Risks posed by social media and cell phones

Via email from Chet.

Suicide prediction technology is revolutionary. It badly needs oversight:

Facebook is the largest and most visible company engaged in suicide prediction. After it introduced a live-streaming service in early 2016, dozens of users broadcast suicide attempts in real time on the platform. In response, on Feb. 16, 2017, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook was experimenting with AI-based suicide prediction. Its software analyzes user-generated posts for signs of suicidal intent — the word “Goodbye” paired with responses like “Are you OK?,” for example, or “Please don’t do this” in response to a live stream — and assigns them risk scores. Cases with high scores are forwarded to Facebook’s community operations team, which reviews them and notifies police of severe cases. Facebook also helps pinpoint users’ locations so first responders can find them. In the past 12 months, the company initiated 3,500 of these “wellness checks,” contacting police about 10 times per day, Antigone Davis, Facebook’s head of global safety, said in a recent interview with NPR.

Chet comments:

Are there no limit? They have other avenues to explore to save lives. They could also use it to report crime. Anything that would potentially save lives. And why stop with saving live? Society has plenty of bad actors.

I suspect that if you have the Facebook application running on your cellphone it tracks your location. Furthermore, since you have given your permission for it to do so that data is now theirs to do with what they want. For the police, and others, to obtain that data is probably easier than getting it from your cellphone provider.

Now imagine you live in a relatively free state like, say, Idaho. And your social media posts have been tagged as you are almost certainly an owner of an evil “assault weapon” and you travel on vacation to a tyrannical state like California, New Jersey, or New York. Wouldn’t it be “the right thing to do” for Facebook, et. al. to notify the police? And might not the police and some judges view that as probable cause to search you and your vehicle?

And it need not be just gun ownership and the police involved. Recreational drug users, homosexuals, transsexuals, Jews, Christians, or the targeted group du jour. And they could be reported to employers, family, and spouses. Do you want your visits to a gay bar, strip club, abortion clinic, pot shop, gun store, women’s shelter, divorce lawyer, or Christian/Jewish/Islamic book store be for sale to companies or private investigators who pay for the service?

I’m not sure I want the government writing laws to prohibit such “services”. If you claim the government has the power to prohibit such activity you are also saying the government has the power to mandate that activity.

But I’m not comfortable with my activities being recorded. It violates my Jews In The Attic Test no matter who has the data.

6 thoughts on “Risks posed by social media and cell phones

  1. No social media account. No cell phone. No google. No digital leash where ever I go. No problem…. at least on this particular account.

    • Don’t forget about auto license scanning, red light cameras, parking lot cameras, in-store cameras, cash registers, credit/debit cards, company badges, security cameras, auto-navigation systems, and others such as satellites.

    • Hah! Well now, that makes you among the most highly suspect; “Attempting to Avoid Surveillance”.

      We’ve got ourselves an AAS here. Best look into it…

      Are not those who consistently fly below the radar all the more obvious?

      “Sir; we’ve got nothing on him.”
      “Right; get a team out there, STAT.” ; )

  2. Long time lurker here (this is the best source of independent WA gun news I know of) but I think it’s worth chiming in on this one. While our host is correct about the implications of this new Facebook program and I share his concerns about it’s potential mis/uses – the reality is that all of the above scenarios he presents are possible right now. The only real change is that they can now be more or less automated.

    I’m a Peace Officer in a larger-midsized city in Westside WA. Caveat Emptor, I am not a lawyer this is not legal advice and I do not speak for my employing department or city, this just my personal understanding/opinion, do your own research, etc. The laws and legal principles I mention do not apply everywhere – though there are likely local equivalents in your jurisdiction. PAs, judges, and politicians tend to be of more similar than different minds because there’s only a handful of places that hand out their credentials and local BAR associations tend to make sure their members all express the ‘correct’ opinions.

    That aside, in WA there is a judicial legal standard called “community caretaking” which basically states that your right to privacy is greatly diminished in the interest of preventing substantial bodily harm -or death- to you from yourself or some other non-human source. (Human threats are covered by “exigency” which provides no privacy protections.) So if you communicate -through whatever means – something that can be interpreted as a credible intent to harm yourself (credible meaning you have the means to act upon it) police can kick in your door and take you to an involuntary mental health evaluation facility -usually the local hospital- which may hold you for up to three days – longer if a judge approves. It’s the same legal standard that was created to allow an officer to kick in the door of a burning house and get people out.

    Nothing may be collected for evidentiary purposes under community caretaking, but “contraband” may be seized for destruction – just no charges filed for possession. Community caretaking also allows for the warrantless tracking of cell-phones for the purpose of locating/tracking (non-suspect) people. Runaways, abducted kids, dementia patients, “credible” suicidals, etc. The nature of cellular technolgy means that the general location (with greater or lesser granularity depending on local tower density) of a cellphone is always known, via radio triangulation, as long as the battery is present.

    Meaning that if your cellphone has electricity, it tracks and reports your location 24/7. Furthermore, since you have given your permission for it to do so (necessary for it to function) that data is now the service provider’s to do with what they want. For the police, and others (Feds, “Social Services”), to obtain that data is a simple phone call to the cell provider. My department policy requires the verbal approval of a patrol sergeant or shift lieutenant, but that’s only on our end – takes about 15-20 mins tops start to finish.

    To my knowledge WA has the strongest right to privacy protections of all the 50 states because of WA state constitution art.1,sec7. A free state like Idaho (which I hope to relocate back to, no 1639, thank you) has even fewer barriers to this.

    Again, I’m not disagreeing with Mr Huffman on the dangers of Pre-crime type tech in public or private hands. I’m just constantly surprised how many seem to be unaware that, in practical and legal terms, we crossed that river a long time ago. If you’re a proponent of personal liberty/responsibility you need to understand that the fight is for the culture (hearts & minds) of the next generation (I don’t know what stupid group name the poor schmucks currently in middleschool have been branded with) because they’re the ones who will determine how this thing is ultimately used. Take them to the range and unplug them from the progressive media firehose once in awhile.

    • Good post! And thanks for sharing the LEO perspective!
      Unfortunately, these days, trying to fly under the radar without a drivers license, a cell phone, a car, a mailing address, a bank account, and a credit card, is impossible. More’s the pity.

  3. “Cases with high scores are forwarded to Facebook’s community operations team, which reviews them and notifies police of severe cases.”

    The police, eh? Interesting. Truly, that would be my last choice if I were looking to help someone, or to get help for them. What does it say about a person or group whose first thought, in witnessing any sort of personal stress, is to call the cops? Wow! I mean; I know it happens, and happens a lot. I’ve heard it in process on the local cop radio frequencies, but holy crap; there’s no one more capable in reaching someone in psychological stress than the police or sheriff’s department?

    Well of course there is. That’s the point, but unless it’s a coercively funded government institution, we’re not supposed to recognize its legitimacy.

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