Thursday, December 20, 2018

Amazon, Facebook and Privacy Concerns

A person who posts from time to time on a social networking site I'm a member of alerted me to this article on Gizmodo, and this item in the New York Times.

Let me give a tiny summing up, and why it matters:

1. Facebook, Amazon, and other agencies shared user data without permission.
2. They continued to do so after they said they had never done it, and they wouldn't do it again.
3. The resulting data mining led to some invasions of privacy, including
4. Amazon deleting a book review a user submitted, saying she had a relationship with the author.
5. There WAS no relationship between the two; they were both members of some Facebook group(s). In addition, both had attended a conference.

How do you prove a negative? Absence of proof is not proof of absence, and it is VERY difficult to prove that Reviewer A is not friends with Writer B. Rather it is very difficult to prove that Writer B is not receiving inequitable advantage from Reviewer A.

A few years ago, Amazon had some significant problems with for-pay / for-reimbursement reviews. They slammed the door HARD on those companies that recruited reviewers, and wiped out thousands of reviews it found to be tainted.

Actually, that was something that needed to happen. Along with millions of other people, I BUY things from Amazon, and I count on the reviews to tell me what products to stay away from, as well as looking for good values. As a consumer, I really don't want to have to suspect the reviews of being purchased, rather than earned.

It's important to me as a reviewer as well. I have the best job in the world: I read books, and review them. 41 years of employment as everything from a shoe-shine boy to a college Dean of Admissions provided me with a retirement income that meets my needs, so I don't HAVE to generate more cash with my labor. I'm doing what I want to do; even though I make no money from it, though, I still want it to matter. So, yeah, Amazon, go ahead and dump the fraudulent review system. I'm with you! Facebook, some of those frauds used Facebook groups to run their scam. Sure, go ahead and ban them!

I'm not behind you if you are sifting through my internet presence, looking for a reason to clobber me, though.
First, stay out of my business. You have no need to know whether or not I am a member of any organization, or what my belief system is, in order to do your job. Shut up, and do YOUR job.
Second, bite me. I've written over 600 reviews on Amazon over the last several years, and they have all been authentic. If the the things I did on AMAZON present a problem, THEN maybe you need to get a clarification.
Third, stay out of my business and bite me.  How are you going to win my trust back? I didn't give you permission to talk to each other about me. I'm not talking about Homeland Security sifting through stanko-bytes of info, looking for terrorists; they've already disclosed that they do that. I'm talking about CORPORATIONS hooking up to gain money and influence by massaging my keystrokes. Are you the reason I keep getting these robo-callers? Prove to me you're not!

You can't do it, can you? Particularly since you have a track record of being untrustworthy, which is what the two articles cited make abundantly clear.

This is highly relevant to me at this moment, because a couple of weeks ago, one of my reviews was refused. And before I could find out WHY,  speculation happened. Was the review refused because I'm a racist? Because I'm a violent individualist? Or because (gasp) I had prior communication with the author?

That third one is true. (The first are probably true as well. I just don't give a flip about those.) The author and I are both people who have posted on Mad Genius Club, we both are members of a Facebook group, composed of writers and readers (gasp), and the author has responded when I have announced that I have space in my queue for books to review.

Fortunately, my review of Laura Montgomery's book "Like A Continental Soldier" was denied because I had included a picture of a chicken with the review. When you write an Amazon review, they ASK for pictures. And I picked a chicken because a major plot-point in that series is that the planet native vegetation and wildlife don't include an amino acid (IIRC) needed for human life, so humans have to eat an egg every couple of days, and chickens are therefore a HIGHLY valued commodity. However, the Amazon Enforcement Cabal failed to make the connection, and blocked the review.

I'm actually okay with that. It MIGHT have been a nasty in-joke or something.

What I am NOT okay with is that the initial rejection email is generic; just says I violated guidelines. It took a phone chat and a referral to the Amazon Star Chamber to find out that the problem was the chicken picture.

Can we trust Amazon and Facebook and the other offenders to process the data we give them, for the purpose we give it, and not share, and milk the result, looking for collusion?

HEY! WE are not the ones guilty of collusion. YOU ARE.

You should stop.

But, if you aren't going to stop, how about getting a better notification system going? How about the FIRST email to say "Unless you can explain to us why a picture of a chicken is attached to the review, we are taking it down." Is that too much to ask?

If you think it is, Amazon/Facebook/et al, then shut up, mind your own business, bite me, AND FIGURE OUT HOW TO DO IT RIGHT. That is, after all, your job.

Peace be on your household.

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