Do You Own Your Face Online?

Image: Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

Who owns the rights to my face? I assumed it was me until I read an article that reminded me that when we create social media accounts, we pretty much agree to grant those platforms a free license to use our content as they wish.

In most cases, you hold the copyright to any content you upload to social media platforms. But when you created your account on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok, or any platform you agreed to have a free license to use your content as they wish. How can they use it> It depends, but did you read the user agreement or just click "continue?"

How would you feel if you saw one of your tweets used in a Twitter ad campaign? Violated? Angry? Excited? Feel as you wish, but don't expect any cut of the ad's revenue.

In that article, a person sees a sponsored Instagram Story ad with a video of a person putting on lip balm. The person was her. She watched herself apply the balm and smile at the camera, but Abby never agreed to appear in a nationwide social campaign. How is this possible?

Usage rights dictate who owns an image or asset. It determines how and where it’s allowed to appear, and for how long.

The author had worked in media and knew that employees are often "pressured" to appear in campaigns but it is not a part of the full-time job and it is likely that it will go uncompensated. 

In this case, she had been told to participate in a photoshoot demonstrating the product’s healing benefits. She recorded for the work day, was not paid, and she believed the campaign was only going to run on the employer’s social media accounts for a few months. But this was more than a year later. Probably her former employer passed the content to the skincare company, though without her permission.

There's an old saying that if you're not paying for a product, then you are the product. Social media sites like Facebook and Instagram are completely free to use for the average consumer because advertisers pay for your attention (and sometimes your data). This is not a new model. In commercial TV broadcasting, you watch content for free because there are commercials. A more cynical explanation is that you pay for the privilege of having yourself sold. You are consumed. You are the product. They deliver you to the advertiser,. The advertiser is their customer.

Think about that the next time you read - or choose not to read - the terms and conditions and agree with a click.

 

This article is also crossposted at One-Page Schoolhouse

Parental Control of Technology

kids on tech
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

As the new school year begins for all students this week, a series titled "Parental Control" appears from Mozilla (Firefox) about ways to empower parents for some technology challenges. That sounds like a good thing, but particularly when it applies to schools, parental control has cons along with pros.

Many digital platforms offer parental control settings. The most common and most popular allows parents to shield young people from “inappropriate” content. Restricting "mature content" and what is "inappropriate" takes us into a controversial area. Who defines what should be restricted? Mozilla says that "the way platforms identify what that means is far from perfect."

YouTube has apologized after its family-friendly “Restricted Mode” recently blocked videos by gay, bisexual and transgender creators, sparking complaints from users. Restricted Mode is an optional parental-control feature that users can activate to avoid content that’s been flagged by an algorithm.

That example takes me back to the earliest days of the Internet in K-12 schools when filters would block searches for things like "breast cancer" because "breast" was on the list of blocked words.

Limiting screen time is another strategy and is within a parent's control but is certainly controversial within a family. Kids don't like their screen time to be limited.

Mozilla actually had questions for itself about what to call the series. They quote Jenny Radesky, an MD and Associate Professor of Pediatrics-Developmental/Behavioral at the University of Michigan, as saying that “Parental mediation is [a better] term, parental engagement is another – and probably better because it implies meaningful discussion or involvement to help kids navigate media, rather than using controlling or restricting approaches.” She pointed to research that suggests letting children manage their own media consumption may be more effective than parental control settings offered by apps.

The internet has risks, but so do parental controls. Many kids in the LGBTQI+ community can be made vulnerable by tech monitoring tools.

Sensitive information about young people can be exposed to teachers and campus administrators through the school devices they use.

As parents and eductaors, we want to protect students, especially the youngest ones. We als want to, as a society, instill in younger generations why privacy matters.

RESOURCES

Electronic Frontier Foundation https://www.eff.org/search/site/parents

Mozilla https://blog.mozilla.org/en/internet-culture/deep-dives/parental-controls-internet-safety-for-kids/

Federated Learning

When I first think of federated learning, what comes to mind is something like a college federated department. For example, the history faculty at NJIT and Rutgers University-Newark are joined in a single federated department offering an integrated curriculum and joint undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

Having worked at NJIT, it made sense to combine the two departments and collaborate. Each had its own specialties but they were stronger together.

In technology, a federation is a group of computing or network providers agreeing upon standards of operation in a collective fashion, such as two distinct, formally disconnected, telecommunications networks that may have different internal structures.

There is also federated learning which sounds like something those two history departments are doing, but it is not. This federated learning is the decentralized form of machine learning (ML).

In machine learning, data that is aggregated from several edge devices (like mobile phones, laptops, etc.) is brought together to a centralized server.  The main objective is to provide privacy-by-design because, in federated learning, a central server just coordinates with local clients to aggregate the model's updates without requiring the actual data (i.e., zero-touch).

I'm not going to go very deep here about things like the three categories (Horizontal federated learning, vertical federated learning, and federated transfer learning). As an example, consider federated learning at Google where it is used to improve models on devices without sending users' raw data to Google servers.

comic
An online comic from Google AI

For people using something like Google Assistant, privacy is a concern. Using federated learning to improve “Hey Google,” your voice and audio data stay private while Google Assistant uses it.

Federated learning trains an algorithm across the multiple decentralized edge devices (such as your phone) or servers that have local data samples, without exchanging them. Compare this to traditional centralized machine learning techniques where all the local datasets are uploaded to one server.

So, though federated learning is about training ML to be efficient, it is also about data privacy, data security, data access rights and access to heterogeneous data.


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