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Disclaimer: I'm anti-democracy in it's current form so before you down vote me think through my point carefully.

What I don't get about this whole issue, is that we are basically admitting that the average person who uses these services has poor critical thinking skills and the American democratic process is easily gamed as such. I feel we are trying to fix the wrong thing. Sure, regulate FB and any other company that happens to collect lots of user data I don't have a problem with that. My fundamental issue is that FB is mostly an opt-in service. As far as I can see, the shadow profiles they create on a user who isn't signed up for their services doesn't really contain enough data to be of material impact for the type of things that a company like CA is doing (it's mostly to help in it's ad network to sell you more stuff rather and is rather well anonomyzed).

The only argument against the fact that FB is an opt-in service is that it has a near monopoly on social media and seems to either buy or kill any serious threat. More important than trying to regulate FB's data collection and privacy would be ensuring that our antitrust and monopoly laws are being enforced to remove FB's near monopoly.

Further, I'm not here to defend Facebook, but I feel it's being used as a scapegoat for an easily gamed democratic process where rather than biting the bullet and fixing that, we are saying it's FB and CA are the real evil here. In fact they are not. They are for-profit businesses who are operating within the current regulatory framework they've been provided. It seems obvious to me what really needs to be fixed is a broken electoral process.




I think you make a great point here: we absolutely need a population that thinks more critically before they act, whether it's voting or signing up for a service or purchasing a product.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure how realistic that is. I think people just don't want to have to critically think all the time, and it's unrealistic to expect every member of the population to exert constant vigilance against ill will. There are simply too many forces trying to manipulate us and get our attention to expect every person to never mess up ever.

This is where the government steps in. Expect companies to be reasonably transparent about their intentions (signing up for Facebook definitely did not give me adequate warning a decade ago about their intentions with my data, and subsequent changes in their plans were not adequately expressed to me as a user), and reasonably cautious in their expansion (I signed up for Facebook at the age of 12, which is technically against Facebook's TOS. They didn't put enough effort into policing those TOS to kick me off the site at the age of 12, and I certainly wasn't mature enough to understand the breadth of Facebook's TOS. Unfortunately I don't think many non-lawyers are equipped to understand the true meaning of signing up for Facebook, which... is it's own problem).

Basically we need these corporations to be better citizens than then currently are, which shouldn't be terribly hard since they're currently downright psychopathic citizens, exploiting the law and their large workforces to manipulate other citizens at every turn. In a better world than our own, corporations would actually be model citizens, but that's probably not realistic in the capitalist system. And we also need the government to do its job better, by punishing corporations that act selfishly so that others actually have an incentive to behave well.


How do you distinguish a population that "thinks more critically before they act" and one that lives in constant fear of social backlash? They're two sides of the same coin!

An intellectually free society is one in which one doesn't have to think critically about the potential social and economic ramifications of every remark. It's a society in which people can pitch inchoate ideas, receive feedback, and iterate on worldviews.

That we're increasingly living in an intellectually unfree society isn't the fault of "corporations" and their citizenship. Instead, it's the result of a push toward controlling people in the name of 'fixing' society and preventing 'harm'. History tells us that down this road lies only death and blood.


I agree to a certain extent. I'm not a fan of legalese and do think things like TOS should be much simpler. To have rational consumers who think critically we need to remove hurdles for people to think critically. But here's my main issue. Our economy and governments are built on the premise of rational consumers. If that basic assumption isn't in place then let's stop the facade, call it out for what it is and change the system. Let's look into a technocracy or epistocracy. Let's stop pretending that America can function as an unfettered capitalist nation and really it needs elements of socialism to function properly and reduce concentration of power and wealth.


>There are simply too many forces trying to manipulate us and get our attention to expect every person to never mess up ever. This is where the government steps in

If government should step in to prevent manipulation by misinformation, then one or both of the New York Times and Fox News needs to be shut down, depending on who you ask.


The argument is that even if you give information to a company willingly, they should not be able to do whatever the hell they want with it. We have accepted this maxim for certain pieces of information already, I don't see why it can't apply to other information too.

If you think FB can do no wrong since we willingly give them this information, what do you feel about HIPAA? Why is it okay for FB to sell data I willingly give them but a doctor can't? If the answer is "one is illegal, the other isn't", then you aren't arguing against the idea of it being made illegal, just that we don't currently have a law saying they can't do it. Laws change though.


FB isn't a life or death service and neither is any social media for that matter. I think we sometimes seem to forget that the world existed and did rather well before the FB ad network made it's debut. At the end of the day that's what FB is. It's a large media company/platform that sells ads. Don't ever forget that. I can chose to not use FB and none of my fundamental rights as a human being are being hurt. Comparing FB and health care is disingenuous. I need health care to survive whether I like it or not. HIPAA exists to prevent the for profit medical and medical insurance model from taking advantage of it's patients privacy, because otherwise they would since patients have no choice but to go to a doctor, and provide lots of detailed personal information to their hospitals, insurance and other health care practitioners.


>It seems obvious to me what really needs to be fixed is a broken electoral process.

Could you propose an alternative that addresses your points.


Isn't regulating companies like facebook part of fixing the democratic process? Or what did you have in mind?




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