Facebook Quizzes Invite Spammers and Hackers

Facebook quizzes often appeal to our curiosity or ego or seemingly provide entertainment during lulls in social media posts or other routine activities, using algorithms to ascertain who your secret admirers might be or what celebrity most fits your profile.

You take the quiz, which asks that you log on with your Facebook credentials and then “like” the site and share with your friends. They take the quiz, too, and share with their friends, and all the while information from your smartphone is being harvested and sold to third-parties.

Some of the third-parties are spammers and hackers. Some of those spammers and hackers also offer their own invasive quizzes, and if you take those, you are putting your device and your privacy at risk or worse, inviting malware.

Unlike spam that arrives via email, asking you to click on a link, taking these tests IS the link. So you might not be aware of the hazards until it is too late.

Interpersonal Divide in the Age of the Machine contains several chapters on social media, including information on Facebook spammers and hackers and loss of privacy. Here’s an excerpt about Facebook datamining:

The question we now confront in the age of the machine is whether our devices enjoy more autonomy than humans pursuant to terms of service that allow constant datamining and intrusion and to which we have agreed, typically without taking time to read the fine digital print. 

Click the photo above or this link to hear a special report from an NBC affiliate. WFLA’s Lindsey Mastis interviews an expert from the Florida Center for Cyber Security about the hidden dangers of Facebook quizzes.

The Center has its own video on ways to protect yourself in cyberspace. Click the photo below to view it  or paste this into your browser: https://youtu.be/sdpxddDzXfE.




Turns Out There is a “There” There

A phone call, rather than texts, played a larger role in the case of Michelle Carter, convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the well-publicized “texting” suicide case, according to an article in the New York Times:

For a case that had played out in thousands of text messages, what made Michelle Carter’s behavior a crime, a judge concluded, came in a single phone call. Just as her friend Conrad Roy III stepped out of the truck he had filled with lethal fumes, Ms. Carter told him over the phone to get back in the cab and then listened to him die without trying to help him.  That command, and Ms. Carter’s failure to help, said Judge Lawrence Moniz of Bristol County Juvenile Court, made her guilty of involuntary manslaughter. ….

To be sure, texting evidence was presented in her trial. Those texts are deplorable and an indication of how technology can be used to trigger horrific consequences.

Here’s a sampling  of Carter texts published by CNN:

Carter: “You’re gonna have to prove me wrong because I just don’t think you really want this. You just keeps pushing it off to another night and say you’ll do it but you never do”
Carter: “SEE THAT’S WHAT I MEAN. YOU KEEP PUSHING IT OFF! You just said you were gonna do it tonight and now you’re saying eventually. . . .”
Carter: “But I bet you’re gonna be like ‘oh, it didn’t work because I didn’t tape the tube right or something like that’ . . . I bet you’re gonna say an excuse like that”
Carter: “Do you have the generator?”
Roy: “not yet lol”

American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts believes the texting aspect of this case is a chilling expansion of criminal law in Massachusetts, according to the NYT article. Texts, in this case, received worldwide attention because of its prevalence in society. While the phone call may have won the day for the prosecution, the idea that virtual reality as a dual reality is more chilling because it puts defendants in two places at the same time, a violation of physics and defense strategy in any criminal case.

The second edition of Interpersonal Divide goes into depth about  how texts harm children at home and school. There are two chapters devoted to that. However, Interpersonal Divide also analyzes the Internet according to the tenet of there being no “there” there.  That’s a phrase by coined by the writer Gertrude Stein speaking about her childhood home in California no longer existing. She used the phrase about geographical reality, but many social critics revived it to apply to the Internet.

Interpersonal Divide believes the ACLU makes a valid point in asserting that texts used as evidence to incriminate merely because they prod others to commit an illegality is a serious expansion of criminal law. Moreover, the news media apart from the NYT and a few other outlets did not make clear it was the phone call and not the texts that swayed the judge in his decision.

On appeal, it may be argued that texts as evidence should not have been used to the extent the prosecution did in establishing a pattern of guilt leading to conviction of Michelle Carter who also sent other texts like these, which did not attract the same media coverage:

Carter: “But the mental hospital would help you. I know you don’t think it would but I’m telling you, if you give them a chance, they can save your life”
Carter: “Part of me wants you to try something and fail just so you can go get help”
Roy: “It doesn’t help. Trust me”
Carter: “So what are you gonna do then? Keep being all talk and no action and everyday go thru saying how badly you wanna kill yourself? Or are you gonna try to get better?”
Roy: “I can’t get better I already made my decision.”

We will follow up on the Interpersonal Divide website on any case that takes into account our demurs articulated in this post.

“BlessU-2” Robot Substitutes as Pastor

BlessU-2 robotic pastor delivers blessings in seven languages as part of an interactive experiment associated with the World Reformation Exhibition in Wittenberg, Germany, developed to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

The Protestant Reformation triggered centuries of wars and discord in Catholic Europe led in large part by Martin Luther whose 95 theses challenged papal authority in Rome. Luther’s ethic can be summed up nicely by his famous quote:

You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say. 

So let us say that this experiment is theologically suspect. To be begin with, a machine has no conscience or soul and thus no dominion over those who believe they do. Blessings are not about words but the human condition and transcendence therefrom, at the heart of the Lutheran religion. Pastors are prized not only for their sermons and blessings but from keen knowledge of that condition in part by their own tribulations and as witness to the tribulations of their congregations.

According to a news release, BlessU-2 was created to “challenge people to consider the meaning of blessing and the increasing digitalization with artificial intelligence in the 21st century.”

What is most disturbing about this, again in context with Luther and his war against indulgences–payment to the Roman Church for prayers to liberate souls in purgatory–was the design of BlessU-2, “based on an ATM-machine … to facilitate financial transactions.”

Interpersonal Divide in the Age of the Machine documents the impact of Lutheran theologians on understanding the conscience and human condition, the most interpersonal aspects of our existence on the planet. Here’s an excerpt from Dietrich Bonhoeffer who resisted Hitler and was executed at the close of World War II:

Conscience comes from a depth which lies beyond a man’s own will and his own reason and it makes itself heard as the call of human existence with itself. Conscience comes as an indictment of the loss of this unity and as a warning against the loss of one’s self. Primarily it is directed not toward a particular kind of doing but toward a particular mode of being.

Interpersonal Divide warns against the mode of being by machine.  While BlessU-2 is an awkward example of that mode, it is only the start of a long technological history that will utilize artificial intelligence in matters of faith.

REAL CLEAR LIFE on the Interpersonal Divide

How Facebook and Google (and its Users) Can Fight Fake News Better

Tech companies aren’t using the right weapons to fight mistruths and prevent them from spreading.

Technology RealClearLife Staff

“This has been a long-standing tradition in journalism, but the thing that has changed is the education levels and the astuteness of the audience,” Michael Bugeja, director of Iowa State’s Journalism School told RealClearLife.

Bugeja says people are more likely to people believe false information when they passively imbibe it in the form of push alerts on their phone and posts on their social media feeds. …

For the rest of the article, visit REAL CLEAR LIFE by clicking here.

Pilot-less Passenger Jets in Your Future? Here are Vulnerabilities

Recently we learned about disturbing customer service incidents on U.S. passenger jets whereby paying customers were dragged bloodied off aircraft or challenged to fight near the cockpit.

These incidents are outgrowths of putting profit above passengers. But a much more ominous development, which CNN states is only a mere five years away, are remote-controlled pilot-less passenger jets.

This raises serious questions covered in the forthcoming book, Interpersonal Divide in the Age of the Machine (July 2017 release date). Would you rather fly on a jet piloted by machine whose algorithms are programmed for profit or on one flown by human whose adrenaline is programmed for survival?

Pilot safety is so amazing that the odds of a crash are, literally, astronomical. As the Economist reports, if you took a trans-Atlantic flight from London to New York every day, you could expect to go down once every 14,716 years.

To be sure, pilot error is a chief cause of airline crashes, with some statistics reporting a figure as high as 58% over time. What those statistics do not show, however, are occasions where pilot experience, intuition and critical thinking saved the day …. as well as passengers in aircraft.

Perhaps no person embodied that skill set more than Leonardo da Vinci who conceived the design for a flying machine in the 15th century. He is the iconic father of all pilots. It was da Vinci who said,

For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.

Here is an article about the 10 most heroic pilot rescues in aviation history, based on those non-algorithmic human skill sets of experience, intuition and critical thinking.

Few people ever attach the word “heroic” to a machine, unless, of course, you mean the comic art drawing application, HeroMachine3.

Currently some newer passenger jets are computerized to such extent that on some rare occasions, a pilot has to rescue the aircraft from machines that go “psycho” during flight. Last week the Sydney Morning Herald published such a story, titled  “The untold story of QF72: What happens when ‘psycho’ automation leaves pilots powerless?

The video accompanying the story shows how a machine believed the plane to be hurdling at an unbelievable almost vertical angle at an incredible amount of speed–flight incapable of happening, by the way–which the computer had not programmed into its algorithms.

Yes, this is an exceptionally rare case, but it serves a point about machines. When they go haywire, humans are needed to set programming aright again.

Wary, yet, about traveling as a passenger in a pilot-less jet? You should be.

In the end, profit-minded corporations will make the determination about aircraft with or without pilots. They most certainly will retain armed undercover air marshals to guard against terrorism.

But will they factor into the cost analysis the terrorist hacker who can infiltrate the cabin’s computer system with a virus that sends the airplane into a tailspin?

If we know anything in the age of the machine, it is this: any computer anywhere can be hacked. Let’s just hope that this doesn’t occur in the friendly skies.

New App Tracks, “Flips Off” Phones in Class

Earlier today I received this email at my workplace, the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University:

Are cell phones a distraction in your class?

If you’re like most educators today, you’ve probably noticed that attention is in short supply. Your lectures are frequently challenged by cell phone distractions and multitasking students, and you’re facing decreased participation, collaboration, and thoughtful discussion as a result. …  That’s why we created Flipd. Used by thousands of educators and students across North America, Flipd is a simple low-tech solution to a major high-tech problem.

Here’s how the app works: Teachers register their classes with the company, which sends a message to students to flip off their phones during lecture. (They can use them in case of emergencies, of course.) The application sends data to the teacher about any student that violates the rule and uses the phone. If a student used the phone for 15 minutes during class, that person’s data would appear on the teacher’s dashboard.

You can read all about the application by clicking here.

The application is meant to discourage use of smartphones in class and mitigate that distraction.

I appreciate what this application is trying to accomplish. I have been writing about digital classroom distractions for many years.  Here’s an essay titled Distractions in the Wireless Classroom,” published in 2007 in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  I prophesied, “As more and more classrooms go wireless, technology warnings on syllabi soon will be as standard as the ones about cheating (which laptops also facilitate).”

Well, that certainly came true.

Distraction is so bad in some classes that professors make their students sign a legal document promising not to use smartphones during lecture. Maybe they need Flipd.

In my media ethics class at ISU’s Greenlee School, I don’t restrict cell phone use but consign several rows of seats in the back of the class so that students can text to their hearts’ content. No, I haven’t given up. Some students are addicted to their phones, and they need to learn a lesson–not about ethics but technology.

Typically students in those texting back rows do poorly on exams. After the midterm, they usually complain about grades. I use those occasions for a “teaching moment” and explain the high cost of distraction (and tuition). Most then stop using their phones independently.

The logic is simple. At the workplace, bosses won’t be using Flipd or signing contracts demanding employees not use smartphones during business hours. The best way to eliminate distractions is to understand the consequences of them.

That’s what Interpersonal Divide in the Age of the Machine does in Chapter Five about use of technology at school.