The science is clear on human's capacity for meaningful/real realtionships (it's a pretty small number), the anecdotal evidence is also fairly clear on FB's real contributions to society (it's not positive).
FB really is the poster child for just how willing we are as a species to roll around in our own feces. It's most definetly a sad commentary on where we are at in general as a society and the contribution it made to the last electoral shitshow is just icing on the cake.
Hell, it's also sigularly unsurprising that Zuck is headed to politics, in fact that morass of crap is just about a perfect fit for him.
Yes Facebook does bad things from time to time, researching what days of the week teenagers are most likely to post given content does not, in my mind, qualify as an especially nefarious action.
Also about your "keep track of what's going on in the lives of ..", just call your friends to find out what is going on in their life. People normally don't post everything on facebook. I think its a great service if you want to know what's going on in Kim Kardashian life.
I don't understand the need many people have to know what their friends are doing at all times. I check my friends' Snapchat stories sometimes, but usually I just don't care and they can tell me next time I have a conversation with them.
Not all of my Facebook friends are close enough that I'd call them to keep in touch, but it's still nice to know how they're getting on.
One of my friends from high school just finished her education to become a Doctor. Good for her. I didn't need to know that, but it's still nice, and I would never have known without something like Facebook.
I reminded of the scene in Fight club where the narrator discovers that "Chloe died of cancer". He'd forgotten all about her, but discovering her death made him react as though sad. When challenged as to whether he cares, he says something like "I don't know, I haven't thought about her in a while".
(unnecessary reference, but I guess it frames the other side).
After I'd left uni for a couple of years Facebook became a long list of people I used to know sharing lots of minutae and a few big events in their life. Processing that has a cost, emotionally and intellectually. Is that cost worth paying? My deciding "no" doesn't mean that it's true for everyone!
So if you're a depressed person on social media seeing all those awesome things people are doing, just sends you down a downward spiral, even though a lot of people are probably not much better off.
And you just said it yourself. You didn't need to know your "friend" got her doctors and your life probably had zero impact from knowing, which really is the best case szenario with social media.
I am not saying, social media serves no porpuse though. For event organizing and crowd funding and probably a lot of other things, it comes in handy.
Just wanted to say that the paywalled article in The Australian can be viewed via cache: just fine:
Here's a more permanent copy: http://archive.is/paAKu
My apologies, and thanks for the feedback; I won't try this again.
Change is closer than we think.
I tend to prefer Facebook Messenger (messenger.com is great btw - literally a blow up version of an iPad/tablet app). It 100% encourages 1-1 communication and staying in touch with friends since there's nothing else to do there - you can't get sucked into mindless browsing. It doesn't even have any ads as far as I can tell.
(edit - typo)
I'm here neither to attack or defend Facebook, but this is a really crappy way of looking at the world. "People suck anyway, so...."
You could put just about anything after beginning a sentence like that.
I am not here to attack or defend Facebook either, but I think accusing them of being bad just because people get addicted to it is not a good measure. People get addicted to smartphones also but I rarely see people critical of the smartphone as a device.
Thats how I keep up with my extended family 1000 miles away. I do think it's a positive force in the world.
Back in 2011 I also used Facebook to "keep up" with my distant friends and family. I read their posts, looked at their photos, liked their comments, left notes here and there.. Chatted with them..
Then one day I realized that these were all (for me) extremely shallow interactions, and I decided I would make a better effort to stay in touch.
I closed my Facebook account, and made a commitment to reach out directly to the people I cared about. Perhaps less often, but in more meaningful ways.
I started sending monthly emails, and scheduling Skype or (eventually) FaceTime calls, and so on..
Fast-forward 6 years of that and I feel much more connected to the distant people I care about in my life than I ever did via Facebook, and almost all of them have reciprocated my efforts at maintaining a better connection..
Again, this is just my story, but you really don't need Facebook to stay in touch with the people you care about, no matter where they are in the world.
I think there are a lot of positives to Facebook, but a lot of potential negatives for certain kinds of personalities (people who are negative or addictive). With the right attitude though, it's certainly helpful
I look back on my Facebook usage as a cost / benefit tradeoff and in the end the benefits just weren't paying off.
I know exactly what you mean in theory however, no matter how much one views "status updates" inevitably you're drifting apart from those people and caring less about what they're doing, that's natural. I had less time for my closer friends. It felt artificial to have to stay connected, exhausting, though I didn't realise till I left.
One could check updates less, often, but then what's the point ?
If someone really wants to hangout they just contact me via other channels.
Contrast with realtime voice and video. (Facebook has those features but they're nowhere near as utilized. And they definitely do boot show up in feeds.)
Just because you're not willing to make time for someone doesn't mean you can't enjoy an evening of chatting and catching up when your lives happen to intersect.
That's a feature, not a bug.
Wow. Back then it had already degenerated into two things: chainmail and the trap of portraying a life that you don't lead. I left when I realised that absolutely none of that "keeping in touch" was happening. If anything, Facebook estranged people.
To the point of the article, imagine all the good that could be done with this data: an alert system for vulnerable teenagers.
At the height of my Facebook usage, I had less than 100 connections, because even back then I only stayed connected with people I was trying to maintain meaningful connections with.
No co-workers I didn't see socially, no one I went to high school or university with but didn't still keep in touch otherwise, etc..
So I rarely saw "junk" on my feed that was totally irrelevant to me, but it still happened sometimes..
There's something to be said about not directly involving corporations with your communications.
What I'm trying to say is, the internet is great, with it we can move beyond the old hegemony and monopolies.
Unless you talk to them face to face, most, if not all, forms of communication rely on third parties.
But we're talking orders of magnitude of difference.
In general "they" don't read your mail because they can't even if they wanted to. Slow mail is extremely expensive to do a through survailence on.
The intention doesn't matter, the fact is that slow mail is private for all intents and purposes.
You're absolutely right. Facebook can be an immensely negative experience for a person, a damaging force in their life. Facebook also can be a positive force, connecting a person to their friends, loved ones, and community.
Eg maybe getting older was a factor in that.
I lived most of my life without Facebook (born in the late 70s) and it's at least not obvious to me that people had more deeper connections prior to it.
That's the sick part of FB. That I really don't care for my cousin saving the world in Africa, so why should I care what she's doing?
I don't. And the truth is most of us don't care either. We're unable to admit it to ourselves so we pretend to care
Yes, quite a lot of social networking interactions are shallow, as are most real-world social interactions. but I've also made quite a lot of good friendships from what started out as shallow interactions. You're doing social networking right here on HN, you just treat it differently because it's (I presume) somehow connected to your professional activities.
And yes I was indeed sharing a story about what works for me. I never implied it would work for everyone else, or that anyone using FB was doing anything wrong, or that "social networking" is wrong.
You're also right that I am networking on HN as we speak! And these are also very shallow interactions, but that's perfectly ok because this is just HN and I'm just talking with strangers about topics that interest me.
But that wasn't the case with Facebook. Context matters. I was having shallow interactions with people I have deep existing relationships with (good friends who have moved away, family, etc), and I decided that for me personally that didn't work, and I wanted to do things differently.
I rarely use Facebook because it's a time suck and I closed Twitter, but there are a lot of positives from social media, especially if you consider it globally.
I see this claim often, but I've never seen any hard evidence backing this claim.
Au contraire: Social media is a fantastic snooping tool for oppressive (or even non-oppressive) regimes.
"Social media played a central role in shaping political debates in the Arab Spring. A spike in online revolutionary conversations often preceded major events on the ground. Social media helped spread democratic ideas across international borders." 
"Global Use of Social Media to Fight Corruption Inspires Youth in Brazil" 
"In the Bagega community in Nigeria, lead poisoning had resulted in thousands of children suffering serious health problems. The government announced it would release around $5.3 million for remediation but months later the funds had still not reached the affected community." Two passionate guys formed an organization called Follow the Money and amplified the voices of this forgotten community. Within 48 hours of a Twitter campaign targeting government officials and other influential leaders -- and following a campaign by groups including Human Rights Watch -- the funds were released and affected children are now receiving the urgent medical care that they deserve. 
Life expectancy is up 50 years from 1000 years ago, childhood mortality is at its lowest point in history, education rates are at their highest, global poverty is at its lowest.
None of these are positive forces to you? What time period would you prefer?
The short average life expectancy of primitive humans is entirely an artifact of high childhood mortality and how averages work. If you lived past childhood you were likely to live until your 60's or 70's.
Primitive human lives were not hard and not short, the workweek for hunter/gatherers was less than half of ours. They were strongly biased towards highly egalitarian cultures.
Doesn't mean I'd necessarily prefer that time period to now, but I'm a white guy in a rich nation with a professional career and it's still not an obvious call. For the rest of the world they wouldn't have to think about it, they would hop in that time machine and head for a pre-agricultural era in a heartbeat.
The idea that blindly sprinting in the random direction of the latest discovery and calling it "progress" has not had any downsides is stupidity, as is the willful ignorance necessary to accept a cartoon version of pre-history created in 1651 based on extrapolating from experience in London, without any evidence or knowledge.
I am aware of this, but not sure why you think this negates the fact that life expectancy has increased. I would much prefer a drastically higher chance of living passed childhood. And if I somehow managed to live long enough to have children, I'd prefer that my children don't all die at birth, along with their mother. These desires have only been made possible in the last century or two
Of course you'd prefer to have the modern first world chances of surviving childhood and childbirth. If you had a choice between prehistorical lives for your surviving children or for them all to have the lives of a random child on earth today it's a harder choice. Making your base of comparison the middle ages is also the most skewed comparison possible.
That's not even counting the fact that we are supporting this technological infrastructure not only by reducing the quality of life from less powerful peoples but by massively borrowing quality of life from all future generations.
There have been some attempts to study hunter gatherers that existed in recent times:
The group there isn't necessarily going to be representative, but mortality for young adults was ~2% per year. In the US it is something like 0.1%.
Quants are not the only people entitled to have an opinion on this. While I mostly like the modern world it has lots of downsides too. Simplistic measures like life expectancy reduce the business of living to a handful of metrics and then pronounce things to be good or bad according to how those arbitrary criteria measure up.
That's great if you want to live in a world that's run like a factory where productivity is the highest social good. I don't. I would be fine with dying at 60 or even tomorrow, not because I don't want to live any more but because I've chosen to set my own goals about what sort of life and activity I find meaningful rather than simply maximizing some inherited utility criteria.
Long life would be nice, in general, but it's a fact that one's life might be arbitrarily cut short by some random accident. In your world being out at one extreme or the other of the probability distribution is statistically interesting but nothing more. Your value system lacks any criteria for determining the worth of life other than the most primitive feedback loop of maximizing whatever quantitative factors you've set yourself to measure.
I am friends with a few super-wealthy people, one who had access to great wealth through business and another who's a prominent aristocrat. When I say friends, I don't mean that we hang out to drink champagne, but that I'm privy to intimate details of their family/personal lives. Wealth does not inoculate you against crippling emotional problems.
While the wisdom of the crowds favors the continued existence and growth of Facebook, the wisdom of a tech heavy audience takes a skeptical stance, and the skepticism is heightened when entities such as Facebook and Google are completely robbing us of our privacy one little "byte" at a time.
In the time it took you to read my comment, let us just suppose FB and Google just reduced the privacy of your life by about x%, however minuscule you might think x is. The trouble is, despite the vitriol directed at these entities, the rate not only doesn't seem to reduce, it is actually going up every day!
Zuck: Just ask.
Zuck: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS
[Redacted Friend's Name]: What? How'd you manage that one?
Zuck: People just submitted it.
Zuck: I don't know why.
Zuck: They "trust me"
Zuck: Dumb fucks.
Has he ever acknowledged saying this publicly - or ever spoke about how he fucked over the twin brothers? I want a leader who's transparent, open - honest.
"I'll do good, trust me."
You don't get to play the whole "Genius Wunderkind" part, take all the success and notoriety that comes with that, and then say "Oh, young people will just say dumb stuff" regarding your emotional maturity at the time. This is who he is. The quote perfectly sums up Zuckerberg's actual intentions, as demonstrated repeatedly by his public actions. He's a sociopathic megalomaniac, and Facebook is a net drain on society. Fortunately, I think others are beginning to realize it too.
You're not gonna find that in the Holywood drama movie of said leader.
I'm going with "people on Facebook think he needs to go out on a 'listening tour' so he did".
As long as we avoid physiological tricks like the flashing of frames you can't consciously see type thing (I know that is questionable to having an effect) its a good thing. I get shown products/services I might like to buy, in return I get free emails, news and videos etc. Seems like a pretty good deal to me.
Also realized engineers are not revolutionaries. We like to work on things that a textbook talks about. The kind of problems these articles talk about most engineers have no idea how to solve. And it's in our nature to say so and shrink away from such problem.
Look at Elon Musk today talking about how depressing it would be not to goto space. Poverty and War are depressing too but Engineers know how to build rockets better than they know how to address poverty and peace.
What ends up happening is the space we shrink away from gets filled with characters who don't know what they are doing. They compensate by pandering to the public and buying time mostly for themselves to retire to a nice little island.
Having said all that as an Engineer reaching his retirement I feel quite disappointed in the culture we have left behind for the next generation.
It's easy to take a stand when you either have a lot of sway or you're a critical component. It's not so easy when you've got people to feed and there are 100 people in line to take your spot.
In an ideal world, engineers and developers alike could really reshape a lot of business practices. For example, developers could say no to creating dark patterns, and engineers could say no to building with substandard parts. Both could say no to unrealistic deadlines that force shoddy workmanship and ugly shortcuts. Too bad that if you won't do it, someone else will gladly do it in your place.
The only way to realistically do it is to put up with it, and then change the culture of the company once you've gotten high enough in the chain. That can take years, and there is no guaranteed payoff. Of course, the other method is to create a union, a coalition of developers, or even an external organization (the EFF, Wikileaks) to back up developers or apply pressure. Doing that is a monumental task in and of itself.
I am not disagreeing with you. In fact, I encourage this behavior. It's hard for a lot of people to do it in practice though.
This is true for exactly 0 engineers at Google and Facebook. Every single one of them could easily find another job if they wanted to leave.
I think you guys seriously need to consider the possibility that these people are actually OK with what they're doing and simply have different values and priorities than you do.
> It's hard for a lot of people to do it in practice though.
The world of development exists outside of the tech giants. There are more people doing dev work outside of those giant companies that are still making an impact.
I don't deny that there can be apathy. Some people show up, do what they're told, and collect money without regards as to what they're doing.
> I don't deny that there can be apathy
I'm not talking about apathy, I'm talking about actually understanding and being OK with what you're doing. Google and Facebook have just short of 90,000 employees between them (not all of them engineers, of course) - it's extremely misanthropic to assume that they are all either apathetic or consciously doing evil.
A very large number of people understand and are largely perfectly OK with the substance of what Facebook and Google are doing.
I've been thinking a lot recently about Xerox PARC - a unique situation where smart people were given a wide degree of latitude, and the result was they came up with some world-changing things.
I understand that businesses have a legitimate right to work toward their end (the bottom line) - but in this rapidly changing world I think responsible people need to step up and say "enough is enough, we make these things, and here's how WE want to make them."
Even at startups - the incentives are such that oftentimes user privacy is compromised. The economic model of ads supporting software is profitable but is it really the way we want to work?
Unfortunately we may be too far down this road. People don't generally want/expect to pay for software. I think this is limiting and troublesome in the long term.
For example, developers do pay for MS toolkit despite alternatives. Certain architects and designers pay for Autodesk software. Or 3D modelling even despite existence of Blender. There are quite a few of music software options that are strictly paid. Higher end video authoring software. Numeric and statistical packages. Electronics design and simulation software.
Games... Heck, people still pay for office suites.
What we don't see is people paying for CRUD as much as they used to.
What matters is that the software in question is truly great for doing something, competition is not to big and that the enterprise users ultimately catch on. Of course few start-ups want to tangle with that.
As a profession, software engineers have very weak ethical standards. We have no Hippocratic oath, we have no iron ring. We might not be happy about it, but we'll release code that we know to be dangerously buggy, we'll cooperate with surveillance agencies, we'll design systems that exploit users, we'll build products that are sold to the governments of Saudi Arabia or Libya.
If software engineers were collectivised, we could refuse to do all of this shady stuff. Any software engineer tasked with doing something unethical could simply say "I'm not doing that, I'd lose my license". By establishing a professional body equivalent to the Bar Association or the General Medical Council, we could throw a giant wrench in the machinery of evil.
I'm not sure what country you're in, but here, these 10 digit numbers and their various prefixes (NPAs AKA "area codes") are literally burned into the consciousness of most citizens, without them even realizing it. Additionally, all modern cellular services here are still following it in some sense or other, making it an example of highly entrenched technical debt. I'm pretty sure that the design of this system bled heavily into most other countries' telephone networks as well.
A small number of engineers probably drew up this plan on a chalkboard in the 1940s at AT&T, without a clue as to the magnitude of future ramifications.
My wife has an electrical engineering degree and she had to take ethics courses and pass an exam in them as part of her credentialing process, which in turn shaped her career decisions significantly. I find it troubling that ethics are not considered a very important topic in software development or indeed many spheres of business activity.
It's not that I expect people to necessarily share my opinions; what distresses me is that many arguments I encounter from contrary positions are so utterly shallow that you can tell the person hasn't really thought about such issues very much. Positivism has a great deal to answer for.
Colonizing Mars would require engineers to develop more than just rockets. At some point political-economic models of colonies would have to be developed, in order to determine whether colonies will be economically sustainable without subsidies from Earth. Asking people to imagine how these colonies should be organized, and how to measure whether they will be economically sustainable, requires them to consider economic and political ideas which could be later applied to the problems of poverty and political instability on Earth.
One potential model that could work well for Mars in order to reduce political tensions between competing colonies and to establish a clear and efficient mechanism for financing territorial public services is cellular democracy:
I can't imagine something that has had the positive impact on my education and entertainment like google.
Take youtube alone- if google did nothing else, they've enabled a infinite compendium of how-tos on almost every topic imaginable to everyone on the planet, free of charge.
That is _amazing_.
Then the government can easily target those, just go and hack, or confiscate the server that has the stuff of key opposition people. And no one will even know. Sure, those people, that 10 people will. But that's it. No one else will notice. Yes, a newspaper might write about it, and what?
Now, if Gmail disappears, people notice.
And Google has a very competent security team. Small groups don't and won't.
And so far Apple choose to sort of stand up for data protection. Google too, tries to do things securely (project zero, fuzzing, and so on) and fight NSLs and whatevers to a certain point. MS also went to court against DoJ over gag orders.
But what does that mean when they'll face a very underhanded administration, where things will just have to be done, when boots on the door first and you can maybe win in court later. (See also retroactive immunity, see also how long it took to stop "accumulating" maybe-terrorists in Guantanamo.)
But we also forget how bad other places have it. I've already mentioned China, but Turkey and Russia is the poster child for how things are going when you appoint friends to every position for more than 10 years, they have an incentive to please you and automatically side with you (and we haven't even talked about the obscene amount of money disappearing in the pockets of those friends).
People died because of money and conservative/fundamentalist ideology in Russia with the total blessing of the state/regime (I like the phrase `power structure` better.)
All in all, I think worrying about data is laughable, because when they are coming for data, a lot more is already long lost. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=VK_(social_networ... ) - that is people have to be vigilantly scrutinizing every other actor in a democracy, not just data miners (data-enhanced service providers), anyhow, to keep them honest.
I also think the amount of important things Google is doing has decreasing drastically. Chrome is the last major completely-in-house product I recall Google has released, that wasn't sourced from an acquisition. (That isn't to say acquisitions don't count for anything, but clearly they were able to develop their special sauce outside of Google, so Google is not required to do that thing.)
The problem is that we do not know what we would have gotten instead. Before Facebook (et al.) became big, more of my regular friends/family were on Jabber/XMPP. People were creating blogs that were not locked in a silo (Wordpress and Blogger were quite usable for non-experts). Etc.
Now with facebook, I lost touch with people who refuse to be on FB(privacy concerns).
And forget about making friends with strangers on Facebook (gasp!)
Slightly offtopic: we found that checking out Geocaches in an area on the Geocaching website is a pretty good way of finding interesting spots/places. Especially highly-rated caches and Earth caches.
Secondly, I've seen engineers running around with Facebook shirts on with the slogan "Connect the world" written on them, I would find it irritating if I couldn't see the irony in it, instead I just find it funny.
There is a lot of cognitive bias happening with people working there. They wave big money carrots to keep staff and I feel for some people it's a way of validating their ability, so they stay no matter what impact the product is having on society, even if they don't agree with it inside.
Change is not positive per-se. It can be just as easily negative. I had a Facebook account for exactly two weeks and realized this wasn't an improvement over what I already had. I much prefer quality over quantity when it comes to personal relationships and Facebook really does not satisfy that for me. Besides them being absolutely creepy about the way they position themselves and use the mountains of data they gather about people.
On top of that Zuckerberg seems a thoroughly despicable person which doesn't help in trusting the company that he leads.
Livestreaming a murder is not progress.
I actually work for a department that has non- advertising revenue, but regarding ads, a ton of companies, even many startups here on HN, generate revenue from ads. Regardless of revenue, many of Google's products are clearly very high quality. There's no social network lockin for gmail as a webmail client or Google maps as a map client but they're still perceived as the best.
Google is truly flexible about hours and as long as I get my work done, communicate with the team and attend meetings I can effectively work any schedule I want (Microsoft actually had a similarly lax environment, one of my former team members there worked roughly noon-8), which for me varies day-to-day based on my non work schedule. This is great compared to a company I worked at where they one decreed that everyone solve bugs "after hours" (unsurprisingly many employees would just sit on the bugs and then mark them as fixed right after five). Free meals (along with microkitchens) are very convenient, and it is highly frowned upon to be in the office long enough for both breakfast and dinner. There's a gym right in the building and beds if I feel like taking a nap. I can't speak for the main campus in California, but my office is in an urban area so I am not isolated from my interests and I don't need to own a car. If I have an appointment for something at 3pm I won't be impeded assuming I don't have a meeting around then.
Although many interesting projects are limited to the main campus, there's still a decent variety of work here as we have 1000+ employees in the office. The development tools+environment are not perfect but give me fewer problems than anywhere else I've worked. The main downside is that things can get bureaucratic at times which is the nature of giant organizations, although I never feel pressured by PMs. Sometimes the company's internal self promotion gets a bit silly as well but it's relatively easy to ignore.
Tesla+SpaceX seem neat but to work there I'd have to move to the West Coast, which I'm not interested in. Most of the financial industry would require me to be at work by nine and/or require me to wear some sort of specific attire, along with a lower variety of work and likely more stress. Many startups offer the same perks in theory but have extremely long hours in practice and the unspoken expectation that you socialize almost exclusively within the startup.
Basically I'm treated more like a human than I would be at many other companies, so when I'm looking to change what I work on, I'd rather look internally than externally.
a ton of companies, even many startups here on HN, generate revenue from ads
'The rest does it as well, so it can't be wrong.'
There's no social network lockin for gmail as a webmail client
Except if you want to use a competing service or run your own mail server. Then you cannot deliver to Google Mail, you cannot find out why Google Mail does not accept your mail, you cannot contact Google to whitelist you. Moreover, as a non-Google Mail user I cannot opt out of my mail being scanned for advertising purposes. And no, I cannot just avoid sending to Google Mail addresses, some people forward their e-mail to Google Mail.
Google [...] easy to ignore.
The parent asks what it feels like to use your intellectual capacity to build an advertising machine that in the end aims to know as much as possible about every person with an internet connection. Your answer is, 'look here, perks'? Really?!?
I mean, questions like 'What if we ever got a dictator? He/she would have a field day with all the data that we are collecting.' or 'Isn't my company stepping over the bounds what is permitted by privacy laws to gain more ad profit?' must cross the minds of a Google engineer sometimes, I hope? And doesn't it feel bad to be complicit of constructing what is one of the largest spying machines?
Email providers (Google, Microsoft, your ISP, or even Yahoo) having access to your email is the very nature of unencrypted email unless you expect everyone to run their own mail servers. And non-gmail users can definitely send email to gmail users; I've definitely sent email from an organization I worked at that used Outlook+Exchange to my personal gmail acocunt. I have also had scripts that sent out email from a (now defunct) website in the past and really had not issue getting email accepted once I set up reverse DNS, but admittedly that was many years ago.
"Easy to ignore" just meant easy to ignore internal corporate-speak bullshit, similar internal buzzwords that I've seen at every company I've worked at of any size.
A dictator could already gain control of any communications platform in theory, such as your phone company. In fact, the NSA already does spy on communications in the US (and probably abroad). Does that mean nobody should ever work for a communications-based company?
You cannot trivially opt out of Google tracking you or your environment. To give some examples:
- Google reads all my e-mail sent to a Google Mail user to build advertising profiles.
- Google Analytics is used by many websites and can be used by Google to track users' movements around the web. Obviously, ads can be used for the same purposes.
- Google snoops access points and maps them to GPS positions. It's not opt-in, but you have to opt-out by adding _nomap to your SSID. To make this even more annoying, Microsoft has different requirements to opt out of their tracking.
- Google snaps photos of my house, street, car without ever asking permission and puts them online. Applies machine learning to extract data. Unfortunately, we cannot know what data.
A lot of things that Google does are incredibly offensive privacy violations (even if not by law), but it is hard or impossible to opt out of them.
Does that mean nobody should ever work for a communications-based company?
There are also communication companies with moral values and that try to avoid collecting and retaining as much possible data and metadata. (Fastmail, Protonmail, Signal, XS4All, to just name a few).
I would also like to point out that there is a huge difference between (1) a dictator can monitor all your traffic from this point in time (ISP with short log retention) and (2) a dictator can scan virtually behaviour data of the last decade to see whether someone was gay, communicated with a leftist group, or whatever 'crime' one can commit.
At any rate, 'others do it too' is a terrible argument. A lot of humans do a lot of terrible things. That does not mean that we do not have to strive for a more reasonable world.
Not only machines are let loose on that data. Ever try to open some websites through a VPN or Tor? Often you'll be presented with Google's Recaptcha tool to verify that you are not a robot but a genuine human visitor (to prevent spam and DDOS attacks). To gain access to the website itself you are enlisted to train Google's algorithms to properly recognize objects on outdoor photographs — including but not limited to mountains, store fronts, house numbers, and cars.
A recent 'innovation' has you freehand draw the outline of traffic signs.
All unpaid labour, all for a huge proprietary dataset.
The old Recaptcha system of proofreading OCR scanned words from books at least had some public merit.
It's not just making money from ads like an old-school newspaper did, it's 1) collecting so much data about people, 2) using it to crank the existing evil of ads (they're often highly asymmetric psychological warfare, after all) up to 11 with targeting, 3) sucking the air out of the room for privacy-respecting services with non-spying business models, 4) a bit more mundane than those other problems, but, extortion—I sure see a lot of ads for exactly the company/site I was obviously searching for at the top of my search results, and this is due to putting ads inline with search results, which forces companies to buy ads for searches that are clearly specifically for them. The inline, top-of-results ads are misleading to users and force "protection money" out of companies.
5) To protect ad revenue, its changing the nature of the web. Who the fuck is Google to decide whether guest blogging is or is not a good thing? So, Google is not really smart enough to figure out how to rank websites when real people get together and collude to improve their chances in the game. I suppose they would rather just deal with non-human websites than the humans who are the source of those websites.
1. Which makes the following statement really ironic "I'm treated more like a human than I would be at many other companies"
2. It is probably a signal that perhaps the "product" is not "clearly very high quality", but rather is just somewhat better than the next best one, so instead of saying "We are too dumb to figure it out", their story was "people are manipulating things behind our backs and since there is such a big human component, we are being misled".
Hmmm...so some humans are getting together behind closed doors to game the system, and this is upsetting the tech giants? So how should the rest of the population feel when they ask themselves the same question about what is happening within the walls of the tech giants' offices as they make a ton of sneaky decisions which is causing a lot of problems for people's privacy?
I once made a suggestion on this forum to compile every publicly known piece of information about all the employees at Google and Facebook (and while you are at it, why not Amazon and Microsoft?), and release it as a Kaggle  dataset for data mining and see how they would feel about it. Are there colleagues involved in secret relationships? Boy, I would sure enjoy knowing it just as much as GooFace likes to triangulate information about me. Are there folks who are actively supporting Donald Trump every time they can while putting on a liberal face within the organizations? Hey, I think it would be great fun to out them to their colleagues and sit back and watch the show.
Someone retorted that I am threatening "doxing". Oh yes, let us all be sure to be very respectful of the same people who don't think there is anything wrong with not giving us the same respect.
The ire directed at these organizations is well deserved, and well earned.
 Yeah, so Google acquired Kaggle. Just release it someplace else.
Tesla refuses to really treat owners of their cars like owners of their cars. Tesla remote pulls data from individual peoples' cars to defend themselves in press releases. If you try and interface with your Tesla, Tesla will call and threaten you. Even if you own the title to a Tesla, they may refuse to activate your car under certain circumstances. Teslas use their self-driving sensors to relay all of your driving data back to Tesla even if you didn't purchase the self-driving add-on. Some cars are sold with part of their battery capacity software disabled unless you pay to unlock it. And Tesla only allows access to its repair manual in the one state they're legally forced to... for $30 an hour to look at it online. There's also juvenile stuff like Tesla refusing to sell a car to a guy who wrote a negative comment about them online.
This is a company which has a vastly distorted view of car "ownership" considering the incredible cost people pay to "own" one.
I like a lot of what Elon Musk is doing, but some of the ways his car company behaves is as unethical as Google or Facebook.
On the topic, Elon Musk was involved in the creation of PayPal, which arbitrarily takes cash from people while bypassing bank regulations, yet many (both of us included apparently) have no inherent problem working for a Musk company.
Sure, ideally this gets worked out in heartfelt conversations in person. But the thing is that you don't prioritize those kinds of past relationships, because the friction of reconnecting is substantial. Facebook lowered that connection cost, while also making it easier to communicate with close friends.
>> ideally this gets worked out in heartfelt conversations in person
So, you agree that
a) there was indeed a novelty factor at that time to reconnecting on Facebook (i.e. you were actually glad to take an action without Facebook's constant nagging) and
b) you also go on to hint that your definition of weak connection is "it still is only via Facebook" which became strong because you moved on to have better relationships "outside of Facebook"
Neither of these things are true anymore. The Facebook of 2017 is nothing like the Facebook of about 10 years ago.
And most people are going in the opposite direction of what you are observing. Example: have you ever heard someone tell another person who doesn't happen to be on Facebook about some major event in their life by saying "Oh I did announce it on Facebook (or WhatsApp). Didn't you see it?" If you haven't, good job, you actually selected excellent people to be friends with.
The "friction" is actually the thing which makes the difference. From your profile, I see you are a professor. Which kind of learning is better? The one where the student experiences a lot of friction, and learns the subject very well? Or the one where the student watches flashy videos and goes away feeling all gung-ho, only to realize nothing stuck?
Sure, you don't want things to be harder just for the sake of being harder. And neither do you want to diss things which are lowering the friction of connecting. The problem is all the manipulation going on in the name of lowering friction.
If at some point you say "Well, but Facebook also needs to make money", then you can already see the problem with the entire business model by your own admission. Because then you know there is no line which shouldn't and wouldn't be crossed - including selling out your already immature teenage audience.
Conversely, if the demand for such a connecting service is so huge, there would already be a paid alternative promising a lot of privacy in return for payment.
The top end of both domains pay rather well and has moderate bureaucracy.
(And he may never work again after this scandal runs through... but he also probably will never truly need to work again anyways.)
> Update, 5/1 12:12 p.m.: Facebook has issued a statement disputing The Australian's report. "The premise of the article is misleading," the company wrote in its authorless statement. "Facebook does not offer tools to target people based on their emotional state. The analysis done by an Australian researcher was intended to help marketers understand how people express themselves on Facebook. It was never used to target ads and was based on data that was anonymous and aggregated."
 According to the Australian, the data available to advertisers includes a young user’s relationship status, location, number of friends on the platform and how often they access the site on mobile or desktop. The newspaper reported that Facebook also has information on users who are discussing “looking good and body confidence” and “working out & losing weight”.
What's wrong with that exactly?
Is that any different than an option to advertise to people who are talking about buying cars?
More specifically: it explicitly attempts to address a particular mental and psychological states (in particular, states associated with anxiety and the need for approval from others) rather than an economic activity (like "needs a car").
Yes, car ads (and all kind of ads) have implicitly been designed to work off feelings of anxiety (and the need to fit i), since the beginning of time. But it's the all-out brazenness off this effort (combined with the fact that, again, it was explicitly designed to target teenagers) that pushes it over the edge, in my view -- and well into the terrain of Creepy.
And facebook experimented with adjusting news feeds to make people feel better or worse. https://duckduckgo.com/?q=facebook+news+feed+experiment&t=lm...
I wonder how much it would cost to have facebook make people feel bad, and then serve them ads to which they would be more susceptible because of their low state.
I see this as inevitable - probably something that is already happening to some extend. Let's assume you are advertising something where the target action takes place online. Something where you can establish a direct connection between the events "Person A sees ad" and "Person A buys product". Assuming the volumes are high enough, why would you put human in charge for targeting the ads? Why not just put the machines to work, to analyse the thousands weak signals your platform is collecting about each individual and then determine which ads are most likely to result in purchase. If the sale takes place through your own platform you have pretty nice feedback loop there.
The machine of course does not think "hey, this person is depressed, let's sell him some Happy Pills" but the end result is likely the same. Machine learns some patterns in behavior which indicate the person is likely to be interested in Happy Pills. Is this good or bad?
What did they mean by that, oversight by whom?
Teaching this to schoolkids is necessary for public mental health.
I'm sure FB, like gouging pharmaceutical companies, employs risk managers who plan just how far they can go with this sort of thing and still get away with "issuing a formal and lengthy apology."
trite (1 week ago; gray): https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14181650
original/oldest source? (2010) https://twitter.com/andlewis/status/24380177712
updated for machine learning: https://twitter.com/chrisalbon/status/857609299731791872
> “You are the training data.”
> Whether they're called 'liberal' or 'conservative,' the major media are large corporations, owned by and interlinked with even larger conglomerates. Like other corporations, they sell a product to a market. The market is advertisers —
that is, other businesses. The product is audiences.
Check it out if it sounds interesting!
Edit: Aslo, why not just piggy back on GNUSocial/status/pumpio/etc.? Having a node that can be federated if/when the owner (i.e. you) wants to seems more scalable.
As for activity, it's minimal at the moment :-) But you can invite friends easily by sending them a personalised link that'll connect them to you as soon as they sign up, either just copy-pasted into a chat app or via email straight from the site.
I've said for years that if something like this existed, I would pay for it, and a few people (not all) have agreed. It's basically a test of that, and if it's completely untrue, that's fine, but I'm also very happy with it not being mainstream or particularly profitable. As long as server costs are covered and I and everyone else is getting the UX they want out of it, it's fulfilled its mission.
The question is, is that sustainable. Well, that's the experiment. Let's see if it works!
Except it's more about eyeballs and likes than genitals and cash.
Both real pimps and Facebook don't care if their product has cheap viral content (venereal disease/fake news) as long as they make a buck.
Ad blockers are the condoms of the internet.
Here is a very small way you can show you care, which will be actually productive and hopefully makes you rethink that statement. There is someone in your life who is technologically inept. Help them with their technology related problems for an hour a week. Pull your hair out in frustration at your complete failures (which will definitely happen initially). Persist with it until they learn something. Continue for a while until you realize they have mastered it so well that they are now teaching you something even you didn't know.
In about 6 months, ask yourself if you would rather show that you care about others by actually helping someone out, or if the better way is to press the Like button like Pavlovian dogs. And then come and comment on how useful you think FB is at that point.
I am not saying it is absolutely useless. I am just saying that FB's engagement would dwindle down in proportion to its actual importance. The funny thing is, anyone with a modicum of common sense can see that FB has been designed to be like an entertaining movie, designed to appeal to our most base instincts (the well studied combination of narcissism and voyeurism). You will not watch such movies 24 x 7 x 365, would you?
Update, 5/1 12:12 p.m.: "Facebook does not offer tools to target people based on their emotional state."
I don't want to support this company. I don't want them to have tons of metadata including a list of everyone I talk to.
I definitely don't want them to track my kids.
So I hold my nose and say "try Telegram".
But for the rest of us: does Signal have group conversations and multi-device support?
I think if we are going to replace Whatsapp we need to provide an alternative that matches the features people use and feels better.
Telegram does all that and more.
Amd BTW if you can get people to use Signal then that is great too!
(Oh the irony of me trying to get people off WhatsApp, - I was an enthusiastic user until they got bought.)
I've been seeing a ton of backlash against Facebook lately. I know there's always backlash against Facebook, but I've been seeing a lot more of it. Especially devs calling out other devs for working there.
Watched it last night and I think it's very relevant to this discussion.
Now I don't think its Facebook, the company that has these scary social side effects, it is the concept of the 'social network' itself that's dangerous.
Facebook is just very good at promoting and monetizing it (and of course it's also a technological marvel).
Give everyone a voice ? Nice idea in theory, but one bad apple ... what about a million bad apples ?
Marketers devalue everything.
They keep overstepping the mark and they keep getting away with it.
Now, this particular story includes teenagers, and I agree - the people who we are not yet take as adults _should_ have some protection and guidance. But as person closes to the 18 (or 21) years, this protection and guidance needs to gradually go away. We cannot pretend that a 16 year old and 9 year old are on the same responsibility and mental level.
A company doesn't "want" to satisfy anything; it needs to make money. We're talking mega-corporations with armies of psychologists and data scientists, pouring billions of dollars and collective man-centuries into learning to manipulate people to act in certain ways, irrespective of their own self-interest, on a massive scale... versus individual human beings with inherently limited time and access to information and, on average, predictable behavioral patterns. The most successful ad isn't the most helpful, informative, or even honest, it's the one which acts the most like a mind virus.
But regardless - we have to make a clear distinction between somewhere, because otherwise we would be on a slippery slope to forbid any kind of interaction where parties have conflicting interests at all. And in my opinion, the perfect way to make distinction is whether the person is making the decision out of a sane state of mind and voluntarily.