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Profile Information

Gender: Male
Hometown: Ottawa, Ontario
Home country: Canada
Current location: Toronto, Ontario
Member since: Wed Oct 29, 2008, 03:34 PM
Number of posts: 3,025

Journal Archives

From Cracked: Attacking the gun culture with humour:

And a reminder: Don't read the commends.

No, really. Don't read the comments.

New "Stolen" app allows people to "buy and sell" your Twitter without your consent

There's a new app out there that's letting people accrue "social currency" with which to buy and sell people on Twitter, also allowing people to write messages on their profiles, etc...

Gadgette.com has an article about one of their writers discovering the app only after someone had bought her: http://www.gadgette.com/2016/01/13/stolen-app/

As it transpires, it’s from an app called Stolen. I’d never seen it before, was entirely unaware of its existence, and certainly hadn’t opted in. Stolen is a new iOS app that allows you to buy and sell real people’s Twitter accounts as if they were trading cards. Now, before anyone gets too panicky, this doesn’t give you access to their account – it’s more of a bragging rights thing. “I now own @Jack! Yeahh!” – like being the Mayor of somewhere on Foursquare.

Still, it’s tremendously unnerving to have someone tell you out of nowhere that they “own” you now. That your name and likeness is being traded on an app you had no knowledge of and hadn’t given permission to. The whole concept of people being able to own, buy and sell other people without their consent is absolutely abhorrent to us, and raises a slew of problems that it’s clear the team at Stolen haven’t anticipated.

As someone who’s received a fair amount of harassment and trolling over the last few months, I can’t tell you how disquieting it was to see a total stranger’s name plastered across my Twitter account as my “owner.” And worse, once someone buys you, they can write whatever they like on your page, giving you a ‘nickname’, advertising their products, whatever they want. There doesn’t even seem to be a swear filter in place – someone sent us this screenshot of what they were able to write on a company’s account:

Anyone who’s been on the internet for more than five minutes can immediately see the problems with this. Any platform – no matter how well-meaning – will be used to abuse and harass people, and Stolen seems an absolute gift for the trolls of the world. This app allows men to buy women, racists to buy minorities, Gamergate supporters to buy games journalists – and so on and so on.

At the time of writing, Stolen has 40,000 users. Rather than use an opt-in system whereby people can CHOOSE to be traded on the app if they so wish, anyone who signs up automatically adds all the people they follow to the service. So I’d been added without my knowledge or consent, and at the time there was no way of opting out. Stolen has since added one – see our note at the end.

So far it's a closed beta, and you require a code to get in, but the app does not require you to opt in to be bought and sold. There is a page to opt out, but it still requires a Twitter authorization to actually opt out.

Just a heads up, in case anyone suddenly starts seeing notifications that they're bought and sold by strangers.

You don't need to be guilty of anything for the police to ruin your life

From Desmond Cole at the Toronto Star:

In the security state, you're innocent until investigated: Cole
The sad case of Ayaan Farah demonstrates that, in the terrifying surveillance state we live in, you don’t have to commit a crime to be criminalized.

All of us know someone who has been charged with or convicted of a crime. Most of us don’t think this connection could cost us our employment. This is exactly what happened to Ayaan Farah a couple of years ago. She lost her security clearance at Pearson airport, and the job that went with it, after police claimed she had connections to a local gang, and was a potential threat to airline safety.

The RCMP says Farah, now 31, is connected to members of the Dixon Crew street gang in Etobicoke, but won’t name her alleged associates. When Farah couldn’t explain her relationship with people the government would not identify, she lost her livelihood. Her experience shows how racial profiling, carding, and excessive surveillance threaten people who shouldn’t even be on the police’s radar.

The RCMP says two of the three men connected to Farah were passengers in a car leaving the funeral of an alleged gang member in 2014. The car is registered to Farah, but her father is its primary driver. Farah was not in the car when these passengers were spotted. When officials questioned her about the incident, she stumbled to describe an interaction she was not part of. Her hesitation was deemed suspicious and used as evidence against her.

Farah’s father, Mohamed Ali, is a well-respected figure in the Somali-Canadian community. He attends many funerals, and recalls one afternoon in 2014 when he was leaving a funeral, driving the same car identified as carrying “Subject B” and “Subject C,” and was stopped by Toronto police — they never told him why. “They asked me for my license and ownership of the car,” Ali told me in a phone interview — documentation that was later used to ruin his daughter’s career.

Although the RCMP made the security case against Farah, its information seems to have come from Toronto police. Ali’s interaction after the funeral is consistent with the practice of carding, which has targeted black civilians and branded them as either criminals or their associates. “The only thing I have in common with these people is that I’m Somalian, and I used to live in Dixon,” Farah said of her alleged criminal associations.

If the police follow any one of us long enough, they can connect us to crime. The folks they most often choose to follow, document, and share information about — because of race, religion, or social location — are at greatest risk for bad outcomes, even if they are innocent. This is the consequence of racial profiling, carding, and draconian new laws like Bill C-51.

Desmond Cole is really good at seeing the big picture, and tying it all together. His primary concern is young black people in Toronto, but it's part of a bigger pattern, too. Definitely worth a read. I follow Desmond on Twitter, and it's frequently interesting, though sometimes frustrating when idiots start attacking him.

Read the full article here: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2016/01/14/in-the-security-state-youre-innocent-until-investigated-cole.html

A plea to abandon tribalism

I've always said that one of the biggest positive aspects of progressives and liberals is that it's a big umbrella that includes a lot of different people all being progressive and liberal in their own way, pushing and reaching out for their own individual goals. By contrast, the regressive right is all regressive (and oppressive) in the same couple of ways.

Sadly, the best feature of the left and the worst feature of the right are our weakness and their strength, respectively. We get infighting, and they get ideological purity.

But lately, the biggest highlight I've seen in so many political (and other) discussions is an increasing tribalism. An us vs. them attitude that is poisoning the political discourse. The worst thing about it is that this kind of rhetoric strengthens the right while it weakens us on the left, specifically because we have so many diverse and equally valid viewpoints.

In short, things are getting ugly. I'm seeing Bernie supporters and Hillary supporters not just butting heads, but building walls. I'm seeing dog piles, dismissive language, anger, resentment, aggression, and sometimes hatred. Look, people: We're all supposed to be on the same side. Hillary supports obviously support Hillary, and Bernie supporters obviously support Bernie, but can we stop acting like they are the Evil+ and Evil# groups respectively? Name calling, call-outs, it's all just too much, folks.

Hillary's taken a lot of money from big corporations, certainly. Her track record on Wall St. is questionable. Is she qualified for the job of POTUS? Yes.

Bernie's got a very narrow focus in a lot of his campaign. He doesn't have an answer for every issue that's plopped in front of him. Is he qualified for the job of POTUS? Yes.

Please stop pretending that having Hillary in office would be the same as having Trump or Cruz in office. Please stop pretending that having Bernie in office would be like having Ross Perot Lite(tm) in office. We all know, intellectually, that the democratic platform has a lot of different planks. Let the progressive candidates be progressive in their own ways. Let's bring back civilized discourse. You know what's stopping us from engaging in civilized discourse?


There is literally nothing stopping us from deciding that starting now, I will not name-call, I will not tear down, I will not rant and scream and belittle. I will not discount the voices of people different from me who have experiences I will never have. I will not expect perfection from my allies, so long as they are willing to listen, learn, and improve.

Please, please, I beg you: Build up instead of tearing down. More and more in the last few years, I think of former Canadian NDP party leader Jack Layton (tragically taken from us) and his final public statement: My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

This has been rambling and directionless, and I apologize for that, but thank anyone who read this far. Lots going on in my life, and I'm trying to look into 2016 with optimism, but I'm having a hard time. I know it's a bit of a paradigm shift without a clutch, but let's get in gear, can we?
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