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Canvy data protection GDPR communications Internet

The ubiquitous world of information

Nowadays, most of the people have a public Internet persona, sometimes without even knowing it. Surely, once accessing the net and setting up a few accounts, anybody should be aware that they “exist” online. Excepting the case where a person is really privacy-sensitive and the accounts are hardly relate-able to the real individual.

But how much control does each individual have over its own brand it’s a different thing.


Online directories

If you think your data will stay put on the Internet, then you are in for a big surprise. Nobody is an island in this sea of information. Various automated directories will farm your data – some because it’s the only way they exist, by centralizing various information, others because they compile and sale databases to whomever is willing to pay for it.

The reverse of the coin is that potentially interested parties adopted the practice of looking for your online footprint. Thus, they might find out things – and interpret them. For example, the practice of “googling up” candidates in Human Resources is frequent. Yet, much like bragging it may allow distorted facts to pass on as reality. And unlike bragging, some may find themselves blacklisted without any explanation, and without any chance of making things clear.

This is just somewhere in the gray area – but imagine what happens when malicious entities target an individual. Getting to know somebody’s area of interest is not so difficult nowadays – Social Media showcases quite a lot. Social engineering – a technique involved in hacking – makes quite a day out of it.


The pitfalls of social media

Even the more privacy-educated individuals have their moments. They have friends and relatives that are completely unaware of this angle, or simply cannot keep track of every setting out there. Let’s recap one thing – the social media networks and apps do not align their default settings with the stance that would protect your privacy. You have to manually configure the settings at your disposal. And you have to do this again and again each time new features come in.

Why is that? Nobody has to look too far for the answer – essentially social network are jars of honey that attract a lot of customers, bedazzled by the benefits of the online community and by the playful side of these tools. A lot of customers equals a lot of data. Marketing data. Data which is valuable, which continually updates itself, and which is usually volunteered cheerfully by all those eager to show off their life, their options, their latest acquisitions – to their connections. And ultimately to the whole wide world out there.

Curiosity acts both ways in social networking. We are curious to see how others are doing, and we also cannot wait to see their reactions to the various things we showcase. Both work out great for data farming…


The tools that allow individuals to reclaim control

The first line of defense is education & self-censorship.  Always be informed what the risks are – and run a few questions in your head, as a reflex, before volunteering things that could expose you and those related to you.

Secondly, find a few moments from time to time to see what is new, what has changed around your info. Correct the old settings – it’s always better to prevent than to treat.

Another pretty famous line of defense – that transcends social networking – would be exerting the right you have over your own data.

The European GDPR will be enforced this spring – it is the standard in data protection, in what the companies that deal with data are concerned. It works both online and offline. It is meant to prevent accidents, like those who led in the past at major data leaks.

However, there is no use in a standard trying to protect your privacy when you splash around your personal data, so understanding the importance of owning your data protection is essential.


The right to be forgotten

The right to be forgotten, as translated into regulations and procedure that bind Internet operators, such as Google, tries to make sure that securing potentially damaging, private information about individuals is at least available.

The procedure is not mandatory, as it involves approval of the requests. However, there are people who act upon it – and a recent status update coming from Google itself illustrates this. Basically, URLs can be delisted as an effect of a successful RtBF action. You can see more here.


A word of advice

Social interactions used to take place within certain common sense boundaries, and politeness was the sign of any educated man in a society not so far up in the past.

Today, the way we expose ourselves in the digital environment, as well as the way we expose others, could be imbued with a sense of prevention, of data protection conscientiousness and, ultimately, of responsibility.

When you won’ protect your own data, how is it that you expect others to do so? Well, now some of them are bound to do it, due to the new regulations. However, there are so many free agents that prey on your data mistakes, that it is highly preferable you would be attentive and informed on what your privacy is concerned.

Canvy Facebook WhatsApp social networks

The Facebook Messenger story – a (perhaps dangerous) success

Similar Web released a study that reveals the most popular global messaging apps in the last couple of years. The study, as analyzed by, clearly captures the way Facebook Messenger superseded WhatsApp in 2017, compared to 2016. Granted, the current version of Messenger launched in April 2015. It went from 600 million users initially, to 9 00 million in June 2016, 1 billion in July 2016, and 1.2 billion in April 2017.

Just as a list, here you may see the Top Google Play apps in the Communication section, as listed by the same SimilarWeb. The top two positions are similar to the study quoted by the UK publication.

What is the dangerous part in Messenger’s success?

Going back to 2016, we may well remember how Facebook forced its users to download the Messenger app, separating Messenger from their network. The move qualified as “hostile” at the time – and the users were annoyed.

However, we are now looking at an app that beat the install-at-your-free-will WhatsApp – and what does this tell us? That a forceful move is ignor-able, if time and numbers vouch for a successful outcome.

The company, or any other company could replay the same technique in theory. The results d not seem to penalize the practice in any way.

What would the practice be described as? Well, splitting one product that has been validated by the market and ensuring a similar success of the secondary project – in a move that removes the users from the control board.

The peoples’ network – the capital of any communication app

The above example was possible due to the fact that Facebook made sure they have a most valuable capital, before making their move. The people that formed their social network already established connections and cared about them. Letting go was unlikely. Facebook capitalized on this reality, which is a customary practice with this brand.

Of course, taking into account that each move that the users dislike brings about a lot of comments about how Facebook does not consider the users’ wishes, the levels of discontent seem to raise. Somewhere along the line there should be a tipping point. Some wonder, others plainly hope for this to materialize – because this approach is, in fact, offensive.

Its value of precedent makes the entire issue even more important. Facebook has plans for free, ubiquitous Internet. Facebook – the social network, has the tagline “It’s free and always will be”. This is an important factor that attracted the huge numbers of users. The users that are now capital for one very important brand. The users that now have to ignore their pride and options at each questionable change made by the network. Because it’s free and because they still want to keep in touch with their peers.

Take this hidden price and shift it at the Internet’s level…

…and you get an arguable lack of freedom of choice. Just how much are you willing to give up because you want to be in the loop? Just how much is it worth giving up in exchange for freebies?

The big lurking issue beneath the free Internet is lack of net neutrality. You surely know the debate – fast and slow lane Internet, selected information, the bigger player gets to decide what goes on where.

The problem with this kind of fight is that it never happened. Without the influencers explaining the importance of keeping your freedom of choice, the general noise covered the incident. What never happened remains just a memory, if that. The mechanism was tested and it worked in favor of Facebook.

This proves the point that the leading-edge tech companies have the authority, build upon years of customer relationships and upon free features that dazzle the public, of imposing their point of view over the better reason or over the preferences of their audience.

Is this an idea we are comfortable with?

Unsettling future perspectives

Some acknowledge that we are not there yet, but we might be heading straight into a society of uniformity. Uniformity would not exclude variety – just think of how automation segments users into categories. You wisely keep categories, yet you feed the same message to one and all – to each in its personalized, suitable manner.

Such an image surely describes a simplified way of getting things through, but it definitely does not describe modern, educated communication. Communication as we’ve grown to understand it, means getting things back and forth, perhaps disagreeing, confronting opposite ideas. The winner is not pre-decided in real communication. If it would be, then why bother with just the show?

Or are we there yet, and we just expect the show? Perhaps Facebook just put the Messenger move too bluntly, while other brands still go through the slow-dance steps of announcing, testing, taking feedback into consideration – and finally going through with the initial decision, regardless of what users want. This way, they have something to show in the line of “at least making an effort”.


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Where does “organic” stop and “sponsored” come in – a short Canvy Team review

As you may already be aware, Mozilla switched back to Google as the default search engine for Firefox in in the U.S., Canada, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The news implies that Google paid quite a considerable amount of money for this move, but it does not mention the exact value, since the “Google spokeswoman… declined to comment further”.

This is an example of how the things we take for granted when using digital tools are in fact mere results of deals, negotiations and big investments. So, what else is new, right? Not new, but rather the result of dwelling on the same idea: our satisfaction or annoyance related to all things tech-related is in fact attributable to such large scale moves. Of course, customers have their own options to make, but we only choose from the available “spread” – and what makes some variants available or not is in the hands of leading-edge tech companies, based on analytics and market considerations.


Organic versus sponsored/paid

The digital data we are exposed to is organic, unless labeled otherwise. However, even this commonly considered organic data may in fact have had to go through various funnels and the selection or boosting systems before reaching the average user, which makes it only partially organic.

To come back to the above news, when we employ a certain search engine, we take on all its predetermined terms and conditions. True, we get a lot of valuable free access to information, as well as other perks, in exchange for this. But those who are trying to reach us as users have to abide by the rules and conditions of the search engine – and sometimes their information fails to reach us. We don’t choose from a pool of infinite data, we only select from a bunch of preselected one. With all the AI algorithms, the selection itself got modified, to an extend that in fact it is not us who makes the choice, but an average individual located roughly in the same area as us, having approximately the same age, gender, preoccupations and so on.

Organic search results therefore are a myth. At the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the data labeled as promoted, paid for, sponsored etc. It’s the upfront marketing data, placed in an area where the smaller players in various fields compete for the attention of the oh-so-powerful-yet-many-times-unaware-of-its-importance-and-value, the (potential) customer.


Getting more comfortable in our role

As a formerly living in a rural area person who moved to the city becomes used to the point of being dependent to the modern urban commodities, the mighty world wide web users become more and more attached to great visuals, efficient services, fast query results and brand relevance. We have stopped questioning the “results” long ago – are they organic or are they paid for? The degree of gullibility just showed its amplitude in the fake news issue.

Is this a good or bad thing? Perhaps it isn’t even a duality question. However, it is a common sense principle that one shouldn’t completely rely on something barely understood. Right, but we do need everything digital every day, more and more – it’s a mass thing.

Even though we keep on using all the wonderful digital tools, both software and hardware included, being inquisitive and aware is a must. Let’s not get so comfortable, lest it will act against our own good.

Consider this: you go out and have a great meal with your friends, somewhere locally. You come back home and you search for the place online, eager to recommend it to someone. You forgot the name. It’s not the type of place that’s word of the mouth. You type, let’s say “pub great ribs wide variety beer”. And the results don’t point to the exact place you’re having in mind. Yet they do have a web page, and they have presented their offer properly on that page. What is going on? The entire labyrinth of moderated search is put in motion, but this specific business cannot reach you – it got lost somewhere in its entrails.


The bottom line

As a business, learn how to master the mechanisms that allow you to be visible to your audience and reach out to them.

As a customer/user never forget that often the digital environment serves you the most optimized results, not the organic results per se, nor necessarily what you really had in mind when you hit enter, or what is best suited for you, as a unique individual. Keep searching – combine offline with online and whenever needed, make your voice heard. Customer feedback matters even in cold, mathematical algorithms, and will count in decision making. We are still shaping the world as humans, we just have to be more on the ball as before.

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All or nothing in ISP blocking – here’s why (and here’s AI)

A recent online report shows that the Chinese internet service providers caused intermittent service on the WhatsApp platform. This is just one of the many disruptions experienced by WhatsApp, due to censorship.

This incident leads to the old discussion of “should the ISPs be allowed to block certain websites, platforms or apps, or not?” The blocking reasons may vary, and the risk of encouraging censorship in some regions of the world is just one thing to consider.

ISP blocking, not a generic matter

Generic blocking would represent the “all” version of solving the matter. Yet it is only logical that ISP blocking cannot be allowed in a generic manner, then shifting the power of decision to each provider.

Deciding to block certain websites or platform happened so far as a result of specific court orders. For example, in the UK, the EPL won a High Court Order following which the UK ISPs were required to block certain servers that hosted illegal streams of EPL football matches. This means ISP blocking can be enforced, but a proactive action must be taken by those who are harmed, and the reasons are to be validated by a Court.

In theory, this protects all the websites or platforms that could be unreasonably blocked, if the courtroom stage were not required. However, in a biased governing regime, the legal system would be most likely biased, too. Therefore, providing legal means of ISP blocking may return unexpected results when legal does not equal democracy.

In the UK it has also been proven that ISPs block VPNs by default , which is another way of “censoring” the Internet. No Court Order here, just a legislative promise turned reality, according to the source article.

The not so global Internet

  • When “nothing” is not quite what it seems

When looking at the three examples from the above, we may easily wonder whether our posts or apps reach the big world out there, or not. Well, assuming we are not tackling any problematic issues that might get censored in some country or another, the posts should reach absolutely everyone interested, regardless of their location. At least in theory.

The apps are however another category, as WhatsApp’s case proves. Enabling fast-paced, real-time communications between people might not be to everyone’s taste. The more efficient such apps are, the less likely they are seen as suited by oppressive regimes. Some might even be marked as dangerous by non-oppressive systems, due to the fact that in the wrong hands, they serve dangerous purposes. In that aspect, the matter meets the iPhone encryption dispute.

Wait, what are we doing? Penalizing the best apps because their efficiency might be used for malicious purposes? Ironically, sometimes this might be the case.

A point where AI’s contribution would be strategic

Stepping back a little, the problem could be summarized like this: modern technology brought along modern peoples’ rights. The way they are currently handled is not standardized, therefore it varies from region to region. How can malicious actions be stopped, without inducing an oppressive approach for all that Internet access means?

Monitoring Internet traffic with the help of Artificial Intelligence is one way to go. It is not a thing of the future, either. Only that AI progresses and learns, and the more developed it is, the more effective its presence. Sifting through the big data bulks of the Internet traffic to point out only the real risks is not easy to accomplish. Too many false alerts and the system is not credible, while missing the true risk points makes it unreliable.

Meanwhile, Internet neutrality advocates try to keep the status quo. Maintaining the current liberties could prove difficult, could prove risky from some angles, but it is important and it’s part of who we are, or of who we want to be as a modern society.