The Internet as a surveillance tool

With the semester coming to an end, I must say I’m going to miss this module. It brought to my attention such issues I’ve previously neglected or had little information about. Among my favourite topics can be mentioned Privacy and Surveillance.

❛ Surveillance is the business model of the Internet.

Bruce Schneier

We live in a world where privacy evolved from a fundamental right to an unattainable luxury, and surveillance has become synonymous with spying. It is understandable to give up on a certain part of our privacy in exchange to our security, but when enough is enough? The internet became a passive-aggressive digital territory where people’s intimacy is constantly injured by the websites’ intrusive privacy policies. Nowadays, for setting up an online account, an individual is almost forced to provide one’s personal information.

The internet’s invasive monitoring came to deny people’s right to privacy. Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc. are monitoring tools programmed to gather data about people’s behaviour online. People’s personal information and other online data themselves became products sold ridiculously cheap to advertising companies, institutions or governments without our permission. Below it’s a link to an article containing instructions on how to find out what Google knows about you and how to delete that information: https://www.yahoo.com/tech/heres-how-to-download-and-delete-what-google-117031199754.html. It’s also a depicting example of how the internet can be a surveillance tool.

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Well played, Spotify!

Spotify – a music streaming services promising to offer ‘Music for everyone’, particularly if ‘everyone’ pays a £9.99 monthly subscription (Spotify Premium) in order to gain access to the entire track collection available on the podcast. It’s a justifiable move considering the content available on Spotify is subjected to strict copyright restrictions – every time a song is being played on the podcast, the artist/owner of the song receives a sum of money.

Apart from the full access to the podcast’s music library and few other perks, Spotify Premium has a special feature: it allows users to download for free and listen offline any track available within the streaming service (3333 tracks, to be more specific). Wait a second. You can download for free any song without infringing the copyright law? How? Let me enlighten you. While the podcast offers this opportunity, the downloaded music files are encrypted in a way they become playable only on Spotify. And as I’ve mentioned before, anytime a song is played on Spotify, the performer of the song receives money in return. Fair enough, Spotify.

But what would happened if Spotify would share music under a Creative Commons licence? According to the Creative Commons licences, the songs would be redistributed (commercially or non-commercially) as long as the artist is being credited and his/her work doesn’t suffer any changes. If a track is used for commercial purposes, it is compulsory to be distributed under the same licence terms as the one used by the artist.

Invisible Online. An Extract From ‘What A Beautiful Lie’ Chapter.

Do I have to tell you one more time how the internet and its gigantic social media representatives are just simple black holes for your private information? It is a well-known fact that the oh so alluring pseudo-protective policies granted by social media platforms are just ‘advertising artifices’. Shared too much information online? If you’re looking for forgiveness search for it in another century, when the internet was merely a dream.

My presence online is extremely discreet. In general, I am careful with sharing any type of information online. At the moment, I have four social media platform where I use my real name: Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook. Other media platforms such as WeHeartIt, Tumblr, etc. have become a digital metaphor of my hesitance in ‘being personal’ online – I use a nickname on all of them and share no information.

My Instagram account is private. As long as you’re not of my followers, you can’t see more than my full name and my Snapchat username. On Snapchat, my story can be viewed only by my friends. I keep Twitter public because I intend to use it as a professional social media platform. Facebook on the other hand, is literally a ‘fortified virtual realm’. If a complete stranger accesses my profile, one’s won’t be able to see more than my gender (which is pretty obvious anyway…), my cover picture and the cropped-out version of my profile picture (Tell me ‘why’ Facebook? Why even that?). In comparison, a Facebook friend can see what I consider to be a little more than basic information: where I live/study, certain photos and check-ins, our mutual friends and eventually the official pages I like.

None of my online accounts has its privacy set on default. However, I’m aware the internet has its own way of reaching my personal information increasing my online exposure more than I’d wish. But at the end of the day, this is a risk we all assume, right?

How many of you keep their social media accounts on default privacy settings?

Wakie Up, Sleeping Beauty

Maybe enjoying too much the warm blankets in the morning? Or maybe feeling a little bit grumpy when having to leave your pillow? Well, I have the ultimate tip for you and it is called Wakie.

Designed as a social alarm clock, the app offers its members the possibility to set alarms and wake up each other with a one-minute long anonymous voice call. This makes from Wakie a community of 2 million people sharing the same snooze-button syndrome as you do. What is more, the members can choose a topic of interest for themselves and talk to a person with a similar interest up to five minutes.

But what makes Wakie so special among other online communities? Well, a ‘Good morning!’ call, as trivial as it sounds, can set your mood for the rest of the day. A little dose of enthusiasm and positivism in the morning can save you a lot of stress. And there are those five-minute long calls which can be anything from moments of inspiration, boosts of confidence or motivation to simple encouragements. It seems like Wakie can be truly awakening, right?

Because Wakie is a community of people helping people, there are several beneficial outcomes emerging from this participation. Its members enrich themselves with mutually shared life experiences, they start new friendships, or socialise and share their problems with each other. Sometimes a stranger is the listener you need the most.

However, there are certain limitations that come with the package. A problem would be the duration of the calls. Considering there are strangers talking with other strangers, they need more than five minutes to become comfortable with each other prior to any serious discussion. Also, it is challenging keeping a sleepy on the right track and avoid one to hung up the phone when getting a ‘Good morning’ call, isn’t it?

So, try it and if it does not work for you, at least you will have a funny story to tell.

Would you consider becoming part of such an unconventional community?

 

And who would not ♡ it?

❛ Spread kindness.❜

One quote. Two words. A powerful boost of motivation, inspiration and aspiration for today. Or simply put Weheartit.

The Internet is a digitalised jungle. We all know that. But we have also learned how to ‘tame’ it. Whether we are talking about Dear Photograph – a website which encourages its users to take a picture of a photography from the past in the same place it was previously shot, StumbleUpon – a discovery engine ‘stumbling upon’ the most interesting things across the Internet or Spotify – one of the world’s largest collection of songs and playlists, anyone accessing the Internet has already mapped out one’s favourite ‘virtual spots’. In my case, Weheartit is my little happy place.

Weheartit is an image-based social networking where users across the world upload and ‘heart’ (share) each other’s pictures, subsequently including them in extensive personalised collections. In this visually stimulative oasis, the images are the prime material used for communication. Behind each ‘colourful words’ displayed on the website, there is a person.

Might one be a classy buffoon bringing a smile on your face:

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…. a close friend who knows your BIG dreams:

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… or a wise men reminding you to love life again:

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They are all people. They are all pictures. They are all WeheartitThe audience is the only contributor to the website and it is generating the daily stream of content displayed on the website. Without it, Weheartit would be only a black canvas.

As a website entirely based on its user-generated content,Weheartit is powerfully shaped by its users interests, emotions, passions, moods etc. One day, the content might be predominantly fashion focused, the next day it might flooded in inspirational quotes and the day after that, it might be an exhibition of art or a parade of fine architecture. Another implication of this monopolising audience participation is the fact that pictures are not always of the best possible quality. In the absence of a professional managing the content uploaded, all types of pictures slip on the Weheartit canvas. But, would that stop you from happy ‘hearting’? I doubt that. On the other side of the coin, particularly this lack of the administrative implication means diversity when it comes to images. Having people from various cultural backgrounds who are sharing pictures from all over the globe on the same website sounds like Weheartit is a live human encyclopedia, right?

Have you used Weheartit before? If yes, then let me know how do you feel about this user-generated content.

 

Wired on Twitter

As the internet entered the scene and the technology developed, any delimitation between the traditional media outlets and the new media has been blurred. The internet ‘absorbed’ the old media and favoured the media convergence. This blending between different media forms within a single platform is fundamental to the new era of information.

Twitter, an online social networking service mostly known for its 140-character limited messages, is a depicting example of media convergence. This microblogging platform is mainly designed to connect people, but it also offers them information and entertainment.As an example, the news publications use Twitter to promote their news online, marketing companies advertise their products there etc.

In this case, the media convergence has paved the way towards a more dynamic and complex online experience. For instance, a Twitter user can read a news story, see pictures related to it or even listen to it. Apart from being consumers, the users have the opportunity to be distributors and content creators. They can engage in online discussions, share online material or even create their own material. Therefore, Twitter becomes a flourishing medium for amateur content. While it is clear the media convergence increases interactivity between users, facilitates the user-generate content and contributes to a collaborative online community, it also ‘muddles’ the distinctions between expert and amateur content.

On The Blogosphere’s Playground

Who are we? Media students! What do we want? Learn and understand how media works! And how do we want to do this? By surfing on the internet!

Recently, I have stumbled upon an article entitled 100 Best Blogs for New Media Students. It draws up a complex list of blogs providing thought-provoking and useful information for any media student. Below, based on this article, I have compiled a list of thee blogs suitable for our module:

  • jilltxt.net– Professor Jill Walker approaches topics related to social media. Among others, her blogs offers guidance for the media students interested in explanation behind the heavily circulate visuals within social media (Kendall Jenner’s instagram picture) also indicating how social media is widely used.
  • virtualpolitik.blogspot.com – It is a dynamic blog touching various topics, from politics and culture, to media and technology. It provides students with a complex perspective upon the networking society and its implications, further analysing the role played by the new media in society.
  • mathewingram.com/work– On his blog, Mathew Ingram discusses about the technology and the media in general. It is particularly useful for the journalism students who will learn about the media outlets, the social media’s effect on journalism or the media’s relationship with technology.

Feel free to use these online sources as your future magnifying glasses. They aim to build a bigger picture upon networking society and suggest how it shapes media and society as whole. Have you read any of these blogs or perhaps similar ones?