Tag Archives: profiling

Why I just told the PowerPal technician to go away

Trigger warning: rant ahead

PowerPal is a free service offered to Seniors to allow them to monitor their electricity usage. Given that we’re on fixed incomes while electricity [and gas] prices soar, being able to see how much electricity our appliances use is very helpful. Free is good too. But as they used to say, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. 😦

What is the price you have to pay for this free service? Geo location, that’s what.

For anyone under…50? GPS and geo location are so ubiquitous that no one even thinks about the security/privacy aspects. The truth is though, that Google – via Android mobile phones – can learn all sorts of things about us simply from knowing where we live…and where we go. That information is then shared with shadowy companies that aggregate that data to provide profiling data to big advertisers. That’s why advertisers send you all those strangely precise ads.

Those ads rake in big money, and ALL of the tech companies get their snouts in the trough, but Google and Facebook are two of the worst offenders.

I cut Facebook out of my life completely, and I tried to do the same to Google, but it’s simply not possible, not unless I move to a desert island and communicate by carrier pigeon. So I have a Youtube channel [Youtube is now owned by Google], and I have an Android [also owned by Google] mobile phone, but geo location is NOT enabled on that phone.

Mobile phones are the new black…

I was really looking forward to controlling my electricity consumption a bit better, so when I read about PowerPal on the Seniors newsletter, I jumped at the chance. Today was the day the technician came to install the hardware. I watched [fully masked] while he attached the lead from the hardware to my electricity meter. Then he helped me install the software on my phone. And only then was I informed that the app would not work without geo location enabled.

I won’t lie. For one awful moment, I stood there, silently debating whether turning on geo location would really be that bad? After all, everything was set up ready to go. And the technician said that geo location only had to be on when I wanted to check my usage…

And then reality hit home. Was I really going to turn geo location on and off every time? Of course not. I’d probably do it for the first week or so, but after that I’d either forget to turn it off, cave to convenience and keep it on, or simply not use the bloody app because it was too much of a hassle. In the meantime, Google would be able to track every move I made. Nah ah. Not gonna happen.

I know what most of you will be thinking right now – ‘This is paranoia.’ ‘Why would Google care about you?’ etc etc etc. And you’d be right. Google has no reason to care about me. I’m totally unimportant, and my life is completely boring, but that’s not the point. The point is that geo location would be one more piece in the jigsaw puzzle needed by the algorithms used by the ad networks to profile me.

Now let’s take it one step further. I’m completely unimportant, but what about my contacts? Do I know someone hiding from an abusive partner? Could a small, digital connection to me bring that person into danger?

You laugh. Ho ho, fiction writer syndrome.

Don’t be naive. Nasty people are happy to pay for apps that allow them to track their victims. Maybe not in our comfortable, middle class world, but they are out there and so are the algorithms that vacuum up every scrap of personal data we give away because…we have nothing to hide.

I don’t have anything to hide either, but maybe someone I know does. Maybe that someone is only a friend of a friend of a friend, but where’s the guarantee that a bit of throw away information won’t do them harm? Or what of the kids we’re so proud of. Do you really think that only nice people look at the photos of our kids and grandkids?

Of all the bits of information we give away daily, geo location is one of the most critical because it provides our physical location in the real world. That may not worry you; it worries me. So I told the technician to uninstall the hardware and the app.

The poor guy left so fast he must have thought he was dealing with a crazy lady. Then again, he looked to be in his early twenties. A child of the information age. Immortal. Invincible. Totally unconcerned about his privacy or online security because…it can’t happen! Right?

Okay, that’s me done. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. If anyone knows of a way to monitor energy consumption without selling my soul to Google, or paying an arm and a leg, I’m all ears.

cheers,
Meeks


Update August 30, 2021

I’ve had to re-post the ‘Profiting from Brainiwashing’ article in order to break the link to the original, which I have now deleted. Why? Because a Trump-won-the-election-supporter linked to the post with the following comment:

What the….?

I was so shocked, I commented with this:

I honestly don’t know whether this person somehow interpreted what I wrote as some kind of validation of his/her own worldview, or simply wanted to use my work as a ‘see, this is what the enemy are saying’ kind of thing. But I won’t be used in this way.

Apologies. I’m still in shock. 😦
Meeks

Covid19 may make economies crash and burn, and cause hundreds of thousands to die gasping for air, but Big Tech has never had it so good.

Why?

Because social media is pretty much the only safe way for most of us to stay connected at the moment, certainly in Australia.

But, like all good things, there is a downside to social media, and it’s called profiling. Profiling is where supposedly randomised private data, from a whole lot of different sources, is combined to produce an eerily accurate picture of us.

What data?

  • Where we live and where we go. Thank you, Geo location,
  • Who we see and what we say to those people. You guessed it, all forms of social media because hey, it’s good to share, right?
  • What we buy. Our bank details may be sacrosanct, but our purchase transactions are fair game. Now think about all the things you buy online from milk to sex toys! Should I mention money spent on porn sites? Or on gambling?
  • And of course, what we look like, or what our kids look like, or their friends etc etc. All thanks to those pics we love to share.

Back in the day when humans had to find, record, and search data manually [or with the help of a ‘dumb’ database search engine], collating stuff about specific people from a whole lot of different data locations was about as easy as finding a needle in a haystack.

But that was then. Nowadays, it’s not people who sticky beak on our lives, it’s bits of code performed millions, nay, zillions of times per minute. These algorithms don’t stop for sleep, or food, or coffee breaks… Bye, bye haystack.

But profiling is only one side of the coin. Having collected all of this data about people, what do you do with it?

To find out, Facebook selected 689,003 random users and divided them into two groups. Then:

‘…Facebook elected to show only negative content to the first group for a week while showing only positive content to the second. They monitored each group’s behaviour.’

https://www.michaelwest.com.au/captive-mood-how-big-tech-manipulates-your-emotions-to-serve-advertisers/

What Facebook found was that people in both groups responded to the conditioning by changing their behaviour. What happened? Negative conditioning resulted in people creating more negative posts while positive conditioning saw them creating more positive posts.

Do you know what conditioning is? I’ll give you a hint – it’s sometimes called ‘brain washing’. Facebook brainwashed over 600,000 users without their permission for a week:

‘In other words, our moods and behaviours can be influenced by our online interactions, which can be controlled by whoever runs the algorithms responsible for what newsfeed we read and what ads we see.’

https://www.michaelwest.com.au/captive-mood-how-big-tech-manipulates-your-emotions-to-serve-advertisers/

We all know about the role Cambridge Analytica played in both Brexit and the election that saw Trump gain the Whitehouse. That was brain washing at work, yet millions of people still believe that losing their privacy is no big deal.

Profiling is not about exposing anyone’s nasty little secrets. It’s about turning us all into ‘products’, products that can be manipulated according to the needs of the highest bidder.

‘And it is not just advertisers that want to use our data this way. Employers, health insurance provider, law enforcement agencies, the tax department and pretty much anyone who can pay the price to get access to our profiles, can do so.’

https://www.michaelwest.com.au/captive-mood-how-big-tech-manipulates-your-emotions-to-serve-advertisers/

In case anyone missed the links under each quote, you can read the entire article here: https://www.michaelwest.com.au/captive-mood-how-big-tech-manipulates-your-emotions-to-serve-advertisers/

Apologies for all the angry posts lately. NSW recorded 1,029 new Delta cases yesterday. My state, Victoria, recorded 80 and the trend is up, in part because of people who’ve been brainwashed into believing the pandemic is just a beat up. I’m becoming more glass-half-empty by the day.

Stay well and stay safe,
Meeks


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