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FaceTime and WhatsApp: Help your neighbors connect during quarantine

FaceTime and WhatsApp: Help your neighbors connect during quarantine

Seeing people’s faces raises moral and lowers stress.

As Local Outreach Pastor during the COVID19 pandemic, the church is faced with new challenges when it comes to connecting and serving people. While most folks know how to use social media and communications platforms like its second nature, we must consider those who may not know how to use technology to connect.

Think about the elderly widow who is isolated but she has a smart phone. She may not be aware of the capabilities at her fingertips. The objective is to help you help others connect face to face using technology.

Below are some simple videos and instructions you can share with others. Help those feeling isolated and lonely connect. Be their buddy and the face that brings them hope and comfort.

FaceTime (iPhone, iPad and Mac)

How to set up FaceTime

 

How to use FaceTime

 

Article: How to make a FaceTime call on iPhone, iPad, or Mac


 

Here are some FaceTime alternatives (that are free)

WhatsApp
Windows, macOS, iOS, Linux, and Android

WhatsApp for beginners – How to video

 

Skype
Windows, macOS, iOS, Linux, and Android.

Facebook Messenger [You must have a FaceBook account to use this feature]

Let’s help our neighbors connect during quarantine during this COVID19 situation.  Let’s keep relationships and loving our neighbors at the forefront of our minds while we exercise proper precautions like social-distancing and self-quarantining.


Read previous post: Call Tree – A simple way to help your neighbors
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Call Tree – A simple way to help your neighbors

Call Tree – A simple way to help your neighbors

As Local Outreach pastor leading community outreach at a large church in Fort Worth with two multi-sites, a lot of people ask me how they can help others. At a time when social distancing and self-quarantine are necessary to protect our neighbors from COVID19 (corona virus), we must be creative and careful in how we help.

One of the best ways EVERYONE can help is the old-fashioned, time-tested ‘Call Tree.’ I recommend everyone create call trees in their own neighborhoods.

This is a simple, safe and highly effective way for out people to engage with their neighbors. It’s also ‘low-tech’ relational.

Call Tree

Definition: A call tree is a simple communication model used to notify friends and neighbors of an emergency or need. The idea comes from crisis management protocols.  A call tree is also known as a phone tree, call list, phone chain or text chain.

One person gathers contact information for a group. In the event of an emergency or urgent need, someone from the group can text/call the Point of Contact (POC) who will send out a group text to ask for help – meeting the need or dealing with the emergency.

Simple Steps to creating a call tree:

Step 1: You invite 8-10 neighbors to join a neighborhood call tree for emergencies or urgent needs.

Step 2: You offer your cell number to neighbors. Ask for the participating neighbor to text their name back to you to be included in the call tree. (This ensures the contact information is accurate).

Step 3: After gathering all willing neighbors’ contact info, you can loop in everyone in the group with a group ‘welcome’ text.

Step 4: Move quickly when an emergency need arises.

Click here CALL TREE DIAGRAM (PDF)

Call Tree Etiquette:

1. Give First by offering your cell number to neighbors. Always “invite” your neighbor to join the group. If they decline, just offer them your cell phone number and let them know to contact you if they need anything.

2. Be clear on the outset that this is a neighborhood call tree for emergencies and urgent needs only (medical emergency such as illness, food/water, grocery run, prescription pick-up, job loss, elderly neighbor welfare check-in).

3, Inform your neighbors that you will NOT share their contact info with anyone outside the neighborhood call tree.

4. Place a time limit of 30 days on the call tree. On the outset, inform your neighbors that the call tree will be active for 30 days. If we’re still dealing with COVID-19 in 30 days, ask each neighbor if they want to remain on the call tree. Then run it for another 30 days (repeat if necessary)

5. SOCIAL DISTANCING: Due to the current environment, we recommend writing a note and putting on their doorstep in the event you don’t see them often – inviting them to the neighborhood call tree – make sure write your cell number, full name and address in the note.

Pro Tips:

If you already know your neighbors and have their contact, encourage them to reach out to others you may not know. Be available by sharing your contact info and willingness to help.

Make note of any first responders or medical personnel in your neighborhood. Write them a thank you note – invite them to join the neighborhood call tree.

Contact your neighborhood patrol officer and let him/her know you have a neighborhood call tree and invite them to join – or ask if you can contact them if a need arises.

If anyone in your area becomes ill with COVID-19 (or any other illness), find ways to serve them and their family using the call tree.

There you have it! A call tree is simple, low-tech way to build relationships and meet needs in your community at a time when we are forced to limit our human contact due to social distancing.


Read previous post: Alone Together
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Google: Friend or Foe (3) – The unquenchable quest for more … of you

Google: Friend or Foe (3) – The unquenchable quest for more … of you

Welcome to Part 3 of my blog series about Google. If you have not read my first post, I’d recommend reading Google: Friend or Foe Part 1 and 2 before continuing.

What type of threat do companies like Google pose?

First, I think one threat tech companies pose is rooted in their surveillance business models, data collection, in addition to outside business relationships with governments (foreign and domestic) and other third parties. How will they use data? We’ve already seen the privacy issues, subsequent lawsuits and investigations.

Case in point, ten years ago China executed a state-sponsored cyber attack against Google and other large businesses. Many believe the attack was a response to Google’s decision to stop offering their search engine in the Chinese market due to human rights concerns. In addition the totalitarian communist state wanted to censor, monitor and limit Google search results. This began an interesting relationship between Google and the NSA (National Security Agency).
[source link]

Once you investigate links with China, you will discover Google’s “Dragonfly” project. In a 2018, article from Just Security entitled, “Google’s Dragonfly: A Bellwether for Human Rights in the Digital Age”

“This “history” throws yesterday’s news about Google’s secret “Dragonfly” project, a search engine that will meet Beijing’s demands for censorship, into disturbing relief. Ever since 2010, the Chinese government has never quite gotten over the rebuke leveled against it by an uppity Western ICT company, which in retrospect clearly discredited the government on the world stage. Google took the type of action in support of human rights that few governments, let alone the private sector, would dare attempt. Of course, the Chinese government viewed the incident as a threat to regime control …. But, in the end, the Chinese government merely had to wait its challenger out, and all would be well.”

“Resisting no longer makes any business sense when the laws and policies of your country of origin and other active markets begin to resemble those of the country from which you withdrew.”
[source link]

On the home front, if you want to explore Google’s U.S. partnerships with government agencies, political groups, nonprofits and the like, check out their ‘Transparency’ page.
[source link]

Another interesting article was written by Harvard Law Review in 2018 entitled, “Cooperation or Resistance?: The Role of Tech Companies in Government Surveillance”
[source link]

Second, I think the biggest threat comes from the Social Engineering aspect of Google’s capabilities.

Remember, social engineering is used to manipulate people. When your platform is capable of shaping thought, behavior follows. Behind every artifact or innovation is a worldview – a philosophy of the person or group that created it. What is this artifact or innovation for? What is its purpose?

What is the dominant philosophy behind driving the current and future business model at Google? Does the philosophy view humans as dignified individuals or machines or something else? What are the political and economic philosophies expressed through search algorithms and social engineering.

Video: Dr. Robert Epstein answers questions from Senate Judiciary, Hearing on Google and Censorship

Everything is fine when the people at the top are of goodwill toward their fellow humans. However, when organizations and their partners become self-serving, abusive or tyrannical, a perceived threat becomes real. Individual lives and whole societies will be impacted.

I don’t think we fully understand the power and implications of these technologies.

When a company makes profits by collecting, organizing and manipulating the personal data of billions of people we must attempt to understand potential threats and risks involved. In the wrong hands, these powerful tools can cause great harm or be misused to the detriment of humanity.

At the end of the day, Google is able to curate your internet experience to the places Google wants you to go. It controls what you see and what you don’t see. In other words, Google can herd people where they want them to go through powerful algorithms. Because Google has millions of data points on billions of individuals, Google’s powerful AI (Artificial Intelligence) technology can predict your behavior with creepy accuracy. If Google can tell you where to find the information you think you are looking for but Google wants to to see and what to buy, it can tell you what to say and think. It already does.

Without anyone knowing, Google is shaping the worldview of billions of people. The question is what is the shape of the worldview Google intends for users? How will Google treat worldviews that counter it’s own? Shaping thought can be beneficial but that is what parents, teachers, mentors, artists and leaders do – not tech companies.

The First of the Ten Commandments is; “…You shall have no other gods before me”. After digging into the tech giant’s business model, activates, partnerships and philosophy, I believe Google’s first commandment is “You shall have no other gods but Google.” Think about it.

After reading this series of posts, are you seeing a general theme?

What can we do about it?

  1. Don’t just take my word for it, do your own research.
  2. Take a technology inventory. List all of the technology devices and platforms connected to you and your family.
  3. Take Steps to protect online privacy for you and your family. Seven Simple Steps Toward Online Privacy
  4. Be vigilant – Don’t allow the lure of convenience to overrule your personal convictions in regard to technology.

Read previous post: Google: Friend or Foe – Part 2
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Google: Friend or Foe (2) – human data-trafficking

Google: Friend or Foe (2) – human data-trafficking

Welcome to Part 2 of my blog series about Google. If you have not read my first post, I’d recommend reading Google: Friend or Foe Part 1 before continuing. Part 2 builds on the foundation of my previous post.

I think the best way to understand “What Google is actually doing?” is to see that  Google is in the “thought-shaping” and digital human data-trafficking business.

When an organization’s stated mission is to “organize the world’s information”, we know that based on what Google does with information tells us more about the purpose. Information shapes thought. Thought and beliefs drive behavior. Therefore, I submit that Google is shaping thoughts of billions of people and by extension, driving behavior. But, to what end?

What is Google actually doing?

YouTube, AdSense, FitBit, Nest, DoubleClick and over 200 others are not the end of Google’s reach. Google is a major stake holder and data repository for genetics-testing company 23andMe. Seems harmless enough. However, 23andMe is partnered with big pharma drug giant Gloxo-Smith-Kline for research into disease using data collected. Most 23andMe customers are unaware of this. [source link]

“In its filing, Google also noted that Anne Wojcicki is a co-founder of 23andMe and is a member of the board of directors. Wojcicki is married to Sergey Brin, Google’s president of technology and company co-founder. The search giant also outlined other intertwined relationships beyond Brin and Wojcicki: Sergey also holds approximately 35 percent of Google’s Class B common stock. Prior to Google’s investment in 23andMe, Sergey provided approximately $2.6 million in interim debt financing to 23andMe…” [source link]

In other words, Google is interested in genetic data on millions of people. That’s of interest to me.

Google surveillance in your home

On the home front, Google’s purchase of Nest is an interesting play. Nest is well known for their ‘smart’ thermostats and ‘user-friendly’ security camera systems for homes and businesses. What is not so well known is Google placing microphones on their in-home ‘smart’ thermostats. Apparently, Nest ‘forgot’ to include the one feature most people concerned about privacy care about on their product feature list for in-home thermostats – a microphone. [source link]

Of course, there is Google Home, a virtual assistant similar to Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri.  These devices are constantly monitoring or ‘listening’.

Additionally, Google has filed a few interesting patents. Perhaps, ‘invasive’ is a better descriptor. These new technologies use artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze other technologies inside the home, clothing, chemicals and even voices in your home. [source link]

Google made inroads into the smart phone market. It’s Android mobile operating system has dominated the mobile market. Its devices are cheap and come loaded with Google apps. The Android operating system is collecting data on users who may not use Google’s other products or platforms. There are 2 Billion Android users worldwide as of 2017. [source link]

Google surveillance at your child’s school

Google also launched it’s Google ChromeBook, cloud-based personal computing hardware. It’s also very cheap but you’re locked into Google’s offerings with the device. The key to understand its growing pervasiveness in schools is knowing that the low price-point is a strategy to gain marketshare and essentially aimed at data collection. If a child is forced by his school to use a Google ChromeBook, he is being groomed to grant access to his data to a tech giant for life. How will that data be used?

Google is being sued in New Mexico for collecting and misusing data on children who are required to use ChromeBooks in schools. [source link]

The growing ‘tech in the classroom’ or “edtech” industry is worth BILLIONS of dollars. So, there is a huge push by big tech to cram as much technology as possible into classrooms and homes in the name of “better education.” There’s little to no research supporting the pervasive use of tech in the classroom is beneficial. In fact studies are proving that “the digital interface does not stimulate the brain as well as an analog interface. Off-loading the cognitive effort that makes critical brain connections stronger is like paying someone else to do your exercise for you.”

Remember, this is a profit-centered approach, not a student-centered approach.

Google surveillance on the school bus?

“In places such as Hot Springs, Va., Alphabet Inc.’s Google has wired school buses, turning them into rolling study halls for students with long commutes and sometimes patchy or nonexistent Wi-Fi at home. Google says the program, a pilot which is in 15 school districts in 13 states, will be funded at least through the end of this school year.” [source link]

Google surveilling your location, email, documents, photos and network

Google Maps was the best free mobile GPS system available… until Waze was introduced and began giving Google Maps a run for their money. Google acquired Waze for nearly a $1 Billion before Apple or another competitor could buy them. [source link]

All of this and more on top of the world’s most powerful search engine and email client used (Gmail[source link].  While most know that Google stores personal data related to search, few are aware that Google is collecting data from Gmail accounts. [source link]

Google Docs is popular for document storage and search capabilities. Google Photos platform receives 1.4 Billion uploads per day by users. Let’s not forget Google Fiber (broadband internet and IPTV).

Are you starting to see a pattern? A good detective identifies behavior patterns. Patterns lead to evidence.

Google may have begun with good intentions but as I have demonstrated they have followed a path of bad actions that are a cause for concern.

BTW. None of this has gone unnoticed by the Feds, the U.S. Department of Justice has ramped up it’s investigation into this tech behemoth. [source link]

Why do companies like Google and Facebook offer their products for free or cheap?  Because their surveillance business model turns the user into the “product” they can sell.  Google and Facebook are in the ‘Digital Human data-trafficking” business.  They manipulate people and sell the digital profiles of billions of people.  They surveil you and sell everything they know about you to the highest bidder … and you let them.

In my next post, we’ll talk about the type of threat companies like Google pose and what can we do about it.  

Stay tuned!

Reference note: Much of my interest and research in this section was initiated from a podcast of the Bill Walton Show Episode 63: Part 2- The Power to Re-engineer Humanity


Read previous post: Google: Friend or Foe – Part 1
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Martin Luther King Jr.’s challenge to the church today

Martin Luther King Jr.’s challenge to the church today

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” continues to be relevant in our cultural moment. His words challenge the church to embrace it’s full purpose. The extent to which the Gospel of the Kingdom is proclaimed and integrated into the life of the church is the extent to which the church is relevant and effective in society.

The quiescent church is the gateway to injustice, brokenness and disorder. The witness of the church should be felt throughout the culture as the Gospel message empowers believers to pursue justice and reconciliation, serve the needy, create beauty and restore what is broken.  The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin transforms the believer.  This Gospel, rightly lived out will teach, sanctify and transform the society in which believers dwell.  It will be distinctly ‘sacrificial’, restorative and bold in its expression.

Martin Luther King Jr. operated from a distinctly Christian worldview.  It informed his purpose, his view of reality and drove his behavior.  This nation has benefited from his worldview and his actions.  His challenge to the church echoes today.  Dr. King knew what he was about.  Do you know what you are about?

We know what our salvation saved us from (eternal separation from God’s presence, goodness and joy).

But a better question is;

What is our salvation for?

[Put another way, what is the purpose of our salvation?]

Read: Martin Luther King Jr. ‘Letter From Birmingham Jail’


Read previous post: Dear Mr. President – We are their only hope [Kurds]
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PSA: How Deep Fake (AI) could turn your child’s photos into virtual porn

PSA: How Deep Fake (AI) could turn your child’s photos into virtual porn

Can I have your undivided attention for 8 minutes?

Can you really believe in what you see?  Did you ever think you could be the star in every Leonardo DiCaprio film?  Now you can!  It’s called ‘Deepfake‘ AI technology. Rather than trying to explain the technology, just click play on the video below. Posted by Allen Xia on Twitter, he uses an AI app called Zao to superimpose his face on Leo’s body in various movie scenes. Generated in under 8 seconds, this video uses a thumbnail photo of Allan.

 

The Situation

Having viewed the video above, imagine the face of your child superimposed on to someone else’s body using AI technology.  The scenes are made against their will and beyond your knowledge for the benefit of those who exploit and harm children.  DeepFake AI technology can be used to create images and videos by those who wish to bully, blackmail, exploit, entrap, or groom our children.  This is the worst kind of identity theft.

The Reality

Artificial Intelligence commonly referred to as ‘AI’ is quickly transforming from a sci-fi fantasy into a current reality.  It will impact every human-being on the planet.  AI is a powerful technological tool. Will it be for good or evil, for benefit or detriment?  We don’t know yet.  However, law enforcement is concerned, the Federal Government is concerned, nonprofits and NGOs are concerned.  Should parents be concerned?  The answer is ‘yes!’

Proper Concern

As many of you know, I advocate for internet safety and vigilance when dealing with these new forms of technology. In particular, understanding how our children (minors) interface with smartphones, internet capable devices and social media is vital.  In addition, we must understand and address their vulnerabilities and our responsibilities on an ongoing basis.  We must understand threats and risks of offering this powerful communication portal into their lives to early for the wrong reasons.  These technologies are changing us as humans.  But, that discussion is for another time.

My family practices internet safety by limiting where my wife and I post photos of our children on Social Media. We ask the same of the rest of our family.  In doing so, we raise awareness of the risks in our community.

Addressing Risks

Having served for 3 years on the leadership team of the 5 Stones Anti-Trafficking Taskforce under the Ft. Worth Police Department, I am well versed in the child exploitation and trafficking space. Smartphones, unlimited internet access and Social Media platforms can be a risky if not deadly for our children. If this frightens you, it should. I’ve seen dozens of cases where children are being exploited online by bullies and pimps. The children come from every demographic, ethnicity, socioeconomic sphere, all ages and every neighborhood.  Exploitation is not limited by borders or wealth (see Jeffery Epstein or visit your local law enforcement officer).  We know the risks of sharing data and photos online.  We know the risks of devices in the hands of children.  Heck, I have a hard time putting down my smartphone.

We need a paradigm shift in our thinking.  Parents must lock arms and unite against technology’s ability to allure our children (and us).

Accurate Perspective

Imagine posting a public photo of your child the same way you see an advertisement on a public billboard. You are putting your prize possession on display for the world to see. With the current advances in AI technology (DeepFake), someone you don’t even know can transform an innocent image of YOUR child into a degrading and disgusting pornographic film by superimposing your child’s face onto a video image. By the time you discover the exploitation, its too late. Thousands of perverts, traffickers, sex-buyers and criminals will have viewed the video. Videos spread on the dark web and in private chat rooms where they are bought and sold. There is nothing you can do except prepare to deal with your child’s lifelong trauma.

Imagine your child on an auction block to be sold.  In short, this is happening on the dark web and social media sites.  But, you can mitigate the risks.  You are the solution.  You can be a hero for your child.  It will require GRIT and discipline on your part as you talk with your children and partner with them as they grow older and demonstrate responsibility. Encourage them to lead in the family and school.

Solutions: Be Vigilant not afraid

  • Be aware of what you post online.
  • Be careful to post using proper privacy settings when using Social Media.
  • Use internet filters and monitors on your child’s devices for school and home use
  • Consider delaying giving your child a personal smartphone  until 16-17yrs old (depending on their maturity and responsibility).
  • Here are other devices that can be used for safety until they reach age of responsibility
  • Older Kids: The child pays for the phone (responsibility), the parents control the data plan (accountability).
  • Never allow a minor child to be on the internet alone, at night in their rooms.
  • Know the access code to your child’s devices and perform random searches with their full knowledge. Talk about it.
  • Talk to them about the dangers of exploitations.
  • I-Empathize curriculum for 12 and over: www.iempathize.org
  • Model healthy interactions and teach them the warning signs of online grooming and exploitation
  • Gather like-minded community to get trained in online safety: Local Law Enforcement and DHS often have trainings
  • This is what our community did to start the conversation: www.traffickingstartshere.com
  • Learn how pornography affects the brain, the heart and world: www.fightthenewdrug.org
  • Need further help – feel free to contact me or comment below

 


Additional Resources:

TECHNOLOGY AND CHILDREN
TECHNOLOGY AND CHRISTIANITY

TECHNOLOGY AND AI NEWS:


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