Mitigating ebils.

[Version courte pour les non-anglophones: l'est temps de se tirer de fessebouc, 
qui est sur le point de publier des photos de ta grand'mere en culotte au 20 heures, 
avec son adresse en prime.]

I've never been a huge fan of FB. I find it messy, noisy, and phishy in the ways it tricks ingenuous users (meaning most normal humans) into exposing more of themselves than they'd care to (if only they realized) to anyone willing to lurk.
The latest development, however, is seriously shifting gears, and kicking unsuspecting people right into Stalker Central, which itches me the wrong way, so I'm out.

Facebook acting rather callously about user privacy is nothing new, obviously, and it only worsened over time, yet Timeline is something else, and the way FB is going about deployment isn't pretty either — it's so creepy, the ever-upbeat WIRED can't wholly manage to spin it in a favorable light.


Is Google better, really ? Well, in a sense, yes they are.
For one, they're more about co-opting the internets and less about attempting to pull and AOL (which FB clearly is, and it stinks to high heavens), and also because the nature of each company is subtly different.

Mark Zuckerberg fancies himself the new Steve Jobs, and runs FB as a one-man-cult. As proven over time, it's often a very potent strategy to get stuff moving, and to deliver a daring product, as the vision suffers no interference but that of what is feasible. 
On the other hand, it only takes one guy losing his marbles to drive the whole train over the cliff, and when it comes to protecting your privacy, an overcompensating narcissist nerd shan't be thy first pick, imo.

Despite their motto of "Don't be evil", the other Church of Nerdery over at Mountain View is not staffed entirely with EFF angels, obviously, but the sheer scope of google's reach, and their 'try every path' approach to product development and marketing means they attract a lot of very bright, naive, hybrid-limo-libs, which are allowed and encouraged to somewhat think for themselves (within reason, ofc) and are more likely than not to either actively oppose, possibly blow the whistle, or at least passive sabotage stuff that stinks too heavily.
Without being a democracy, google sports some of the built-in sanity checks that come with a large headcount of educated and relatively free-willed denizens. That's a plus in their column.


The erosion of privacy in general terms probably files under regrettable inevitability, yet google has some incentive to protect the semblance of intimacy that comes from perceived protection of privacy, because they're not in the business of antagonizing their followers (which compound users and employees), when Zuckerberg has nobody to keep FB in check but his own sense of decency (and some would say The Law, but let's be serious here).

The skinny of Google-over-FB being: more than a fraction of people at google are likely to care and feel guilt if/when BadThings™ happen to innocent, relatable human beings (kids, females, nice elderly/underage white males) as a result of google being lazy or callous about enabling users to protect themselves from stalkers and crazies. As a result they will be both proactive and reactive about mitigating such adverse side-effects inasmuch as they can — something that's obvious from the very design of G+ Circles.


On a more personal level, I can't be arsed to actively maintain a presence on more than one social network, so I'm going to grab my stuff and take a hike. For the foreseeable future, I'm going to stick to G+ and this bloggy thing here for the most part, and rely on some gadgets to leave crumbs behind on FB and Twitter.

…and no, I'm not moving to Diaspora just yet — don't ask.



You're in the ACME now !

Because telling stories is sometimes so much better than showing them.

Mitchell Zuckoff & Jon Stewart discuss the former's book: Lost in Shangri-La.


Seriously ?

OBL is dead, and obviously the world is a better place for it, right ?
That's what they say, at least:

Now, I don't mean to rain on anyone's parade, but a few things seem off with this:

  • The end of OBL (if verified) isn't the end of the jihad/terror/civilization agit-prop/yni: 

He was a bogeyman of our own doing in more than one way, and notably because he wasn't as lionized anywhere as he was in the 'western world'.
Bin Laden was seen by many in the middle east as nothing more than a philanthropist of sorts, funding the worthy cause of ousting american imperialism and fighting the perceived judeo-christian hegemony, yet not so much as a warlord of strategic leader (which he indeed wasn't). OBL was just a rich heir with a grudge, and was first tolerated only because of the dough he brought to the table, but not taken seriously besides, and he eventually turned into a real propaganda asset after we made him the bugaboo.
At the end of the day, one of the post-facto leads in the cast of the 9/11 soap opera just got written out. That's not exactly a franchise-ender, though.

  • Why would you summarily execute a PR golden goose ?

According to the official news, it seems OBL took a headshot during a close range engagement, which doesn't look like an accident.
Obviously there are many reasons why him dead is possibly better than him alive, starting with the fact he can't say anything embarrassing to the U.S of A anymore, can't be rescued nor escape, etc. Still, you'd think after all the effort put into hyping him, the U.S and Obama would want to milk this PR win for all it's worth, and that's better done if you can drag a defeated OBL in front of cameras — whenever convenient — for the weeks and months to come, while making a righteous circus of his trial in front of both U.S and international courts.
Is it only for fear of likely "release OBL or else" terrorist threats that terminating him was determined to be the best course of action, or was it really just one of the acceptable outcomes of an arrest attempt that didn't go as smoothly as it coulda/shoulda/woulda… I don't know, and probably never will for sure, but it still feels like a weak and anticlimactic end for the biggest PR game of this past decade.

  • Why dispose of the body thusly ?

Killing the guy on the spot to take control of the narrative and avoid subsequent unintended developments, I get (even though I feel it's sub-optimal), but the whole 'Sorry, we already tossed the corpse at sea from a helo' charade is just ludicrous.
This is creating the impression of a fake hit, the kind of cheap, cookie-cutter twist you expect from a made-for-TV thriller: "Oh, he wasn't dead after all, he faked his own death to instigate a turf war among his rivals", or somesuch. 
Plainly put, if you kill a notable enemy with no witnesses, and hastily dispose of the body while still claiming the credit for the hit, it does look fake, and you'll be called out on it.

  • So is OBL really dead ?

I wouldn't put money on it either way.
Occam razor dictates he most likely is, or at least the U.S intelligence is confident enough that he is to not expect he'll show up live on TV sometime later today to point and laugh at them.
My best bet: he died a few days/weeks ago of unrelated causes, and the U.S figured they'd better hurry to make it look like they did it before the word got out.
Hence no arrest, no fresh corpse to display, and what we're witnessing now is the best CIA and special forces could make of a bad situation on short notice and a ticking clock.

And ttfn: back to your regular programming.