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons .”

European elections

Political advertising in the US is the wild west compared with other western democracies, which tend to have shorter electoral campaign with strict regulations on the amount and type of spending permitted. Such regulations may enhance the impact of digital ad, which is much cheaper than television and largely unregulated.

The UK has watched a rapid shift to digital campaigning in accordance with the Conservative party’s espouse of Facebook in the 2015 general election. The Tories outspent Labour by a factor of 10 on Facebook advertisements, a decision that many political commentators considered as decisive. In a country that bans political ads on television, Facebook enabled the Conservatives to reach 80.65% of users in targeted constituencies with its promoted posts and video ads, according to marketing materials created by Facebook.( At some point in the past year, the company began hiding previously created “Success Stories” about its they are able to sway results of the election .)

The Vote Leave campaign in the 2016 Brexit referendum went on to spend almost its entire budget on Facebook advertising, an investment that resulted in about 1bn targeted digital ads being served to voters over the course of a 10 -week campaign.

Though it is impossible to parse the exact impact of Facebook advertisements amid all the other factors that shape an electoral outcome( including organic Facebook content ), the platform is increasingly quoth as a factor in the growing electoral might of far-right groupings of Europe.

Supporters
Supporters of the right-wing Alternative for Germany( AfD) political party demonstrate outside the Chancellery in Berlin last week. Photograph: Sean Gallup/ Getty Images

The radical right-wing Alternative for Germany( AfD) party reportedly worked with a US campaign consultancy and Facebook itself to target German voters susceptible to its anti-immigrant message during the 2017 election in which AfD surged in popularity to become the third-largest party in parliament.

Campaigning in Italy’s recent election, which ensure the rise of anti-establishment parties, including the populist Five Star Movement and the far-right League, largely took place on social media. Facebook advertisements and targeting information gathered by Italian transparency group Openpolis found that the neo-fascist Brothers of Italy party operated a Facebook ad targeting Italian adults who are interested in the paramilitary police force, the carabinieri.

After the polls closed in Italy, the League’s Matteo Salvini shared some words of gratitude with the press:” Thank God for the internet. Thank God for social media. Thank God for Facebook .”

Targeting the midterms

While investigations into the 2016 US election and Brexit referendum continue, it’s worth remembering that more elections are fast approaching. Scores of countries will hold national elections in 2018, including Sweden, Ireland, Egypt, Mexico and Brazil.

In the US, nominees for the 435 congressional and 35 Senate seats that are up for grabs in November are already running campaigns on Facebook, and we may never know what they’re saying in those advertisements.

Take, for example, Paul Nehlen, successful candidates who is running a Republican primary challenge against the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, in Wisconsin. Nehlen is primarily known as a vehement antisemite who was once embraced by Steve Bannon and the Breitbart wing of the right, but was excommunicated after appearing on a white supremacist podcast.

According to his FEC filings, Nehlen spent at least $2,791.72 on Facebook ads in the final six months of 2017.

What did that money buy?

In the first instance, everything that any Facebook advertiser can get: access to one of the most powerful databases of personal information that has in the past existed, with insights into people’ intimate relationships, political beliefs, consumer habits and internet browsing.

Beyond that, we don’t know. Nehlen could be using Facebook to target likely voters in his district with a message about infrastructure. Or he could have taken a list of his own core advocates( he has more than 40,000 likes on Facebook ), utilized Facebook’s” lookalike audience” tool to find other people inclined to support his particular politics, then fed them ads designed to persuade more people to join him in detesting Jews.

Last fall, after Facebook had been forced to admit that, despite its initial refusals, its platform had been used by foreign agents seeking to illegally influence the election, the company announced a situated of reforms designed to assuage its critics- and stave off actual, enforceable regulation.

Mark
Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook has taken steps to achieve’ an even higher standard of transparency ‘. Photograph: Bloomberg/ Bloomberg via Getty Images

Starting this summer, the platform has promised that every political ad will be linked back to the page that paid for it. The pages themselves will display every ad that they’re running, as well as demographic information about the audience that they are reaching, a measure that Mark Zuckerberg claimed would” bring Facebook to an even higher standard of transparency” than the law requires for television or other media.

A version of these reforms is already live in Canada, where users can see all the ads being run by a political nominee in a designated tab on their page.

But there is good reason to be skeptical.

Since 2014, Facebook has had a transparency tool for all ads served on the platform. Click on the upper right-hand corner of a Facebook ad and you’ll find an option reading” Why am I seeing this ad ?” Click through and you’ll get an explanation of the characteristics that attain you desirable to the advertiser.

So far so good, but a new study by computer scientists found that Facebook’s ad rationales were” often incomplete and sometimes misinforming” in a way that” may allow malicious advertisers to easily obfuscate ad justifications that discriminated or that target privacy-sensitive attributes “.

Alan Mislove, a professor of computer science at Northeastern University and one of the study’s co-authors, used to say he dedicated Facebook credit for having the feature at all , noting that it is one of the only examples of a company offering any kind of explanation of how an algorithm actually works. But the findings do not paint a particularly pretty picture of Facebook’s ability to self-regulate.

” They’ve built this incredibly powerful platform that allows very narrow targeting, a very powerful tool that anyone on the internet can use, so that scares me ,” Mislove told.” And up until very recently, there was very little accountability. You as a malicious actor on Facebook don’t even really need to obfuscate your behavior, because the only person watch is Facebook .”

Honest Ads Act

The best hope for bringing some order to the realm of digital political ads is through updating US law for the Facebook era.

A bipartisan it is proposed to do simply that exists. In October, Senators Amy Klobuchar, Mark Warner and John McCain introduced the Honest Ads Act, which would close the loophole that allows internet ads to avoid regulation, and also require internet platforms( ie Facebook and Google) to maintain a public file of all the political ads they operate and who paid for them.

Senators
Senators Amy Klobuchar and Mark Warner introduce the Honest Ads Act at a press conference on Capitol hill on 19 October 2017. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/ EPA

But as much as we need transparency around political ads to preserve democracy, we also need a functioning democracy to get that transparency. And it’s not clear that it’s not already too late.

” In an ideal world, with a fully functioning Congress, there would be hearings around the Honest Ads Act, and you would have Facebook and Google and Twitter and experts testify to shine a light on the nature of political ad ,” said Brendan Fischer, director of FEC reform at the Campaign Legal Center.” We’re not close to that at all .”

In the absence of a fully functioning Congress, what is to be done? Should we expect Facebook to simply stop selling political ads?

Antonio Garcia Martinez, a former product director for Facebook who helped develop its advertising toolssays that he has come to realize that political ads are simply a different animal than commercial ones, which can and should be treated differently by his former employer.

” Selling shoes needs to be different than selling politicians, even though the mechanics of it are identical ,” he told.” Morally it’s different .”

Or should we pressure Facebook to stop permitting candidates with hateful or radical opinions to use its tools?

” If we farm these important democratic responsibilities out to a private company, today they might be regulating antisemitism, but tomorrow they’re governing what people can say about the Honest Ads Act ,” Fischer said.

Indeed, Facebook could already be squelching political views unfavorable to its business practices, and we would have no way of knowing. It’s possible Facebook wouldn’t even know. In response to queries about inconsistent moderation of garb advertisements, a Facebook spokeswoman recently told the New York Times that” the company could not ask an automated system about[ its] decisions “.

Frankenstein’s monster is not under any human’s control.

If this all seems positively dystopian, one person who is surprisingly sanguine is Alan Gould.

Gould left politics soon after the Vallone campaign, founded an advertising analytics firm, sold it, and is already a tech investor. He does have concerns about media literacy and Facebook’s tendency to trap people in filter bubbles, but tells:” If people choose to stay in that bubble and not explore anything outside of it, that’s a statement about who they are and not about the technology.

” If you’re going to have a representative republic, then you have to have a route to communicate with the voters and you’re going to use whatever is available, whether that’s newspapers or mail or email or Snapchat ,” he told.” I don’t regret it at all .”

Make sure to visit: CapGeneration.com

Amazon working to fix Alexa after users report random burst of ‘creepy’ laughter

The company acknowledged the questions after some reported their devices had developed an unsettling new skill

The robot wars are coming, and Alexa will have the last laugh.

Amazon recognise on Wednesday that some of its Alexa-enabled devices have developed a new skill: sneaking out their owners with unexpected and unwarranted bursts of robotic laughter.

” We’re aware of this and working to fix it ,” the company told The Verge Wednesday.

People began reporting the problem with their “smart” speakers on social media in recent weeks.” So my mommy& I are just sitting in the living room, neither of us said a word& our Alexa lighted up and giggled for no reason ,” tweeted one female, Taylor Wade, on 5 March.” She didn’t even say anything, just chuckled .”

CaptHandlebar (@ CaptHandlebar)

So Alexa decided to laugh arbitrarily while I was in the kitchen. Freaked @SnootyJuicer and I out. I guessed a kid was giggling behind me. pic.twitter.com/ 6dblzkiQHp

February 23, 2018

Another Twitter user reported that Alexa began laughing in the middle of an office conversation:” I asked why she laughed and she said,’ Sorry, I am not sure .'”

Gavin Hightower (@ GavinHightower)

Lying in bed about to fall asleep when Alexa on my Amazon Echo Dot lets out a very loud and creepy giggle … there’s a good chance I get murdered tonight.

February 26, 2018

Amazon did not immediately respond to queries from the Guardian about the nature or cause of the apparent bug, but frightening your customer base is likely a bad move for a company trying to convince people to install a listening device in their bedrooms.

Wade at least had a simple enough solution to the problem, however:” We unplugged her .”

After the publication of this article, Amazon announced a fix and apparent rationale for the ghostly laughter. The company suggested in an email that the chuckles had occurred” in rare circumstances” because the speaker was picking up a” false positive” for the command” Alexa, laugh “.

Amazon will change the command for laugh to” Alexa, are you able laugh ?” and incapacitate the shorter command. It will also program Alexa to preface its simulacrum of human emotion with the phrase:” Sure, I can giggle .”

Make sure to visit: CapGeneration.com

YouTube star wins damages in landmark UK ‘revenge porn’ case

Chrissy Chambers proposes to her new partner after winning civil claim against ex who posted videos online