Community service for “Big Brother” – should I start worrying?

Picture: By Борис У. (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Almost seven years ago I wrote an article titled “A-synchronous “swimming”: How I stopped worrying, and learned how to love “presence”“. I wrote the article after I was introduced to “micro blogging” or “presence” services, especially Jaiku, a Twitter like service that no longer exists. A presence service is a cross-platform service where you can share information of your whereabouts and what you’re up to, and I immediately took it to heart stating that the presence services were “paving a road towards asynchronous Nirvana”, a Nirvana that would spell the end to instant messaging and phone calls, both of which I find extremely stressful, and they would also “fix” e-mail.

I did see some problems taking that road:

I know that there are problems with the presence services. The biggest problem is that the majority of the world, isn’t ready to volunteer personal information to the public. It’s a bit like doing community service for “Big Brother”.

This was in the days before Facebook shifted it’s focus to being a presence service too, so I guess the majority of the world were ready to volunteer personal information sooner than I thought.

I had no idea how right I was, but I only thought that it would apply to data that I volunteered, and I didn’t imagine that “Big Brother” would keep his own copy of my data, a bit naive since that was something Google already did. Nor did I imagine that the intelligence services would be as crafty as has recently been disclosed by The Guardian “Angry Birds and ‘leaky’ phone apps targeted by NSA and GCHQ for user data“, although we had already heard about something called ECHELON, and that it might be intercepting our e-mails scanning for keywords like Al-Qaeda.

At times I’ve done some pretty stupid things on social media, I’m not going to list them here, because the list is long, and some of them are really embarrassing. After some particular stupid updates, a good friend of mine was worried that I might be spied upon, I thought that he was being paranoid, but it was a wake-up call, and I think that I’ve been thinking a lot more about what I write since then. Now it’s clear that he could be right – we were all being spied upon, and the possibility that I, at some points, have been singled out, is not unlikely.

So what community services am I performing for “Big Brother”?

  • Carry a cell-phone with me all the time, and has done so since 1998, always using post-paid. Information of what cell-towers I use is logged, along with a lot of other metadata, and it can be linked to my social security number
  • Browse the web from all my devices (Mac OS X, iOS and Android), all of them are equipped with front-facing cameras and microphones.Metadata like headers and IP-addresses are logged by the ISP and can be turned over to the danish authorities
  • Run applications with access to the Internet on all my devices, who knows what they’re up to
  • Update Twitter from home and when I’m on the move, but I don’t geotag my tweets, something I actually thought that I did
  • Update Facebook from home, and sometimes my posts are geotagged, not very precise though, I assume it’s based on IP-lookup
  • Write the occasional article on my blog
  • Engage in disussions on blogs and websites
  • Write and receive e-mails using GMail
  • Receive e-mails from iCloud
  • Update my calendar using GCal and iCloud
  • Synchronise with Dropbox from all my devices
  • Synchronise with iCloud Photostream from Apple devices, I assume that my photos are geotagged and that EXIF metadata is preserved
  • Use Google Maps when I’m on the move, apparently this can be logged by the intelligence agencies
  • Update Flickr from home, my photos are geotagged and EXIF metadata is preserved
  • Update Danish Wikipedia from home
  • Update Wikimedia Commons from home, my photos are geotagged and EXIF metadata is preserved
  • Update Google+ from home, my posts are not geotagged, but Google could be logging my IP-address
  • Update YouTube from home and when I’m on the move
  • Update OpenStreetMap from home
  • Update LinkedIn from home
  • Update English Wikipedia from home
  • Update Instagram from home, not sure if my photos are geotagged and if EXIF metadata is preserved
  • Update Last.Fm from home
  • Used to update Foursquare frequently when I was on the move, but my cell-phone is too old to run that service anymore, probably not a bad idea, even though I found the service fun

Quite the list, and I’m sure I missed some.

Apparently all of this can, and probably has been, intercepted by the intelligence agencies and most of it by Google.

So should I start worrying?

The reason I felt that I shouldn’t worry seven years ago, was that I didn’t think that I had anything to hide, and I was of the opinion that openness would render “Big Brother” obsolete, since I constantly volunteered information of my whereabouts and what I was up to on Jaiku.

Like I said, this has turned out to be quite naive. “Big Brother” is alive and kicking, feeding on our data with immense, and seemingly unlimited, appetite, growing bigger and bigger.

It seems that I have taken a path that leads away from Nirvana, and as you can see, I do way too much community service, but instead of worrying, I will revisit my article from 2007:

Currently I use the presence services like a public notebook, and it’s so convenient that you can update the log simply by TEXTing the server, most of my presence messages on Jaiku can only be understood by yours truly and, sometimes, people that know me well.

The rest of the world might gain some insight later, because I tend to use the presence messages, as a stepping stone to a blog-post, like the one you’re currently reading, or it might serve as an inspiration for posting some pictures. The positing[sic] of a presence message, can also act as an inspiration for what pictures I actually take.

Think of my Jaiku presence stream as a (public) brainstorm.

If you replace Jaiku with Twitter, you might have an idea of what path I’ll be resuming to Nirvana, and I’m still not worrying, just acting more responsibly, and have been trying to do so for more than two years now – I’ll let you, my dear readers, be the judges of that, and if I ever need to go under the radar, I know what to do:


2 Responses to “Community service for “Big Brother” – should I start worrying?”

  1. Kim Bach . Org » Blog Archive » Min hobby: “#kliklandmand” Says:

    […] Jeg tager det stadig ikke særligt alvorligt, selv om nok burde gøre det. […]

  2. Kim Bach . Org » Blog Archive » “Brændende platform” Says:

    […] Community service for “Big Brother” – should I start worrying? […]

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