Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Nick Clegg, Roe v. Wade, Facebook, privacy... and Lord Bonkers

Remember when Nick Clegg told us he would defy the law and refuse to register for an identity card? (It was during a Lib Dem leadership election, if that helps narrow it down.)

I thought of him when I read this Guardian story:

When local Nebraska police came knocking in June – before Roe v Wade was officially overturned – Facebook handed the user data of a mother and daughter facing criminal charges for allegedly carrying out an illegal abortion. 

Private messages between the two discussing how to obtain abortion pills were given to police by Facebook, according to the Lincoln Journal Star. The 17-year-old, reports say, was more than 20 weeks pregnant. 

In Nebraska, abortions are banned after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The teenager is now being tried as an adult.

Court documents filed in June and made public on Tuesday show how tech companies including Facebook contribute to criminal prosecutions of abortion cases. 

I've never liked Facebook. I helped run an account at work, but only had a personal account for a few days before I deleted it. I once bought a book on Facebook, and that made me dislike it even more.

Facebook reminds me of the days when corporate social media was a new thing and training courses told you that your ideas about privacy were old fashioned. Young people didn't care about privacy at all: they put their whole lives online.

That bright-eyed approach didn't last long in the real world, but somehow it remains hard-wired into Facebook. Perhaps it's because of its origin in universities. There, making new friends and showing that you have made them, is all.

The Guardian quotes unnamed experts who say this shocking case shows the importance of encryption and minimising the amount of data Facebook stores on its users.

Those experts are right.

As to Nick Clegg and Facebook, I think Lord Bonkers got it right too:

Who should I bump into in London today but our own Nick Clegg? Curious to know what he is doing with himself these days, I treat him to lunch at one of my clubs.

He turns out to be full of his new job, telling me how Satan’s chief operating officer Mephistopheles called him while he was walking in the Alps last summer and invited him to fly to Hell to meet Satan himself. "I said to them, if you're prepared to let me into the inner circle, in the black box, and give me real authority, then I'm interested."

Clegg describes Satan to me as "a shy guy" and "thoughtful", before adding: "The thing that persuaded me to do it is Satan and  Mephistopheles asking the right questions for the right reasons - about things like the barrier between free speech and prohibited content, wellbeing of children, integrity of elections, AI and giving people control over their data."

Let us put churlish thoughts aside and hope that Clegg can do for Satan what he did for the Liberal Democrats.

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