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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Sunday, May 30, 2010

USC workers defeat SEIU, the Weissman Group and their anti-union employer

This is what workers leading the labor movement looks like:

The Weissmann Group is a union avoidance firm.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dolores Huerta visits Kaiser workers joining NUHW

On May 14, healthcare workers at Kaiser Modesto invited United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta to have lunch with them in their cafeteria. Kaiser tried to shut her out, and SEIU representatives tried to insult her, but she met with workers for two hours to support their effort to organize with the National Union of Healthcare Workers.

Here are two photographs from Huerta's visit:

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Why you should say "no" to Facebook's new profile settings

If you're not aware of how Facebook is gradually eroding your right to privacy, you should click on this link to the Electronic Frontier Foundation's timeline of changes in Facebook's privacy settings. You should also note a basic NYT webguide, 3 Settings every Facebook user should know, highlighting some simple steps you can take to protect your privacy on Facebook. (Here's more current links: PC Mag and PCWorld)

However, having viewed Facebook's most recent changes, changes that go beyond the issue of privacy settings, I have come to the conclusion that the anti-Facebook argument has more and more merit. Protecting your privacy using Facebook's settings is no longer enough. Facebook's latest changes effectively mean that even if you change your settings to protect your privacy following the steps above, that the personal information you share on Facebook, the sequence of groups, organizations, locales and affiliations that in part make you who you are, are being commercialized to become the property of Facebook even if you set them to "private."

Here's two key paragraphs about the recent Facebook changes from Ryan Singel's Wired editorial:

All the items you list as things you like must become public and linked to public profile pages. If you don’t want them linked and made public, then you don’t get them — though Facebook nicely hangs onto them in its database in order to let advertisers target you.

This includes your music preferences, employment information, reading preferences, schools, etc. All the things that make up your profile. They all must be public — and linked to public pages for each of those bits of info — or you don’t get them at all. That’s hardly a choice, and the whole system is maddeningly complex.

If you use Facebook, you can no longer share with your friends, for example, that you went to a certain college without having your profile linked to a centralized web page that Facebook controls about that college. Facebook says:

Our goal is to make this Community Page the best collection of shared knowledge on this topic. If you have a passion for "organization x," sign up and we'll let you know when we're ready for your help.

That now goes for your hometown, your high school, your employers, your job titles, books you read, or any of a wide array of information that many folks routinely share in their information page on Facebook. You should be very dubious of becoming a "worker bee" to help Facebook do this. Especially since Facebook is now asking your consent to make these links in one fell swoop!

The critical piece here is that the "community pages" are "a page that Facebook controls." Even if you've set the information to private and control who views it, Facebook wants to control the page that your profile links to. You don't own it, they do. This is a big change. You can't say you went to Central High School without Facebook creating and controlling a hyperlink in your profile and managing the community that you now "belong" to.

That's a huge power grab, and in a short period of time, these changes will fundamentally alter what Facebook even means.

The coolest thing about Facebook, and the most promising, was that it allowed people to create impromptu groups, even in some ways, de facto organizations, with people that they did not know.

What the latest changes are doing is changing who controls those organizations. You don't control them anymore. More and more, Facebook does. What's more, the way Facebook has set this up, you are inevitably helping Facebook control and commodify your personal information...and most people who do so won't even notice.

Your sharing of a simple piece of information about your degree from, say, the University of Minnesota, allows Facebook to link your profile to a centralized webpage about the University of Minnesota that has "you" in it.

Your right and ability to do something that is central to using Facebook...sharing information about yourself with your friends, family and peers...now means that your profile has to be linked to a webpage that Facebook can turn around and sell, promote and market to the world.

Facebook will be able to tell advertisers that Facebook is the single, centralized place where people who are into NASCAR, or White Water Rafting, or worked at 3M, or attended Harvard...congregate and can be marketed to.

And they are doing this with our help. In fact, much of the information they want to use to create these web pages is information we've already entered into Facebook.

Take a look at how Facebook promotes itself:

Facebook Ads makes it easy and cost-effective to quickly set up and manage your campaign. G5 found success setting up a series of Facebook Ad campaigns targeted to college students at 21 campuses prior to Summer break for StorQuest self service storage facilities. Real-time suggested bids for our auction-based system provided guidance that enabled G5 to hone ad effectiveness based on their various targeting filters (age, college level and location).
Original ad placed

The results from StorQuest's Facebook ad campaign were one of their highest performing online advertising efforts:

* Over 50% increase in same store total rentals versus prior year.
* 10% conversion rate from visits originating from Facebook Ads.
* On par with Google AdWords on a cost-per-lead and cost-per-customer basis.
* $1.25 CPC delivered $10.25 cost-per-lead.
* $100 average rentals; $600 average life time value per customer.

Instead of you using Facebook, the balance has tilted so that even to use the most basic features of Facebook you have to consent to let Facebook use you. All this is happening in a way that fundamentally impinges on your freedom to associate without a massive corporation spying on you and then leveraging your life, your resume, your family and your friendships into their commercial enterprise.

That's chilling. This is no longer about privacy, it's about Facebook winning the trust of millions of users and then leveraging that trust so that Facebook the corporation literally owns the links that make up our lives.

If Facebook succeeds in making these pages the central place for information about us...then anyone using Facebook is working for Facebook the corporation for free. And whoever owns Facebook, owns the keys.

What started on the premise that some fresh-faced college kids were helping people connect, has grown much more greedy and corporate.

At a minimum, Facebook users should change our settings to protect our privacy. However, it seems to me that Facebook users should also consider delinking ourselves from any of these automatic Facebook communities that don't make sense for us to keep and use.

Each of us will make that choice based on what makes sense for us. But ultimately that begs the question.

If we can't share private information with family and friends without the bulk of our time on Facebook essentially serving the commercial priorities of Facebook the corporation, then why are we on Facebook to begin with?