London 2017.5.16

Welcome to WordPress in London. My last post was written from the smartphone using the Swiftkey app keyboard, in random finger movements. I did a lot of patterns with my finger again and again, like square, circle or triangle, crossing, and just had fun in rhythm to music. It was not completely random words, because the app collects a huge amount of data about what I, or someone else, might type next, and selects the next word for me based on my computer and internet usage behaviour. Swiftkey are not the first to develop this feature for mobile phone keyboard apps, but are getting rich from it. This article seems to lick their arse a bit:

Their business was included into the Google fold when Google began renewing the smartphone keyboard system to go deeper. Perhaps theirs was better than Swype (a rival app). I am going to stop using Swiftkey because it is part of the Google data harvesting arm. “Every time you select a word on SwiftKey it’s updating all of these geometric models about the way you interact with the touchscreen.” -Ben Medlock, CTO of Swiftkey.  So as much as I’m taking data, I’m giving even more to Google for free, about how I use language. But this is just typing, do I really need help to choose words? **ga ga ga goo goo goo goo>>

I was amazed at how much sense the words following words made. For example, in the WordPress blog title field, I always put the name of the city or town I am in. But when I wiggled my finger around on the screen at random, it came out with a town in England called Finnigley. So it has already sent to its centralised database (or Google?) what I am likely to type within a particular website?

In the body text, there are words from previous blogs such as MFu, words I’ve never used anywhere such as ‘endnote’, and words that are more familiar in all my texts such as ‘gig’. And ‘cusco corn dish’, which is not familiar to me, seems to be an attempt at suggesting things which want to go together. So I’m curious as to how deep this app is reaching. (The image I provided is merely the featured photo of this blog of typing the random blog, but converted into text, for… fun.)

Of course, we will never know, even if we are experts, how deeply an app reaches our data, it’s too big. At the moment it seems okay, they will just help us make decisions. But in the future they will be making decisions for us (if not already), and on a sincere note, I think we need to be setting boundaries immediately. Emancipate from the use, and set limits, especially for children who don’t know the risks and are more vulnerable. Therefore, I am planning to pull the plug on the freemium services. But before I uninstall Swiftkey, I’m going to have more fun, and enter more random paragraphs, and I encourage you to do the same.

Photo on 2017-05-15 at 16.08 #5

“The first thing Medlock needed was a huge source of information about how people use language, so he used the European Grid – a huge massive parallel computing network built to analyse data from the Large Hadron Collider data — to extract all the publicly available texts off the internet in different languages. This formed the basis of the background model.” So if I unintentionally give my permission for giffgaff or O2 or Orange to use my private texts, they can be part of this huge amazing database they are talking about. Don’t forget this applies more readily to ‘freemium’ apps lke Skype, Whatsapp and any free messenger.

Sending in data at random is not my idea. A lot of people are enjoying the fun of posting random things, either by choosing words at random or by associating with things that mean nothing to them, only to mislead the incessant spying that big data is doing on them. But this is not going to stop data companies from spying, and it’s not going to make anyone free. But what if that was all you posted and messaged? More about that later…

But for now, music with lots of authentically random notes.

more questions forever

How much facebook remember after one deletes the account?

The following article is a tiny example of how an app gets permission by asking users to participate in a quiz.

But just imagine… if 1000 people added as many random words posts to Facebook constantly for one hour, what would happen? Would it give any other entity bargaining power to hold Facebook to ransom? Would it give us leverage to request something like: ‘since we give you our big data for free, you owe us all money for it?’ Well, no it wouldn’t exactly, but it could potentially discourage a little use of the main freemium service. I know people are doing this already but haven’t found them yet.

Of course, the danger of adding random content is that sometimes you end up attracting attention from the authorities, when your words sound like terrorism or predicate flagged language. What then?