Big Data and You!

Recently, Slashdot had an article noting that a comprehensive K-12 database is being constructed, state by state. The chief movers of this nasty project, which includes student and parent social security numbers, names, addresses, grades, attendance records, learning disabilities, test scores, student hobbies, activities, attitudes towards school, homework completion and more, is the brainchild of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, and everyone’s least favorite mogul, Rupert Murdoch.

Why, you might ask, is Rupert Murdoch involved? The answer is money (News Corp has hired former NYC School chief Joel Klein for its considerable educational technology investments). And the whole thing is a microcosm of what is wrong with America: crony capitalism, idiot social utopianism among elites (particularly Bill Gates wife, there is little evidence Bill himself ever gave a damn about education or kids before he got married), and the ability of elites to leverage new technology to further enslave and oppress ordinary people by extending the reach of their money and connections.

If you wonder, what’s wrong with America? A great deal of the answer is that men like Gates, and Murdoch, have far more power than even John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan, because the technology of today just amplifies their money and reach. Neither are going away. So ordinary people need to combat this, by internal secession and reversing the tools against the oppressors.

So how does the thing work?

A giant database, with nearly every bit of information that can be crammed into it, is being rolled out state by state. The Slashdot people noted, that this database can be hacked. Since the whole point is to use the information as cheaply as possible, not keep it secure. Thieves, hackers, and the like will have a field day using this information for any rip-off they can think of, and many that are likely impossible now.

The hype is that mass personalization, the way say, Amazon knows what movies and books and CDs you like, and serves up similar choices whenever you log in or buy another, can help manage the achievement gap for under-performing students, almost all of whom by the way will naturally be Black or Hispanic. That’s the hype and public aspect of it, to use technology now in use commercially to sell you more stuff, to teach Johnny to read, via some computerized “dashboard” that can tirelessly track him, drill him, amuse him, etc. in a way that a human being cannot. Because a computer system can handle thousands or millions, where a teacher can realistically handle only about 12 students with learning problems.

The real deal is that Murdoch, and others (doubtless connected to Gates and Carnegie Foundations) hope to make big bucks on this stuff, as Obama throws as much education money as he can to “close the gap” and make ghetto kids with thuggish attitudes and low IQs into nerdy White or Asian students. A perfect marriage of the say, Melinda Gates social climbing and idiot utopianism (all people are the same, some blank slate just awaiting the “correct” noble White rich people to “fix” them from evil racism from ordinary non-cool White guys), and the grubby Chicago style cronyism that Rupert Murdoch has operated on from his early days. Anyone reading the crony deals Murdoch gave Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, and the current British PM Cameron, will not be surprised. That’s the whole point of big government, to give sweetheart deals to big corporations who then act as their cheerleaders. See Fox News recently, or Comcast’s NBC, which seems to have Michelle Obama on as a guest on one of their talk shows every week.

Ordinary people can lie back and “take it,” or they can fight back. Fighting back means withdrawing as much as possible from the data pool. No ordinary person can completely live like a drug dealer, but they can at least cut down on the data tracks they leave which big business turns into big data. The threat is not that an Orwellian security system will conduct purges of Joe Average for say, not cheering enough for Obama whenever Dear Leader shows up on screen. Rather, it is that ordinary people will be abused en-masse, by having corporations in partner with government eat away at their privacy, and control their lives bit by bit. Your child has a learning disability? Now that information follows him around for the rest of his life, affecting his/her ability to get a job, apply for a loan, and so on, because the same corporations that collect that information will get every last cent out of it … by selling it. To anyone with the cash. Now extrapolate that with nearly ever other bit of information that used to be private and transient, grades from say, Middle School, or library books checked out, or sports played and achievements or none accomplished in the same. A whole mass of data will be collected, sorted, analyzed, and abused in sales to any and everyone who will use that data against (ordinary people without power, connections, or potent lobbying groups like say, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, or the Nation of Islam) those without power.

Paying for as much as possible with cash, avoiding grocery store club cards, memberships in places like superstores, department stores and the like is the first step. So too are non-contract cell phones, no cable/satellite TV, and a general avoidance of credit/debit card transactions, online activities, and other things that leave an electronic database of daily life. Said database to be a certain bet to be used against the mass of people in mass amounts to discriminate on the margins.

But the other step is active opposition. One poster on Slashdot joked his son would be named “Drop Table Students” or something. Certainly Chinese hackers have not been shy, if you believe the New York Times, in attacking the core of US corporate and military secrets. All sponsored allegedly by the Chinese Military. Why not, a diverse, non-coordinated movement to encourage the same sort of thing against harmful databases, while encouraging parents to opt-out of data collection and pressing local legislatures to outlaw this stuff state by state?

It is hard, no doubt. The power and reach of moguls and government has increased dramatically with television, the internet, and the extreme concentration of wealth and power into just a few geographic areas. But if ordinary people want to keep elemental privacy and liberty, they will have to fight. That does not mean blowing up buildings. It does mean a sustained campaign in daily life as well as politics to keep the pressure on their natural enemies.

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About whiskeysplace

Conservative blogger focusing on culture, business, technology, and how they intersect.
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6 Responses to Big Data and You!

  1. guest says:

    I’m sorry but the privacy train is long gone, for some time now
    there just is no putting the genie back into the bottle…

    Privacy A Postmortem Part 1
    & Privacy A Postmortem Part 2

    A lecture by private investigator Steven Rambam at the HOPE hacker conference.

  2. blert says:

    True Story:
    A major California university, decades ago, spun out an ‘anonymous’ survey of its faculty and staff WRT various pending internal policies — just to get a ‘feel’ for the ‘vox populi.’

    This was at a time of punched data cards, now seen only in museums and old films.

    (For the younger set: these tabulating cards had 80+ columns wide, each column was a data string — when punched through. At the top of the column an alpha-numeric equivalence value would be printed for human eyes. — But this need not always happen.)

    For these opinion cards… were embedded with everyone’s specific names… and these names were suppressed (blanked) from the top line read-outs. That this was true was easy to discover — if you had access to a card-punch machine. All such devices have a duplication setting. If you put in a card, the machine will duplicate it — with or without the top line alpha-numeric printing.

    When a handful of these survey cards were duplicated — with the print option turned on — the proper names of each and every popped up!

    To thwart this (now) obvious attempt at creating an enemies list (over school policies) additional punched cards were blended into the data stack. These had “!” ( known as a ‘bang’ stop ) keyed — blind (no printing) into the first data field. Bang-stops triggered the equivalent of a control-alt-del sequence within the batch flow. Hence, any attempt to read the punched cards would slam to a halt — endlessly. With hundreds of stop cards folded into the deck, it would take a brutal amount of time to discover and eliminate them.

    It later came out that the whole project was dropped. The crew couldn’t figure out that the punched cards, themselves, were the problem. It was always assumed that the software was buggy. (!)

    Beyond that, it was leaked that the anonymous survey was not anonymous at all. There was a H U G E backlash from the professors.

    ===========

    And that ‘data mining’ project was a half a century ago.

    We’re going to have to expand the Bill of Rights. Otherwise, our polity will be even further corrupted by the data-gamers.

    We’re already suffering from Gerrymandering. Buraq has already politicized the US Census — it was taken inside the Pink House in 2009 — remember?

    That’s how the 2012 election was placed in the bag. It shocked even Buraq. He’d thought he’d lost. Go back and review his emotional state in the final days, then Romney. They were both reading accurate polls. Then the data masters stepped in. It’s not who votes — it’s who tabulates the vote.

  3. Wilbur J Huffnagel says:

    It has been too long since your last post, Whiskey. Good to know you are back amongst the living. Scary stuff, these databases. Might compel one to deliberately misspell their own name in a loan application…

  4. forever naive says:

    Here’s the comic that inspired the ‘drop table’ joke: http://xkcd.com/327/

  5. Anonymous says:

    I agree this data bank is going to be used to “profile” people, but I think the big push will be for tax enforcement. Everything is being globalized: labor, engineering, it and tax enforcement will be too. You deal with the IRS through their forms now but it will be different when the IRS knows who you talk to, who you e-mail, what is in those emails and cell conversations, where you go, who owns whatever property you have access to. If they put your tax info together with all the tax info of the people you associate with it’s going to be difficult to hide things from the IRS. And lying or misstating to the IRS is enough to get you in the tank, ask Martha Stewart. You live in a house some nominal business associate bought for cash? The IRS is going to have some questions for you.

  6. RDV says:

    I agree this data bank is going to be used to “profile” people, but I think the big push will be for tax enforcement. Everything is being globalized: labor, engineering, it and tax enforcement will be too. You deal with the IRS through their forms now but it will be different when the IRS knows who you talk to, who you e-mail, what is in those emails and cell conversations, where you go, who owns whatever property you have access to. If they put your tax info together with all the tax info of the people you associate with it’s going to be difficult to hide things from the IRS. And lying or misstating to the IRS is enough to get you in the tank, ask Martha Stewart. You live in a house a nominal business associate or your Granny who hasn’t worked in 40 years bought for cash? The IRS is going to have some questions for you.

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