How much do you know about Facebook?
Throughout the years, we’ve heard plenty. The platform has inspired, surprised, and betrayed us. A lot of us seem to have a love-hate relationship with Facebook, because while we recognize and resent their control over our personal information, we continue to condone their actions by being present on the site.
In this episode, Alexander McCaig and Jason Rigby analyze the true intentions of Facebook after reading an article on how researchers lost access to their accounts after digging up data against the platform.
Since its creation, the platform has had its fair share of ups and downs. While it remains one of the biggest social media sites in the world and its presence has helped people connect with their loved ones it’s also been the subject of controversy.
In 2014, Facebook was criticized for running psychological tests on 70,000 unconsenting participants in 2012. This test involved removing a certain list of words from their news feeds to see how it affected their reactions to posts.
Later, in 2018, the Cambridge Analytica scandal showed everyone just how compromised their Facebook accounts were. The data analytics firm improperly harvested data from millions of users for ad targeting during the 2016 election.
And in 2019, the FTC fined Facebook $5 billion over violations of user privacy.
There are plenty more scandals in the past decade to illustrate how the platform has consistently pushed the boundaries of user privacy and personal rights. And yet, people continue to use the platform—effectively giving Facebook the power to also continue commercializing their personal data.
Alexander McCaig clarifies that he doesn’t care about the platform. He explains that this is because Facebook is a commercialization engine, and has been clear about their intentions for their users.
It’s difficult to expect change from a super tech company that is set on its ambition to continue profiting from its users. A more realistic goal to work on would be to take away its biggest source of income, which is its massive user base.
Jason pointed out that if a huge momentum against Facebook occurred and a billion users collectively decided to just stop using the platform, it would have a tangible and more concrete impact on their actions. In contrast, writing articles would not be as effective.
The anger towards big tech corporations like Facebook is misplaced. With all the awareness around what it’s capable of doing and what it has already chosen to do before, people don’t need more content on how they’re being used as cash cows. They need a way to mobilize against the platform; an incentive to move away from using Facebook as their primary source of connection and entertainment.
The TARTLE platform is capable of giving people this renewed purpose on the internet. The marketplace is designed to fully respect the autonomy and privacy of each individual. Users are free to fill out all the data packets they want and earn from their hard work. Everybody who is on the TARTLE platform has the opportunity to become a data champion.
If you have the strong desire to stop an enormous commercialization system like Facebook from using people as cash cows, the first step towards achieving your goal is to find out what you have control over—yourself, and your participation in that very system.
Cutting off their access to your data may seem insignificant when you are just one person out of a billion users on the platform. However, change is never about one big miraculous step that suddenly and neatly solves all the problems. It’s a series of small steps that amount to a big change over time.
You could be the first step of the movement that takes down Facebook’s monopoly over other people’s data. All you need to do is stop using it—and if you want a renewed perspective on your power as an individual, make the switch to the TARTLE marketplace.
It’s time to find out: what’s your data worth?
Do you control your data, or does your data control you?
The internet has evolved at an unprecedented pace. It’s a massive network of individuals, corporations, and other entities that can fit in the back of your pocket. Our most prominent use of the internet is for communication—through social media, we believe we are empowered because of our extensive connections, we think that we have been given a voice because we are only on one end of the screen, sometimes shrouded in the comfort of anonymity.
Jaron Lanier wants to challenge those beliefs.
Jaron Lanier is a pioneer of virtual reality technology and has been in the industry since the 1980s. His involvement in the evolution of modern technology has given him rockstar status in the tech world.
However, he’s taken a complete 180 regarding his beliefs on the growth of the internet and the direction that adjacent technologies have taken—and many of his opinions align with what TARTLE stands for.
In this episode, Alexander McCaig and Jason Rigby engage in a light back-and-forth on a quote made by Jaron Lanier in his book entitled, Who Owns The Future?
“The foundational idea of humanistic computing is that provenance is valuable. Information is people in disguise, and people ought to be paid for value they contribute that can be sent or stored on a digital network.” - Jaron Lanier
Jaron describes how the internet has journeyed down a path where human beings are all treated like machine components in one giant electronic brain. We all take our part in powering this massive brain through our interactions on the internet: we build a unique personal profile as netizens by visiting our favorite websites, shopping for goods and services, and otherwise investing plenty of time and effort navigating the digital landscape.
The internet takes all these interactions and synthesizes it to create an all-knowing electronic brain that is capable of fulfilling all our desires. If you want to buy a certain product and start searching for it, you’ll soon get ads showing that specific item across your platforms. If you look at the websites and applications you use, your mind is trained on the function of the product and how amazing it is for technology to have reached this point.
We forget that everything on the internet is hoisted on the shoulders of ordinary people, like us.
Where is the harm in this? The internet dehumanizes people and takes away our capacity to have a meaningful, authentic human experience—especially when you fall victim to the allure of social media.
One of the most thrilling ideas of being on the internet is that at any time, you can hide behind a veil of anonymity. It’s a great development for many people: anonymity helps others speak up about experiences they were too afraid to share. For example, the #MeToo movement helped bring a voice to oppressed women across the world through anonymous posting.
However, anonymity can also have an ugly face. It’s also enabled troll farms, fake news mills, and doxxing. In some cases, it’s endangered the lives of innocent people.
This is not to say that the progress we’ve made because of anonymity is invalidated with their presence. It is, however, an indication that we must do more to reign in the evolution of the internet so that it returns to being human-centered.
In a world so interconnected with the internet, it can be difficult to change our perspective on social media—but that’s not to say that it can’t be done.
When you have the right tools and equipment to take control of your data and turn it around, you’ll be able to notice how much you’re capable of and how much influence was taken away from you by the internet.
That’s what TARTLE hopes to do for you.
We offer a collaborative and transparent marketplace where everyone is compensated for the value that they contribute to the platform. You sign up, fill out a data packet, and submit it for sale to companies and causes that are important to you.
Your information and purchases are stored securely on the network. You are in complete control over the information you submit, the amount of work you put out, and the amount of money you receive.
If you’re reading this, Jaron, we think TARTLE’s the platform you’re looking for. We’d love to have you on the podcast so we can discuss further:
What’s your data worth?
Changes in technical breakthroughs and evolving skill needs are shaping the nature of the workplace of the future. While the pandemic did not fundamentally alter the way people cooperated, it did speed up the pace of change. This resulted in a faster adoption of the concept of remote work.
With the world adjusting to a new life after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, how do we best utilize the tools that we have so that we can continue our levels of productivity even in remote working situations?
In this episode, Alexander McCaig discusses this issue with Phil Simon, a keynote speaker, adviser, and Zoom and Slack educator. He is also the author of eleven non-fiction works, the most recent of which is Reimagining Collaboration: Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and the Post-Covid World of Work.
Adjustments in the Workplace
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of Americans working remotely more than doubled from around 30 percent to 60 percent in March 2020, and organizations began embracing new collaboration platforms such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom as part of the adjustment process as a result of this increase.
At the start of 2020, few people would be familiar with the names of even one of these tools, much alone all of them. Several of us are now working remotely as a consequence of COVID-19, and Zoom has been so widely used that it has become a verb: to "Zoom" means to communicate using video conferencing technology.
When businesses were forced to close and employees were required to wear masks, just a few businesses were allowed to continue operations as usual. The vast majority of people were entirely unprepared for the enormous changes that were about to take place in their lives. When it came to internal communication, they continued to rely on email as well as on typical corporate processes and attitudes.
A New Age of Productivity
To cope with COVID-19’s repercussions on corporate organizations, employers, human resource managers, and consultants were obliged to think creatively about how they might implement a remote work strategy. Businesses had an urgent need to alter these barriers in dealing with the international economic instability caused by the virus.
If a shift to a new system is the path moving forward, what possible methods can businesses use to better utilize the tools that we currently have in this day and age?
Phil Simon suggests that companies should start embracing the Hub-Spoke model of collaboration. This model is a technique of distribution wherein a centralized "hub" operates. From the hub, products are sent outward to smaller groups known as spokes for further storage and delivery.
With this model, it aims to help firms significantly increase staff productivity, simplify current business procedures, and provide the basis for subsequent machine-learning and artificial intelligence advances.
The hub may be thought of as a meta-organization that functions in parallel to established innovation laboratories. Employees at the innovation-hub can connect informally over the web and work freely on innovation to bolster the firm's performance.
Out with the Old, In the New?
Efficiency should not be dependent on one factor alone. While the hub-spokes model creates a more systematic approach in revamping business models to fit the current situation, it is best to have it hand-in-hand with tried and tested organizational techniques.
By adopting particular initiatives and establishing a culture that supports their virtual workforce, executives may boost their teams' performance output and engagement. They must build and sustain a culture of trust, as well as modernize leadership communication methods and procedures in order to properly educate virtual personnel.
Additionally, team members must be encouraged to share leadership. Finally, executives must establish and conduct frequent alignment checks to ensure that virtual workers adhere to the organization's cultural values, including their commitment to its goals.
All of these procedures begin with the realization that team formation will be significantly different with remote members, demanding the creation of new leadership strategies, communication routines, and tools.
In a world where social distancing and remote work has become the new normal, it is now more important than ever to make good use of the current technologies we have to be just as productive as before the pandemic hit the globe.
In Simon’s concluding statements, he deems it important that for a collaborative system to work, employees must be willing to commit to the shift fully. Problems will surely arise when employees refuse to use certain technologies because they either find it too complicated or too time-consuming to actually learn new things instead of going the more traditional route of working.
The willingness to change is always the first step towards growth. Just as the world has changed, we must also be willing to adapt to this change. Resistance will always be a hindrance to progress, just as the refusal to learn denies a person the chance to be more efficient and productive.
It is part of TARTLE’s vision to create a world where knowledge is shared and problems are solved through a collective and collaborative effort. We believe that teamwork is power, and collaboration is the key to progress. The power is back in your hands.
What’s your data worth?
IOT and Data Hoarding
The Internet of Things (IoT) is here. Already, there are hundreds of millions, even billions of IoT devices out in the world. Despite their ubiquity, many people are still confused about what IoT is. It’s basically any device that is connected to the internet via a wifi or Bluetooth connection for the primary purpose of gathering data. Most people will think of smartwatches or Fitbits that mostly track health data. However, the IoT is made of much, much more than that. IoT devices can include anything from a connected refrigerator to a drill that lets you monitor its battery life from your phone, to a big tractor harvesting crops in the massive industrial farms out in the plain states. These kinds of internet-connected devices will only continue to proliferate in the years to come. One may wonder why they are becoming increasingly common. Why are companies so focused on making them and why do people want to spend their money to get them?
The reason companies are busily cranking these things out is simple, they recognize that data has value and are trying to collect as much of it as possible. What will they do with all of that data? In a lot of cases, they don’t even know. Indeed, this is part of a much larger problem. But we’ll get back to that.
For the people on the other end of it, the individuals shelling out their shekels for these widgets, there are several different motivations. One of course is just having the new thing, which for some reason still motivates a lot of people. More practically, the connectivity has various uses. The many different health trackers for example keep track of basic information like heart rate, blood pressure, amount of physical activity, how much you sleep and so forth. Having that kind of information constantly tracked and recorded can be a very effective tool when it comes to improving your health. With an IoT fitness tracker you can see what the effects of a change to your diet or exercise routine are and see that very quickly, allowing you to evaluate and modify those changes.
In more mundane matters, your IoT toaster can let you know when your Pop-Tarts are done if you wandered outside after putting them in. Or your fridge can let you know that it’s time to buy new eggs, or throw out the ones you bought two months ago because it turns out you don’t like making eggs for breakfast that much.
What about that problem we had to get back to? Too often, people think that just recording and hoarding data is all that needs to happen. That somehow if you just have a constant stream of information coming in, that will help you make better decisions. But having servers full of ones and zeroes helps no one. That data needs to be processed and sorted. That means you are going to need some algorithms to help you do that. Where companies fall short is thinking that the algorithm is always accurate. In reality, it is based on various assumptions that may or may not be true. Sure, you can track the results of decisions made based on the information those algorithms provide to see if they are in fact accurate. However, that might be very time consuming and costly. Why not go to the source? What not get to the ‘why’ behind the data? That will help you validate your algorithms faster and even develop better ones in the first place.
The TARTLE data marketplace provides companies with the ability to do exactly that. By signing up as a buyer, companies can get in direct contact with the audience they want to reach and learn from them why they made the decisions they made. It also works as the world’s most effective and reactive suggestion box, allowing customers to give their feedback directly to a company to help build better products and services. In the end, that benefits both the companies and the customers. One gets a better product and the other gets a better bottom line.
What’s your data worth?
Farming the IOT
Farming technology is constantly improving. While the basic design of the modern harvester has been around since the 19th century, its design has undergone a variety of improvements over the decades since. The latest is the inclusion of technology that monitors the speed of the machine and how quickly it picks up crops and other variables. Essentially, John Deere and others have turned their tractors into Internet of Things (IOT) devices.
Such additions are becoming increasingly common. John Deere even has a head of technology now. The reasons for this are simple. Farming like everything else is a highly competitive industry which means farmers are always trying to find new ways to squeeze a few extra dollars out of their crops. Combine that with a growing global population and increasing concern for the environment and farmers are perhaps under more pressure than anyone else to find new ways to use data to improve their operations.
What does this data tell farmers? Most obviously, it tells them how well their machines are running. If a combine’s fuel efficiency goes down or it deviates even slightly from a straight line, it can be an early indicator of a mechanical problem that it would be a lot cheaper to fix sooner than later. It can also tell you how well the crop is doing. If there is more or less wheat in a given acre than the next one, it can be indicative of a difference in soil quality, amount of sunlight, or even water distribution. Compared with data from previous years, it can track how well the soil overall is doing. Should there be a small drop in production, a farmer can check to see if his field is deficient in any way. The beauty of using data taken directly from the farmer’s machines is that even small deviations can be tracked, identifying issues long before all but the most experienced of farmers would notice them.
The downside of this is that often the farmers themselves don’t have access to the data that they are generating. It is far too common that the manufacturers are the only ones directly getting data from the machines they make. Typically, farmers see none of the data from the machine they bought. Unless this is your first time here, you know how we at TARTLE feel about that. We think everyone, especially farmers who grow the food we all depend on, should own the data they generate. Think about it, does it make any sense that a farmer spends tens of thousands of dollars on a tractor filled with sensors, do all the work with the tractor, and not own the data collected by those sensors? Can you imagine if the manufacturer actually sold the farmer the data he was already generating? It doesn’t seem exactly fair does it? If the manufacturer were to provide a full data analysis in return for some money that would be different, though it should still be the farmer’s choice to do so.
That’s exactly why both, the farmer and the manufacturer should sign up with TARTLE. That way, the farmer gets full control over all the data he is generating and can choose whether or not he would like to sell it to the manufacturer, the county he lives in, or an independent analysis firm. Or all of them. In this way, the famer isn’t getting taken advantage of, the manufacturer still gets what they need to build a better tractor in the next production run, and more data becomes available to third parties who would benefit from it, without shelling out a premium to the manufacturer. TARTLE and its members can literally help bring a little fairness and equity to the farming industry.
What’s your data worth?
Searching for Cookies
Everyone knows what cookies are. Those annoying little bits of code that follow you everywhere on the internet. Nearly every website has them and they use them to determine your browsing and shopping habits so they can put the most tantalizing ads in front of you. They also sell all that sweet, sweet data to others so they can tailor their own marketing. If it bothers you that all of these different companies are tracking you so closely, you aren’t alone.
Don’t worry though! Google ‘may’ have found a ‘privacy friendly’ substitute for cookies. You’ll pardon us if we don’t break out the party hats and spinners just yet. First, what do they mean by ‘may’? Did they or did they not? If you don’t know, kindly come back to me when you do. Second, what would this substitute be exactly? And what does ‘privacy friendly’ mean? After all, if you are being tracked, you’re being tracked – period. If the trackers don’t directly know your name or address it hardly matters. They still know where to find you online, which is the main point anyway. But, let’s delve into this a bit.
Now Google, Apple, and Mozilla all say they are phasing out tracking software. If that’s true, then it would be surprising. After all, cookies have been a vital part of the internet’s marketing ecosystem, a system collectively worth around $330 billion. I wouldn’t be expecting these companies to leave all that money on the table. If you think about it, all of these companies have tracking and invading people’s privacy as a fundamental part of their business model.
So, what is their claim? How will these companies be protecting your privacy while still raking in plenty of cash? They are calling it ‘Federated Learning of Cohorts’ (FLOC). What is this FLOC? It’s an Application Programming Interface (API) that replaces cookies and would exist as a browser extension. It’s unclear how different in practice this will actually be from cookies. The primary difference, for now, looks to be that it will put the choice of whether or not they are used in the hands of the user. Which is actually good. At least you can more readily consent to being tracked by everyone you go.
Naturally, not everyone is happy with this development. Facebook in particular has voiced displeasure with Apple’s transition to FLOC and other privacy changes in the App Store. Yet, do they really have much to be concerned about? Google for example has said they are taking an ‘industry first’ approach and not transitioning away from cookies in the immediate future. Note that bit about ‘industry first’. This approach allows time for Facebook, Twitter, and everyone else to find ways to adapt to the situation. Eventually, they will move away from cookies altogether but not before ways can be found to keep that $330 billion train rolling. They’ll keep the cash and claim victory for privacy rights. Or to borrow a phrase, they’ll have their cake and eat it too.
Another clue that this is really what is going is the word ‘may’ that was used at the beginning. They aren’t definitely going with FLOC and they are trying out different approaches. Whatever they land on will likely be sold as a ‘balance between the interest of individuals and the industry as a whole’. Which is just a fancy way of saying not much is really changing.
Instead of an ‘industry first’ mentality, might we at TARTLE suggest another approach? How about trying a ‘people first’ approach. Start with the idea that these people own their own data and if you want it, they have to choose to give it to you. In fact, maybe you’ll have to pay them for it and share some of that $330 billion. That’s treating data, and the people behind it like they are worth something like they are sovereign individuals. And that is a little revolution.
What’s your data worth?
Healthcare on F.H.I.R.
You may have heard of this thing called the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, if you haven’t heard this next part, you may want to sit down – it has put unusual and significant strains on healthcare systems worldwide. There are of course a lot of reasons for that. One is just the challenges of dealing with a brand new virus. Another is that some places (such as the Lombardi region of Italy) have been hit hard enough to strain available resources, while other places wound up laying off staff. Finally, due to various travel and workplace restrictions, more and more work – even in the medical field – is being done remotely, forcing people to learn new ways to work in a short amount of time. One of the results of this is that there have been increased calls for making healthcare data more universally readable and transmissible.
As it turns out, such a system already exists, F.H.I.R. or Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources. This system is designed to make it easier for researchers and doctors to more easily share information with each other around the world. The goal is to develop better treatments faster and get them to where they are needed in order to save lives. The problem is, until recently, hospitals, universities and governments have been slow to adopt it. Why would that be?
Adopting a new system, especially a universal one based in the cloud, means there will need to be training so staff understands the new system. Liability and security are also significant concerns since all that healthcare data would be stored on a remote server rather than onsite. That same issue also brings up concerns of privacy, of protecting the identities of patients.
Due to COVID, there have been a number of companies that are trying to address this problem and encourage the adoption of F.H.I.R. One of them of course is Microsoft and its Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare. They are trying encourage adoption of this universal system and manage all the computing aspects of healthcare, from the sharing of patient data to the “how was your visit” surveys. For the right (and as anyone with experience here knows, a very large) price Microsoft will fully integrate your data with the cloud and make it sharable worldwide.
As good as that is, there are limitations to that approach. One is that such things are always designed with a “one size fits all” mentality. Data is presented in certain ways and the interface is whatever it is designed to be. There will be a number of features that certain users will never even be aware of. Sure, there is always some degree of customization available but all of that bogs down the system. Finally, patient engagement is severely lacking in this approach.
Think of it this way, if someone takes a bunch of x-ray images from the Microsoft cloud and uses them to find a way to more quickly identify bone cancer, that’s great. But wouldn’t it be even better if the doctors could directly and quickly use that information to treat their patients rather than waiting months for the information to circle back in a meaningful format?
TARTLE of course has a better way. First, when your healthcare data is uploaded into our system, it is already converted into the F.H.I.R. format. Already, it is in a format designed to be used everywhere. We also convert it into a format that easily readable by you, the patient. You don’t have to worry about sifting through a mess of code, it’ll be nice, clean and accessible. Finally, let’s look again at the bone cancer example above. If you have chosen to share your data with TARTLE you are more likely to get treatment quickly. If those researchers are using data acquired through TARTLE and they determine that you have bone cancer, then you and your doctor can be contacted directly with whatever treatment recommendations the researchers have. A process that could take months can be shortened to the length of an email.
Better treatments delivered faster around the world, all with total transparency and security, as well as a financial incentive, for you, the individual. That’s the future TARTLE is building.
What’s your data worth?