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Facebook needs to be regulated more tightly, or broken up so that no single entity controls all of its data

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The message was clear: The company just wanted negative stories to stop. It didn’t really care how the data was used.

Facebook knows what you look like, your location, who your friends are, your interests, if you’re in a relationship or not, and what other pages you look at on the web. This data allows advertisers to target the more than one billion Facebook visitors a day. It’s no wonder the company has ballooned in size to a $500 billion behemoth in the five years since its I.P.O.

The more data it has on offer, the more value it creates for advertisers. That means it has no incentive to police the collection or use of that data — except when negative press or regulators are involved. Facebook is free to do almost whatever it wants with your personal information, and has no reason to put safeguards in place.

For a few years, Facebook’s developer platform hosted a thriving ecosystem of popular social games. Remember the age of Farmville and Candy Crush? The premise was simple: Users agreed to give game developers access to their data in exchange for free use of addictive games.

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In one instance, a developer appeared to be using Facebook data to automatically generate profiles of children, without their consent. When I called the company responsible for the app, it claimed that Facebook’s policies on data use were not being violated, but we had no way to confirm whether that was true. Once data passed from the platform to a developer, Facebook had no view of the data or control over it. In other cases, developers asked for permission to get user data that their apps obviously didn’t need — such as a social game asking for all of your photos and messages. People rarely read permissions request forms carefully, so they often authorize access to sensitive information without realizing it.

At a company that was deeply concerned about protecting its users, this situation would have been met with a robust effort to cut off developers who were making questionable use of data. But when I was at Facebook, the typical reaction I recall looked like this: try to put any negative press coverage to bed as quickly as possible, with no sincere efforts to put safeguards in place or to identify and stop abusive developers. When I proposed a deeper audit of developers’ use of Facebook’s data, one executive asked me, “Do you really want to see what you’ll find?”

The message was clear: The company just wanted negative stories to stop. It didn’t really care how the data was used.

This makes for a dangerous mix: a company that reaches most of the country every day and has the most detailed set of personal data ever assembled, but has no incentive to prevent abuse. Facebook needs to be regulated more tightly, or broken up so that no single entity controls all of its data. The company won’t protect us by itself, and nothing less than our democracy is at stake.

Indeed. And users, including businesses, need to get serious about privacy and the damage the likes of facebook are doing and flee Facebook and their ilk in droves. Will this happen? I doubt it. As long as it is free they will come. As the increased popularity of Alexa, and other personal assistants that listen in shows, people are continuing to invite these modern forms of big brother into their private lives.

Russian Influence Reached 126 Million Through Facebook Alone

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Russian agents intending to sow discord among American citizens disseminated inflammatory posts that reached 126 million users on Facebook, published more than 131,000 messages on Twitter and uploaded over 1,000 videos to Google’s YouTube service, according to copies of prepared remarks from the companies that were obtained by The New York Times.

The new information goes far beyond what the companies have revealed in the past and underline the breadth of the Kremlin’s efforts to lever open divisions in the United States using American technology platforms, especially Facebook. Multiple investigations of Russian meddling have loomed over the first 10 months of the Trump presidency, with one leading to the indictments of Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chief, and others on Monday.

For Facebook, Google and Twitter, the discovery of Russian influence by way of their sites has been a rude awakening. The companies had long positioned themselves as spreading information and connecting people for positive ends. Now the companies must grapple with how Russian agents used their technologies exactly as they were meant to be used — but for malevolent purposes.

Rude Awaking? Bullshit. For whom? Connecting people for positive good? More bullshit! It is about hoovering up personal user data and selling it! Come on, wake up!

Just say no to Social Media. Just say no to Google. Demand privacy.

Facebook, Twitter, Skype & the rest of Garbage

I have to love this quote

When it comes to technology and social media is of course the man behind the entire investigation, Robert Mueller, who doesn’t give one iota of a shit about the swirling social media yelling that passes for modern political debate.

Love it! Supermarket checkout tabloid rags, but not political debate.

Now here’s a shock (not) from the same article

126 million Facebook users, rather than just 10 million, may have seen content produced and circulated by Russian operatives during the 2016 White House race, it emerged on Monday. And Twitter now says 2,752 accounts accounts were run by Russian agents, rather than the 201 figure it previously estimate

Disconnect from social media and join the real world.

Source: Quote

Facebook and Google promoted false news about Las Vegas

“Social media: The internet version of the supermarket tabloid. Written by the mindless for the mindless.” Unfortunately it is picked up by mainstream media and is swallowed and regurgitated by a good percentage of the 65% of Americans who get their “news” from social media. The article also points up to a failure in machine learning (AI) algorithms in use by the Facebook, Google and their ilk.

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Facebook and Google promoted false news stories claiming that the shooter who killed more than 50 people in Las Vegas was a Democrat who opposed Donald Trump. The misidentification spread rapidly from dark corners of the internet to mainstream platforms just hours after hundreds were injured at a festival near the Mandalay Bay casino, the latest example of fake news polluting social media amid a breaking news story.

The flow of misinformation on Monday illustrated a particularly grim trend that has increasingly dominated viral online propaganda during US mass shootings – hyper-partisan trolls battling to blame the tragedy on opposing political ideologies. …

Despite the fact that the claims were unproven and coming from non-credible sources, Facebook’s “Safety Check” page, which is supposed to help people connect with loved ones during the crisis, ended up briefly promoting a story that said the shooter had “Trump-hating” views, along with links to a number of other hoaxes and scams, according to screenshots. At the same time, Google users who searched Geary Danley’s name were at one point directed to the 4chan thread filled with false claims.
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False content can quickly move from social media to legitimate news sources, she added: “People are putting out crap information on purpose … It’s really easy to get shit into the news cycle by being on Twitter.”

A YouTube user also pushed an unsubstantiated rumor that the suspect was a Hillary Clinton supporter.

On a Facebook Alternative

Over the weekend I was at a family event. There were a lot of folk snapping pictures and I (once again) asked that no one post and pictures to social media, especially not on Facebook. (Followers of this blog, if any, will know my opinion on Facebook). In the ensuing discussion, I floated an idea of a non-profit Facebook like site that was not supported by advertising, was invite only as a default, did not track/sell/mine user data, had real unfiltered non propaganda injected news feeds, and several other items that are opposite Facebook’s (and other similiar social media sites) modus operandi. It did not get too far. The business “minds” did not like the non profit public/private contribution funding model. The Facebook drones just dismissed it as a rant.

My idea is not to eradicate Facebook and their ilk, but provide an alternative and educate by establishing a platform that has both the social media aspects that people enjoy, e.g., ease of staying connected and sharing social info, coupled with news feeds that are not filtered and not based on a readers likes/dislikes and not injected by propaganda outlets of dubious sources.

I think articles and online training on critical thinking and how to evaluate the medias manipulation of emotion and other tricks would be an additional good feature. Such training works as IREX Learn to Discern Program which …”helps citizens detect and decode misinformation and propaganda.” are a good model.

At the moment 45% of Americans get their news from Facebook. News from all social media categories is even higher (source Pew Research Center News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2017.  With the Facebook allowing targeted news feeds, targeted fake advertising, direct propaganda feeds, all based on user data mining, these statistics should stand as a loud wake-up call.

Facebook and their ilk are in business to make money. Civic responsibility is simply not in their financial interest. They offer services for free to attract their prey. The only way to counter them to is offer alternative “attractions” that are free from the Venus flytrap profit motivators of these companies.

Why Equifax & others will Fail at Self Policing

The simple answer is they will not do anything to hurt their own business. They sell your information and rake in too money doing so. A credit freeze prevents that. I finally found a good article to share on this by Brice Schneider.

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This happened because your personal information is valuable, and Equifax is in the business of selling it. The company is much more than a credit reporting agency. It’s a data broker. It collects information about all of us, analyzes it all, and then sells those insights.

Its customers are people and organizations who want to buy information: banks looking to lend you money, landlords deciding whether to rent you an apartment, employers deciding whether to hire you, companies trying to figure out whether you’d be a profitable customer — everyone who wants to sell you something, even governments.

It’s not just Equifax. It might be one of the biggest, but there are 2,500 to 4,000 other data brokers that are collecting, storing, and selling information about you — almost all of them companies you’ve never heard of and have no business relationship with.

Surveillance capitalism fuels the Internet, and sometimes it seems that everyone is spying on you. You’re secretly tracked on pretty much every commercial website you visit. Facebook is the largest surveillance organization mankind has created; collecting data on you is its business model. I don’t have a Facebook account, but Facebook still keeps a surprisingly complete dossier on me and my associations — just in case I ever decide to join.

The companies that collect and sell our data don’t need to keep it secure in order to maintain their market share. They don’t have to answer to us, their products. They know it’s more profitable to save money on security and weather the occasional bout of bad press after a data loss. Yes, we are the ones who suffer when criminals get our data, or when our private information is exposed to the public, but ultimately why should Equifax care?

This market failure isn’t unique to data security. There is little improvement in safety and security in any industry until government steps in. Think of food, pharmaceuticals, cars, airplanes, restaurants, workplace conditions, and flame-retardant pajamas.

Market failures like this can only be solved through government intervention. By regulating the security practices of companies that store our data, and fining companies that fail to comply, governments can raise the cost of insecurity high enough that security becomes a cheaper alternative. They can do the same thing by giving individuals affected by these breaches the ability to sue successfully, citing the exposure of personal data itself as a harm.

If you don’t like how careless Equifax was with your data, don’t waste your breath complaining to Equifax. Complain to your government.

Facebook Wins, Democracy Loses

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Another reason (among many many) why no one with any shred of intelligence should use Facebook.

On Wednesday, Facebook revealed that hundreds of Russia-based accounts had run anti-Hillary Clinton ads precisely aimed at Facebook users whose demographic profiles implied a vulnerability to political propaganda. It will take time to prove whether the account owners had any relationship with the Russian government, but one thing is clear: Facebook has contributed to, and profited from, the erosion of democratic norms in the United States and elsewhere.

The audacity of a hostile foreign power trying to influence American voters rightly troubles us. But it should trouble us more that Facebook makes such manipulation so easy, and renders political ads exempt from the basic accountability and transparency that healthy democracy demands.


The ads — about 3,000 placed by 470 accounts and pages spending about $100,000 — were what the advertising industry calls “dark posts,” seen only by a very specific audience, obscured by the flow of posts within a Facebook News Feed and ephemeral. Facebook calls its “dark post” service “unpublished page post ads.”

This should not surprise us. Anyone can deploy Facebook ads. They are affordable and easy. That’s one reason that Facebook has grown so quickly, taking in $27.6 billion in revenue in 2016, virtually all of it from advertisers, by serving up the attention of two billion Facebook users across the globe.

[Emphasis added] A core principle in political advertising is transparency — political ads are supposed to be easily visible to everyone, and everyone is supposed to understand that they are political ads, and where they come from. And it’s expensive to run even one version of an ad in traditional outlets, let alone a dozen different versions. Moreover, in the case of federal campaigns in the United States, the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign-finance act requires candidates to state they approve of an ad and thus take responsibility for its content.

None of that transparency matters to Facebook. Ads on the site meant for, say, 20- to 30-year-old home-owning Latino men in Northern Virginia would not be viewed by anyone else, and would run only briefly before vanishing. The potential for abuse is vast. An ad could falsely accuse a candidate of the worst malfeasance a day before Election Day, and the victim would have no way of even knowing it happened. Ads could stoke ethnic hatred and no one could prepare or respond before serious harm occurs.

Facebook has no incentive to change its ways. The money is too great. The issue is too nebulous to alienate more than a few Facebook users. The more that Facebook saturates our lives, families and communities, the harder it is to live without it.

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Our best hopes sit in Brussels and London. European regulators have been watching Facebook and Google for years. They have taken strong actions against both companies for violating European consumer data protection standards and business competition laws. The British government is investigating the role Facebook and its use of citizens’ data played in the 2016 Brexit referendum and 2017 national elections.

We are in the midst of a worldwide, internet-based assault on democracy. Scholars at the Oxford Internet Institute have tracked armies of volunteers and bots as they move propaganda across Facebook and Twitter in efforts to undermine trust in democracy or to elect their preferred candidates in the Philippines, India, France, the Netherlands, Britain and elsewhere. We now know that agents in Russia are exploiting the powerful Facebook advertising system directly.

In the 21st-century social media information war, faith in democracy is the first casualty.