Filter bubbles, intellectual isolation, and the data-industrial complex. 

 

October Letter

Hi there,

Here's a term to know: filter bubble.

It's when Big Tech's algorithms twist one's reality to suit an agenda of their own.

Filter Bubble

Big Tech's algorithms determine the results we see from search engines and news feeds, our social media experiences and about everything else put in front of our eyeballs on the internet.

Sophisticated software programs using algorithms populated with a universe of our personal information enable Big Tech and others to know who we are, what we do, what we like and don't like and, this is the important part; they know in which direction to nudge us to do what they want. 

The result of a filter bubble is we become excluded from information that doesn't fit the manipulative agenda of the algorithm. We become intellectually isolated, like in a knowledge-filtered bubble.

Here's the definition of filter bubble, by Techopedia:

 "....A filter bubble is the intellectual isolation that can occur when websites make use of algorithms to selectively assume the information a user would want to see, and then give information to the user according to this assumption." Oct.10th, 2017

An example of filter bubble effects - an actual case from the field:

An online investor sells everything she has in the stock market in January earlier this year. It amounts to several millions in cash. She uses her browser to trade online and manages the transactions with her Gmail account. Weeks later, as the market corrects, she emails some close friends and family sharing her satisfaction with being "100% in cash."

Since then, her inbox, search results, and browser experiences are all increasingly populated with purveyors of bearish investment strategies, precious metals dealers, and other information and sales pitches - evidently slanted toward those looking for a place other than the stock market for their cash.

The broad effect of filter bubbles is to push each to a side - to nudge, incline, influence, even enrage them to go a little further to the side they're already on.

We still don't know the potential scope of effects from filter bubbles on our democracy, and the extent of its divisive influence, but while we're scratching our heads, it's getting worse fast. Without some personal awareness and adjustment we are at best pawns in the game, and at worst slaves to the system.

Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke in Brussels last week at the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners, and had this to say on the matter:

Apple CEO Tim Cook in Brussel

“Our own information — from the everyday to the deeply personal — is being weaponized against us with military efficiency.

These scraps of data, each one harmless enough on its own, are carefully assembled, synthesized, traded and sold, and lets companies know you better than you may know yourself.

Your profile is a bunch of algorithms that serve up increasingly extreme content, pounding our harmless preferences into harm

We shouldn’t sugarcoat the consequences. This is surveillance.

Tim Cook, October 24th, 2018

 The underlined emphases in Mr. Cook's quotes above are mine.

The Data Industrial Complex 

Some of the Apple chief's most vivid comments centered on the growing threat from Big Tech's “data industrial complex" - an appropriate throw-back to President Eisenhower's "military-industrial complex."

The term "industrial complex" describes the effect of an informal alliance between industry players so large that they amass power great enough to wield influence over public policy.  

In Eisenhower's time, the military-industrial complex influenced the national state of peace, or the lack thereof.

In our time, the data industrial complex influences the national state of privacy. Or lack thereof. 

We'll have a whole lot more to say about filter bubbles in the coming months. We will explain why we don't like Androids, why we favor Firefox over Chrome, and how to find greater digital autonomy from Big Tech. And, most of all, how to live with greater ownership and control of your personal information and state of cybersecurity. 

Invisible Online

We've been looking for the right VPN for our computers and laptops, which by the way can be even trickier with VPNs than your smartphones and tablets. Image that! True. 

Well, we finally found it. 

See the one we recommend, why we support it, and how to get it for yourself, here.

Private Email Update

If you are a Private Email customer, be sure to see the updates to Security Features and Support Resources, including:

  • how encryption secures email
  • advanced spam and virus filters
  • sand-boxing - leading technology for anti-phishing
  • installing and using Cloud Drive

Total Wealth Symposium 2018

Thanks again to our friends at Banyan Hill for inviting us back to their annual Total Wealth Symposium. 

This year we were back for our 4th consecutive conference and met over 500 people at the Four Seasons hotel in Las Vegas for 3-days of discussion including wealth management, asset protection, and staying safe and secure in the new Digital Age.

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Thanks for reading,

Brad Deflin

View or print online.

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