On using Zoom

So I have been one of those new customers of Zoom, the videoconferencing software everyone is now raging about because of its crappy relationship with customer privacy. Doc Searls did an excellent write up on this case in four parts (so far). The global outrage from their new customers whipped Zoom into action to update their privacy policy and remove aggressive tracking from their iOS client. For a company that exploded overnight, I applaud them for their efforts.

Despite their efforts, they have lost my confidence. I literally feel dirty when using it. Today I tried calling a friend and of all the tools I have available to set up a video meeting, I tried Zoom last. I went from an enthusiast to a reluctant user within a week. That said, so far every meeting I set up using Zoom worked.

What puzzles me is why a company that has a built in business model (subscriptions) implements surveillance techniques at all. To me this signals a shift (perhaps one that has been going for a long time) in deliberately mining data from users to sell to undisclosed clients, towards barely being aware of mining data because it became the default. That is freaky.

Evelyn Austin, director of Bits of Freedom, made a plea (in Dutch) to Dutch authorities to look into all these app makers that now are willing to share streams of user data they gathered illegally and fine them big time. I couldn’t agree more with her.

As for Zoom, I sincerely hope they deliver on their promise to take the privacy of their users seriously. Their service works and is affordable (even for a company of one). It will take a lot of effort to regain my trust. In the mean time the Man and I are exploring different ways to use Jitsi instead.

Door |2020-04-03T17:09:54+02:004 april 2020|datadieet, flow|0 Reacties

Surveillance Capitalism in action

Currently I’m working my way through Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. I first got to know her work through an episode of the Dutch documentary series Tegenlicht, in which she was interviewed.

I find her work tough to read; it’s not exactly written in easy to read language. However, I’m committing myself to reading it since the importance of Zuboff’s research on the economic mechanisms tech companies created worldwide cannot be understated.

For instance, this article on The Intercept, in which a former AI researcher of MIT Media Lab discloses the close ties of the research group with the big tech companies and how they were (not) working on the topic of ethics of AI, only confirms that the big Silicon Valley firms will do anything to prevent legislation to cut them off collecting their most profitable raw material: human online behaviour.

When scientific research labs of the most prestiguous institutes of the world stop trying to be impartial and independent, the whole world looses.

Door |2020-03-06T15:45:07+02:006 maart 2020|datadieet, flow|0 Reacties

My datadetox led to more and better writing

The past year my interest in online detoxing from the big tech companies grew. It already resulted in a significant amount of personal changes. I ignore facebook, I stopped using many Google products, found alternatives for them and I browse more privately. This detox has its downsides; the most important one is having less online interaction with people I’m only loosely connected with. However, my biggest gain is that I wrote more blogposts (and received more comments!) in less than a year than I did in the years between my first blogpost ever (2003) and the start of IFF. I’m absolutely sure this improved my writing skills.

Door |2020-03-06T15:19:42+02:006 maart 2020|datadieet, flow|0 Reacties

Windows keeps you dumb

I’m helping a tiny organisation to become more savy on the online privacy and data security side. It is not that I’m an expert on online privacy nor data security , but I am very good at coaching people and have walked around in the online world long enough to know quite a lot about its evolution. This company represents an interesting split of generations. On the one hand the founders, all (nearly) in their fiftees. On the other hand, their employees, all in their twenties.

One thing I noticed in helping to install software and adjust settings on everyone’s computers is that the younger ones know less about their machine than I expected. I haven’t worked with Windows for over a decade, so I depend a little on their knowledge of its file structure. When I asked questions like: where is the folder that contains the data for this specific application, all I got was frowns. When digging a little deeper into the machine I discovered how Windows does its utmost best to hide stuff from the user. It may be that once you’ve worked with it, its file structure becomes more obvious, but even I, a savy computer user, coudn’t find what I was looking for. It’s as if Microsoft is very keen on keeping its users dumb. But then again, I’m messing with their revenue streams. I try to install things that restricts these employees’ Microsoft intake (and Google intake for that matter). The battle is on!

Door |2020-03-03T16:57:17+02:003 maart 2020|datadieet, flow|0 Reacties