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The Naked Future—A World That Anticipates Your Every Move

Digital Age Etiquette

The End Of Privacy

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Evan Selinger Topics




Philosopher Michael Lynch Says Privacy Violations Are An Affront To Human Dignity

by Evan Selinger

Michael Lynch, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Connecticut, was the latest guest-speaker in my Technology, Privacy, and Law class. I asked Lynch to appear so that he could explain why he argues, in places like his amicus curiae brief for ACLU v. Clapper and articles in The New York Times, that some privacy violations are so harmful they’re an “affront to human dignity.” Students, of course, are free to accept or reject this this view. Either way, it’s complex.



IEET Fellow Evan Selinger, referenced in New York Times

The NY Times picked up on IEET Fellow Evan Selinger’s concerns over the cognitive and characterological downside to using predictive consumer technology, including the new form of texting available on Apple’s iOS8.

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Link to New York Times



Robot Servants Are Going to Make Your Life Easy. Then They’ll Ruin It

by Evan Selinger

Jibo, the “world’s first family robot,” hit the media hype machine like a bomb. From a Katie Couric profile to coverage in just about every outlet, folks couldn’t get enough of this little robot with a big personality poised to bring us a step closer to the world depicted in “The Jetsons” where average families have maids like Rosie. In the blink of an eye, pre-orders climbed passed $1.8 million and blew away the initial fundraising goal of $100k.



The Trifecta of Roommate Selection Technology: Privacy, Prejudice, And Diversity

by Evan Selinger

Over at The New York TimesNatasha Singer discusses the pros and cons of universities providing incoming students with online technology that helps them select roommates. She does a great job of identifying salient points. But I think it’s important to augment the story by adding some remarks on privacy and prejudice.



Why We Should Be Careful About Adopting Social Robots

by Evan Selinger

Although Jibo, designed by MIT professor Cynthia Breazeal to be the “world’s first family robot,” isn’t set to ship until 2015, folks are already excited about this little bot with a “big personality.” While there’s much to be said for Breazeal’s vision of “humanizing technology” so that the smart home of the future doesn’t “feel cold and computerized,” we might want to pause a bit before rushing to build the type of world depicted in the movieHer. Although it is easy to imagine we’ll be better off when we’ve got less to do, we don’t actually know the existential and social implications ofoutsourcing ever-more intimate tasks to technology.



How to Stop Facebook From Making Us Pawns in Its Corporate Agenda

by Evan Selinger

You didn’t know it, but Facebook used some of you to manipulate your friends. Even though you can’t anticipate how a company will integrate your data into its undisclosed activities, you’re still unintentionally providing grist for the manipulation mill.



You’ve Been Obsessing Over Your Likes and Retweets Way Too Much

by Evan Selinger

The digital age version of the proverbial tree falling in the woods question is: Does something exist if it hasn’t been liked, favorited, linked to, or re-tweeted? According to many tech critics, the tragic answer is no. Like Lady Gaga, we live for the applause. But if constantly chasing other people’s approval is a shallow way to live that leads to time and energy being wasted over pleasing others and recurring feelings of insecurity and emptiness, how can we course correct?



Satire’s corporate takeover: Community,Silicon Valley and the entertainment-industrial complex

by Evan Selinger

As TV turns increasingly to product placement, it’s still trying to pretend it’s in on the joke. Here’s the problem More than 20 years ago, David Foster Wallace lamented that television had co-opted irony, using the medium to flatter viewers into believing they were smarter than the rest of the naïve public – all the while lulling them into consuming more and more of the products advertised on television, just like everyone else. While irony perhaps has gotten an unduly bad rap, Wallace was absolutely right to worry about the manner in which the entertainment-industrial complex has been doling out winks to the viewer.



Too Titillating For Twitter: Why Outsourcing Social Media Participation Is Disconcerting

by Evan Selinger

The Los Angeles Times just updated the design of its online edition. One of the new features is called “sharelines,” and it’s basically summaries appearing at the top of articles that readers can click on to instantly tweet out. Even the editor’s super-succinct note introducing the changes begins with three of these talking points!



Don’t outsource your dating life

by Evan Selinger

(CNN)—Critics haven’t been kind to Personal Dating Assistants, a new service that allows men to up their online dating game by outsourcing tasks to paid, clandestine wingmen who pimp profiles, locate prospects and ghostwrite correspondences. GQ calls it “creepy.” CNET says customers eventually will have to admit they are big fakes. And over at Jezebel, dudes who take advantage of the deception are called “human trash.”



Why Goal Tracking Apps Are So Existentially Provocative

by Evan Selinger

Normally, if you asked me to free associate what comes to mind when I hear words like “productivity app” and “life hack,” you’d be treated an all out vent session—a combination of skepticism and cynicism directed at overly hyped products, overesteem for efficiency, and overblown attempts to delegate responsibility and willpower. But then I read a gushing review of Full, an app for tracking and measuring “what’s important to you.” I actually think it’s a good product and an excellent prompt for thinking about why goal track apps are so existentially provocative.



Outsourcing Your Mind and Intelligence to Computer/Phone Apps

by Evan Selinger

When the Partially Examined Lifediscussion of human enhancement (Episode 91) turned to the topic of digital technology, the philosophical oxygen was sucked out of the room. Sure, folks conceded that philosopher of mind Andy Clark (not mentioned by name, but implicitly referenced) has interesting things to say about how technology upgrades our cognitive abilities and extends the boundaries of where our minds are located. But everything else more or less was dismissed as concerning not terribly deep uses of “appliances”.



Today’s Apps Are Turning Us Into Sociopaths

by Evan Selinger

While I am far from a Luddite who fetishizes a life without tech, we need to consider the consequences of this latest batch of apps and tools that remind us to contact significant others, boost our willpower,provide us with moral guidance, and encourage us to be civil. Taken together, we’re observing the emergence of tech that doesn’t just augment our intellect and lives — but is now beginning to automate and outsource our humanity.



The Outsourced Lover

by Evan Selinger

Why an app that reminds you to text your partner might not be the best idea. If you’re looking to add a digital spark to your relationship this Valentine’s Day, you can download the new app Romantimatic. Romantimatic will send you scheduled reminders to contact your significant other and give you pre-set messages to fire off. The pre-set messages include simple, straightforward classics like “I love you” and “I miss you.”



Why App Developers May Be Selling Their Souls To Apple And Google

by Evan Selinger

The app economy is booming. Back in May, Apple AAPL +1.4% noted customers are downloading “more than 800 apps per second at a rate of over two billion apps per month on the App Store.” While this massive market reflects consumer taste at a time when smartphones and tablets are ubiquitous, a dark side also clouds consumer consequences. With respect to games alone, we hear recurring stories of exploited kids, adults being tricked into “doing something against their will,” and questionable privacy practices.



Inside Google’s Mysterious Ethics Board

by Patrick Lin

The technology world was abuzz last week when Google announced it spent nearly half a billion dollars to acquire DeepMind, a UK-based artificial intelligence (AI) lab. With few details available, commentators speculated on the underlying motivation.



5 Ways To Avoid Being Suckered By Unreliable Information

by Evan Selinger

Without “noise makers”—folks spreading rumors, false information, hoaxes, rumor, and hearsay—markets and the blogosphere might grind to a halt. But asVincent Hendricks argues in “When Twitter Storms Cause Financial Panic,” information bubbles can be immensely destructive. They can hurt the economy and damage society.



Why Grandma Shouldn’t Have Posted Instagram Pics On Facebook

by Evan Selinger

A well-intentioned grandmother accidentally hurt her grandkids’ feelings. She took screenshots of their delightful Instagram photos and proudly uploaded them to Facebook for all of her social network friends to see. If the younger generation didn’t set their accounts to private, could Grandma possibly have committed a faux pas? All she did was lovingly pass along publicly available information!



Keep On Tweeting, There’s No Techno-Fix For Incivility Or Injustice

by Evan Selinger

It would be nice to believe that the road to civility could be paved by following simple formulae, like Frank Bruni’s New Year’s exhortation, “Tweet less, read more”. Unfortunately, uncomplicated Op-Ed advice doesn’t translate into effective results in the messy real world.



Why Debating Apple’s ‘Misunderstood’ Ad Is An Amazing Holiday Gift

by Evan Selinger
Apple's AAPL -0.45% latest television ad, “Misunderstood,” is leaving viewers with impassioned and conflicting interpretations. Giving Talmudic treatment to a short commercial might seem like overkill, especially given the Christmas theme. But I think we’re lucky the narrative has become a Rorschach test for discussing the social and ethical impact of technology.



Google’s Creepy Patent to Automate Your Social Media Voice

by Evan Selinger

Who has time anymore to manage their social media feeds? All the status updating, replying, and posting of smart takes on the day’s news is exhausting. Well, Google want to help you out with that: The company recently submitted a patent for software that learns how users respond to social media posts and then automatically recommends updates and replies they can make for future ones. Consider it outsourcing, for your social life—an amped up, next gen blend of automated birthday reminders and computer generated, personalized remarks (more successful Turing Test than random word salad).



What You Don’t Say About Data Can Still Hurt You

by Evan Selinger

Big data generates big myths. To help society set realistic expectations, the right kind of skepticism is needed. Kate Crawford, Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and Visiting Professor at MIT’s Center for Civic Media, does a fantastic job of explaining why folks are too optimistic about the promise of what big data can offer. She rightly argues that too much faith in it inclines us to misunderstand what data reflects, overestimate the political efficacy of information, and become insensitive to civil rights concerns.



How Not to Be a Jerk With Your Stupid Smartphone

by Evan Selinger

As technology expands our communicative reach, new opportunities to be rude inevitably arise. Some people overreact to this incivility by turning to uniform and mechanical etiquette rules, hoping to make things better by constraining choices and limiting situational judgment. But for societies that value diversity and autonomy, general mandates—like expecting everyone to turn off their cell phones in theaters—only work in exceptional cases.



The Chilling Implications Of Democratizing Big Data: Facebook Graph Search Is Only The Beginning

by Evan Selinger

While privacy advocates have expressed concern about the phenomenon of massive data collection and analytics colloquially known as “big data,” most people are more familiar with social media anxiety, like inappropriate Facebook posts leading to embarrassing and reputation ruining incidents. This situation is likely to change, and in the near future society will have to confront a profound question.



Humans Are Already More “Enhanced” by Technology Than We Realize

by Evan Selinger

Time recently ran a cover story titled, “Can Google Solve Death?” The wording was a bit much, as the subject of the piece, Google’s new firm Calico, has more modest ambitions, like using “tools like big data to determine what really extends lives.” But even if there won’t be an app for immortality any time soon, we’re increasingly going to have to make difficult decisions about when human limits should be pushed and how to ensure ethics keeps pace with innovation.



What’s the Right Balance for Protecting Privacy and Promoting Accountability on the Internet?

by Evan Selinger

According to NPR, 300 plus teenagers broke into former NFL player Brian Holloway’s vacation home, causing massive damage and showcasing their exploits on social media. In response, Holloway created a website, helpmesave300.com, that collects the alleged culprits’ social media posts. He claims this repository has enabled teens to be identified, and that the growing list of names is “being turned over to the sheriffs (sic) department to assist them to verify and identify the facts.”



Should Students Use a Laptop in Class?

by Evan Selinger

Is it OK to use a smartphone in class, email an instructor, record a lecture? A professor offers lessons. There’s a widely shared image on the Internet of a teacher’s note that says: “Dear students, I know when you’re texting in class. Seriously, no one just looks down at their crotch and smiles.”



Big Data in Small Hands

by Evan Selinger

“Big data” can be defined as a problem-solving philosophy that leverages massive datasets and algorithmic analysis to extract “hidden information and surprising correlations.” Not only does big data pose a threat to traditional notions of privacy, but it also compromises socially shared information. This point remains underappreciated because our so-called public disclosures are not nearly as public as courts and policymakers have argued—at least, not yet. That is subject to change once big data becomes user friendly.



When Nudge Comes to Shove

by Evan Selinger

Do people really not know what’s good for them? Do we expect too much of nudges? Nudges are born of good intentions and clever ideas. Alas, that’s not enough.



Fighting Facebook, a Campaign for a People’s Terms of Service

by Evan Selinger

Social media companies say consumers’ loss of privacy is just the cost of doing business. But what would happen if they actually had to bargain with users on equal footing?

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