Privacy: Going anonymous on the Internet

I personally like the fact that “ephemerality and anonymity" are now the rage on the Internet. I've been preaching for years to monitor your digital footprint, let's hope that awareness goes mainstream. In the meantime, there's a new trend going on and a backlash against images of perfect lives...
According to Kim-Mai Cutler in TechCrunch.com, social networks like Facebook have been all about parading your individuality, but that’s beginning to feel a bit passé. A new app called Secret, which launched last week, allows you to “share thoughts with friends without revealing who you are.” The app’s founder compares its appeal to that of “a masquerade ball”—“you know who’s on the guest list, but you don’t know who is saying what.” 

The anonymity encourages users to share things that “are a little bit more vulnerable, insecure, emotional, sad, goofy, or angry than what you might see on Facebook or Instagram, where people are trying to groom images of picture-perfect lives.” 

We seem to have somehow come full circle: “It is kind of absurd that people would need a mobile app to be more vulnerable or self-aware with their friends.”
 
The “theme of illicitness” that runs through Secret is part of its current allure, said John Herrman in BuzzFeed.com. The app’s promotion of anonymity is a direct response to today’s dominant Internet culture. Since Facebook became the big player, “real identity” has been the Internet’s default setting; now people are getting tired of that, and “anonymity is the deviation.” 

The rise of apps like Secret, Whisper, and Snapchat is clearly an outgrowth of the growing resentment over the way Facebook owns and exploits our online identities. They’re meant to challenge “the notion that the Internet should record and host everything that’s posted to it into perpetuity.”

Just don’t believe these apps will make you truly anonymous, said Selena Larson in ReadWrite.com. “It’s more difficult than you’d think to completely erase yourself from the Internet.” There are steps you can take, however, to “remove yourself” from the incessant scrutiny of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+. 

First, download all the data associated with your social networking accounts, including archives of your status updates or contacts, then track down the “Deactivate” or “Close” options. Facebook makes this trickier than other networks; the company “doesn’t want to lose your data,” so actually deleting your account requires you to fill out a form and tell Facebook why you’re leaving. 

If you have long-forgotten accounts, a browser extension called “Just Delete Me” can help jog your memory, providing a directory of account deletion links for more than 300 sites. But you should be aware that “parts of your digital life will be chiseled into eternity—and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

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Social media: Now, even babies tweet

Many parents feel it’s essential to snap up Twitter handles and Gmail accounts for their kids before someone grabs those names.

“Harper Estelle Wolfeld-Gosk has 6,282 Twitter followers,” said Joe Coscarelli in NYMag.com. “She’s 2 weeks old.” The infant daughter of Today show correspondent Jenna Wolfe is just one of thousands of kids who have Twitter accounts that are written in their voices but are “set up, maintained, and authored by parents.” Here’s a sample of little Harper’s tweets: “Pooped AND pee’d on Dr’s changing table. Everyone laughed.”

Why bother with such twaddle? Blame both “everyday parental pride” and “tech-savvy paranoia.” Many parents feel it’s essential to snap up Twitter handles and Gmail accounts for their kids before someone grabs those names. Once those accounts are established, parents can’t resist the temptation to put wisecracks in their kids’ mouths. Some critics are calling this “oversharenting’’—sharing too much information about kids online, said Eliana Dockterman in Time.com. One study found that 94 percent of parents post pictures of their kids on the Internet, with newborns uploaded to Facebook an average of 57.9 minutes after their birth.

You won’t find my daughter there, said Amy Webb in Slate.com. My husband and I have decided we will keep all photos of and references to her off the Internet until she’s mature enough to decide what to post. Exposing your child on social media poses huge issues for his or her “future self.” Do you really want photos of your 5-year-old in a bathing suit circulating permanently on the Internet? Do you want Google and Facebook to start compiling data about your kids before they can even crawl, to be shared with advertisers or intrusive government agencies or unknown searchers? “It’s inevitable that our daughter will become a public figure, because we’re all public figures in this new digital age.” But it should be her, not us, who decides what’s in that public identity.

So, parents, please spare us, said Mary Elizabeth Williams in Salon.com. All these babies tweeting and posting supposedly amusing observations on Facebook really is a bit much. “It’s like we all woke up one day in a mass version of Look Who’s Talking.” Children are not meant to be a “witty accessory” to your own online life. Besides, said Caity Weaver in Gawker.com, making sure your kid has the right handle on a Facebook and Instagram account 20 years from now is laughably shortsighted. It’s likely to be as useful as 1990s parents stockpiling “CompuServe screen names and laser disc players.”

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It's Time for Emojis to be More Diverse

"If these emoji are going to be the texting and Twitter standard, we think it'd be cool if they better reflected the diversity of the people using them" says Chris Gayomali. There are nine cat-face emotions, but not one black person.

Emojis have now fully embedded themselves into our digital vocabulary, showing up in everything from forgettable Katy Perry videos to comedians tapping rap lyrics into their iPhones. The sentiment behind emojis is nothing new, of course. It's why we started pairing colons with closed parentheses and cocking our heads to the side in the first place.

Now, should you find yourself in a situation in which words do not suffice, the iOS keyboard offers hundreds of emoji options for you to pick from. There are several pixelated yellow faces representing the full spectrum of boredom, for instance. There are at least 10 variations for hearts. There are emojis of gay couples holding hands, a smiling turd, demon masks, and a beaming cherub. There are white faces — both young and old — as well as tokenistic caricatures of what appear to be an Asian boy, an Indian man, and a family of Latinos.

What there aren't, however, are any emojis for black people. Not a single one.

It's an egregious omission, and one that's drawing the ire of a petition circulating on DoSomething.org, as Fast Company initially reported. The petition is calling for Apple to update its iOS keyboard to more accurately reflect the multitude of people who use it. It states:

Of the more than 800 emojis, the only two resembling people of color are a guy who looks vaguely Asian and another in a turban. There's a white boy, girl, man, woman, elderly man, elderly woman, blonde boy, blonde girl and, we're pretty sure, Princess Peach. But when it comes to faces outside of yellow smileys, there's a staggering lack of minority representation.

The conspicuous absence of black faces on the emoji keyboard is both "deeply troubling and probably racist," says Andy Holdeman at PolicyMic. The "easy answer" is that emojis were developed in Japan, where there aren't very many black people. But that's a cop out, argues Holdeman, considering there are also two different icons for camels. Yep. Camels.

Emoji was originally developed by Shigetaka Kurita, who engineered the expressive reaction faces many years ago, around the time Windows 95 first began taking off in Japan. In 2010, they were added to the Unicode Standard in other countries, including the United States.

Calls for a more diverse emoji palette have been building in volume for a few months now. Even Miley Cyrus — whose recent indiscretions appropriating ratchet culture haven't exactly endeared her to the black community — rallied behind the cause back in December.

Support for better icon representation has been building steadily. Back in February during Black History month, users took to Twitter, Instagram, and other digital formats to call for more emoji diversity.

A lack of representation in something as inconsequential as dumb faces we text to each other is a firm reminder that racism isn't always explicit; more often, racism rears its head by marginalizing cultural influence in small, stubbornly ugly ways. "If these Emoji are going to be the texting and Twitter standard," write the petition's authors, "we think it'd be cool if they better reflected the diversity of the people using them." You can sign it over at DoSomething.org.

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No nudity after all: Google bans porn from Glass

So long, "T--s and Glass" says Chris Gayomali, Google is keeping it clean.
Google is showing that it's willing to be uncharacteristically draconian in order to endear Glass to the general public. And now it's borrowing a page right out of Apple's porn-free playbook.

After adult app developer MiKandi debuted its "T--s & Glass" app — which allows the Glasserati to record, share, and rate pornography hands-free — Google snuck in and updated its developer policy to bar sexy-time apps from the headset completely:

We don't allow Glassware content that contains nudity, graphic sex acts, or sexually explicit material. Google has a zero-tolerance policy against child pornography. If we become aware of content with child pornography, we will report it to the appropriate authorities and delete the Google accounts of those involved with the distribution.

Although the Google Play store says it prohibits pornography, the Android marketplace is still flooded with apps with titles like "Big Boobs nude - Videos" and "Tear sexy girl's clothes."

As for MiKandi, it's back to the drawing board. The company promises to find a workaround so the truly dedicated can still ogle naked people inside a tiny cube of clear plastic. "When we first picked up our device, we were very careful to comb through all of Google's terms, policies, and developers' agreement to make sure we were playing within their rules," Jennifer McEwen, co-founder of MiKandi, told ABC News. "That was important to us to play in Google's boundaries."

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