Tag: social media

Why don’t young people socialize anymore? A comment that “says it all.”

On a recent (as of the end of 2013) Slashdot post, I saw a brilliant comment that I truly believe deserves wider recognition, so I have copied it here. I would encourage you to read the original post and its comment stream if you’ve found your way here.

I think it boils down to an extreme risk-aversion caused by a spike in artificial risk imposed by society on large percentages of interaction. This is done by people who have vested interests in either corralling behavior, or by people with axes to grind.

1. Every time feminists get some new law passed that lowers the legal bar for girls to make accusations that stick, it increases the social and legal risks for boys and men who have little or no legal recourse for false accusations, both deliberate and those based on bad definitions. With those huge generalizations rattling inside their heads, girls are treating all boys as ‘potential rapists.’ This causes feral like behavior in both genders as their natural biological imperatives collide with these newspeak mantras. The smarter ones are abandoning the game altogether because they see the risks which leave the not so average ones to mate and reproduce. Playing video games is increasingly being seen as almost as fun and a lot safer, socially. Cheaper too.

2. Schools’ social dynamics are becoming more and more like prisons, with ever more extreme punishments for the tiniest missteps in following increasingly chaotic and nonsensical rules. A wrong word, or out of context statement overheard by the wrong person used to get the student a dressing down or ‘demerit’ slip. Now it lands the student in front of the school psychologist, who then comes up with some ‘disease’ to label him with, ruining his future opportunities.. The fact that schools are now reaching outside their domains and into the home is quite scary.

3. Up through the 1990s, cruising around in cars was popular with teens until gas prices reached a point where few could afford to without parental gas allowance. There was a time in fact where a highschool teen could buy a shitbox car, fuel, and insure it, on the pittance earned at his part time job. This is not true anymore…or is becoming starkly less true as time goes on.

4. The usual zomg, terrorists, zomg, pedophiles, zomg rapists, zomg drugs stuff hasn’t gone away either. The only thing that has changed is the increasing ubiquity and homogeneity of its message. This reenforces its ‘truthiness’ and relative importance in people’s minds.

Obviously, this post overlaps what was said in the article. I agree with a lot of it. If anything, ‘social’ media is just the biggest convenient pothole for people to fall into when they see that taking IRL social risk has just become too risky.

Service providers that store user data need to GIVE USERS THE KEYS!

Comments on this post are welcome and strongly encouraged.

Service providers such as Gmail, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter…all of these, they need to offer users a data encryption option that does the following:

  1. It disables the password recovery system, so that no one else can exploit it or any weak links to it to get into our accounts, but if we “forget” our password then we can’t either; and
  2. Our passphrase encrypts a larger key which encrypts our non-public data on their servers with 256-bit AES encryption.

In light of the fact that General Petraeus was brought down by someone other than him and a personally trusted party accessing the data in his Gmail account, I think the users need to be handed the keys to our accounts and service providers need to give them up. By far the largest method for hackers to steal highly important or sensitive data is the “forgot password?” link at any given website.Our email accounts are almost universally used as a skeleton key to our other accounts. Mat Honan’s Gmail, Twitter, and Apple ID accounts were all hacked into in the space of an hour this way, and the hackers deleted all of the data on his MacBook, iPhone, and iPad when they got in.

For services that offer this encryption option, there should be an additional option to unlink all email accounts as well. There are some services that exist already which allow you to open an account for which an email account is optional, but they’re not very common and typically are also obscure and small.

Obviously, this is something that won’t do much with services like Facebook and Twitter, because in order for the service to show tweets or posts to anyone else, they have to be readable by the service provider itself. However, if you’re on Facebook and change a post or picture to be visible to “only me,” the media should be encrypted with your encryption key, then all unencrypted copies deleted from the provider’s servers, including its content delivery network.

Another feature that absolutely needs to be in place is for all mail service providers to support mail delivery and hopping over SSL or TLS, so that plaintext email does not go over the wire without any encryption. If email is encrypted on Gmail and encrypted on Yahoo! Mail, then the end-to-end link between them also needs to have encryption. Ultimately, the amount of time an email spends stored or transmitted as plaintext should be minimized. It would also be nice if mail applications such as Mozilla Thunderbird had built-in encryption for the entire user profile (stored/locally cached mail, stored account passwords, configuration settings, etc.) utilizing a master password, though it seems that most people point to workarounds that don’t ask Mozilla to add such support directly into Thunderbird. (What if I don’t want to install full disk encryption software, or can’t do so, or want to use Thunderbird in a portable fashion on a flash drive?)

Yet another feature that would be very nice to have is a “lockdown” feature, where you can log into your encryption-enabled account on a service like Facebook or Twitter, go to some sort of security settings page, press a button called “lock down account,” confirm that you really meant to lock down the account, and all media that is stored in your account automatically gets changed to “only me” privacy and encrypted in one shot, plus any attached “escrow” methods of password retrieval such as cell phones or email addresses are rendered unusable. If you have reason to believe that your data needs to be locked down quickly, having a feature like this is critica

The biggest downside to this system is that if you lose or forget your password, you lose everything. The most common response to this “downside” will be “that’s a great feature to have!” and I strongly agree: if I don’t want anyone accessing my account, I desperately need to be able to lose the password with no means of recovery. However, another downside is that if someone gains access to your account, they can lock you out of your own data in the same way that you can lock others out. The most obvious answer to this would be some form of two-factor authentication, but adding TFA to the mix would imply such things as if you lose your second factor, you can’t lock down your account or change your encryption password, so it’s a bit of a double-edged sword.

The major reason that “encrypt everything” has not been adopted by knowledgeable users is that it’s not available as an option, and where it is available, you have to jump through ridiculous hoops to get it set up and working. Things like the HTTPS Everywhere extension and Google switching its services to use HTTPS by default are steps in the right direction. The fact that anyone can get online and dig up your maiden name, social security number, city you were born in, first vehicle you owned, and much more within minutes and for small fees means that password recovery options with security questions and whatnot are the equivalent of locking your five deadbolts and leaving the key under the WELCOME mat. Furthermore, if the FBI, CIA, NSA, or some other three-letter agency decides they want to read your mail without your knowledge, there’s nothing at all stopping them from doing so.

One of the big arguments against encryption is that it allows bad people to hide bad things. News flash: bad people can use encryption even if you DON’T allow it. The only thing that happens when you don’t have encryption available is that GOOD people can’t protect themselves and their privacy so easily, but the bad guys have an extraordinary motivation to jump through the extra hoops required and certainly will do so to avoid being caught. This argument against providing encryption has no substance in a practical world.

In summary: Service providers need to give us the keys to our data.