All posts by bobmadden

Citizen Surveillance

Books on cyber security on Social Media

I thought to celebrate Data Privacy Day, held every January 28, I would create a document that will help you understand the constant collection of personal data, how it is being identified and manipulated, steps that you can take to limit this invasion of privacy, and finally a list of best practices.

Citizen Surveillance

“I don’t want to live in a world where everything I say, everything I do, everyone I talk to, every expression of creativity and love or friendship is recorded.”

Edward Snowden

Sur-veil-lance Cap-i-tal-ism, n.

  1. A new economic order that claims human experience as free raw material for hidden commercial practices of extraction, prediction and sales.

“Surveillance Capitalism is not an accident of overzealous technologists, but rather rogue capitalism that learned to cunningly exploit its historical conditions to ensure and defend its success.”

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism Shoshana Zuboff

Welcome to cyber surveillance. This essay will help the reader understand the constant collection of their personal data, how it is being identified and manipulated, steps that can be taken to limit this invasion of privacy, and finally a list of best practices. To create a succinct and readable document, this essay will refrain from defining concepts or terms within this document, however, it will use links to help readers understand terms and policies.

This document will not addressing the governmental intrusion on individual privacy, because there is nothing that can be done on a personal, granular level other than donating to organizations like the Electronic Freedom Foundation who are working to enact laws that limit these surveillances (read spying) on U.S. citizens. When the author was a teen, he toured the FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., where, at the end of the tour, they encouraged all to be fingerprinted. Of course, his fingerprints were entered into their database.

Now, it is much more – collecting data from telephone calls, emails, texts, GPS, cell phone towers, driver’s licenses, passports, visas, DNA profiles, facial recognition, drones and satellites. For instance, all state driver’s licenses are now REAL ID’s that connects information into a vast national database, with some states selling information to marketers who are the highest bidder. And satellites?  Everyone’s gait is distinctive. Training cameras on individuals can profile them using gait recognition.

In her book, Cyber Privacy – Who Has Your Data and Why You Should Care, April Falcon Doss succinctly lays out four levels of privacy.  She says, broadly speaking, personal data can be characterized as information about:

1) what we have (e.g. Name, date of birth, social security number)\

) what we do (what and who we interact with)

3) who we are (preferences)

4) what we think, believe and know

Each level or function escalates the degree of intrusion into our privacy. This essay will focus on number 2 – what we do, because how we select products and platforms that we use to interact in the digital world is somewhat in our control, but with references to numbers 3 and 4 – sometimes referred to as predictions of certainty.

First, opting out is important not only with your browsers and apps, but with purchases such as cars and televisions, that track you. One day we will have a refrigerator that will have cameras inside that will scan your groceries and help you make up your shopping lists.

Wait. There is already one on the market from Samsung that is called the Samsung Family Hub. A spokesman said, “The latest Family Hub is the most innovative yet, with more personalized, intelligent features that enable busy families to stay better connected to one another.” And Samsung collects all this data from the Family Hub and from other connected Samsung appliances (read phones, TVs etc.) and apps.

The rationale that many companies give when tracking you by default is that they are “making the user’s experience better.” Most Terms of Service – contracts in the digital world  – are long and full of legalese. They opt the user “in” by default and many obscure how to opt out of data collection. These documents are designed to protect and enhance their business. The only reason that consumer rights become involved is if the company is legally forced to protect them. Two articles by Geoffrey A. Fowler of the Washington Post offers help in finding buried default privacy settings. Here is an amalgamation of major sites that track with links to managing their privacy settings.

With modern data collection it is easy to link small pieces of intelligence together to quickly form larger inferences. Your pharmacy loyalty program and your grocery store’s receipt swear that they do not ID you or supply personal information to other marketers. Software that uses “mashups”, machine learning, Artificial Intelligence, algorithms, etc. can quickly and easily combine seemingly anonymous data together for a positive identification.

Here is an example. You drive your “tracked” car, using your mapping GPS, Google Maps, on your cell phone, to your pharmacy. The parking lot has a security camera and upon entering the store, there is another, this one equipped with facial recognition. You select your item on aisle six (another camera) and go to the cashier (another camera) where you enter your telephone number to activate your loyalty card. You pay with your Visa card, then leave the store. You also left a trail.

Basic search technology works when you have a subject, location and a temporal indicator (the time). In this case, we are “missing” the subject, but how long do you think with the data just collected it would it take to find it?

The Internet

Malicious threats and how to avoid them.

Viruses – These are usually promulgated throughout the internet via your email account. The most notorious entry point is Microsoft Outlook.

Defense – AVG or MacAfee Stinger for Windows;  Malwarebytes for Windows or Mac.

Malware – These “moles” usually try to enter your systems by embedding code in apps or programs that you download from the net. Some enter your systems with incoming emails that are innocently opened.

Defense – Have your browser set to ask permission if you are downloading any application or program from the web. Make sure they are from a trusted source. Some browsers will alert you to websites that are not to be trusted.

Phishing – Apparently innocuous emails that are used to gain access to personal information.

Defense – Look closely at the email you receive. It may look legitimate, perhaps even having the graphics of a trusted institution (e.g. your  bank). Look for mistakes in spellings and most importantly the email address that sent you this email (e.g. Note that the IRS never communicates via email.

Email hacking – Usually done by opening a phishing email, posting your email on the net, pixel tags or using public WIFI services.

Defense – If hacked, change your email password. Get with your Internet Service Provider technical assistance to go through your settings to eliminate the bogus email address. You also can change your email address, but that can be a hassle, as you need to email your contacts with your new address.


Tracking has been touched on briefly In a previous paragraph. As this issue is one of the most important invasions of privacy, this section will go into more detail on how tracking works and ways to avoid being tracked. Later, under the Social Media heading, tracking will also be addressed.

The coin of the realm in the world of surveillance capitalism is data collection. It is accomplished in a number of ways: cookies, persistent cookies, first and third party cookies, super cookies, etc. and with Terms of Service and user generated data. The data collected, usually under the guise of providing better service is almost always monetized through the mega platforms or third party aggregators. Some websites use heat mapping and session recording to follow your mouse movements when you access their site.

Companies such as Google and Facebook – pure data companies – are using massive data collection not to gain market share, but to own the market. Today, one-third of websites surveyed by The Mark Up contained tracking code from Facebook, which allows the social media company to see where its 3.14 billion active members travel outside of the application.

Google is the wholly owned subsidiary of Alphabet, a technology conglomerate that has acquired and sometimes rebranded more than 225 companies in its 20 year existence – notably in the last 10 years 15 businesses specializing in Artificial Intelligence and machine learning. Their modus operandi is “buy or bury”. The Silicon Valley giant collects data from twice the number of websites as Facebook. Your collected personal data can also be subpoenaed by lawyers, including for civil cases like divorce. Google answered over 150,000 such data requests in 2019 alone.

User generated information

This is another technique used to gather data. Entering personal information into web forms such as registrations makes data collection easy, as the information is volunteered.  Other platforms collecting user information are:

Surveys. Although online surveys conform with privacy laws in a few states, many ask respondents to agree to a consent statement bypassing legal obligations. By default, most collectors track the IP address of the respondents as response metadata. Be wary if the survey asks for personal information such as name, address, date of birth, etc.

Donations. In a Hofstra Law Faculty paper, the author’s wrote about a donor’s right to privacy stating that their article explores the privacy concerns that arise when nonprofit fundraisers trade, sell, rent or otherwise exploit personal information about charitable donors that they obtain in the course of obtaining donations.

Loyalty Programs. Tracking embedded in loyalty programs is directly related to the amount of personal information required to join the program.

A landmark privacy law, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), enacted in January 2020, is being considered for a similar legislation by many other states and the federal government. The act states that, “If you are a California resident, you may ask businesses to disclose what personal information they have about you and what they do with that information, to delete your personal information and not to sell your personal information. You also have the right to be notified, before or at the point businesses collect your personal information, of the types of personal information they are collecting and what they may do with that information…Businesses cannot make you waive these rights, and any contract provision that says you waive these rights is unenforceable.”

Because of this law, many websites now display a popup when entering their site that says that the site uses cookies and you need to accept that fact. Do not accept unless the prompt fills the screen and doesn’t allow you to see the content. The site will work well by the user not agreeing, it’s just that the data dragnet will be disabled. If you have agreed, but you have set your browser preferences to delete cookies and site data when it’s closed, don’t worry.


 On cell phones, under “Settings” on both Android and Apple, users can toggle app settings on or off for access to your location, photos, cellular data, notifications etc. With an iPhone, on many apps, there is an option that says, “Only when using the app”. All apps will prompt users to go to “Settings” to turn on needed services if they are off.

Also, for iPhones, in “Settings”, users can scroll down to “Advertising“, then toggle “Limit Ad Tracking” to on. For Android, under “Settings, tap “Google”, then tap “Ads”, then toggle “Opt Out of Ads personalization.”

Delete apps that you rarely use. Some security experts have advocated deleting all apps from your phone. If you have an app on your phone you don’t use, you’re essentially carrying around a tracking device for no reason.

Mark Weinstein, a privacy expert quoted in Market Watch says, “Most concerning is that governments around the world also can readily access this information about where you are and what you are doing.”


Firefox, Brave, Edge and Safari offer stronger privacy protections by default than you get from Google Chrome, which is the world’s most popular browser, currently used by about 70 percent of people around the world.

While Chrome proves to be a safe web browser, its privacy record is questionable. Google actually collects a disturbingly large amount of data from its users including location, search history and site visits. Google gathers an unprecedented amount of data for its own marketing purposes and shares this information across their network of related companies. They tout that they’re keeping your information private from hackers, but that’s beside the point. Google itself runs the world’s largest advertising network, thanks in large part to data they harvest from their users. Chrome does not protect against session recording or key logging, doesn’t block canvas fingerprinting or third-party cookies, however Google allows users to change the browser’s privacy settings – if the user knows where to look. Here is a primer on how to take control over what Google collects.

The following is an excerpt from Google’s Terms of Service privacy policy:

“Your activity

We collect information about your activity in our services, which we use to do things like recommend a YouTube video you might like. The activity information we collect may include:

  • Chrome browsing history you’ve synched with your Google Account
  • Terms you search for
  • Videos you watch
  • Information about views and interactions with ads so we can provide aggregated reports to advertisers, like telling them whether we served their ad on a page and whether the ad was likely seen by a viewer. We may also measure other interactions, such as how you move your mouse over an ad or if you interact with the page on which the ad appears.
  • Voice and audio information when you use audio features
  • Purchase activity
  • People with whom you communicate or share content
  • Activity on third-party sites and apps that use our services

If you use our services to make and receive calls or send and receive messages, we may collect telephony log information like your phone number, calling-party number, receiving-party number, forwarding numbers, time and date of calls and messages, duration of calls, routing information, and types of calls.

Your location information

We collect information about your location when you use our services. Your location can be determined with varying degrees of accuracy by:

  • GPS
  • IP address
  • Sensor data from your device
  • Information about things near your device, such as Wi-Fi access points, cell towers, and Bluetooth-enabled devices

We use various technologies to collect and store information, including cookies, pixel tags, local storage, such as browser web storage or application data caches (a data repository on your device), databases, and server logs.” 

Social Media

 Section 230 of the Federal Communications Decency Act (CDA) immunizes all Internet platforms who disseminate content not of their own creation from liability for defamation, invasion of privacy, and virtually everything else except violations of intellectual property. From the act: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider”. The original intent was to protect free speech on these platforms.

The social media posts and actions by the former President of the United States on January 6, 2020 changed that sentiment. Twitter (the President’s favorite platform), Facebook and others subsequently banned his posts. This raises the obvious question of who will be the arbitrator of  here-to-for uncensored internet content in the future. Use Wikipedia as an information source, as there is only one “page” for each subject. (Here is the attack on the Capitol.)

The five main social media sites in the United States are owned by four large companies – LinkedIn (Microsoft), Facebook and Instagram (Facebook), Twitter and YouTube (Google). All of these platforms are “free to users” and the users are encouraged to post information about themselves, their activities and their friends. Facebook has acquired 80 companies in its 14 year existence. Following is Facebook’s data collection policy – as onerous as Google’s.

 “Device Information

As described below, we collect information from and about the computers, phones, connected TVs and other web-connected devices you use that integrate with our Products, and we combine this information across different devices you use. For example, we use information collected about your use of our Products on your phone to better personalize the content (including ads) or features you see when you use our Products on another device, such as your laptop or tablet, or to measure whether you took an action in response to an ad we showed you on your phone on a different device.

Information we obtain from these devices includes:

  • Device attributes: information such as the operating system, hardware and software versions, battery level, signal strength, available storage space, browser type, app and file names and types, and plugins.
  • Device operations: information about operations and behaviors performed on the device, such as whether a window is foregrounded or backgrounded, or mouse movements (which can help distinguish humans from bots).
  • Identifiers: unique identifiers, device IDs, and other identifiers, such as from games, apps or accounts you use, and Family Device IDs (or other identifiers unique to Facebook Company Products associated with the same device or account).
  • Device signals: Bluetooth signals, and information about nearby Wi-Fi access points, beacons, and cell towers.
  • Data from device settings: information you allow us to receive through device settings you turn on, such as access to your GPS location, camera or photos.
  • Network and connections: information such as the name of your mobile operator or ISP, language, time zone, mobile phone number, IP address, connection speed and, in some cases, information about other devices that are nearby or on your network, so we can do things like help you stream a video from your phone to your TV.
  • Cookie data: data from cookies stored on your device, including cookie IDs and settings.”

One of those cookies is the “fr” cookie, which, according to the company’s cookie policy, is “Facebook’s primary advertising cookie” and contains information such as your Facebook user ID. It allows the company to link someone’s browsing history across the web with his or her Facebook profile.

In addition, Facebook’s tracking pixel can allow Facebook to identify users whether or not they are logged into Facebook, depending on how the website using the tracking pixel configures it.

These data collection policies also apply to Instagram and WhatsApp as they are owned by Facebook.

As mentioned above under the header of Tracking, these small pieces of personal data are increasingly aggregated by advertising platforms like Google and Facebook to form a more complete picture of who you are, what you do, where you go, and with whom you spend time. (number 3) And those large data profiles can then lead much more easily to significant privacy harms (number 4).

If it is important to join one of these platforms, and you can’t do without it, please see the articles here and here that help you protect against privacy overreach within the social media apps.

“Our lives are scraped and sold to fund their freedom and our subjugation, their knowledge and our ignorance about what they know.”

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism Shoshana Zuboff

Best Practices

 Using the internet, we will always be tracked. Following are the author’s suggestions of programs and applications that will limit surveillance capitalism intrusions but still allow a robust internet experience. For another review of many alternative resources available go to

Virtual Private Network (VPN) At the outset, do not use your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to access the internet, acquire a VPN. Encryption is a common, although not an inherent, part of a VPN connection. When using public WIFI, consider apps like My Privacy.

Your Internet Service Provider tracks everything you do, similarly to Google and Facebook. My ISP is Verizon and here are their data collection policies in their Terms of Service:

“We collect information when you interact with us and use our products and services.

The types of information we collect depends on your use of our products and services and the ways that you interact with us. This may include information about:

  • Contact, billing and other information you provide
  • How you use our services and your devices
  • How you use our websites and apps (Think webmail)
  • How our network and your devices are working

We also obtain information from others.

This includes:

  • Credit information from outside agencies
  • Demographic and interest data as well as device type, carrier, city and state information from third party data providers
  • Information from social media platforms when you use your social media login to interact with Verizon sites or offers
  • Contact, marketing lead and other information we purchase or receive
  • Fraud information
  • Information from Verizon Media as permitted by its privacy policy and respecting the choices you make.”


Firefox (Multiple browsers can reside on your devices; Firefox should be the default)

Once the browser is installed, preferences need to be set and extensions activated, See here for preference settings. (Note: In nine months 45,259 trackers were blocked on the author’s browser) A recommended privacy extension is Ghostery and also recommended is the privacy app Jumbo.

Periodically, go into your browser’s preferences and clear your stored cookies and site data. You’ll find that a cookie is more than a few crumbs. The author’s browser generates about a gigabyte a week. If  this data was simply text it would be 500,000 pages or 1,000 thick books, but it also includes large graphic images to cut download times. Don’t worry about websites “not preforming as designed”. When a new user logs into a website, these cookies are automatically generated, and they also will be generated for you when you revisit the site.

Search Engine

DuckDuckGo Use it because it does not track. (Multiple search engines can reside on your devices; DuckDuckGo should be the default).

Password Protection

Lastpass Great password security protection, It can be a browser extension or accessed through their website.


As users have a long history of their email and use it for many “usernames”, and because the “contacts” of others have cached a specific email, changing it may be difficult. You can use the Digital Advertising Alliance powered by AdChoices to help control how data is collected and used for advertising. By using these tools and setting privacy preferences the author only receives one spam email a week.

Mobile devices

iPhone Here is what’s in iOS 14; Apple’s privacy features make it harder for companies to track your movement around the web. It alerts you when apps are accessing your camera and microphone. You can share your approximate location with apps instead of your exact location. Another plus for the iPhone is the data on the entire device is encrypted as is end-to-end encryption when texting another iPhone user.

If you take your privacy seriously, and you have an Android phone, you could also consider using a version of Android that is not built by Google and won’t send them data. Google Assistant is the opt in default of Android. They should call it “Google Collector”. This website has information on how to stay private when using an Android phone. Their first piece of advice; “The basic principle: Turn everything off”!


iCloud In a word, encryption.

A website that identifies how you are being tracked

Blacklight By entering a website into the “scan site” box on Blacklight, the site will be scanned to reveal the specific user-tracking technologies embedded on the site—and who’s accessing your data.

By far the best way to prevent surveillance capitalism is to avoid entering data into these mega collections by not supplying them with user generated information. With that in mind, the author recommends not using these devices:

Google Home Nest Products

Fitbit (A Google data collection app)

Amazon Alexa and Echo

Amazon Ring

Amazon Blink

An  exception is Apple Home Pod that does not share user generated data.

On your mobile phone turn off Google Assistant.

Why should I care? I have nothing to hide” is a counter-argument that surfaces when discussing privacy, In 1999, Sun Microsystems Scott McNealy said, “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.” Privacy should be the default.

  • Privacy isn’t about hiding information; privacy is about protecting information, and surely you have information that you’d like to protect.
  • Privacy is a fundamental right and you don’t need to prove the necessity of fundamental rights to anyone.
  • Lack of privacy creates significant harms that everyone wants to avoid.

China’s Social Credit System is an example of national overreach. There are multiple social credit systems in China. Scholars have conceptualized four types of systems: the judicial system (blacklist system for discredited individuals and organizations), municipal social credit system, the financial credit system, and commercial credit-rating system.

History has shown that in many countries people who opposed those in power were fired, arrested, imprisoned and murdered. The Jews in Poland could say, “I have nothing to hide”. Hong Kong is a current example. The Roman poet Juvenal’s famous question persists: “Who will guard the guardians themselves?”

“If the digital future is to be our home, then it is we who must make it so”

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism Shoshana Zuboff






25 Years Ago at National Geographic

Twenty-five years ago this month, I was working for the National Geographic Society (NGS) developing the prototype for a digital photographic archive for the Society’s Image Collection. It was incurring significant expenses and the President of NGS asked me to develop a business plan to justify the costs. This blog consists of portions of the document that I submitted.

In 2015, National Geographic sold their magazines, maps, books and other media assets to 21 Century Fox for 725 million dollars. As the Washington Post reported at the time, “Like many print publications, National Geographic has been hurt by the onset of the digital era, which has put it on a slow trajectory toward extinction.” In 2018, Fox sold the National Geographic holdings, among others, to Disney for 52 billion dollars.

To make this document shorter and more relevant, I have eliminated most of the Cost/Saving paragraphs of the Business Plan. I did include them in Phase 4, Phase 11 and Phase 20 to give readers an idea of the thought behind each phase. Also, for clarification I have included comments (in italics) that were not part of the original document.

As a point of reference, the World Wide Web was two years old in 1995.


Business plan for the Digital Image Archive                              

May 31, 1995

The following is a compilation of the costs and savings involved in designing and implementing a digital archive for the National Geographic Society. If this archive is considered to be the centerpiece of a business that will capture information digitally, work in a digital environment, and distribute content digitally, then we must not think of it only as a system that will streamline our existing archive. We must instead reexamine the core process to determine what will be necessary in a digital world, and what will be irrelevant. Only then can we begin to understand the real benefits and savings of building such an archive.

This plan organizes the growth of a digital National Geographic Society into phases. Management direction is needed for these phases to become enterprise-wide objectives.

Listed below, they are projected over a time period of several years. Assumptions are made about emerging technology, corporate and consumer behavior, new markets, etc. These, as well as the chronology of the phases, will change. This document is only one person’s view of how the Society might respond to the digital world. Perhaps it is a starting point for a discussion concerning the reorganization of our business to take full advantage of digital.

Phase 1

Development of prototype photographic digital archive

(Note: Underway at the time.)

Phase 2

Establishment of the NGS digital archive

(Note: Image Collection server on line in 1996, Full IBM digital archive in 2003)

Phase 3

Rights to NGS-produced materials secured

(Note: This would entail developing a robust rights management system)

Phase 4

Establishment of NGS on-line services (Web site)

(Note: launched in 1997)

Costs Web server and related charges personnel needed to maintain web, editorial team needed for electronic products, marketing unit required, TCP/IP and network charges, database management.

Savings Distribution of some paper products eliminated, postage costs down, tracking of customers possible, content can be scalable, interactive commodity-based pricing, print product manufacturing positions eliminated.

Phase 5

Research and Exploration Journal on-line as first electronic publication

(Note: This publication was a juried scholarly journal. It folded because of costs with no thought of a digital version.)

Phase 6

Still images from TV, books, World and Traveler added to digital archive

(Note: National Geographic domestic TV channel launched in 2001!)

Phase 7

Photo editing for print products becomes partially digital, using scanned analog material

Phase 8

Manufacturing of print products becomes totally digital

(Note: Meaning digital design, production and plate-making before the analog press run)

Phase 9

Digital cartography database of globe completed

(Note: At the time, a prototype was being developed.)

Phase 10

Linking cartography database to digital archive

(Note: Never implemented. Think Google Maps.)

Phase 11

Expansion of the on-line bandwidth. Wireless capability appears

Costs Media server requirements, object-oriented data bases necessary, project teams need the ability to edit on the fly, editorial effort increases, video editing and production personnel required.

Savings Consumers begin to look to on-line as a primary source of information, interactivity is commonplace, consumers will rely on NGS as geography lynchpin, more NGS products on-line.

Phase 12

Marketing and billing databases are directly linked to products and services and to the transactional database in the digital archive

Phase 13

Geographic educational materials and products are produced, distributed, and billed digitally

Phase 14

Replacement of film cameras with digital cameras

 Phase 15

Photo editing becomes completely digital

 Phase 16

Digital environment for video

(Note: Digital video cameras need massive bandwidth to enable complete digital capture.)

Phase 17

Interactive television

(Note: Think Zoom)

 Phase 18

Links from digital video archive to other NGS digital archives

Phase 19

Remote digital video studios established

(Note: Think YouTube, Snapchat, TikTok, etc,)

Phase 20

Mobile interactive digital tools become commonplace

Costs  Quest to upgrade of the quality of “instant” content, addition of intelligent editing tools to economize capture techniques and entertainment needs.

Savings Customers use personal digital assistants (apps) to receive most of their daily information and supply instant, accurate information about all facets of our planet. NGS establishes deep loyalty with customers based on content, attentiveness and astute marketing.

Update on My Daily Postings

Bike Shadow in Bordeaux, France


Three years. That is the timeframe for my visual diary.

As my followers on this website, or on my Twitter and Facebook know, every day current images are posted. The camera in my mobile phone makes this possible, as now I always have a camera at my side. As has been stated many times, your best camera is the one you have with you.

For the past year or so, I have been trying to theme my posts. The pictures have become less scattershot and, once I decide on the theme, it allows me to explore the chosen subject with a little more depth – close ups, different angles, more subtleness, etc.

The drawbacks of the camera in the phone are these:

1) A slight delay before the “shutter” goes off. One must anticipate the correct moment.

2) Cell phone cameras use the ISO (rendering the sensor more or less sensitive to light) to determine exposure. The aperture (f stop) is always the same – f stop 2.2. This does not allow for panning or selective focus. On a cell phone, the selective focus is done using software, and the camera, not you, does the selection.

3) The zoom function is digital, meaning that it is a crop of the image as the sensor captures it. As you zoom in, the image deteriorates. Some cell phones have two cameras to give you more quality with a “longer” lens. On iPhones, the second lens is only 52mm, the primary is 28mm. I rarely zoom more than 3X because of the loss of image quality.

4) This brings me to the lack of long lenses on the cell phones. There are clip-ons and apps that run an add on camera where you use the phone screen as the viewfinder, but both are inadequate and defeat the purpose of the phone-camera. When I am off to shoot wildlife or sailboats and know I will need longer lenses, I take a camera that has those features.

5) The highlights of images taken with mobile cameras tend to blow out. A digital sensor will simply “clip” at a certain point, rendering any luminance values that exceed it’s dynamic range as pure white. This is called highlight rolloff.  HDR (High Dynamic Range) settings help this problem, but it is a known issue with all digital cameras. Many, many more pixels are needed to record the highlights than the shadows. And the sensor capture on most mobile phone cameras is small compared to cameras.

Will the camera phones get better? I recall an interview with Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, where he said that the camera is the most used app on the phone and that there are 80 engineers (at that time) working on the camera. So yes. Probably the sensor will capture more pixels (better highlights), creation of software to minimize noise, more work on the delay factor, etc. In my view, digital zooms will remain an issue.

The pervasive use of mobile phone cameras has helped photographers photograph people. Today, most people have their picture taken on a daily basis, and showing up with a camera does not freak them out. The downside is that the glut of images that amateurs take has produced some excellent shots because “f2.2 and be there” gives them a 7/24 opportunity to be in front of some amazing situations. This lowers the monetary value of photography, as most amateurs are not in it for the money (they have real jobs), but are happy to see their pictures used, as it strokes their ego.

So how does this affect my daily visual diary? It doesn’t. As my partner says, “Photography is in Bob’s DNA.” She’s right!




Recently I saw the photographic exhibit “OBJECT:PHOTO at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. It is essentially the Thomas Walther Collection, a selection of 341 ”modern” photographs by 148 artists made from 1909–1949.

The prospectus says that the collection “represents the innovative vision of the 1920s and ’30s, a transformative period of modern photography and the foundation of our photo-based world.”

As presented by MOMA, it is much more.

Erich Salomon

Lore Feininger “Erich Solomon” 1929

In 2010, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation gave the Museum a grant to encourage deep scholarly study of the Walther Collection and to support publication of the results.

The MOMA coined the study “The Project” and spent several years developing new ways to relate to a collection of photographs. This exhibit is not a leisurely stroll through rooms of prints with arrogant captions written by the curator.

From the website: “Creating new standards for the consideration of photographs as original objects and of photography as an art form of unusually rich historical dimensions, the project affords both experts and those less familiar with its history new avenues for the appreciation of the medium.”

This is a turn-about from 1960, where as an example, in the United Kingdom photography was not recognized as a fine art. Dr. S.D. Jouhar said, when he formed the Photographic Fine Art Association at that time – “At the moment photography is not generally recognized as anything more than a craft.”.

The Thomas Walther collection consists of 347 photographs. Each photo contributes to an appreciation of the excitement that these 148 artists must have felt at the time. Loring Knoblauch at the Collector Daily (a great reference to locations and information on all current major photography exhibits) has this to say about the images in OBJECT:PHOTOGRAPHY:

Hebert Bayer

Herbert Bayer – “Humanly Impossible” 1932

“For those enamored with the burst of innovation we have recently seen with the digital revolution, the 1920s and 1930s were an equally exciting and disruptive time for photography. Those years saw the introduction of the hand held camera (and the flexibility it offered), the broadening of photojournalism (and the magazines that featured it), the growth of filmmaking, and the expansion of the avant garde. It was a time of intense experimentation both in Europe and America, with new technical developments quickly opening up new areas of artistic exploration and new visual vocabularies. Photographers from across the globe were connecting and cross pollinating in exhibitions, publications, and face to face meetings, taking advantage of their new found freedoms.”

Although the visceral quality of the images is the real way to see the art (why they are displayed in museums), many of you will not make it to the MOMA for this exhibit. However, all photographs are available on the OBJECT:PHOTO website. And there one can experience the Mellon Foundation study in many ways.

On the site there is a collection of essays on aspects of the exhibit, there is a section on Mapping the Photographs, on Comparing the Photographs, on Connecting the Artists and on Mapping the Artist’s Lives. All organized to enrich one’s appreciation of the Thomas Walther collection.

Artist Bernice Abbott

Mapping Artist Bernice Abbott

Here is a visualization mapping Bernice Abbott’s life to other artists. The website says,” This visualization illustrates the artists’ relationships with the various meeting points — influential exhibitions, publications, schools, studios, and industrial and cultural centers — that linked them in this era.”

So who is Thomas Walther? MOMA provides little information. I found a piece by Vince Aletti in the NYC Village Voice where he interviewed Walther.

“Walther, heir to a German machine-tool manufacturing fortune, is publicity-shy and evasive about the extent of his larger collection—he estimates its number at “somewhere between 1000 and 2000 pictures.

For now, the place he’s found is New York. Walther still describes himself as a Berliner, but he’s lived here since the early ’80s—he’s currently in a Soho loft—and feels at home the way he no longer does in Europe.

…he regularly adds rarities to what he calls his “core collection”—including a sublime, mid-19th-century daguerreotype of clouds by Southworth and Hawes that he snapped up at Sotheby’s last spring (1999) for $354,500…Speaking of his core collection, he says, “I was attracted to peculiar emanations of the human spirit,”

Thank you, Thomas for making your wonderful collection available to us.


Henri Cartier Bresson

My interpretation of museum print. George Hoyningen-Huene – “Henri Cartier Bresson” 1935

Henri Cartier-Bresson

George Platt Lynes – “Henri Cartier-Bresson” 1935

Tweeting My Visual Diary

When Twitter first appeared, I felt like many others that I did not need to know how someone I was following was enjoying breakfast. But my views have changed.

Now, I tweet almost daily, and each tweet has an image attached. What these tweets have become is a visual diary of images that are special to me and I want to publish. Publishing is the key here.

On this page, I have included only pictures from tweets from the last month. I have published 18 others during the month, but the images selected here show the variety of my subject matter.

Dali Museum, Tampa

Dali Museum, Tampa

Duck in Orlando

Just Ducky, Orlando

Leaves in Orlando









In my career, photography was a way to share experiences with an audience, and publishing in National Geographic magazine guaranteed millions of viewers worldwide.

In the global, networked community of today, the Internet is a nascent communications tool, which provides expanding opportunities for us to share information and experiences. We have the opportunity to re-define how stories are communicated or published; hence, the visual diary.

There are many ways to use social media to publish. Facebook, blogs, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and Vine are some of the current opportunities. As a photographer, I need to use those that feature photography as an integral part of the published piece.

Bonita Srings Hotel

Hotel, Both Tweet and Instagram

Sailing, Tampa Bay

Sailing, Tampa Bay

Muscovy Duck

Valentine Duck, Orlando

Following is how I determine the best way to communicate my work.

Twitter. As explained above, this is for daily photography, some of it quite pedestrian, but I try to make it interesting. Many but not all of my tweets are taken with my smart phone. The captions need to be succinct, which is a good thing. I use many hashtags that increase the distribution of the tweet.

Instagram. I publish some of my better images here, usually timing them with specific events. As a member of The Photo Society, my Instagrams have over a million followers, and more than 15,000 likes (not looks, likes!). The qualities of the images on this site are exceptional, and I try to have comparable pictures up as Instagrams. Sometimes I also publish them tweets.

Oil Slick with Contrails

Oil Slick with Contrails

Kids in Snow

Shovel for Dollars

Flag in Snow

Wind Shovel








I use Facebook to let people know what I am up to. My tweets are automatically republished there, and because of this,  I post often.

My YouTube channel is filled with themed slideshows of images from around the world – Patagonia. Venice, Peru, Tanzania – as well as workshops where student work is featured.

I have a monthly newsletter where I explore photographic subjects of interest. You can sign up for it on this page.

My blog (you are reading one) about many things, from instructional tutorials to items such as photographic exhibits that I have recently seen.

Car Hood

Car Hood Tweet/Instagram

Gulls on Ice

Gulls on Ice

White Horse

White Horse, White Snow









I have turned Twitter into my daily visual diary, I find that it keeps me alert to the world around me, and through my images I try to make sense of it all.

Homeless in DC

Homeless in DC

The President

Presidential Limo

Chesapeake Sunset

Sunset on the Chesapeake Bay

Silver Swans

Silver Swans

Geese on Snow

Cold Morning

LUMIX Gh4: Capturing Stills from 4k video

LUMIX Gh4 Camera


Recently, I tested a Panasonic LUMIX Gh4 with two important features that affect how still photographers will be capturing images in the near future. Firmware now offered by Panasonic for the Gh4 makes it possible when shooting 4k video to set any shutter speed for each video frame.

The LUMIX Gh4 also is a WIFI hub and the Jpg images taken by the camera can be transferred to a smart phone immediately for distribution.

I put together a two and a half minute video that graphically shows how it all works. It can be found here.

Hi Res Hockey Still

8.5Mb Still at 1/1000 sec.







I took the LUMIX Gh4 to Disney World where, as an experiment, I shot only 4k video. I selected a number of frames that I extracted as stills for illustrations in my monthly newsletter.  Sign up on this page. I have included several other successful images below.

Ballon Pic

1/400 of a second, ISO 200















Horsing Around

1/400 of a second, ISO 400

Dapper Dan

1/400 of a second ISO 200


1/400 of a second, ISO 200








Birds in the Trees

1/30 of a second, ISO 800

Get my monthly newsletter by signing up on the right hand side of this page.














Instagram Comments on Martin Luther King Post

On Martin Luther King Day, I posted this Instagram with the following caption”

MLK Instagram

MLK Monument Washington, DC

“Monument in Washington DC. An awe-inspiring statue of an extraordinary man. He was killed before the current wave of terrorism, but through his words his legacy lives on — and addresses the recent atrocities in France #jesuisCharlie. We still hear his voice promoting justice and #love for all mankind. Two quotes from him come to mind: ‘We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools’ and ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice’. Please heed his wisdom!

Of course the Instagram was published worldwide – many followers are outside of insular America. I received over 15,400 “likes” and 144 comments, thirty or so from the same three people.

Most impressive in this publishing venture was the dialog that the caption generated. Some were profane, some silly, but many debated views on freedom, racism, religion, etc. We should take note that many rational people see things in a different light.

Excerpts follow, with the actual Instagram monikers obscured for privacy reasons.

Awesome statue !!… people still live by his words !! CO

When people insult black people, it’s racism, when people fight the rights of the opposite gender, it’s sexism, but when people insult Muslims and its founder, it’s freedom of speech. To hell with every supporter of JeSuisCharlie. MD

Do you really think that the world is better off with those cartoonists dead? You think they were bad people for making jokes? You can’t be serious. Just because someone believes something strongly doesn’t mean that it is free from criticism. Freedom of religion is very important. But freedom of religion is a part of having freedom of ideas, and freedom of ideas will always include tolerating any criticism of any given idea. MR

MLK Jr. would have been disgusted by the violence committed, but he would have also been even more horrified by the consistent and systematic marginalization of Arabs in the present social, political and economic context. It is disingenuous and disrespectful to use his legacy in this way. PW

Those cartoonists died horribly but their deaths are nowhere near the injustice inflicted upon the poor and mistreated minorities the world over. Please choose your comparisons wisely. HM

Don’t think because you have that wrap on your head it makes you an expert on Muslims, black American history, especially X. I will school your ass anytime you want to come to Morehouse College and have a REAL debate with REAL black men. SGJ

Real black men, college? Debate? Dude you sound angry, take a chill pill….I suggest that you watch Selma. I recommend this movie to all young disenfranchised angry Muslim men to go see it and learn how to achieve success amid hopelessness. Many good lessons to learn from this movie. HM

Until your race starts fighting the racist ideas that your people have, and stop focusing on black’s resentment to the was they’ve been treated in the past and currently, we will always hate you deep down. SJG

Bro you can get your point across without insults. You might have knowledge but no one’s gonna listen if you dish out whatever you don’t like. AK92

…hate creates violence, the extent of the hate determines the headlines not the victims then revenge is created the vicious cycle begins, again. We have had and still do (have) individuals worldwide who go beyond just thinking but also do for freedom, injustice and inequalities, all should be praised… SH

MLK and Malcolm X put their lives on the line for what they believed. Anyone can talk a good game, which one of you would die for yours? MP230

King, Gandhi and Mandela…I salute you!! Cheers on #mlkday!! ASH

So sad that such a wonderful post was soiled by such hatred. This monument is truly amazing and I appreciate the posting as a reminder to us that hatred is not the way. SK49


I don’t agree that my post was “soiled”. I think it started a discussion.

Tell you friends about this site!


Review of My 2014 Blogs

Recently I looked back at the archive of blogs that I posted in 2014. Although there were a couple of outliers, most blogs fit into specific photographic themes. Please click on the links to revisit these blogs.

Objects in Disguise

White Mt Sunset

White Mountains Sunset

In the month of July I concentrated on tutorials on photographing things above the earth’s surface staring with fireworks just before the Fourth and followed up with the moon (a super moon in July), the sun and a rather complicated blog on star photography. Much fun and hopefully helpful.


As I consider myself one, photojournalists that literally put their life on the line enamor me. These blogs on Tyler Hicks (January) and Bob Edelman and his civil rights coverage (April) attempted to explore their vision and their bravery while photographing difficult subjects.

Thoughts for Photojournalists
These blogs explored methods and suggestions for budding photojournalists and included one on finding locals to help you (October), and returning to a location that one senses will make good images (Also in October).

Technological Advances in Photography
2014 saw new innovations on many fronts, from new cameras (July) to new software solutions by Getty Images (March). I also highlighted what social media is doing with our previously private information (February), and talked about good digital practices by backing up (January) and the value of having a tablet (February).

Photography Exhibits

The Bean

Cloud Gate Sculpture

I have personally entered a number of shows and exhibits and with a blog tried to impart some knowledge about how they are organized in May, but also highlighted exhibits in Mexico that show differences in approach with photography (March).

This Fragile Earth
Two blogs covered the international land grab (November), and how the Bureau of Land Management in the US is trying to mitigate the hordes of visitors that descend on sensitive areas (January). These blogs bookended 2014.

"The Second Wave", Arizona

“The Second Wave”, Arizona

I hope you enjoyed these ruminations and find that my future blogs in 2015 are of value. Before I put one up, I think about the photographic community at large, and try to decide if the blog may be of interest to them.

If you enjoy the site and find something of interest, please let me know.

Whose Land Is It Anyway?

A small bit of history to tether the current phenomena of land acquisition around the world.

Indian Reservation Map

Indian Reservation Map

In 1803, the United States bought what became known as the Louisiana Purchase from France. It consisted of 530,000,000 acres of land bought for about $15 million dollars (about 42 cents an acre in today’s dollars.). Although France reaped this income, the approximately 600,000 Native Americans, whose ancestors had lived on these lands for thousands of years, got nothing. Soon, their numbers would decline with the onslaught of European diseases.

Manifest Destiny (the belief that settlers were destined to expand across the country) put more pressure on the native population. Between 1800 and 1875 the US government sold off 400 million acres of Native American land (that had been “re-given” to them). See the map by Sam B. Hilliard of LSU here.


Much of this was accelerated by the Dawes Act of 1857 that created “checkerboards” of land allotted to the Native Americans. The act was created by reformers to achieve the primary goal of the breaking up of tribes as a social unit and opening the remainder of the land to white settlers for profit.

Indian Lands for Sale

Indian Lands for Sale

The checkerboards were 640-acre plots of Native American land interspersed with 640-acre plots of US government land. Finally, the US government sequestered the remaining Native Americans on reservations.



Different Perspectives Regarding Land

Land is an economic commodity. The major reasons for ownership are access and worth. While this concept is accepted by administrators and economists, much is an antithesis to the beliefs of indigenous people. For them, land rights are important for many reasons including ancestral inheritance, spiritual development and social status. Being sacred, the bounty of their lands is given to them by their gods. Losing their lands causes a loss of identity for indigenous people, affecting their worldviews and belief systems – a loss of contact with Mother Earth.

“Public lands” are administrated by sovereign states. They are designated as national parks, reserves, national forests, wilderness areas, domains of the king, etc. All have definitions and legal status, which can change depending on the political climate and needs of the state. Pressure is applied if the economic value of the land outstrips its designated value.

Today, we are witnessing major land grabs throughout the world. These include acquisitions and encroachment in national parks, ancestral lands, farmland and wilderness areas. The purpose of this blog is to highlight some of the more egregious violations occurring in areas where there are historically indigenous populations.

Case Studies

Maasai Hut

Maasai Hut

• Big Hunting Authorities in Tanzania have ordered the eviction of 40,000 Maasai people so their ancestral home can be turned into a hunting ground for Middle Eastern royals. A 1,500sq/km ‘wildlife corridor’ around Loliondo, next to the Serengeti national park, will be handed over to a commercial hunting and safari company based in the United Arab Emirates.

Activists have accused the government of reneging on a promise after it last year said it had backed down on the plans following intense global public opposition. Go here to connect with an organization that was opposed last year and may be currently involved. It’s possible that in 2014 they have given up.

Unlike last year, the government is offering compensation of 1 billion shillings ($460,000), not to be paid directly but to be channeled into socio-economic development projects. The Maasai have dismissed the offer. See a longer story on this issue in The Guardian.

“I feel betrayed,” said Samwel Nangiria, co-coordinator of the local Ngonett civil society group. “One billion is very little and you cannot compare that with land. It’s inherited. Their mothers and grandmothers are buried in that land. There’s nothing you can compare with it.

• Big Agriculture Ethiopian authorities since 2010 have embarked on a plan known as “villagization” to move some 45,000 households. The plan takes scattered families and consolidates them into fewer settlements. It is sold as a scheme for better schools, clinics, cleaner water, and, authorities say, more democracy.

Yet simultaneously Ethiopia is trying to lease up to 42 percent of Gambella – a state the size of the Netherlands – for agricultural investors. India’s Karutui Global Ltd and Saudi Star are the most prominent. Both have started huge farms for export of rice and other crops. Saudi Star is owned by Ethiopian-born Saudi billionaire Mohamed al-Amoudi and is the nation’s largest single investor. See a story on this issue in the Christian Science Monitor.

Distorted Map

Distorted Map

Distorted world map according to the relative amount of land grabs on each country. The rescaling in this map is in proportion to the amount of land acquired by foreign investors after 2006. See the original map here.

• Big Oil In 2013 Ecuador’s President Correa announced an end to the moratorium on oil drilling in the Yasuni National Park, opening it – and lands inhabited by Huaorani (the indigenous population) – to oil drilling once again. The stage is set for an oil invasion by companies from China, Brazil, Argentina and the USA in conjunction with the state oil company Petroamazonas. US company Halliburton has signed long-term contracts to construct roads and camps, recover oil from existing wells and discover new reserves. Oil production is planned to commence in 2016. Most of the oil is destined for the U.S. (previous oil reserves discovered on Huaorani land were estimated to be worth $1.5 billion – enough to keep cars rolling in the U.S. for 13 days).

Twenty years ago Christopher Walker, Gordon Durnin and Tony Avirgan were filmmakers and told the story of the fight against Big Oil in the Amazon basin of Ecuador. Filmed over three years, it covered the fight by the Huaorani people to remove the oil companies from their lands and preserve the Yasuni Park – one of the most biologically diverse regions of the world. The resultant film, TRINKETS & BEADS won many major prizes worldwide, highlighting the Huaorani’s struggle around the world.

They are now engaged in a sequel to TRINKETS and BEADS and are soliciting donations here.

Martin Carbonell, a spokesman for the Yasunidos, (a collection of groups fighting the plan to exploit oil in Yasuni) said: “It’s very worrying what has happened. It is the end of the facade of democracy in Ecuador. Since the beginning of the process we have been subject to physical and verbal attacks, so this was not unexpected.”

These are just a few instances of worldwide pressure on indigenous locales.

What’s Next?

When takeovers of public lands occurs, the indigenous people of the area for the most part are not informed of what is about to happen, and ill-equipped to fight it. Internet transparency helps identify these land grabs that are fueled by state corruption, avaricious individuals and companies with their own economic agendas, but rarely has had an affect on the final outcome. The details of the land deals – made among high-ranking government officials with little consultation of local people – are often nebulous. And in many cases, land that officials have said was “unused” was actually managed in traditional ways.

Red Cloud

Red Cloud

After the decimation of the Native Americans, the famous Oglala Lakota Red Cloud now an old man on a reservation said: “They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one; they promised to take our land, and they took it.”

The percentage of the Native American population in the US is now .08 percent.

If you personally feel as I do that indigenous populations are underrepresented, please donate to one of the causes cited above, or when learning about similar indignations, find out how you can help.