Tag Archives: Facebook

Expectations of privacy on social networks

Facebook is the dominant social network in India and hence when I say FB, take it to mean all social networks in general. One of my FB acquaintances posted the following on his wall:

Hello, All my FB friends: I want to stay PRIVATELY connected with you all.However, with the recent changes in FB, the “public” can now see activities in ANY wall. This happens when our friend hits “like” or “comment” ~ automatically, their friends would see our posts too. Unfortunately, we cannot change this setting by ourselves
because Facebook has configured it this way.

PLEASE place your mouse……over my name above (DO NOT CLICK), a window will appear, now move the mouse on “FRIENDS” (also without clicking), then down to “Settings”, CLICK here and a list will appear. REMOVE the TICK on “COMMENTS & LIKE” and also “PHOTOS”. By doing this, my activity among my friends and family will no longer become public.

Now, copy and paste this on your wall. Once I see this posted on your page I will do the same~Thanks SO MUCH! Or, if you let me know that you did it, by saying “DONE!” in a comment below — I will immediately do the same for you!! Thanks!

I pointed out that not being an idiot was the best way to protect your privacy on Facebook. An 18-year-old Astorian drunk provided a prime example of being an idiot on Facebook. A police officer put it succinctly:

When you post … on Facebook, you have to figure that it is not going to stay private long.

People have to understand that social networks – specially free and open networks like Facebook – are not there to create and support an on-line social life for them. That virtual universe is an enabler for selling eyeballs to advertisers. Just like in the Matrix universe, FB’s “users” are chemical batteries powering its advertising engine.

The instructions that my acquaintance posted controlled the visibility of his updates on my Wall, not their accessibility. Once he decides that I can reach his updates, he has to trust my discretion not to make them public. Come to think of it, trust is one of the foundations of friendship. Oh the perfidy! Facebook is making him doubt his friends!

Fear not, even Facebook’s former marketing director could not figure out the privacy implications of sharing a private family photo with her friends. And she is the founder’s sister!

When using Facebook, don’t be an idiot. Don’t post anything that you want to keep private. Don’t expect your “friends” on Facebook to keep it safe for you.

 

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Saamna defends Abhijeet Mukherjee

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Everyone thinks Voltaire is the person who said this. Actually, it is Evelyn Beatrice Hall who paraphrased Voltaire’s beliefs with that simple quote. This quote is quite relevant as I discuss a Saamna editorial, as reported in the Times of India.

The editorial draws a parallel with the Palghar Facebook girls case and derides those who had supported the two girls for not supporting Mr. Mukherjee now. I would like to point out a few fallacies in that argument.

  • The support for the two girls from Palghar was not for their comments on Facebook but for their right to say that comment without fear of persecution. In particular, it was also a protest against the local police who threw nearly every police procedure out of the window to book those girls. Even in Mr. Mukherjee’s case, nobody is trying to shut him up. No one is damaging personal property belonging to him or his relatives. No one is dragging him to a police lockup at 11 in the night. They are dis-agreeing with his comments and calling him out on it.
  • The two girls were essentially nobodies. If the Shiv Sena had not taken umbrage, their comments would have sunk like stones in water and no one would have know about it. Mr. Mukherjee, however, is our President’s son, a member of India‘s First Family. He is a Congress MP. Both titles endow him with power and dignity in Indian society and with that, comes the responsibility to watch what he says in public, at least.

Finally I would say this – sneering at the candlewallahs and the  “lipstick brigade” is all well and good. The protesters who are braving the North Indian chill now are hardly “painted and dented”. They include migrant girls who have come to Delhi from outlying towns and villages and just want to better their lives. Do not belittle them or their anger by lumping them with socialites who plan protests over evening tea and games of bridge.

 

freedom versus conformity in religion

A friend of mine posted a picture on Facebook recently. It juxtaposed a nun next to a woman in full hijab and asked plaintively – why is one allowed and the other persecuted?

Oh, you  mean you really don’t know?

Well then, one is a uniform for women who are in service to their religious order. It is not forced on the entire general female populace. The other is a symbol of systemic oppression forced on the female populace by many religions and cultures. Of course, Islam is not the only religion that steps on the liberty of women. Hindu religion and culture are big in that department too. Just as Islam has the hijab, Indian cultures have purdah. Most societies in the world do it. It is a patriarchal society after all!

The well-polished explanations and reasons given for the hijab –

  • It is not by force. Really. Not by force!
  • It is to protect the modesty, innocence, chastity, etc.
  • Rewards in later life or heaven.

The friend’s wife then got into the act. Apparently she was under the impression that I was taking a shot at Islam, me being  (technically and/or legally) a Hindu and all –

  • A woman is free to decide on her clothing.
  • All religions (including – wait for itHinduism!) recommend that women should cover themselves modestly.
  • I should know that my religion has faults too, before commenting on such sensitive issues.

So –

  • I am a spiritual atheist. While I believe in a greater power beyond the grasp of science as it is now, I do not subscribe to any religion. I am Hindu by accident of birth; but I don’t practise Hinduism. Hence, I don’t take kindly to accusations of partisanship.
  • I don’t read religious texts nor do I undertake scholastic trips to understand the “deeper meaning” of various religions and their practices. I do have, however, a basic common sense of how religious and cultural norms violate  liberties of the mind and person.
  • When your maulvis issue fatwas and your religious brethren kill or maim women and girls for not adhering to your “modest dress” code, you lose all moral authority on the issue.
  • Your religion dictates your dress code. In a secular society, religion is a personal matter. Thus your religious dress code is effective only in your house. This is the basic premise for France outlawing the hijab in public and state premises.

I rest my case.

 

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Technology IPOs – Who is to to blame for the hype?

Facebook‘s IPO hype vaporised within a few hours of exposure to reality.

Of course, many self-proclaimed experts will be crowing that they correctly predicted this bubble. “Why, look at LinkedIn! Look at Groupon! We knew Facebook was going to go flat,” they will say. These experts conveniently ignore the fact that it is they and their brethren who drive the hype. The founders and management boards of these companies share some of the blame, true. But it is the investors, the bankers and the marketing machine that drives the hype. And blog authors with no comprehension or love for technology, but with a head for marketing and data analytics spread the hype with talk of valuations, monetization strategies and acquisition plans.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say technology has no value (come on, you expect me to trash talk technology?) or no cost but in itself, this sector is not to blame. Yes, it needs money; for which an IPO is very useful. It is the usual suspects – investment firms, bankers, non-technology bloggers and their ilk – who poison the well.

Without the hype, an IPO will raise only enough money to meet the real needs of the IPO. It will not make instant billionaires, or even millionaires. A non-hyped IPO should escape the clutches of predatory investors who want nothing more than to pump up the stock, make a killing and get away from the scene.  This will also protect the company from returns-oriented shareholders who push for aggressive quarterly profits over progressive long-term returns. Such aggression often forces the company to take decisions that seem good in the short-term but impact the company negatively in the long-term. Of course, the vultures on Wall Street never allow that to happen.

I would say this is not a technology bubble, but an investment bubble. Let the blame fall where it is due – on the banks and investment firms. Wall Street has not learnt its lessons. May be, it does not want to. Those who deal with technology every day – those who build it, use it and nurture it – know its true value.

 

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Saverin flees the US, saves TAX!

There is an update in this post, dated May 23, 2012.

Is there anything more pathetic than this news?

Saverin has a net worth of 2 billion USD. The Facebook IPO will increase that by 3 billion USD, if he is very lucky.

In a nation going to the dogs, even the top dogs are fleeing. The motive, however, is not survival, but greed. This is symptomatic of the malaise that affects the 1%. Increasingly, it is clear that the rich will do anything to stay rich and become more rich – in this case, renounce citizenship of the country whose laws made them rich just to avoid tax liabilities. How much would those taxes dent his net worth? And how much would his future worth increase because he had “a little more to play with” now? How much is enough?

And not just the rich, but mega-corporations too. At least the mega-corps have a stated aim of maximizing shareholder returns. Helping them are the off-shore financial centres and tax havens. These places have no other economic activity worth the name.

Update : Okay, here‘s another take on Saverin’s action, courtesy of an Anonymous Coward on Slashdot.

He did give up his citizenship for tax reasons, but not the tax reasons everyone thinks. He cannot and will not escape any taxes on money he made from the IPO, he earned those shares when he was a US citizen and will pay full taxes on them. He renounced his citizenship because he hasn’t lived in the US in 4 years and was tired of paying taxes to the US for money he was making working in Singapore, which isn’t that unreasonable.

 

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