Digital Privacy

Commenting on an interesting article

So I was reading this amusing story about these neighbours in the Northern Territory of Australia. This one young guy likes doing burnouts up and down his street, which let’s be fair, at 23 is not all that uncommon. Young men like to take risks and do stupid things right? Tell me something I don’t know – I was there once too! Problem was his older neighbour two doors down finally cracked it and decided to shoot up his car (allegedly). Not so funny is that the young guy also has a young family so this could have easily got out of hand and someone could have died or been seriously injured. Of course the burnouts and drag racing in the cars is extremely dangerous, but shooting a gun, albeit at property, is targeted direct violence.

This is not the place to debate the legalities however, and my original intent was to comment on this article and say that the solution is fairly easy. You have these young fellas who like to play with cars, so make a place for them to do it! Where is the racetrack or dragway? Establishing an outlet for young men to pursue their passions leads to vocational outcomes. This guy might be keen on tinkering with his car and learning auto-mechanics. He might learn to weld and put a rollcage in his car. He might then decide that he doesn’t want to drag down the street or burnout on his neighbours driveway because it’s more fun to do it at the meetup at the track where all his friends are there to watch. He might not do it in the street because he wants to keep his car in good condition for the race on the track.

I know I know, it’s not that simple but really just think sensibly about it, most of the violent crime out there (not including psychopaths) is caused by socio-economic conditions like unemployment or lack of avenues for applying oneself. It’s usually young men, whether solo or  in gangs, and it’s an age old problem. Ignore this problem and we live with the consequences. Why haven’t we learned this lesson yet?

So that was my comment but I didn’t post it.

Why not?

Because the options to post on this major Australian new website only let you log in via your social media network of choice.

Logging in using Social Media accounts

Fine, I’m all for eliminating the scungy anonymous troll posters who hide behind pseudonyms and handles so they can post obscene, racist, misogynist, hatred inciting filth.  They sicken me. But that’s not all that happens in this OAuth handshake. Oh no. They want ALL your details. I don’t mind if the post links back to my blog here, or my “public social network” face, but why do you need my other details? I don’t trust you to have them. In fact, I don’t trust FaceBook  to have them after the way they have behaved. It equally sickens me that I can’t actually delete things from Facebook, only “Archive” them. When my various private chats on FaceBook became visible on my public wall recently I thought, “Oops, I’m sure that was an accident.” But then this whole thing about the Shadow Profiles comes to light. Facebook changes their privacy policy so often, and we already know what their true agenda is, but it’s too late! I’ve already added information there that I don’t want to be public. I’m happy for it to sit, encrypted and private in the Facebook network, but I don’t actually want it made public. I’m not talking about stuff I don’t want my grandmother to know. I have nothing to hide. That’s the argument right? “If you’ve got nothing to hide then you’ve got nothing to worry about.” “It’s just so we can catch terrorists.” WHAT UTTER BULLSHIT.


The offending items

Not to facebook



No to Twitter


So if you choose to sign in using Facebook,  NineMSN wants to access your public profile – fine that’s what it should do. It also wants your friends list. Well doesn’t matter I suppose but your friends list is something that can be hidden from your public profile so I say NO. I can’t speak on behalf of everyone I know to say that I accept you knowing that they are “friends” with me. To the questions of email, birthday and current city, well maybe you could find that stuff out about me anyway, but those items are not public because my email address gets enough spam as it is. I realise that NineMSN doesn’t have sinister intentions in gathering this data. Yes I know exactly why they want it, the marketing application is profound, but I just don’t trust them to correctly anonymize it. In any case it’s fairly well established that you can’t fully anonymize data, although some argue that it’s not so simple. That’s a digression from the argument at hand though.

If you choose to log in with Twitter it’s a bit more confusing. I don’t mind that it wants to read tweets from the timeline, those are meant to be public. That’s the point of Twitter. I don’t mind that it wants to see who I follow, that’s public information too. The next bit is confusing though, what does it mean “and follow new people”? Is it going to make me follow people? Is it going to follow my followers? That part is not clear at all.

Then it gets a bit scary. It wants to update my profile? You what!!?? No I don’t think so, my profile is the description of who I am and what I do and is there for a specific reason. I don’t want any Twitter app to be able to change my profile, that’s like me relinquishing all rights to the account completely and becoming their puppet. In what circumstances could NineMSN updating my profile on my behalf ever be justifiable? At this point I am swearing profanities.

Now to the worst part, “Post Tweets for you“. Um NO!


A more transparent process of trust when commenting

I get that this agreement is probably generic, and grants those permissions so that certain services or apps can help automate twitter posts for you, but sorry NineMSN, you don’t offer that kind of service and the only thing I can think of that you would want that for is to post dodgy self-serving spam as me that makes it look like I am endorsing you.

Whilst this might not even be NineMSN’s fault, and it does appear that I am picking on them, this sort of generic permission granting dialogue does nothing to soothe my concerns. Most people will just agree with these terms in order to post their comments without fully thinking about the implications.

I would like to see these permissions more modular, because as it stands it’s all or nothing. For most purposes, and I mean posting comments, all that is needed is to identify the public profile. All those other permissions being granted all the time is just wholesale destruction of privacy rights.

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