I’m Not A Liberal …

October 6, 2010

… nor a Socialist nor a fascistic fanatic.  I’m not anything that believes it knows better than the individual.  So when a government decides it knows how people should eat or drink or how they spend their money it makes my skin crawl.  It matters not to me if that government is driven by “liberal” views concerning care for others or society or whether it is guided by some sense of religious or corporatist obligation.

The latest such skin-crawling episode was today when the government of New York City decided it would try to get a ban on the use of food stamps for the purchase of soda drinks.   This will help the city’s push against obesity, they say.  This “initiative will give New York families more money to spend on foods and drinks that provide real nourishment,” said the Mayor.

Dr. Farley and the state’s health commissioner, Dr. Richard F. Daines, said in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times on Thursday that the ban would not reduce the ability of food-stamp recipients to feed their families. “People would still receive every penny of support they now get, meaning they would have at least as much, if not more, to spend on nutritious food,” Dr. Farley and Dr. Daines wrote. “And they could still purchase soda if they choose — just not with taxpayer dollars.”

I wonder if the liberals who want to force poor people into better eating habits recognize that this is exactly the same as when right wing politicians demand that those in receipt of unemployment insurance need to pass drug tests in order to receive money.  It is no different in kind than jurisdictions banning the use of government funds for abortion.  In each case, the jurisdiction is saying “we know best how you should run your lives and we will use our economic power over you to ensure you get the message.”

I’d give legislators huge pay raises if they promised to discuss and act only on ways of getting the government OUT of everyone’s life!

Lake View 1

October 6, 2010

Slocan “Lake View I” in the Kootenays. Beautiful country!

Reason #198 Not To Use Facebook

October 6, 2010

The Guardian reports on yet another good reason I don’t use Facebook. In this case, your private phone numbers, and those of your friends, are being sucked into Facebook whether you want them in there or not:

If you have a friend on Facebook who has used the iPhone app version to access the site, then it’s very possible that your private phone numbers – and those of lots of your and their friends – are on the site … What Facebook’s app does it that it imports all the names and phone numbers you have on your (smart)phone, uploads them to Facebook’s Phonebook app …

Pause for a moment and go and look at it. Did you know those numbers? Did you collect them? Despite the reassuring phrase there – “Facebook Phonebook displays contacts you have imported from your phone, as well as your Facebook friends” – it’s absolutely not true. I know because there are numbers there which I don’t have. OK, perhaps the people who own them added them; but that’s not clear either. So how did they get there? Because it only takes one person to upload another person’s number, and the implication is that it’s going to be shared around everywhere …

The implications are huge, and extremely worrying. All it takes is for someone’s Facebook account to be hacked (perhaps via their phone being stolen) and lots of personal details are revealed.

Kurt von Moos, who first wrote about this earlier this year (since when Facebook has revised its privacy statement, but not altered what goes on in this way) says that there are a number of reasons to be concerned. As he puts it:

“1)  Facebook doesn’t warn users that they are uploading their phone’s adress book to Facebook. In fact, because Facebook doesn’t sync contact numbers or email addresses TO your phone, most users wrongly assume that Facebook Contact Sync only syncs user pictures. In reality though, they are pumping your address book, without your consent.

2) Phone numbers are private and valuable. Most people who have entrusted you with their phone numbers assume you will keep them private and safe. If you were to ask your friends, family or co-workers if they are ok with you uploading their private phone numbers to be cross-referenced with other Facebook users, how many of them do you think would be ok with it?”

He also points to even more egregious problems: (a) can you be sure how Facebook, or its advertisers or partners or whatever it becomes down the line, will use that data? (b) why is it that Facebook takes all your mobile numbers, rather than matching names of contacts with names of friends? (c) sometimes, it gets the matches wrong – and incorrect (or faked) data that people have given to Facebook as their “contact” details (such as hotels or businesses) gets linked as being a “friend”, or the lack of an international dialling prefix messes up the match, and means again that someone who you don’t know is identified as a “friend” or contact.

Thank God I’ll never have these problems nor threaten the privacy of my family and friends just to have my status updated.