Friday, March 23, 2018

Has Social Media Finally "Jumped the Shark"?

A little more than a month ago (and before the revelation – gasp! – that Facebook was collecting data), I decided to step away from Facebook for a while. The constant bickering, negativity and outright nastiness was NOT the reason that I signed up to use Facebook to start with.

Over the years, I certainly jumped into the middle of some “heated” debates. And some of them – with people that I genuinely respect – were actually worthwhile.  But even some of those – it is difficult to really debate someone in a series of micro-essays.  Plus, points were taken out of context, or ignored, or sometimes just completely fabricated, making the conversations strained.  I “lost” several Facebook friends because of these conversations, and damaged relationships with others.

Recently, the media has been reporting on the fact that Trump (and Obama) used Facebook data for political purposes – either nefariously, or as an integral part of their political apparatus.  To this security professional, with a deep background in political science, my first thought was: how is this even news? Is that not what the political campaigns are supposed to be doing? If I were running a political campaign again, for sure I would be using any/all data available to me to promote my candidate / issue to ensure victory.

Ironically, the story was more focused around the fact that Facebook collects your data.

If the fact that Facebook collects your data, sells your data, manipulates your data, and owns your data comes as a shock to you, then we REALLY need to have a one-on-one conversation about Information Security basics.

For the cheap seats: Facebook is a data company. They take massive data stores of information and sell that information to advertisers, political campaigns, and pretty much anyone / everyone else they can to generate revenue.


If you have a problem with this idea – that a third party is taking your personal data (pictures, education, background, even location at any given time) and selling it to the highest bidder - then I highly recommend that you immediately take whatever steps necessary to delete your Facebook account (and – they just announced that even if you delete you FB account, your data may take up to 90 days to be completely purged from their systems).

I’m not quite there – yet.  I still want to be able to contact some long lost friends through Facebook if I need to, and Facebook is still the most convenient way. Besides, that was the primary reason I joined Facebook to begin with – check in on long lost friends, and the occasional puppy picture.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Death to Drug Dealers?

I do not support the use of drugs.

I do not support drug dealers.

I do believe in the death penalty, at least in some very limited cases.

I however, do not believe that drug dealers should receive the death penalty for their crimes.

Let’s look at this from the extreme cases - the neighborhood dealer and the drug kingpin.

The neighborhood drug dealer: how many racial and class stereotypes can you put into one label? Chances are, when talking about the end-of-the-chain drug dealer, pretty much any and all of them might fit in some way. But there are plenty of drug dealers that are not the local street thug, standing on the street corner. While I don’t think that this is the guy that President Trump had in mind regarding the death penalty, who knows?

The drug kingpin: maybe these are the types that are deserving of a death sentence. But you have to ask yourself – do you think that the drug kingpin is losing sleep at night, worrying about US judicial procedure? I think it far more likely that he has much more “tactical” life-and-death concerns. Do you really think that breaking the law is a bigger deterrent (and the penalties that come with it) than the active hunting by rival drug cartel and special operations forces in their country? Ironically, the US penal system is likely the safest place that a drug kingpin could ever hope to live, regardless how long he has to live there.

The death penalty will always be an interesting thing to me:

Is it an instrument of deterrence? It obviously fails in nearly every regard.

Is it an instrument of punishment? How is this successful? Are those sentenced to death somehow more remorseful than those incarcerated? Plenty of antidotal evidence to show that they are not.

Is it an instrument of revenge? This seems the most likely. But then you have to ask if the various systems of government should be the mechanism for revenge in any aspect.  I suppose that there is a degree of comfort to those directly affected by the actions of the criminal, and for that reason, I still see that there are extreme circumstances where the death penalty would make sense.  But – using that standard – bringing some level of comfort to a victim of a drug related crime seems extremely farfetched and unrealistic.

The SCOTUS has deemed it possible to pursue the death penalty in crimes other than murder, specifically for “offenses against the State”.  I guess that executing a drug kingpin could bring a degree of national catharsis.  Again, not certain that this is the kind of justification that I want from the government, but others obviously do.

We’ll see how this plays out, and honestly – I seriously doubt that President Trump’s drug policy will have any impact on the drug crisis. I also believe that it is unlikely that we will see a death penalty case against a drug kingpin any time in the near future.