Digitally Literate #195

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The survival of the species
Digitally Lit #195 – 4/27/2019

Hi all, my name is Ian O’Byrne and welcome to Digitally Literate. In this newsletter, I try to synthesize what happened this week so you can be digitally literate as well.

I posted a couple of things this week:


Yacht – Party at the NSA (feat. Marc Maron) (3:29)

This week I noticed that Facebook was bugging me to share a song to my profile that would help people know more about my tastes. I tried adding a bunch of songs about surveillance and data collection, and noticed that it wouldn’t accept them. So, I took a screencapture and shared the songs in the comments.

One of the best songs I found is Party at the NSA by YACHT and Marc Maron. Enjoy. 🙂


It’s Complicated: Mozilla’s 2019 Internet Health Report

The full Internet Health Report from Mozilla was released this week. This is important as it gives us a glimpse of how humanity and the Internet intersect.

The report indicates that more than half of the globe is connected, but we’re having some growing pains. As many of us enjoy the benefits of networked technologies, we have serious concerns about how social media, screentime, and other elements are impacting our children, jobs, and democracies.

As always with the work from Mozilla, there is an attempt to identify ways to steer us to a positive outcome.

When you look at trends like these — and many others across the Report — the upshot is: the internet has the potential both to uplift and connect us. But it also has the potential to harm and tear us apart. This has become clearer to more and more people in the last few years. It has also become clear that we need to step up and do something if we want the digital world to net out as a positive for humanity rather than a negative.

Facebook’s role in Brexit – and the threat to democracy

The reporter who broke the Cambridge Analytica–Facebook scandal has taken down the tech giants for undermining democracy.

In a TED Talk in Vancouver, Carole Cadwalladr called out the “gods of Silicon Valley” for their role in helping authoritarians consolidate their power in different countries.

Cadwalladr wrote a first-person account in the Guardian of her experience giving the talk at TED, which she describes as “the holy temple of tech”, where new developments used to be unveiled.

World health officials take a hard line on screen time for kids. Will busy parents comply?

The World Health Organization released new recommendations that caregivers restrict the amount of time young kids stare at screens. But the guidelines are less about the risks of screen time itself, and more about the advantages of spending time doing pretty much anything else.

The new guidelines add to on one of the most anxiety-producing issues of 21st century family life: How much should parents resort to videos and online games to entertain, educate or simply distract their young children? The answer, according to WHO, is never for children in their first year of life and rarely in their second. Those aged 2 to 4, the international health agency said, should spend no more than an hour a day in front of a screen.

But, the guidelines are more a response to concerns about “sedentary behaviors” and less a focus on screentime.

Facebook hit with three privacy investigations in a single day

I have a feeling that at some point I need to go through all of the issues of my newsletter and put together a post that shares the case for “why you should delete Facebook.”

The first strike is a probe by the Irish data protection authority looking into the breach of “hundreds of millions” of Facebook and Instagram user passwords that were stored in plaintext on its servers. The company will be investigated under the European GDPR data protection law, which could lead to fines of up to four percent of its global annual revenue for the infringing year — already some several billions of dollars.

The second strike is from Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada said it plans to take Facebook to federal court to force the company to correct its “serious contraventions” of Canadian privacy law. The findings came in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which vacuumed up more than 600,000 profiles of Canadian citizens.

The third strike is New York attorney general Letitia James looking into the recent “unauthorized collection” of 1.5 million user email addresses, which Facebook used for profile verification, but inadvertently also scraped their contact lists. “It is time Facebook is held accountable for how it handles consumers’ personal information,” said James in a statement. “Facebook has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of respect for consumers’ information while at the same time profiting from mining that data.”

Limiting your child’s fire time: A guide for concerned paleolithic parents

Good friend George Station shared this link with me this week and it definitely provided some much needed laughs.

You don’t want to be the bad guy, but you also want to make sure that your child engages in other activities, like mammoth hunting and the gathering of rocks and bones with which to make tools. So, how do you set appropriate boundaries for your child on fire usage without jeopardizing the family unit so crucial to the survival of the species?


Five lies our culture tells

David Brooks released a new book this week that explores the cultural roots, and potential rot of our social and political problems. The Second Mountain explores how to live for a cause greater than just ourselves.

This post in the NY Times suggests some of the cultural narratives that are leading to our downfall:

  • Career success is fulfilling.
  • I can make myself happy.
  • Life is an individual journey.
  • You have to find your own truth.
  • Rich and successful people are worth more than poorer and less successful people.
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No one can tell what goes on in between the person you were and the person you become. No one can chart that blue and lonely section of hell. There are no maps of the change. You just come out the other side. Or you don’t.

Stephen King

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This morning I worked with some great teachers and colleagues to prepare for a summer institute focused on using PRADA to think about embedding computational thinking into K-12 education.

Digitally Literate is a summary of all the great stuff from the Internet this week in technology, education, & literacy. Follow along here.

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