We know when Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sleeps – Quartz

One lingering digital remnant of Dzhokhar, caught in a Facebook photo (in a white cap, at left). David Green

One lingering digital remnant of Dzhokhar, caught in a Facebook photo (in a white cap, at left). David Green

A few tech-savvy people have uncovered an extraordinary amount of information about the Tsarnaev brothers in a short amount of time. This has so many interesting implications for law enforcement, journalism, and privacy in the digital age.

We know all this not because the FBI told us or because journalists went out and spoke to people—though there is a lot that the media has revealed in the same 12-hour-period—but because it can all be pieced together with some decent Googling. If you read Russian and know how to use Yandex and V Kontake, there is more public information yet.


Where it was once only reporters and the police who dug up information about people of interest, a whole nation is at it today. And for all the myriad concerns about privacy settings, cookies, data protection, automated surveillance, and Facebook, we reveal immense amounts of information about ourselves publicly, unthinkingly, and sometimes involuntarily.

via We know when Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sleeps – Quartz.


Yet we do not know the answers to the most important question we have, “Why?” As the article concludes, “We know when Dzhokhar sleeps but not what he dreams about.”

Facebook Knew I Was Gay Before My Family Did

This has implications for the privacy of messages shared on Facebook, and should give each of us pause.

When Matt (last name withheld for privacy) logged onto Facebook earlier this week, he was startled by the placement of a seemingly impossible ad on his News Feed: a rainbow-underwear-adorned banner for Rick Clemons (the California-based, self-appointed “Coming Out Coach”) that read, “COMING OUT? NEED HELP?”

Matt (who lives on the East Coast) did need help coming out. But as far as he knew, there was only one other person in the world who knew that but him.

Matt told BuzzFeed FWD in an email:

As many LGBT individuals know, for a time, the most closely held secret we have is our sexuality. Several nights ago, I texted a close and dear friend for advice on revealing such sensitive personal information. The next morning, I woke up to a “sponsored story” on my Facebook page that asked “Coming Out? Need help?” How did Facebook know such a specific ad would apply to my profile?

via Facebook Knew I Was Gay Before My Family Did.

Social Media Death

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

This would make an interesting topic in thanatology circles.

[View the story “Facebook flaw allows users to ‘kill’ friends” on Storify]

The Digital Self

Happiness is sensitizing colleagues to the security of their Facebook and e-mail and the wider implications.

…[F]or some time I have felt that social media has given us a “radically distributed biography.” …An autobiography might be written with a particular narrative, but each of the components of this narrative has been chosen from a particular performative standpoint, and as suggested, in a collaborative way.

Just as social networking sites allow us to visualize the underlying networks that already have existed, they now offer us a view into the postmodern self.


via Re-integrating the Self Narrative » Cyborgology.

Facebook Won’t Like This LinkedIn News | Wired Business | Wired.com

Happy Reid

This is the “business casual” of serious social network news.

LinkedIn might be the uptight suit of social networks, but it seems it wants some of the casual, after-hours club flair that is Facebook. Witness the news LinkedIn will add notifications, a productivity-undermining feature that lets you know when someone views your profile or “likes” something you’ve shared.

The notifications, which consist of icons and color highlighting in LinkedIn’s navigation bar, ape a very similar feature on Facebook. LinkedIn rolled out the notifications on its website, but says they will soon come to its iPhone, iPad, and Android software.

It seems odd for a workplace social network to deploy such an intentionally distracting feature. “You’ll never miss a comment or update to an engaging discussion about a news article or trending topic on LinkedIn,” the company says of notifications – as though that’s a good thing.

via Facebook Won’t Like This LinkedIn News | Wired Business | Wired.com.

Re-integrating the Self Narrative » Cyborgology

As friends and family are only now beginning to “get” the Facebook timeline, involuntarily, of course, I have revisited what I wrote in response to a Cyborgology post about a “radically distributed biography.” I kind of like that concept.

This is interesting, because I for some time I have felt that social media has given us a “radically distributed biography.” The timeline tries to reintegrate that, but only insofar as it is digitally dramaturgical. An autobiography might be written with a particular narrative, but each of the components of this narrative has been chosen from a particular performative standpoint, and as suggested, in a collaborative way.

Just as social networking sites allow us to visualize the underlying networks that already have existed, they now offer us a view into the postmodern self.

via Re-integrating the Self Narrative » Cyborgology.

FTC Issues Final Privacy Framework Report to Protect Users’ Data

The Federal Trade Commission has issued its Final Privacy Framework Report that outlines guidelines for how companies can and cannot use consumer data on the Internet. The initial report was released in Dec. 2010 and the FTC took in consideration 453 public comments in the final report. The FTC provides guidelines for Do-Not-Track provisions, how information can be tracked on mobile devices and how large platform providers like Facebook and Google can use consumer data.

Since the initial report, the FTC brought enforcement actions against both Facebook and Google to, “require the companies to obtain consumers’ affirmative express consent before materially changing certain of their data practice and to adopt strong, company-wide privacy programs that outside auditors will assess for 20 years.” While Google and Facebook drew the ire of the FTC, any company that tracks personal consumer data on the Web is now put on notice.

via FTC Issues Final Privacy Framework Report to Protect Users’ Data.

This includes….

[t]he five main action items in the report:

Do-Not-Track: Includes browser vendors that have developed tools to allow consumers to limit data collected on them. Commends the Digital Advertising Alliance, a self-regulatory group of the advertising industry, on developing an icon-based system to honor the browser tools as well as the W3C on created standards to protect consumer data.

Mobile: Urges companies to work toward improved privacy protections and to development meaningful disclosures. The FTC has also created a project to update its business guidance about online advertising disclosures. The FTC is holding a workshop in D.C. on May 30, 2012 to discuss mobile privacy, advertising and consumer data.

Data Brokers: Consumers often do not know how they are being tracked on the Web and do not have the ability to figure it out. The FTC recommends that data brokers create a centralized website to identify themselves to consumers and detail the access rights and other options they provide for the consumer data they maintain.

Large Platform Providers: This includes Internet Service Providers, operating systems like Windows or Mac OS X, Android or iOS, browsers, and social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook. The ability of these platforms to track consumers’ online activities raises privacy concerns. The FTC plans a workshop on large platforms in the second half of 2012.

Promoting Enforceable Self-Regulatory Codes: The Department of Commerce is undertaking a project to facilitate development of sector-specific codes of conduct. Companies that adhere to the privacy framework will be viewed favorably in connection with the FTC’s law enforcement work. “The Commission will also continue to enforce the FTC Act to take action against companies that engage in unfair or deceptive practices, including the failure to abide by self-regulatory programs they join.”

The three pillars of the framework are; “Privacy by Design;” Simplified Choice for Businesses and Consumers;” and “Greater Transparency.”

I think the following should be in bold and trumpeted loudly.

Your computer is your property,” said FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz, “No one, no one, has the right to put something on it that you don’t want.

Soulful Cyborg

Who says being a cyborg is necessarily soulless? I was mesmerized yesterday listening to this RadioBoston podcast of Julia Easterlin, this Berklee grad who uses a looping machine to perform as a one-woman chorus.

When 22 year-old singer/songwriter Julia Easterlin walks into a room, she is warm and humble, equipped with just a backpack. She carefully unpacks her rectangular looping machine and starts explaining how it works: “I have a microphone plugged into this machine, and I’m able to set it up so that I record what I’m singing live and then it plays back. And then over the playback, I record many other layers — again and again. And it essentially creates a one-woman chorus to back up my lead vocal.”


When she sat down recently with Radio Boston‘s Adam Ragusea, Easterlin put her looping skills on display, starting with a rhythmic base. She slowly added percussion, trilling her tongue and clapping her hands. Next came a vocal bass line. She ran those loops and then recorded a second section — another set of vocals.


Vodpod videos no longer available.


Bonnie Stewart on Klout’s Rationalization of SNS Influence » Cyborgology

Last week, a member of one of our sections of this course gave a thorough presentation of the service Klout, which measures the subscriber’s social network influence. This blog post at Cyborgology, one of the suite of blogs at The Society Pages, commenting upon a piece in Salon.com by Bonnie Stewart, also a previous contributor to Cyborgology, critiques how Klout helps shape our online interactions. This is an example of the deeper analysis of these technologies, particularly as they appear in this last segment of the course.

Stewart criticizes the idea of rationalizing our online interaction (i.e., submitting them to greater efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control). She also notes that Klout is limited in that it fails to measure how our online actions influence (i.e., augment) activity in the offline world. Finally, she discusses how knowledge that Klout exists influences the way people behave online, making them more inclined to act in such a way as to improve their score. Cyborgology editor Nathan Jurgenson recently described this tendency  to view our present actions from the perspective of the documents they will eventually produce as “documentary vision.”

via Bonnie Stewart on Klout’s Rationalization of SNS Influence » Cyborgology.

Both the commentary by PJ Rey and the original article offer rich analysis employing concepts such as rationalization and augmented reality. Though I am not a frequent Foursquare user, one of my friends in RL made a big deal about displacing me as mayor of a venue we both frequent—I had inadvertently displaced him while he was away on business. Klout may not only induce us to act in ways to improve our influence scores, it may do so in a way that separates online and offline activity (digital dualism), ignoring the latter. Both are worth exploring.

Pilot or Governor

Due Tuesday, October 4, 2011, by 5 PM PDT
Post the reply below
250-500 words
10 points


  1. To make an initial contribution to the blog, learning its mechanics and surfacing any obstacles to using it.
  2. To explore issues of identity and the internet, bringing closure to a topic.
  3. To provide students an opportunity for feedback on course performance.
  4. To provide provide an experience of critical writing.
  5. To get to know each other better.
  6. To surface the course theme of “public and private.”
  7. To formulate a point of view and support a position.

Who are you on Facebook? Are you a cyberpunk, a reality pilot, or are you a governor, a controller (Leary, 2005 [1994])? Do you have self-determination, or are you a cog in the machine? In terms of our class discussion, can you be who you want to be on Facebook, or are you constrained to be who you are F2F (face-to-face)? Or, in terms of recent trends, take a stand on whether online anonymity may be decreasing (Whitelaw, 2009), what might be the implications of employers searching social media sites for prospective employees (Van Grove, 2009), whether the Pentagon may be following you, and the meaning of Facebook’s privacy changes (Ostrow, 2009). Be sure to substantiate your point of view with findings.


Leary, Timothy, 2005 [1994] “The Cyberpunk: The Individual as Reality Pilot,” pp. 77-87 in Victor J. Vitanza, ed., CyberReader: Abridged Edition (New York: Longman)

Whitelaw, Kevin, “Gotcha! Why Online Anonymity May Be Fading,” September 2, 2009 <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112450627&ft=1&f=1049> (retrieved September 17, 2009).

Van Grove, Jennifer “45% of Employers Now Screen Social Media Profiles” August 19, 2009 <http://mashable.com/2009/08/19/social-media-screening/> (retrieved September 17, 2009)

Ostrow, Adam “PRIVACY: Facebook Is One of America’s Most Trusted Companies” September 16, 2009 <http://mashable.com/2009/09/16/facebook-privacy-truste/> (retrieved September 17, 2009)