Month: March 2018

The Social Media Honey Pot

Well, we thought about our digital privacy, but then nothing bad seemed to be happening – so we stopped thinking about it.

Some of us controlled what we made public, but everyone realised that everything we did online added to our profiles.

Information was gathered when we used social media. It was gathered when we bought things. It was gathered when we booked holidays. And it was gathered when we searched for anything online.

We knew that all that information would eventually go to build a picture of us and that the data analysts would understand us.

If we even thought there were people who were swayed to vote this way or that, we consoled ourselves by believing that the people who were swayed were marginal people.

It was the rednecks without a brain cell or the knee-jerk liberals – anyone except us.

When it came to serious stuff like our voting patterns, we believed we were complex and intelligent – too bright to be played – and the danger didn’t apply to us.

The thought that we were or might be so predictable that we could be played was such a distasteful thought that we didn’t want to think about it.

When we learned that Governments used mass surveillance to track us we were appalled and we complained, but the law was tweaked to allow mass surveillance to continue.

We needed to keep coming back to the honey jar for more social media and searches and for things to buy and holidays to take – so we just gave up.

Some people worried that if real bastards got into power they would have all the data to know who were a danger, and get rid of them.

It has been done before.

When we did think about it, we said that while some Governments were bad, our Government was pretty good on a worldwide scale, so the people in power wouldn’t do anything that bad with mass surveillance and all that they knew about us.

In 2009 I wrote

It doesn’t take much of a look back in history to see that the law has been used to turn people’s eyes away from things that needed looking at.

Of course the government of Britain would say that of course this couldn’t happen here. We are men of integrity. You have no reason to worry that the law will be used by us to curtail freedom. But even accepting that, what about the next government, or the one after that?

Where the law is in place, the danger of it being subverted to curtail democracy is more present.

The Social Media Honey Pot

But back to where we are now, the thing that really surprises me is how badly Facebook has handled this.

Were they so incompetent that they didn’t see this coming? They let huge amounts of data out into the wild. It should have been clear as day to them that sooner or later it was going to come back and bite them.

Were they so ill prepared for that?

Or do they know how this is going to play out and how we will react over the longer term?

Do they know it will all settle down, and we will get back to important business of buzzing at the social media honey pot?

Germany’s Stepchildren

It’s 6:45pm on Sunday, the 11th February. I’m reading a book that was recommended to me by my neighbour when I was staying in Jerusalem recently. The book is Germany’s Stepchildren, originally published in 1944. It surveys 200 years of the experience of Jews in Germany as described through the stories of fifteen or so people who were prominent in their period.

And this is what I was reading – the beginning of the story of Ludvig Borne, born Loeb Baruch in Frankfurt in 1786 – when something happened on the street as I was reading.

When Loeb Baruch was born, the Jews the Frankfurt was still restricted in their residence to a single street the Judengasse, afterwards known as the Bornestrasse. In this narrow lane, the Jews were locked in after sunset on weekdays and as early as 4 o’clock on Sundays.

On certain holidays and festive public occasions, they often had to remain indoors during the day and were let out only in the evening. A strict watch was kept the ghetto gate. The boy Baruch is said to have remarked “I don’t go outside simply because the soldier over there is stronger than I am.” When high dignitaries passed through Frankfurt, arrangements were made so that their eyes would not be polluted by the sight of Jews. Thus, at the coronation of Emperor Leopold I, the Jewish leaders, who wished to pay homage to him, were arrested and kept under a police guard during the ceremonies.

And as I was reading this I got angry and upset because I was thinking that this about me. This is not about some other people that I’m reading about, this is about me.

Just at that moment there was a loud noise outside on the footpath that leads into town near our house – a group of people marching by and chanting – and they put a chill through me to think that at some time in some place there were people marching and chanting for the death of Jews.

So I went outside and I caught up with the marchers and asked what was going on. There were about 100 women and they were marching for Reclaim the Night – reclaim the night so they don’t have to be afraid of sexual violence when they go out after dark.

So nothing threatening – not today – but it reminded me, as I said, of antisemitism in Germany.

When Solomon Liptzin wrote Germany’s Stepchildren in 1944, how much did he know of what had happened to the Jews of Europe? The book was published by The Jewish Publication Society Of America, and Liptzin was head of the German Department at the College of The City Of New York.

I know that as early as the very beginning of the Einsatzgruppen death squads in Germany’s Russian campaign, word of the mass killings had got out and was known in the USA to those who wanted to listen.

And yet, many in the USA did not know. And I don’t really understand why. That’s another story, but as I read Germany’s Stepchildren, I keep wondering what Liptzin was aware of. Maybe he will say, later in the book.