I find letters like the one printed April 4 about Facebook absolutely depressing, but perhaps not for the reason you might think. The writer shares her dilemma over “liking” someone else’s Facebook post and all of the apparent angst that accompanies her decision, what with all the potential offenses various people might take. It is a problem with which I’m sure many Facebook users can identify.
To be honest, though, when I first read the heading (“Why I don’t ‘like’ Facebook”), I assumed it was a user who was rightly outraged over the scandal in which over 87 million Facebook users had their personal information harvested without their knowledge or consent to be shared with Cambridge Analytica, a data mining company hired by the Trump campaign. In fact, the writer may be interested to learn that those very “likes” she bemoaned as veritable land mines are just one of the bits of information the company collected and analyzed in its efforts to manipulate Facebook users.
And, oh, lest we forget, Cambridge Analytica’s own senior executives (including its CEO!) have also been recorded discussing using prostitutes, bribes and misinformation to help political candidates around the world.
For his part, Mark Zuckerberg is claiming that his company was unaware of this violation of privacy. Perhaps this is true. On the other hand, some of Facebook’s own employees are saying they had been warning senior executives for some time about precisely this kind of problem. And it’s hard not to think back to that leaked message between Zuckerberg and a friend; when asked how he had managed to get his Harvard classmates to give him over 4,000 e-mails, photos and various other bits of personal information, Zuckerberg said, “People just submitted it. I don’t know why. They ‘trust me’.” And then he said, “Dumb [expletives].”
So here’s why all of this is so depressing to me: Forbes magazine recently reported that Facebook seemed to be weathering this scandal just fine. Only a small number of users have actually deleted their accounts; meanwhile, there has been virtually no impact on Instagram, as “users simply are not connecting the two brands.” (Yes, if you hadn’t, either, sorry to be the one to break it to you.)
I don’t happen to be on Facebook. Never have, never will. But even I can’t kid myself anymore about the unscrupulous data mining that’s likely going on all over the internet. No one is immune. But so long as our only hand-wringing seems to be over how tricky it’s become to “like” someone’s puppy picture, maybe we are all the “dumb [expletives]” Mark Zuckerberg seems to think we are.
Christian Eriksen, Rosemount
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I am amazed at the furor around the alleged harvesting of millions of Facebook records by Cambridge Analytics. Do we not understand that privacy as we knew it in the last century is gone? That ship has sailed, never to return.
Anybody who today lives a largely normal life hasn’t any privacy and ought to realize it. Use credit or debit cards? Got a bank account? Pay bills on line? If they want to, somebody can tap your financials.
Does your dentist send X-rays to a specialist across town? Ever had an MRI or ultrasound? Are your medical records stored electronically? Own a car, a driver’s license? Records on our lives are stored here and there and are available.
Got a computer at home? Internet connection? Alexa? Cellphone? Security system? All are available to a determined probe.
So is the camera hidden in your living-room TV. We simply can’t avoid loss of privacy anymore, so we should stop worrying about it, stop wasting time holding congressional hearings that will prove nothing.
One example: Last summer I mentioned in a single e-mail to an out-of-town relative that we were thinking about buying a new car and mentioned a brand. Within a week I had received six electronic ads for local dealers in that brand!
Our protection is our lack of prominence. Who cares if we do morning exercises naked in front of our TV?
Probably no one. My point is this: Be aware of the existence of both benign and dangerous surveillance. But don’t waste time complaining about it or threatening new “privacy” legislation or complaining to Mark Zuckerberg.
Carl Brookins, Roseville
EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
The truly best practice is not the one that’s being promoted
What if there were a procedure that had been well-researched for decades and that most doctors across the world agreed was the best option for their patients? Imagine then if administrators or legislators had decided that the best procedure was one not supported by medical research, but rather by a company that sold the equipment for the procedure. Doctors would be required to use the second procedure, even though it was not in the best interest of patients and detrimental to patients’ health.
It seems ridiculous to think that administrators or legislators would dictate best practice in the medical community. However, this dilemma is very similar to what early childhood teachers face.
Increased rote academic learning is touted as “best practice” for young children, even though a century of research in neuroscience and child development repeatedly points to play-based experiences as the best vehicle for learning. Research in development is either ignored or debased to fit curricula billed as what is needed to “get children ready” for school. Federal and state funding is based on the use of such curricula that push down learning methods better suited to older children.
To show “proof” of outcomes, the use of rote learning that is easily measured is invading early childhood programs in place of fostering successful future workforce skills such as creativity, experimentation, problem-solving, self-regulation and collaboration. These skills are only attained through long blocks of uninterrupted play in early childhood. Skilled early childhood teachers know how to be a partner and facilitator of play to embed all early learning skills. Close observation of children in play will yield the proof of growth that funders need; it just can’t be measured with a simple checklist of rote skills.
The author Heather Shumaker, a speaker on early childhood topics, said this about preschool: “Pre” does not equal “mini.” “Pre” equals “before.” Preparation for school should look nothing like school.
So, even if an early childhood program is housed in an elementary school, it should look and feel very different from the other classrooms. This is a good thing, and we should celebrate it and duplicate it.
Becky Gamache, Hermantown, Minn.
If you missed it, go back and read this Business Forum article
Chuck Denny’s April 2 Business Forum commentary “Former CEO sizes up Wells Fargo mess” was a must-read. Corporate boards are well-advised to take his advice. If corporate boards measure what they value, then they should add measurements to their “scorecard” to increase the economic well-being of everyone, preserve world resources and the environment and improve the health of people around the world. Special thanks to Denny for focusing our ethical compass to remind corporations of their relationship with our democratic government, the privileges they are given and their responsibility to the common good and the future.
Kathleen O’Brien, Minneapolis