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WhatsApp co-founder tells everyone to delete Facebook (theverge.com)
1086 points by coloneltcb 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 628 comments



I don't get what changed? We've knows Facebook tracks everything, we've known Google does the same thing. If you've ever developed anything in messenger even today, it's amazing how much information is given. We know all these sites track everything you do outside of Facebook too. Everyone has been trying to get them to stop, we know it's illegal to build a profile on someone but Facebook gets around that by building a profile but not assigning it to your direct name.

Regulations should have sprouted in Obama years, but the admin and tech execs were too buddy buddy and no way Trump promotes this because it makes him look like he is accepting Russia interfered and it's not politically expedient for him to do so.

Same thing with Harvey Weinstein and all the metoo that was known by everyone. I mean I'm happy with all of this coming out, but why now? How is it so coordinated? Usually these guys pay journalists for fluff pr counter views or to shut down stories. Weinstein did.

Is this Data just a metoo thing? Is google next?


> We've knows Facebook tracks everything

Not disputing this, but when you say 'we' I think you mean the < 5% (maybe even < 1%) of techies and lawyers and journalists in the world who really really care about their data and privacy.

The rest 95% either don't know, or could care less even if they know. I've told my non-techie fam and friends about data harvesting, privacy, and how facebook tracks everything, only to be ignored or outright ridiculed ("Oh you techies are so paranoid").

Many of my friends in India (where I was raised) and elsewhere used to freely post their phone # and home address on my wall asking me to call them / send them stuff from US. I don't think this 95% population really cares or gives a sh*t.


> The rest 95% either don't know, or could care less even if they know. I've told my non-techie fam and friends about data harvesting, privacy, and how facebook tracks everything, only to be ignored or outright ridiculed ("Oh you techies are so paranoid").

pretty much exactly my experience with Canadian and American family. People didn't give one iota of a fuck when the Snowden revelations came out because they just assumed that it was the case already.

I think the average techie underestimates how important platform lockin + user interface design + ubiquity are. Once something like Facebook Messenger has reached a critical market share trying to get people to stop using it, no matter how privacy violating FB may be, is about as effective as trying to get people in the year 1985 to disconnect their house's analog telephone line.


> People didn't give one iota of a fuck when the Snowden revelations came out because they just assumed that it was the case already.

It's more complex than that. The tracking and surveillance are not visible to the average person. Point your camera at someone in a coffee shop or bar and take their picture. They'll be coming over to ask you why you took their photo. The fact that the coffee shop or bar is brimming with overhead cameras is completely lost on them because it is mostly invisible (or least no longer noticed).

Just wait until someone does a massive leak of actual personal data, photos, and videos, as opposed to abstract technical reports and Powerpoint slides that Snowden leaked. The average person will be screaming like a banshee when they can look up all the personal info and private pics of themselves and their neighbors and friends on some public webserver.


>The fact that the coffee shop or bar is brimming with overhead cameras is completely lost on them because it is mostly invisible

With the coffee shop, it makes sense; the cameras in retail are expected to only be used for review, when some event occurs. No one expects it to be used for data mining and behavioral analysis purposes. And even if it were, the expectation is that this would be for academic purposes; that is, with no real commercial intent.

Worst case scenario is that it'd end up being archived in a box of tapes somewhere.

Datamining abuses this expectation. But it makes sense for the expectation to exist; it was the norm until extremely recently.


> the cameras in retail are expected to only be used for review, when some event occurs. No one expects it to be used for data mining and behavioral analysis purposes.

Right. Except that this is also not true.

Source: "A crashed advertisement reveals the code of the facial recognition system used by a pizza shop in Oslo..." => https://twitter.com/gamblelee/status/862307447276544000?lang...


The word "reveals" is used because it is not expected by the average person. Otherwise it would be something like "confirms expectation".


No, the word "reveals" is used because the code is revealed. Well, it's more a "log file" than "code", but that's detail. The point is that the "code" (log file) is usually hidden from average people.

Also, the word "reveals" is used to make the headline more sensational, just like any other headline. It doesn't tell you anything about the average person.


How does this show that data mining isn't an abuse of expectation? The reason this is even an article in the first place is presumably because it conflicts directly with expected use.


There is certainly object detection available on the cameras and behavioral analysis applied to this information and POS data in aggregation software at the store and chain level for both loss prevention and marketing reasons. Maybe not used in all cases but I was surprised to learn these systems can be worthwhile in convenience stores, gas stations, and fast food restaurants, let alone larger stores like Target.

But you’re probably right that most people don’t think this is happening but only expect the stream is only flashing on a screen in front of a guard in real time and stored on a tape temporarily.


Worst case scenario is that the stored info is taken by someone more malicious and used for anything unintended beyond the original purpose.

The whole point of "less surveillance" is to limit the amount of information stored, because information stored IS the vulnerability.


My local bar has over a half dozen cameras pointed to customers and workers areas. I installed them plus the DVR at owner request, they're perfectly visible and nobody gives a damn (except a couple customers once asking if the devices were also listening and recording audio). Everyone knows the owner doesn't use the data for anything illegal, and one time thanks to cameras we caught a worker who stole food bags to use or sell them elsewhere. Trust does also play a role here.


You mean everyone assumes he doesn't abuse the data. That's different than knowing. It's just the lazy and thoughtless stance to take. "Why would they be allowed to have the cameras if they were up to no good"? Businesses are assumed to do no wrong and meet some high moral standard because it's easy to.


I also used not to care, because I used to think that "I don't put that much information on it". But it always said data, but not which data, now I know it buys data from other to cross it, don't know which data they buy and don't know what kind of information they are able to get when they do this. This is what we are only now understanding that they are doing and what is possible to do with this. And of course, Facebook say the least minimum necessary to keep profiting with no problems. Hence I don't see how we can expect people to really know what Facebook does.


The true data apocalypse will come when ISP logs are compromised and leaked (urls visited, dns lookups, tied to ip or even subscriber ids, etc), and there is enough leaked PII floating it out there to join it to people records.


With the exception of big evil things like Comcast, you might be surprised how few ISPs keep detailed logs like this. The effort to correlate them with customers is generally not worth it unless you get a subpoena, and only then is it done manually.


(UK) The new surveillance law requires web and phone companies to store everyone’s web browsing histories for 12 months and give the police, security services and official agencies unprecedented access to the data.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/29/snoopers-chart...


While the UK is still part of the EU, will there be a case to have your history removed under the new GDPR legislation?


No, the GDPR allows states to include exceptions for such cases: https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-the-general-da...


In the end, incompetence might save us all :)


Excellent point. I'd also like to add, people are afraid and feel powerless and tend to focus on more productive things such as raising their kids.

Normal people aren't obsessing over tech like the common hn reader.


>when they can look up all the personal info and private pics of themselves and their neighbors and friends on some public webserver.

I always thought this webserver is called "facebook", isn't it?


Excellent point. I'd also like to add, people are afraid and feel powerless and tend to focus on more productive things such as raising their kids.


Once something like Facebook Messenger has reached a critical market share trying to get people to stop using it

writing this comment from South-East Europe where many people use facebook not just for cat pics but to find work and network with colleagues. It's a huge problem in developing countries where facebook IS the Internet. FB recently announced it would roll out job-posts for low-income workers[¹]. This will mean an even stronger lock-in for the user. While the discussion on ethics evolve mostly user-privacy and CA/FB role in Brexit/election hacking, the problem for less developed regions is facebook taking from them without giving back (fb is known not to pay it's taxes in Europe)

¹ https://techcrunch.com/2018/02/28/facebook-job-posts/


Echoing your statement, "Facebook is the Internet". In Africa most telecoms have special data bundles for Facebook and WhatsApp. Normal data bundles to browse the Internet are just too expensive. A dollar will give you unlimited access to Facebook and WhatsApp for about 2 weeks.

I have a few cows back in my village. I have toyed with the idea of creating a cattle monitoring application that would have to make use of Facebook or WhatsApp. The herder sends me a picture every evening of the cows. I want to piggy back on the affordable connectivity given to Facebook and WhatsApp. Yes I know, this would contribute to the problem but for me losing cattle is a bigger problem. From parent, finding a job is a bigger problem so we all get sucked into Facebook.


Getting FB to subsidize your cow tracking needs sounds great to me!


Sounds like a Messenger bot would work well for that use case actually.


Thanks I will add a note to my list of ideas on my rather long list of todo things.


It’s a socioeconomic awareness. If you’re worried about food you don’t care. Facebooks 99% are the poorest and least educated.

I’ve always wondered why face book, a platform which could unify teachers from mit with the poorest students across the globe has never done shit to do so.

They claim to “connect the globe” but the haven’t connected anything.

Where is the teacher hosting a class where any single person from fbs vast user base can connect?

Fucking unreal.

Facebook could have become the global educational foundation with their platform at this point.

But it’s just a circlejerk.


> educational foundation

Well, that was the original hope with print, radio and TV.

So we mostly get scandal sheets, soap operas and reality TV.

"What we learn from history is that we don't learn from history", as some wag put it.


I'd like to hear a proposal for how print, radio or tv could have successfully served such an end.

I.e. where enough people watched the content, where the proposal was realistically achievable, and would have been financially viable.

Not saying such a thing is impossible but it sure isn't easy.


Hey, don't underestimate it. Protestant Europe got a big literacy boost from the Gutenberg Bible.

And if you dig around the writings around the time that radio and (later) TV got started, you'll see plenty of hopeful plans for universal education.

But after the transient is over, the steady state is kind of underwhelming. People are very resistant to instruction that doesn't suit them, and I really can't blame that.


> Hey, don't underestimate it. Protestant Europe got a big literacy boost from the Gutenberg Bible.

I was responding to your comment saying "that was the original hope with print, radio and TV. So we mostly get scandal sheets, soap operas and reality TV"!

I'm fully aware there's major benefits that have come from those mediums.

> And if you dig around the writings around the time that radio and (later) TV got started, you'll see plenty of hopeful plans for universal education.

Again, you were the one who said it didn't pan out, and you implied the only reason they didn't was because <quote>"What we learn from history is that we don't learn from history", as some wag put it.</quote>.

My comment was pointing out that the reason has to be more than just that -- thus the challenge to come up with a proposal that could actually work.


To be fair, “connecting the globe —> making the world a better place” has always been a bit of a vague vision.


I have nothing to hide” - most of the people a pregnant teenager being outed by the store Target, after it mined her purchase data – larger handbags, headache pills, tissues – and sent her a “congratulations” message as marketing, which her unknowing father got instead. Oops!

Don't confuse privacy with secrecy. I know what you do in the bathroom, but you still close the door. That’s because you want privacy, not secrecy. I found this article very interesting about FB - http://www.salimvirani.com//facebook/ reply


>I have nothing to hide” - most of the people a pregnant teenager being outed by the store Target, after it mined her purchase data – larger handbags, headache pills, tissues – and sent her a “congratulations” message as marketing, which her unknowing father got instead. Oops!

Has this ever been proved or is it just an urban legend? I keep hearing this anecdote but I always thought it was fishy and could easily be explained by a simple coincidence. Like these people who claim that the Facebook app is listening to them continuously to match keywords for ads.

My girlfriend and I are in our early 30's, she's been regularly targeted for pregnancy-related products for the past 5 years at least. It seems that for most advertisers you don't need a super fancy algorithm harvesting thousands of data points, simply "woman age 25-35" is probably good enough to assume that pregnancy is likely. Undoubtedly Target has that information, they thought that it was plausible that she could be pregnant (or would be in the close future) so they sent pregnancy-related material. When it turned out that this person was actually pregnant they thought Target was surprisingly prescient. Of course that's not counting the hundreds of people who potentially received the same offer but were not actually pregnant and discarded it immediately as junk mail.

I'm sure the profiling takes place but this anecdote probably overplays how accurate these predictions are. Facebook and Google are in an other league though, they have access to so much more personal info, I'm sure these companies "know" many of their users better than any of their friends or relative ever will.


It's not an urban legend, it happened, Andrew Pole was a statistician who worked at Target:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/magazine/shopping-habits.h...

About a year after Pole created his pregnancy-prediction model, a man walked into a Target outside Minneapolis and demanded to see the manager. He was clutching coupons that had been sent to his daughter, and he was angry, according to an employee who participated in the conversation.

“My daughter got this in the mail!” he said. “She’s still in high school, and you’re sending her coupons for baby clothes and cribs? Are you trying to encourage her to get pregnant?”

The manager didn’t have any idea what the man was talking about. He looked at the mailer. Sure enough, it was addressed to the man’s daughter and contained advertisements for maternity clothing, nursery furniture and pictures of smiling infants. The manager apologized and then called a few days later to apologize again.

On the phone, though, the father was somewhat abashed. “I had a talk with my daughter,” he said. “It turns out there’s been some activities in my house I haven’t been completely aware of. She’s due in August. I owe you an apology.”

Also, a bit later in the article, they realise that being explicit about what they're doing is bad, people do care, when it obviously happens to them:

Using data to predict a woman’s pregnancy, Target realized soon after Pole perfected his model, could be a public-relations disaster. So the question became: how could they get their advertisements into expectant mothers’ hands without making it appear they were spying on them? How do you take advantage of someone’s habits without letting them know you’re studying their lives?


Acxiom (and I assume many others too) infers women's menstrual cycles from retail purchases so they know when it is best to send them certain ads. One week its kittens and flowers, the next it'll be an attractive man, etc. This kind of deep data mining has been going on for decades. You voluntarily give this information up when you make purchases with loyalty cards.


It's called a loyalty card, not a "we'll spy on you to get you to spend more, the discounts aren't for your loyalty but to get you to use the card" card.

This is what so many people on the thread don't seem to get. Most normal people take this stuff at face value. They assume it does what it says on the tin. They apply human decency and an expectation of a normal human, fallible, porous memory to a frightening, insatiable industry that has no decency and an infinitely perfect memory.

Facebook, they assume, lets you connect to your friends. Facebook never say "in return for a free photo sharing and messaging system we will spy on everything you and your friends do, track everything you do on the internet, figure out what makes you tick, your loves, hates, wants, 'secret' desires, tie it all up in a bow and sell it to anyone who'll pay us, with your name, email and phone number attached".


I think you prove the point you're denying. You say you don't need fancy algos, but companies are wasting advertising on your gf by using basic indicators (age, sex) when in the Target case the advertising was, well, targeted.

If advertisers know what will get you to push the buy button then they can use that against you. Advertising pregnancy pants to those who aren't pregnant will almost always fail, and from the advertisers perspective it wastes an opportunity to push a product that you might buy.


It looks like the pregnant teenager thing may have originated as a theoretical example. However the story about Facebook publicising people’s recent purchases, including telling one guy’s wife about some Jewelry he bought, is absolutely true.

https://www.wired.com/2010/03/facebook-beacon-2/


A little bit of research tells me that the story was entirely fictional. More of a case study / click bait of what might have happened. Media ran this shit out of it though. At least online. Eyeballs > integrity right?


As per my comment, the NYT ran a big article about it quoting Andrew Pole, a statistician who worked at Target. It specifically says that this really happened.

Did your research find that story to be a fraud?


The part about the teenager in Minneapolis wasn’t from Pole. Re-read the article and you’ll notice that story isn’t attributed to anyone. It’s just stated. We have no idea where this story originated, whether it’s fact or fiction, and if it’s even related to Pole’s work or just a marketing snafu.

https://www.kdnuggets.com/2014/05/target-predict-teen-pregna...


Yep. I’ve been explaining this stuff to friends for years. Even the most intelligent and rational dismiss it as paranoia or say, “I don’t care, I have nothing to hide anyway.”


I know many people who care but they think they can "outsmart" Facebook by having workarounds for its annoying and evil nature. They do it by not giving it their permission to access the address book, location, nude pictures, etc. They told me to "just deny Facebook's request to..." It bugged the fuck out of me and I wrote about it last year [1].

They think they can befriend an evil person who they know too well would stab them in the back. They think that they are stronger and more intelligent than the evil friend.

The proper answer is that if you think a friend of yours is a shitty person, then don't befriend them anymore. If you don't like what the fuck Facebook does, then just don't have a Facebook account. It's an inconvenience in the short term because you can't talk to some of your friends, sure. But if you have it and invent those workarounds and ask me to install that piece of shit so I can talk to you, then you complicit with it and make my life shitty too. When I realized that, I realized that's exactly what Stallman meant when he talked about proprietary software -- which is what he doesn't agree with.

1: http://www.tnhh.net/posts/just.html


Daniel Solove eloquently states the problems with the "I have nothing to hide" argument in this famous paper now turned book https://scholarship.law.gwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=...


I've not read t but guessing its similar to why you shouldn't speak to police without a lawyer even if "I done nothing wrong". Because you will probably say something they can use against you regardless.


Which is a dangerous family of opinions to apply without fully understanding them, as asking for a lawyer when they’re at your door inquiring about a missing neighborhood kid is probably counterproductive and escalates attention on you unnecessarily. It’s a fine opinion when common sense is involved. I don’t have a problem with the sentiment, just watching people who digest YouTube and shout “where’s your probable cause” at the poor guy looking for gypsy moths at the California border.

(Yes, I’ve seen that on 50 in Tahoe.)


I'm pretty sure that idiots like that will be idiots no matter what advice they stumble over.

But I have to say,

> Which is a dangerous family of opinions to apply without fully understanding them

I get what you're saying, but the point of the advice is that, in a situation to which the advice is applicable, you don't fully understand the implications of anything you may say, so your best play is to clam up and get a lawyer.


>your best play is to clam up and get a lawyer. //

Your best play if you want to waste police time because you for some reason hate society and think helping to make it run smoothly infringes on your rights - because fuck those guys, right, they're not paying you to search for the kid you just saw walking off with Ann Ominous, why should you help.

Hyperbole; but I think it illustrates the counterpoint sufficiently.


> they're not paying you to search for the kid you just saw walking

I said, "in a situation to which the advice is applicable". Nobody is saying leave Timmy in the well, they're talking about situations involving being detained or arrested.


I meant if you suspect you are a suspect


I like this essay but got irritated by the number of times 'nothing to hide' phrase is used.


I probably have things to hide, but: I ignore ads. I don't click on political news. I pretty much ignore everything except my friends' vacation photos. Please tell me in concrete terms a specific downside to staying on Facebook. What's the non-tinfoil hat scenario that I am naively ignoring? Wake up and my bank account is drained, or what?


I ignore ads. I don't click on political news.

You don't have to click it. For example I have zero interest in celebrities or reality TV, I've never clicked a link or read an article about them. Yet even I know who Kanye Kardashian is, and that he's married to (or is? * ) a woman with an enormous backside. it's pervasive, it becomes part of the background and what you consider "normal". I absolutely guarantee that despite never having clicked a link about Trump, just having that link there and seeing the headline, will have influenced you, same as it would anyone.

* No don't tell me, I don't care


Did you see that through facebook ... ? Friend feeds ? Liked pages ?

I've hidden pretty much everyone, only keeping a few music or art pages, only go on facebook maybe once a week anyways.

I use messenger a lot though. I hate typing on phones so not many texts, and whatsapp web interface is not that great (and it's not as widely used by my friends, and it's owned by facebook anyways so what's the difference ?).

Actually a fun detail is that I entered facebook under the wrong gender : I'm labelled as a male though I'm female. When I looked at my targeted center of interests I had the most average things ever ie sports and such (which I don't follow -at all-). Like, really, you have nothing better on me ?

So I don't care about my data (I don't think I put a lot out there anyways) or whatever and I've yet to be convinced how it matters at all in the grand scheme of the universe.


> most average things ever ie sports and such (which I don't follow -at all-). Like, really, you have nothing better on me ?

To me, that is part of the problem.

For years Facebook, and Google, have been telling the world they understand us better than we know ourselves, and all the fine-grained ways they can categorise and predict us. They actually seem to believe it. Then when they allow us to look at what they have inferred it is usually comically wrong for pretty much everyone.

Then they go on to sell to us, categorise and bubble us as though it were fact, and sell access to this marvellous factual data or sell their marvellous data mining capability to riffle through vast amounts of NHS data, or predict crime, or...

We're building a global infrastructure with a foundation of that 98% bullshit. That was mostly harmless when it was just about product ads. When it moves on to health, justice and politics and it's shown they're able to move the needle I think it does matter. Perhaps not much to anyone personally, but to society as a whole.


Then what's the problem if it's not actually that good for people who leave few, contradictory elements (maybe I would've been easier profiled if I was labelled female for an example). They try to sell me stuff which I won't be interested in, seems fine to me.

As for the last part, could you be more precise ? What exactly could happen that would be bad to you ?


I maybe wrong, but unless he changed his name he is Kanye West and his wife is Kim Kardashian. And I know this not form facebook but probably from reddit memes. And again, unless I missed the fact he changed his name, it does prove the point that you really don't know who he is since you mixed up his name ;)


  I ignore ads. I don't click on political news...
But Facebook harvests whatever cookies and trackers it can out of your browser, even for activity outside of and unrelated to Facebook itself. You will be productized in every possible way. (For one example, haven't you seen Amazon ads in your feed for items you may gave looked at/for strictly external to your Facebook tab?)


There's a collective impact on society for which everyone participating has some amount shared responsibility. It's up to the individual to decide if that impact is a positive or a negative one.


I don't put that much data out, but I don't mind being profiled. I like being suggested music that I'm susceptible to like based on other people. I think it's fine if one can infer out of my lifestyle that I would be interested in x or warn for risks of y.

What is wrong with it ? I'm probably no statistical anomaly, I don't mind being part of some artificial cluster somewhere, helping having a more accurate portrayal of a type of people. I am not interesting enough that anyone will come for me specifically anyways.

And from time to time, I see worried and lamenting people like here, and I still don't get it.


I was talking to my daughter about that yesterday. Suppose Facebook knows your interests, taste in music, where you live, what good you like, etc. A political campaign could use that information to tell you that their local candidate shares your interests, lived in the same town, loves the same music, supports the same charity or whatever overlaps with your profile, while knowingly avoiding telling you about things you like or are in favour of for which they hold opposing views. So you get a personally tailored, custom ad for the candidate pushing all the right buttons and concealing anything that doesn’t match or it knows you would dislike. Meanwhile it could also show you targeted attack ads on a rival customised to highlight things they know you dislike.

All the information might be true (or might not), but IMHO I don’t like the idea of people intrusively trying to manipulate me like that. We all have biases and preconceptions. We’re all open to manipulation and the last thing I want is my online world to become an echo chamber, turning me into a parody of myself. In the wider context, it’s also a threat to civil society, driving a wedge between us as citizens by magnifying our differences and promoting divisiveness. That’s what the Russian interference campaign was all about.


The thing is, if a candidate seems interesting, you should teach her to look up their website and read their full agenda. If they've held positions before, also to google them to find out what they've actually said and done in the past, and to think carefully about what kinds of implications those deeds may have had. You most certainly shouldn't base your election choices on paid ads - or, really, any kind of information only from a single outlet.

That's also the general recipe for avoiding echo chambers: don't be lazy, and go a little out of your way to find things out.


Of course, but are we really ok living in a world where the vast majority of the electorate are completely unprepared to protect themselves from this sort of manipulation?

It’s not that I’m against advertising, or capitalism, or that I’m some sort of over-regulating socialist. I just think that we need basic, fair rights over and protections for our personal information, and that this isn’t just good for us it’s good for our democracies.


Thing is, it’s not dangerous on an individual level - no different to a friend telling you about a particular candidate and why you should like them.

And personalised ads sound great at the individual level - relevant, interesting products and services that I’m likely to interact with instead of irrelevant crap clogging up my screen. We’ve always had targeting and echo chambers.

But, like the algorithmic kids videos a few months ago or the deluge of fake news, we and our society are totally unprepared for the speed and scale that technology now allows. It’s the sheer quantity and pervasiveness - and the fact that it’s not obvious what’s going on - that makes it dangerous.

To (poorly) quote Charlie Stross, we’ve ripped out the mechanisms for how things work and replaced them with something alien, without anyone noticing.


I don't vote, I don't care. Couldn't care less about politics to be quite honest. They have a very marginal influence on my life, aspirations and happiness.


If that's true, that's a pretty handy description of what many US leftists call "privilege." There are many marginalized people, including in developed western nations, for whom the politics you're able to ignore can have decisive impact on their day to day lives. Many of these people, like many people in general, will not have the knowledge of internet technology and policy they need to protect themselves.


That's not a compelling argument.


> I am not interesting enough that anyone will come for me specifically anyways.

No single raindrop believes it's responsible for the storm.

They don't care about you specifically, if you can profile people accurately they have a much easier time of adjusting perspectives for your own aims. You've likely already seen the results of this with the latest American election.

It's gone far beyond getting you to buy more music and they're just warming up.


And ? Did the world crash, the USA's GDP sink, did people starve and die by thousands ? No, nothing happened.


This may be okay for you individually. But Facebook will treat someone with bipolar or serious impulse control issues just the same way... Assuming some level of accuracy, an algorithm could predict when someone is having a manic episode, susceptible. Its predatory and dangerous. The vast majority of people are not aware of how to protect themselves from out-of-hand tech giants and their customers. Getting ahead is becoming about how well you can unplug so that you are not being puppeteered. We all need some counter-intelligence know-how.

I suggest, use rational means to work out for yourself what products are best for you and your budget, or on the other hand what political affiliations actualy represent your interests. Figuring out what's real in the world is a big task and only the most vigilant will be okay, or blow the whistle so the average person might be.


>But Facebook will treat someone with bipolar or serious impulse control issues just the same way... Assuming some level of accuracy, an algorithm could predict when someone is having a manic episode, susceptible. Its predatory and dangerous.

And what would they do out of that ? People with poor mental health don't need facebook to be triggered, it seems even less harmful because it's through an interface and not a direct human interaction.

>use rational means to work out for yourself what products are best for you and your budget, or on the other hand what political affiliations actualy represent your interests.

I don't buy stuff mostly, it's an easy solution. And no political affiliations represent the rare interest I have that I think would undoubtedly be good.


Anecdotal but definitely illustrative: a close friend of my mother had serious trouble managing her bipolar states, she would start manic and it got out of control within hours or sometimes minutes. Bye bye meds, and on more than one occasion, she would spend thousands of dollars in days, vacation scams, grocery shopping for things unneeded that sat and spoiled, you name it. She made comprehensive arrangements with friends and the companies she dealt with repeatedly so she couldn't get more than a few dollars pocket money when off cycle. In this regard, my mom was an angel, saved this friend multiple bankruptcies.

Anyone not so fortunate could be so easily scammed its scary. And heart wrenching.


Is state guardianship not possible then ? Or arrangement with the bank ? No credit card, get cash at the bank counter when needed... I really have a hard time seeing this as an unsolvable problem, let alone scary or heart breaking.


I'm sure it might have been, but her kids took the "bail and never have to deal with it again" option, and she honestly had trouble just staying focused enough to have something of a day job, let alone remember to make appointments and keep them.

Not so much heart breaking, but hard to watch from the outside, she meant to live well and tried but her brain chemistry gave her random minuses to intelligence wisdom and charisma.


You're saying you don't mind being profiled and don't see the harm in it, but in several places downthread you describe in detail how little you use the platform, how poorly it understands you, and how little exposure you get to it. If these things are true, you're not a good example of how harmless their profiling is for other people.


Then isn't it that a reasonable, unprofiling, harmless use is possible?


All kinds of edge cases are possible. That doesn't in any way address, let alone refute, the widespread concerns.


Everybody's got something to hide, just not from everybody else. As much as we share with friends what we would not share with strangers, we have things that we would enthusiastically share with strangers that we would never share with our friends. Something similar applies here: everybody would absolutely do mind if someone in their personal sphere could browse their search term history, but the same data as one of billions of profiles on some corporate datacenter does not appear in that threat model. Ultimately, "nothing to hide" is short for "nothing to hide from them", and the main difference is wether the possibility of leaks is taken into account or not.


The flip side to "nothing to hide" is akin to John Hancock signing his name big and bold because you want others to know what "you" think and are doing.

That is not at all the same as not caring. It's using the platform with intent.

I see a lot of that on FB. I don't agree with the intent all the time but I do pay attention to it and often use it with purpose myself.


When people say "I have nothing to hide anyway." ask them about their weirdest sexual fantasy and their credit card number. Usually then they realize they might have somethings they want to keep private.


Or just ask "Nothing to hide from whom?"


People care, but assume it's inevitable. The government knows everything about me since I have to pay taxes. Likewise the banks because I have to keep my money somewhere. Likewise my cell provider because I need a phone to participate in society. Social media is not as high on the necessity list, but once you've already accepted this inevitability, how much is going to change if you give up Facebook? There is a downside which is measurable if you value the social contact. The upside is completely abstract and un-measurable. What outcome could you ever point to and say, this thing X happened specifically because I gave up Facebook?


People got so comfortable with ease of being able to reach anyone anywhere and in one place of all places that they have been conditioned to give up all privacy. Today's environment is a heaven for law enforcement agencies, marketing agencies and cybercriminals. It's too easy to manipulate, build profiles and do just about anything with anyone you'd like to Target. One could argue that while technology improves various aspects of our lives it also dumbs us down to the point of being totally numb to sanity.


Maybe ask them how they would feel if a little robot owned by some giant corporation was following them around every day, all day long. And imagine the corporation had similar robots following everyone else around, even children. And tell them the corporation made its money by selling the information it collected to anyone who could pay. And tell them some of the purchasers use the information for various nasty things, like identity theft, And then ask them how they would feel if the robots were invisible, so they didn't realize they were being monitored. And then tell them that is what is actually happening today.


It's very simple. No one will care unless it has a tangible effect on their lives. For that reason, if it does have a tangible effect on peoples' lives, Facebook is doing it wrong.


They’re starting to. They just need enough examples of something having gone wrong with huge consequences. This is one of them.


And this would be the time to revisit John Oliver’s Snowden interview [1]. Specifically at 25:53. Since the topic is surveillance it may be inappropriate to link YouTube. If you haven’t seen it and don’t want to, the gist is people only care when their dickpics gets leaked...

[1] https://youtu.be/XEVlyP4_11M


What about the overwhelming majority that don't take images of their genitals? Is there a downside for them?


People are fucking okay with their data being in public. They even fucking post any slight event in their lives.


Facebook exploits "bugs" in the human psyche, such as our need to avoid feeling lonely (by sharing intimate details of our life) is far more compelling than any abstract fear of "big brother". That is until big brother is Donald Trump, then suddenly the fear is no longer abstract.


> Facebook exploits "bugs" in the human psyche

Small quip: the need for social interaction/emotional support is a human trait not a "bug". A bug would imply that this need is somehow undesirable/irrational, but that's just not correct.


Ah what I meant was that prioritizing loneliness over privacy is a kind of a bug; satisfying a more unconscious need over taking conscious decisions to be smart with your own privacy.


Data being public and data being hoarded by an platform with lock in is different. I share plenty of things that I'm perfectly OK being public but that I'd never ever want to give away to a single entity that I don't trust like Facebook.


Its purely Trump hatred driving this. Because Obama doing this in 2012 = Genius. Trump doing this in 2016 = Scandal. I'm a libertarian and yes I threw my vote away on Gary Johnson, but looking at the media landscape, there truly is a backlash against conservatives going on in social media, and this is just part of that. Donald Trump won because fake news... no wait, it was Russia and their abysmal social media spending... no wait, its because he gamed facebook! They want to put more pressure on facebook to "do something about this" now that the coin has flipped. I have a feeling though this is going to get out of hand and drag facebook into the gutter.


> Its purely Trump hatred driving this.

I would agree that the election of someone so woefully unfit to serve has scared the shit out of a lot of people. And so many people are putting a lot of thought and energy into trying to pick apart how things could've gone so wrong. Thus, we're having discussions like these.

We tend to question things more after they go wrong. Whether or not you liked his policies, Obama was a fairly straightforward politician who at least knew how to operate the office of the Presidency and wasn't nested in an extensive web of shadiness and criminality.


I think it's more that all of these things are gaining traction and people are trying to relate it to Trump.

There's been a growing discussion about data collection and shady advertising practices for a long time. It's not about Trump. And this isn't the first time I've seen distrust raised towards Facebook or Google about this stuff.

The Russian propaganda was mostly divisive messages surrounding things like race / guns. People keep trying to make it about Trump but investigators have been saying that it's more broad the whole time. Regardless of him it's still something we need to investigate.

Anything that seems scandalous or sketchy will probably be tied to Trump by people who don't like him if possible. But the same behavior has been going on for longer than Trump (people tried to accuse Obama of all kinds of stuff, and don't even get started on what people were accusing the Clinton campaign of). It shouldn't distract from the fact that it's scandalous and sketchy and we should keep an eye on these issues.

PS: Get ready to see everything being related back to Trump. All actions of government, law, etc. The positive and the negative. Because that's how this always works. The current administration gets more credit for change than they deserve.


> (people tried to accuse Obama of all kinds of stuff, and don't even get started on what people were accusing the Clinton campaign of). It shouldn't distract from the fact that it's scandalous and sketchy and we should keep an eye on these issues.

Accusations are one thing. We have actual documented evidence here, and that's what so startling.

In addition, I'd argue that if Trump wasn't such an incompetent, bumbling, authoritarian moron, the backlash absolutely wouldn't have been as bad.

But the fact of the matter is that this is absolutely something new. Unless you're trying to suggest that both Obama and Clinton engaged companies who had a history of generating fake news, emotionally charged propaganda, and outright honeypotting political opponents with hookers and blackmail.

That's what makes this different. I'm absolutely flabberghasted that this point isn't being driven harder, instead defaulting to "well both sides...".

It's false equivalency, pure and simple.


I don't think you got what I was saying.

All of these things are alarming, yes. But not because Trump is involved. These issues should be investigated regardless of who was doing it.

And I was trying to convey to the parent post that these issues of data use and disingenuous campaign practices would have come up, Trump or not, because it's happening and we don't like it as a society. But since Trump is the one, right now, people will point the finger at him like he's to blame for it all. That's why I mentioned Obama (because people did the same to him).

It looks, to me, like Trump sought help from shady people in multiple cases. And that's worth noting but it's irrelevant to the fact that those people were doing shady things in the first place.

> We have actual documented evidence here, and that's what so startling.

No. Sadly we only have a situation where an app was collecting data using Facebook and a video where two individuals were pitching their product by saying things to try and win a customer.

We know that the Trump campaign hired them, but we don't know that the Trump campaign knew about their data practices any more than their other customers knew. They had many other customers before Trump.

PS: I'm not a Republican and am not supporting Donald Trump. But trying to spin this as real evidence is stooping to their level of misinformation. We don't know that the Trump campaign knew about this. And we don't know that the recent videos weren't just CA lying to sell their product. But yes we absolutely need to investigate both of those possibilities.


> And I was trying to convey to the parent post that these issues of data use and disingenuous campaign practices would have come up, Trump or not, because it's happening and we don't like it as a society.

Right, but then you said Obama was doing the same thing. He was not. Nor was Clinton. So the fact of the matter is that it may have come up, but there's been literally no evidence to suggest it's happened in the past by any of the winning Democratic campaigns.

That's the false equivalence I'm talking about. You're shifting blame away from the Republican party, the Trump campaign, and placing it solely on Facebook and unscrupulous data collection parties, when the issue should mostly be on the fact that a political campaign not only engaged said parties but won using them.

> No. Sadly we only have a situation where an app was collecting data using Facebook and a video where two individuals were pitching their product by saying things to try and win a customer.

And the words/documents provided by the CA whistleblower. That's immensely important.

> but we don't know that the Trump campaign knew about their data practices any more than their other customers knew.

Steve Bannon knew. Unless you're now claiming that he, as VP of CA, didn't know what his own company was doing.

> We don't know that the Trump campaign knew about this. And we don't know that the recent videos weren't just CA lying to sell their product.

That's because you're removing broader context that shows that we should probably err on the side of "they probably knew about all this" rather than "there's no way they could have known".

The fact is, CA was testing phrases used by the Trump campaign literally years before they approached Trump. The Mercers pumped money into the Trump campaign at a critical time (June 2016), and forced all campaign processes to go through CA. This is all documented. In August of that year, Bannon left CA (which was already running Trump's campaign) and joined the Trump campaign directly.

You're trying to pretend like there's more ambiguity than there actually is.

EDIT: The latter half of this article goes in depth on how the Mercer's money shifted from Ted Cruz to Trump: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/19/us/politics/robert-mercer...


> Right, but then you said Obama was doing the same thing.

No. I didn't say anything like that. I literally said "people tried to accuse Obama of all kinds of stuff" and my point was to the parent post who said "Its purely Trump hatred driving this".

You missed the point because you don't like that I'm not blaming this entirely on Trump.

I want an investigation into all of this. And other sketchy behavior surrounding the Trump campaign.

But I was stating that I don't think the parent post was correct in saying that this is all about Trump.

> You're trying to pretend like there's more ambiguity than there actually is.

You're trying to pretend like there's more certainty than there actually is and that this is somehow all Trump's fault.

I think that's dangerous because the Trump team keeps claiming that there's a witch hunt going on so when all new scandals are pinned to him it actually helps them as far as optics go. We need to investigate this all and get to the bottom of it and I hope Trump is exposed for the scam artist that he is in the process.


> I literally said "people tried to accuse Obama of all kinds of stuff" and my point was to the parent post who said "Its purely Trump hatred driving this".

Right, but that's still comparing the current amount of information we have on what the Trump campaign and CA did to mere baseless accusations. The comparison is implicit.

> because you don't like that I'm not blaming this entirely on Trump.

No, I don't like the fact that you're trying to cast this as mere accusation like the many false accusations against other prior campaigns.

> But I was stating that I don't think the parent post was correct in saying that this is all about Trump.

And I agree with that bit. Which is why I didn't engage it. Instead, I engaged the implicit false equivalence that the parent post was outright stating and that you were merely suggesting.

> You're trying to pretend like there's more certainty than there actually is

And yet you haven't refuted any of my statements, sources, or facts.

> and that this is somehow all Trump's fault.

Just like how it's the fault of the person composing and releasing doxxing info, not the fault of the person the dox is about for putting it online.

So if it isn't Trump's fault, whose is it? Bannon's? CA? The Mercer's?

> the Trump team keeps claiming that there's a witch hunt going on so when all new scandals are pinned to him it actually helps them as far as optics go

Are you seriously suggesting that we not use new information as it comes out to paint a larger picture, simply because of the optics on the part of Trump?

> We need to investigate this all and get to the bottom of it

We are. The media is. And this is what is coming out. What, are we not supposed to connect the very obvious and extremely public dots? Are we just supposed to pretend that the Paradise Papers don't exist and don't show money being moved around from sanctioned, Kremlin-owned finances, through shell companies residing in tax havens, and finally on to various American/European companies like Facebook and Cambridge Analytica?


We have different approaches but we're on the same side in case you haven't picked up on that.

I agree with you on most of these points but until the proper investigations proceed not much will happen. And this administration will attempt to block or obstruct any investigations that they think are part of a "witch hunt" so putting too much emphasis on Trump himself seems risky in the meantime. Let the investigators put those dots together.

Also, Trump is just the tip of the iceberg in this story of corruption. Companies like CA and groups like Internet Research Agency need to share this blame because Trump didn't create them. He just benefited from them (because he has no morals).

PS: If you haven't contacted your representatives (or candidates) to ask them to support ongoing investigations into these particular issues (like the Special Counsel one). Do it please. Especially if you have a representative up for reelection.


> We have different approaches but we're on the same side in case you haven't picked up on that.

I did. I'm just more concerned with giving an accurate picture of what happened than trying to pass off some kind of false equivalency.

> but until the proper investigations proceed not much will happen. And this administration will attempt to block or obstruct any investigations that they think are part of a "witch hunt" so putting too much emphasis on Trump himself seems risky in the meantime. Let the investigators put those dots together.

On the contrary, its necessary that we connect these dots. IMO, it's an insurance policy against the eventuality that Trump decides to fire Mueller or stall/block the FBI investigation. We the people need to democratize this information and disseminate it whenever possible.

This is not normal. This is not business as usual. This is a tale of a corrupt political campaign using every dirty trick in the book, the likes of which we've never seen before, and winning because of it. Every party involved deserves to be punished, but the fact of the matter is that while we can't do much to stop people from putting together intel via publicly available data sets, we sure as heck can do something about corrupt politicians using said data sets.

In much the same way, we punish the doxxer for using the dox, not the target for putting said information online in the first place, or the social networks for giving them the outlets to publish said information. Obviously Facebook deserves some blame, especially if they were somehow complicit in this (in as far as investment money/advice from Russian sanctioned industries/individuals).


> IMO, it's an insurance policy against the eventuality that Trump decides to fire Mueller or stall/block the FBI investigation.

We really do need to make sure that doesn't happen and make sure they don't grab any more power while they have the upper hand.

As far as getting people to see realize this stuff... You can't convince a Trump supporter of the sheer level of corruption as long as they think there's a witch hunt trying to make this stuff up.

First the evidence has to be established and legitimized without being attached to Trump at all or the premise of the evidence is compromised in their mind. Does that make sense?

Suppose a report came out that shows how drinking soda is actually good for you. But it was published by the sugar industry. Even if they had some good points you'd probably be skeptical. That's how these people will feel as long as the narrative of this being a witch hunt is perpetuated.

> This is not normal. This is not business as usual. This is a tale of a corrupt political campaign using every dirty trick in the book

I agree.

> Obviously Facebook deserves some blame, especially if they were somehow complicit in this

I think we need to look into them for their data practices in general. Way beyond this case.


> First the evidence has to be established and legitimized without being attached to Trump at all

It already has been. The bread crumbs have been laid out for years now, and all it takes is looking back at all the legitimate outlets that were at the time slightly mystified by the occurrences.

We have outlets like Tech Crunch, The New York Times, Wall St. Journal, etc. all reporting on these things as they happened (as early as in 2009), and we are now able to piece them together thanks in part to the Paradise Papers.

> I think we need to look into them for their data practices in general. Way beyond this case.

Absolutely agreed.


Obama didn't use an entire fake news infrastructure coupled with hackers leaking the opposition's emails... Your equivalency is misguided or misleading, you can't compare Obama 2012 to Trump 2016. You present the topics as separate when they are all linked. The damage comes from data + fake news + Russian APT.


This. There's a lot of false equivalence going on in this thread.


I suppose Trump hatred plays a role. But superpowers interfering with elections is a big deal, it's the kind of thing that could lead to another extinction level event.

Any of the mechanisms leveraged in this propaganda campaign should receive extra scrutiny.


"superpowers interfering with elections is a big deal"

Which has been going on since... forever? (at least, since elections and superpowers have been a thing, anyway)


It's only a big deal when it's not us or our allies doing it.


Please don't spread lies. What the Obama campaign was doing in 2012 was nothing compared to what Cambridge Analytica did for Trump.


What did Obama's campaign do? I remember a lot of news when he was elected praising his revolutionary social network mining team that got out the youth vote. How is this different than what Cambridge Analytica did?


> What did Obama's campaign do? I remember a lot of news when he was elected praising his revolutionary social network mining team that got out the youth vote. How is this different than what Cambridge Analytica did?

The Obama campaign engagement was overt, users knew they were connecting to a political campaign and whose, and the entity with API access didn't transfer the data for radically different uses than the overt ones to a third party.


>How is this different than what Cambridge Analytica did?

The other company didn't spread fake news, conduct honeypot blackmailing schemes, and wasn't funded by one of America's largest geopolitical foes.


https://ijr.com/2018/03/1077083-ex-obama-campaign-director-f...

Director of the Obama campaign seems to feel they did very similar things, with the tacit support of Facebook (at least after the fact)


What Obama did is not nearly the same as what Trump did [1].

Also, it's important to keep in mind that this entire argument about Obama is one diversion perpetuated by Cambridge Analytica. They brought up this idea and it has been bouncing around the more surreptitious parts of the internet as a tactic to avoid criticism. I wonder why a place like CA would attempt to change the conversation?

[1] https://washingtonmonthly.com/2018/03/21/no-obama-didnt-empl...


They leave out a critical fact, which you can find buried in The Hill article they deride:

" “Consciously or otherwise,” The Guardian states, “the individual volunteer will be injecting all the information they store publicly on their Facebook page — home location, date of birth, interests and, crucially, network of friends — directly into the central Obama database.” Facebook had no problem with such activity then. They do now. "

Consciously or otherwise...

It was the same exact tactic, maybe only slightly less deceptive than CA's methods.


Obama's campaign didn't do what Cambridge Analytica is accused of doing.


It didn't do what _Cambridge Analytica_ is accused of doing, but it did do what a lot of people are freaked out Facebook can do; namely provide third parties with detailed user information.

Using this information in 2012 was lauded as a great idea that helped drive Obama to success. _Cambridge Analytica_ did it in a more slezy way that violated Facebook's Terms of Use-- they lied to Facebook in terms of what the data was used for and the fact they were harvesting it to form a database.

Yet Facebook is not painted as a victim here, because now the idea of using your "likes" to target ads is not applauded, its frowned upon. And yes, Obama also did the whole whole "friends who didn't explicitly use the app" thing (which has since been disabled from Facebook's APIs, I think since v2.0 in 4/30/2014):

> The campaign boasted that more than a million people downloaded the app, which, given an average friend-list size of 190, means that as many as 190 million had at least some of their Facebook data vacuumed up by the Obama campaign — without their knowledge or consent.[1]

[1]: https://www.investors.com/politics/editorials/facebook-data-...


> Yet Facebook is not painted as a victim here,

They failed to disclose the issue (which they knew about for quite some time) and in fact continued to profit form the relationship with CA. I don't seen a reasonable expectation that they should be considered a victim.


I actually agree with you, this could be handled better by them. I'm personally a little confused by the details and timings though; where did you read about them profiting after they knew about the issue?


I'm working under the impression that they were aware of the specific "breach" some months ago, and only terminated their dealings with CA once the matter became public (so cutting off the revenue stream was done CA as a reaction to bad PR, not because of any moral rightness or a reaction to any policy or contract breach).


Oh, I was under the impression that business relation was with some university researcher and finished a while ago. The researcher didn't delete the data, and instead brought it to CA (Facebook didn't deal with CA directly). Facebook found out some time ago but did nothing more than tell them to delete it and trust they would, without really informing anyone or pushing further.


I'm not sure how authoritative it is but this tweet [1] claims otherwise.

[1] https://twitter.com/mbsimon/status/975231597183229953


What Obama did was very, very different.

The fact that you don't know this (or ignored it) tells a lot about how biased you are.

And yes, there should be backlash against conservatives. They just elected a Nazi in Illinois.


> They just elected a Nazi in Illinois

If you're talking about Arthur Jones, you're being very misleading. He won the Republican primary, but it was unopposed, in a heavily democratic district, and he was already denounced by Illinois Republicans.


If they were serious about denouncing him, why not put up an opposing candidate?


I don't know, but I imagine nobody else wanted to spend money, time, or risk their reputation on an election they have almost no chance to win.


> They just elected a Nazi in Illinois.

I know nothing about American politics or what's going on in Illinois. But that you jump straight on calling someone you disagree with a "Nazi", while also saying how different what Obama did with no explanation and a lot of insults, does not give me much confidence in what you are saying here.

Just letting you know in case you were trying to convince anyone of your viewpoint.


No, a literal former leader of the American Nazi Party party ran in an uncontested GOP primary and so will be a candidate in an upcoming election (he will lose, any GOP candidate would lose that particular election). No one is being called a Nazi for the wrong reasons.

I guess the local party would have been smart to put someone else on the ballot, just for the look of things. Really that's the problem with the comment, characterizing the failure of the party to stand up someone respectable as support for the Nazi.


Here is the first sentence of his wikipedia page.

"Arthur Joseph Jones (born January 1, 1948) is an American neo-Nazi, white nationalist, perennial candidate and Holocaust denier."

What would you call this person in order to be polite?


He actually is a Nazi. That is not hyperbole. His name is Arthur Jones.

He just won his party's primary, which means he has been elected to be on the ballot as a member of his party. Not anyone can run as, e.g., a member of the Republican Party. You need to be nominated first, and you do that by winning a primary. The position is in US Congress.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/20/us/politics/arthur-jones-...


Didn't call anyone a Nazi, except the Nazi, who just won a Republican primary.

Try again.


Sorry for that - you can't believe my surprise that you really do have an actual Nazi running. That's honestly unbelievable. I hope you can understand why I assumed you were being hyperbolic.


So I'm uninformed on the subject -- what are the differences between what Obama and Trump campaigns did with Facebook?


I'll be honest: There's plenty of information out there that will help you make that comparison. But I don't think it's super-useful unless your goal is to participate in these pointless "but Obama/Hillary did it" debates.

It's happening now and it happened during the Trump campaign (and others -- one massive difference is that Cambridge Analytica used this data for elections around the world). And you should be questioning whether that sort of exploitation of personal data is something that's a good or bad force in the world, whether it scares you or whether you're okay with it.


It's bad, but it should be bad uniformly, not just when the president is disliked by the technocrats. Same with the Russian meddling. Both sides of the aisle are in the Russian pockets, but only Trumps' admin gets the focus. If we are going to clean house, we need to clean the whole house.


> Both sides of the aisle are in the Russian pockets, but only Trumps' admin gets the focus.

This is 100% bullshit. Trump's apparent relationship with Russia goes lightyears beyond whatever made-up conservative fever-dream about Obama or Clinton is floating around out there.


It cannot be complete bs if the Clintons are selling uranium to Russians.


They aren't.


Highly questionable money transfers from the Russians to the Clinton Foundation, but I'm sure there's no foul play :)

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/hillary-clinton-uranium-ru...

"The Hill also reported receiving documents and eyewitness testimony “indicating Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow,” although no specifics about who those Russian nuclear officials were or how the money was allegedly routed to the Clinton Foundation were given. In any case, none of these revelations prove that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton participated in a quid pro quo agreement to accept payment for approval of the Uranium One deal."


That page has a giant red FALSE on it and a point-by-point breakdown of why the story is bullshit.

No, the Clintons did not sell Uranium to Russia.


Is it? I'm sure I will get chided for bias quoting a hill article by Ben Shapiro, but as a Libertarian you really need to read both sides perspective to get the true story here. It highlights how the tactic was almost EXACTLY the same: Access facebooks data to build a database of possible supporters and target political messages to them. Obama's operation was only slightly less deceptive about it than CA and their scummy personality quiz chain mail.

My point is not the tactic though, my point is that the ONLY reason this has suddenly gone critical is because Trump is associated with it. It was ok then, its suddenly not now.

http://thehill.com/opinion/technology/379245-whats-genius-fo...

The key takeaway:

---

" “Consciously or otherwise,” The Guardian states, “the individual volunteer will be injecting all the information they store publicly on their Facebook page — home location, date of birth, interests and, crucially, network of friends — directly into the central Obama database.” Facebook had no problem with such activity then. They do now. There’s a reason for that. The former Obama director of integration and media analytics stated that, during the 2012 campaign, Facebook allowed the Obama team to “suck out the whole social graph”; Facebook “was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn’t stop us once they realized that was what we were doing.” She added, “They came to [the] office in the days following election recruiting & were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side.”

Not so with Trump. As soon as Facebook realized that Cambridge Analytica had pursued a similar strategy, they suspended the firm. "

---

Consciously or otherwise ...

Another HN user linked to the opposing opinion:

https://washingtonmonthly.com/2018/03/21/no-obama-didnt-empl...

I agree with this article also, Obama's team was slightly more above board with the original source of the data. After that it looks pretty similar. Remember that they chided Romney for NOT doing this and being behind the curve.

A question I'm asking myself: Would this have still been a scandal if CA was less scummy in their modus operandi?


To be honest I was not aware that Facebook invited anyone to take out that data merely asking them to delete it shortly after. That's the part that's new and offending to me.

Meanwhile I tolerate political campaigns using targetted advertising. I just wish people were showing more competence when it comes to media consumption and the ability to distinguish between truthful reporting and obvious lies. The media illiteracy is the real problem I see with this issue.


It's not incompetence.

It's an exploit of our evolutionary psychology. Fake news, keep people spun up, etc. We've always known these things about ourselves.

"A lie is half-way around the world before the truth even gets its pants on" -- Mark Twain (probably)

Our susceptibility to manufactured outrage and refined sugars are the same thing. Former survival traits are being exploited for profit.


And the solution to toxic ingredients in food is to make everyone a competent chemist who can analyze the stuff they buy?

While education certainly is a good idea, and helps make society more resilient than relying on centralized authorities, I don't think the successful strategy of collaboration in a society is to make everyone an expert at everything and have no consequences for trying to screw over other people.


> And the solution to toxic ingredients in food is to make everyone a competent chemist who can analyze the stuff they buy?

Well, you obviously don't have to be a competent chemist to buy healthy food in the same way that you don't have to be a journalist or experienced intelligence agent to conclude that Hillary Clinton probably doesn't run a child pornography organization from the basement of a pizza joint.

There's a baseline of minimum media literacy, or food buying skills, you're expected to exhibit and proper education helps to meet and exceed that threshold.

Additionally and in contrast to toxic ingredients, thruthful journalismus often isn't a clear, binary conclusion - it's hard to regulate a problem that is open to interpretation and operates with blurring lines, gray areas, deceiving narratives and ommitted details. I think it's an issue that can't be regulated away and suggest that we find ways to make it less effective by reaching an audience that is able to question those narratives.


> Well, you obviously don't have to be a competent chemist to buy healthy food in the same way that you don't have to be a journalist or experienced intelligence agent to conclude that Hillary Clinton probably doesn't run a child pornography organization from the basement of a pizza joint.

Well, or do you? If there was no regulation ensuring at least a certain baseline of both food safety and correctness of the labeling, how far would you actually get without being a competent chemist? And, well, yeah, it seems obvious to you, but the thing is, to a lot of people, it is actually an intellectual struggle to understand that that is bullshit, because they are constantly fed information that supports their world view and makes it seem coherent to them.

> There's a baseline of minimum media literacy, or food buying skills, you're expected to exhibit and proper education helps to meet and exceed that threshold.

Well, yes, but the question is not whether it is expected, but whether it should be expected. And whether the amount of media literacy is actually comparable to the expected food buying skills. I mean, just think about how hard it actually is to buy outright toxic food. Really, you can go into any restaurant or grocery store and buy anything they offer, and it just won't be toxic, it will almost all be perfectly fine for human consumption. Maybe not extremely healthy, but nothing that will make you ill in the short term, except for rare exceptions. Now compare that to well-known news outlets. It's completely trivial to get your news from a "news source" that is largely fabricated bullshit, it is just everywhere.

> Additionally and in contrast to toxic ingredients, thruthful journalismus often isn't a clear, binary conclusion

I don't think toxic ingredients are that much clearer than any other field of investigation. Yeah, there is stuff that will kill you instantly, that's easy, but what increase of cancer rates makes ingredients obviously toxic?


Is media literacy something that can solve this though? A society can educate its citizens (and should do so), but a large group of people simply can't reach the level of critical thinking necessary to fully grasp the nudging and political weaselling they are submitted to.


I've considered the idea of a course for general education that specifically teaches about these psychological traits and the ways they can backfire... a sort of anti-manipulation, bias awareness training camp.

Set up scenarios involving

- fake news about classmates and show everyone how they respond vs researching and being skeptical...

- personal info security vs pwnage / outing / fraud...

- scenarios invoking biases and showing explicitly how they affect decisions and actions


> but a large group of people simply can't reach the level of critical thinking necessary to fully grasp the nudging and political weaselling they are submitted to.

Isn't that exactly the kind of problem that education can solve? Of course that's a decade long process which doesn't happen over night.


Education can somewhat increase the percentage of people we would consider media literate, but there will always be a group of voters who simply can't reach that level of media literacy — some of whom are literally illiterate (a couple of percent in most modern democracies) and some who are literate, but can't (or won't) fully grasp the subtleties of media manipulation. Those are still a lot of voters.


How do you know Google does the same thing? What can you get out of Google by writing an app?

Off the top of my head, I don't think Google even has most people's friends lists (outside Orkut back in the day, and Google+, which isn't so popular). They do have contact lists in Gmail, which is a bit different.

There is address book spamming via mobile apps, but again, there are permissions. How good are they?

It seems like it's "the same thing" only if you ignore all technical detail. We should be able to do better than that!


You are implying friends list is the main factor here. Let's assume you are right. Still, Google may have a database for people you might know, you just don't know its existence yet. They don't have to let you input your contacts voluntarily to find out about your relationships. For example, have you used Google Maps? You search a place, Google tells you popular time of that place, how did they get the data? If they are able to do things like that, they might also be able to know who (or which Google account) you spend time with and where, they just don't have reasons to tell you they have the data or they have deep learned the data for various purposes.

We just don't have a whistleblower to testify that they sell the data yet, possibly because they have strict internal confidentiality policies.[1]

Disclaimer, about that Google Maps example, it's just my assumption, I don't know how it actually works.

[1]: https://www.theinformation.com/articles/employee-lawsuit-acc...


If you have Google Maps running on your phone with data and GPS on, the app will explicitly ask you about your experience in whatever place you're visiting at that moment. I have friends who enthusiastically respond to those notifications every time, arguing that the information will help other users. More people than you think are happy to share more than passive metadata.


> More people than you think are happy to share more than passive metadata.

I'm aware of that. I used to be like your friends because I love technology. Though I didn't know it's an opt-in since I haven't seen those notifications. Maybe I missed it?

Even so, how do I make sure the data is not going to be misused? I practically not be able to do anything that I think I can to prevent data misuse. They collect my data even after I said no.[1]

Plus, those so-called passive metadata are more objective and valuable than the data you actively submit to them, don't you think? I can hardly fake these kinds of data, just like you don't ask what lab rats think, you run tests on them and then just observe how they are gonna react.

Giving away those data with good intentions doesn't necessarily mean it won't harm others in some other way. I have things to hide, especially with data companies thriving.

[1]: https://qz.com/1131515/google-collects-android-users-locatio...

Edit: In fact, believe it or not, I hate to point the Popular Time issue out. I was afraid of Google supporters' hostile attitudes against me or Google might consider this feature could heat up privacy concerns then kill it. (Very unlikely, because I'm nobody. :D) I find this feature is thoughtful and useful, I'm too selfish to watch it die. Besides, killing it doesn't do any good to the public, on the contrary, it will become less transparent how they are going to use user's data. I brought up this issue only because, with this whole FB scandal thing happening, I feel the public is playing favorites.


"To determine popular times, wait times, and visit duration, Google uses aggregated and anonymized data from users who have opted in to Google Location History." [1]

"Location History and Location Reporting data may be used by any Google app or service." [2]

It looks like you can turn it on or off, and delete your location history. I don't see a way to use Location History without having it also be anonymously used for traffic and other stuff. [3]

I've turned it off on my phone to see what happens. Occasionally I'll run across a permission dialog to turn it on.

[1] https://support.google.com/business/answer/6263531?hl=en [2] https://www.google.com/policies/privacy/example/may-collect-... [3] https://support.google.com/accounts/answer/3118687?hl=en


Thanks for the links, although deleting data from Google doesn't sound like a relief/solution to me because they keep all the data.[1][2] From my experience, after you deleted your gmail account, you are not allowed to register with the same address anymore. They claim it's due to security reasons. Such claim sounds reasonable and I believe them. Anyway, they have the ability to keep the data you think you deleted for whatever reasons, which is enough for me to have doubts. I have no methods to prove that other kinds of data are kept or deleted, i.e. I don't know how to check if they deleted my location history completely, or just archived it for future use. Even the data has been anonymized, it still can be used for statistic purposes, which possibly could be used to influence elections.

I wonder if most of users would read through ToS and support articles before they started using those features. It's just much easier to click on "I agree." I won't call it a trap, but it's pretty close. As a result, users are signing contracts they don't even bother reading. And eventually, users are the ones who get blamed by the company for not paying attention.

And again, we are not sure about how they are actually using our data. Before this FB scandal, some people might still believe FB wouldn't do things like this.

[1]: https://www.siliconvalleywatcher.com/google-keeps-your-data-...

[2]: https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2010/03/google-keeps-you...


So you're saying they have lots of personal data (nobody is disputing this). If they have the data, and they let someone else have access to it, it could leak. Which, sure, makes sense.

But that's not the same as "know[ing] Google does the same thing" unless you define either "know" or "the same thing" very loosely.


You are right. Basically what I'm trying to say is they could do the same thing regardless whether they have your friends lists or not.

Indeed, I don't know if Google does the same thing.


Google has contact lists, call logs, real-time location and possibly texts from most used smartphone OS. Google has communication graphs and contact lists from the most used email platform. Google has the search logs from your internet searches. Google has web logs from the most used web analytics platform.

Google knows a lot.


Google absolutely harvests all info they can get. They scan gmails, they monitorig everything on all Android phones, even when you disable something [1].

It's just that Google maybe be a bit hesitant to sell data to 3rd parties, since they abuse them themselves :)

(and this is the price of a 'free' service).

[1]: https://gadgets.ndtv.com/apps/news/google-tracking-user-loca...


> It's just that Google maybe be a bit hesitant to sell data to 3rd parties

Which is the entire point. I know Google is taking data when I use Google products. The problem arises when Google freely gives my data to a random third party company I neither know nor trust, without my knowledge.


Why is it better that google has your data than that another company has your data?


Because I agreed to give it to them, for one.

For another, I know what Google is. And where it is - they have an address. They're in the US. I could, if I wanted, sue them.

Compare that to a literally limitless number of unknown organisations all across the world? Yeah, I'd say Google is better.


Because at least then you know who has your data. If I agree to Google having some of my data because I trust them with it to some extent that does not mean I want to give any third party access to that data. And I'm not saying there's any reason to trust Google with your data, but at least you'll know who really has access to that data.


Google stopped scanning emails 9 months ago[0].

[0] https://blog.google/products/gmail/g-suite-gains-traction-in...


The exact quote is "Consumer Gmail content will not be used or scanned for any ads personalization after this change." I know they still scan my emails, because airbnb reservations will magically pop up on my calendar.


Information about events, flights, parcel tracking, etc. are explicitly provided by email senders for things like automatic calendar integration by the email client. https://github.com/schemaorg/schemaorg


Do you log in to AirBnB using Google credentials? Perhaps they use an undocumented feature to broadcast the dates to GCal without mail harvesting.


Nope, using Facebook credentials. That's definitely a possibility.

Maybe I'm cynical, but whenever I see qualifiers around a verb I get suspicious. Something like "hey, we're not lying when we said we stopped scanning emails for ad purposes, but we are still scanning to improve other Google ecosystems tools like Calendar".


They scan emails. I have had airline ticket reservations that my friends emailed to me added on my Calendar.


Yikes. That would prove it...



Isn't selling or just giving data to third parties what we're talking about today?


Arguably Google can create a pretty good social network from email. That's why the use it for ads.


I was looking at Google Plus again last week and there's a lot of interesting things about it. I kind of wish they would spin it off into its own company.


Scandals don't matter until they do.

The bad stuff is an open secret. But people choose to discount the bad so long as it appears outweighed by the good. Eventually the grace period runs out. Voila: Scandal.

Also, scandals are manufactured distraction. There's no shortage of things to be upset about. What percolates up is governed by the politics of attention.

--

I can't quickly refind the Ellsberg paper about the structure of presidential scandals. But this one is close enough. Obviously, they study presidential scandals, but the lessons apply to all scandals.

The Timing of Presidential Scandals: The Role of Economics, Divided Government and the Media http://file.scirp.org/pdf/OJPS_2016012915363533.pdf

The Politics of Attention: How Government Prioritizes Problems http://a.co/dTmg3WC


>but why now?

The two things catalysing the latest media frenzy are first the recent Facebook Russian interference scandal increasing interest in Facebook data stories generally. That’s just a tip king issue.

The second is the Channel 4 undercover recording of CA execs advising on the use of corrupt practices in a Sri Lankan political campaign. Of course the US angle is getting all the press in the US, but this is what triggered a Renewed journalistic interest in the company.

https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/uk-news/2...


It's weird. Almost surreal.

We've known all this stuff for ages.

People say that a lot of what you read is just reporters not understanding what they're talking about, flitting from one subject to another with the herd, and perhaps that's true. But hell, anybody that's paid more than a modicum of attention to this issue should know that BigTech tracks people like lab rats. (Small tech too, they just don't have the user base)

I'm all for getting the word out. It's just an odd way that change is happening. It feels a lot like the internet has turned us all into one big mob, carrying our pitchforks and torches from one outrage to the next. That's probably a problem much bigger than what to do with Google/Facebook/Apple/Amazon/Comcast


It's not that tracking that finally put the fox among the chickens, it's the use to which the data was put. I think to the extent that most people thought about it at all they assumed that they'd just get more invasive advertising. Maybe the read about a girl's parents finding out she was pregnant or something like that.


I agree, but I think you're stopping well short of the natural conclusion here that seems inevitable for anybody thinking more than 10 seconds about the issue.

Data is (mostly) free, ubiquitous, and permanent. When you capture data for any reason, it's logically impossible for you to be able to know or control what to what use that data will be put.

I keep seeing situations where extreme examples are used to make the case that data collection is good, healthy, and makes our world a better place. If you were kidnapped, wouldn't you want police to know where you were based on tracking associated with your cell phone? But for every one good example, the universe is literally the limit for the number of ways that same data capture can be used in bad and harmful ways.

Over my lifetime I've consumed a lot of fiction around how people interact with tech. There are a lot of good people who have instrumented up the general public in ways science fiction writers would have never dreamed of only a few decades ago. It seems to me that anybody who's watched The Matrix would think that all of this has gotta have more societal impact than more intrusive advertising.

Perhaps you're right. Perhaps even though they realized what was being captured, they never put together the deep implications, instead thinking it was just about better dancing iphone ads. I don't understand how that could be so, but people seem to have an incredible ability not to see things they don't want to see -- and they love something for nothing.


I'll be honest. I've read enough science fiction and enough warnings from people a lot smarter than myself over the last decade or so to have seen this coming but I didn't. My reaction to the warnings was to think about how much of my own and my family's data I was comfortable letting out and trying to limit our exposure.

What I did not think about much was how I, or society in general, could be affected by other peoples' data and I think other people are reacting similarly.

There's also the political angle. A lot of people are _very_ upset about Trump and the general state of politics in the US today and anything that touches on that gets amplified.


What's more, I suspect that if this exact same thing had been done by a company working for Obama's or Hillary's campaigns, nobody would have batted an eyelash.

PS - the reason that the regs wont happen during the trump years has nothing to do with the collusion investigation. He's put a mandate in place that for every reg to go into the federal register, two have to come out. His administration is in general very anti-regulation. Therefore, yes, absolutely no way he would ever regulate it ... but not for the reason you hypothesized.


Exactly, I'm pretty sure Assange tweeted Sheryl Sandberg's emails to Podesta and the Clinton campaign stating the exact thing:

1. "Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO to Clinton campaign chief John Podesta, June 6, 2015" --https://twitter.com/wikileaks/status/790713289311387648 2."Facebook let us "suck out the ENTIRE social graph" because "they were on our side" -- Obama campaign team leader for 2012 " https://twitter.com/JulianAssange/status/975847209387380737


> nobody would have batted an eyelash.

Doubtful, considering the number of scandals from this list that made major media attention:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Obama_administration_...


Quite literally his campaign invented the tactic of scraping your friends list as a way to persuade voters. The important difference was CA used data that was gathered under the misleading guise of a personality quiz.

https://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/23/magazine/the-obama-campai...


They were the first to deploy it on such a massive scale, but I can assure you they did not invent that concept.


Cambridge Analytica had 200 clients. Now not all of those are major elections but CA is also not the only player who's been doing this. Governments and shady organizations have been perfecting media-based mass manipulation for decades/centuries.


While I agree that I think the Obama campaign has largely gotten a pass for similar data collection and voter profiling activities, I think that part of the reason its getting such attention now is some of the accompanying scandalous tactics of CA being revealed along with their data efforts. Some of the undercover videos being released, particularly the one regarding the Sri Lankan election, look pretty bad.


The big difference is that the Obama campaign didn't try to hide their intention of having you sign up with Facebook. The 'research' firm tricked people into thinking it was a research study when they were in fact harvesting data for different means.


I think the mistake is assuming that time that passes means people are ok with a certain amount of sharing, that it’s a safe investment, whether in cash or in investment in building on their platform or with their data. The reality is that we all know that what Facebook does is unsavory. When the privacy concerns eclipse the Value, whether its in year 11 or year 111, the wrath of society will be severe, as it should be.


This is similar to how revolutions happen. The government does something bad, many are frustrated by it, but they are still overall happy with the government, and only a few speak out.

Then the government does more bad stuff. More are frustrated, only a few speak out.

And on, and on, for decades. It seems like nothing will ever change. And one day "something happens" that makes all of that frustration come up, and the people are furious like nothing else, and you may even see riots and whatnot. And the people on the sidelines, who have no clue about how life was in that country wonder "why would people be so violent, and destroy things?! It doesn't make sense!" Yes, it does make sense. It's just not pretty.

And yes, it will happen to Google, too. I've tried to warn them and other tech companies many times in the past on HN, that they can't just screw over their users and piss them off, thinking only a few spoke out, so it must not be such a big deal the evil thing they've just done. Many more people are usually frustrated about that thing, but they usually keep that frustration inside because they would like to continue using Google.

So, yes. Google is definitely next. Just maybe not tomorrow, or next year. Maybe in a few years. My guess is it will be something around how they use their AI, especially now that they've become a war contractor. Maybe they'll sell their AI tech to US law enforcement to target American citizens in various ways. It's probably inevitable.

A Facebook exodus was never going to be linear. It will be drastic, and it will "surprise" people, even at the company, just as this surprises you now (although I wouldn't say that exodus will happen now, but this is definitely a one of the big final steps before that exodus, at the very least).


as the internet has matured, platform exodus has become harder, the 99% tech illiterate will not exodus a platform with years of family conversations and photo albums on there.


The general public and mainstream media do not really care about big tech companies harvesting personal data and using it for marketing. Every now and then you'd see someone bringing it up in an article of Ars or Popular Science, but they never gained much traction.

The difference is now there is an example of it helping Trump. And if you can find any story that puts Trump in a bad light, it's almost guaranteed that it will hit the front page of HuffingtonPost/WashingtonPost/NYTimes/Salon/etc.


More than anything it's tied to an existing scandal with Trump-Russian collusion.

If the other scandals weren't there no one would care about this, you are right.


Yea "we've" known about it for ages. "We've" even known or suspected it well before the Snowden leaks ( 2013 ).

But the general ( non-thinking, sadly ) public really has no idea. And is ironically now catching on because the media's been cramming the whole Russian thing down their throats since the election.

On the subject of the media and general public, has anyone recently heard anything about the southern statue madness from last year, or of police shootings? No, because the general public follows whatever the media says. And forgets about whatever they said the minute they stop talking about it.

2 biggest issues in America: 1) current mainstream media 2) uneducated populace


Sometimes everything is OK until it isn't. Critical Mass can take awhile to build.


The 'why is this news' sentiment is understandable, but people underestimate how much this kind of public /mainstream attention can matter when it comes to action being taken.

The only analogy I can think of is smoking. IIRC there was already a consensus about their dangers in the fifties, but it took decades, in part by strong lobbying efforts, before the public accepted/internalized this truth.

Similarly, the #metoo thing might cause shrugs among those who were in the know for a while, but I'm sure the public outrage will have lasting effects. I mean, Cosby's crimes were an open secret until suddenly it wasn't (a comedian went viral, or something like that?).


> I don't get what changed? We've knows Facebook tracks everything, we've known Google does the same thing.

This reminds me of the OkCupid scandal: https://www.vox.com/2016/5/12/11666116/70000-okcupid-users-d...

A researcher released a dump of 70K dating profiles and people were horrified. But this data was already accessible to anyone (just had to create a free profile) and you can be sure it was already used for analytics purpose.


Old Media ist publishing negative articles about tech at any chance they have, due to them losing all their advertising dollars to online ads. It's just that this time the message finds some traction.


> Is google next?

I think Facebook has nothing on Google. One trip to the MyActivity console on Google is enough to creep anyone out.


Nothing has changed at all as far as I can tell. It's such a media event right now simply because it was taken advantage of by the President to win the election. Anything that can potentially cast Trump in a bad light is bound to get a lot of media attention.

This is all ignoring the fact that President Obama used almost the same Facebook app analytics tactics to win his campaign (albeit less deceptively).

Regardless of why it is getting attention now, let's be optimistic that the dangers of the silicon valley surveillance apparatus are starting to seep into the public consciousness. I for one would welcome a changing attitude towards how we view and sell our private information to these companies.



I wasn't trying start a political flamewar. I noted in parenthesis that Obama's use of this sort of analytics was less deceptive. I think that the link that CptJamesCook posted validates my original comment on this.



One thing I am confused with all the data collection that is going on (and it obviously costing them $ and some reputational risks) is not really helping them to produce decent ad targeting. I am not even surprised by how bad FB ads are most of the time but even Amazon that has 20 years of my purchase history is amazingly bad: I already bought 4 Elixir programming books and looking to buy new books when they come out and yet if I search for Elixir it will keep showing me guitar strings WTF? In 20 years I've never bought a single music related item and I bought a ton of programming books and yet ...


The Elixir strings people are paying to be in those search results presumably - even when you don't buy they're getting paid. Amazon's infective is to profit, that doesn't always assign with your desire to buy.

Also, they might find that people who aren't searching for what they're shown keep looking and that it didn't reduce purchases. It's like the supermarkets moving products around to make sure you see other stuff - people don't leave the store, they keep looking and get exposed to more products in unfamiliar positions that make them notice more.

I mean, heck, you just talked about a couple of products and gave a product endorsement because they didn't show the results you expected; seems like the system is working.


You actually want Amazon to show you different search results?

If I'm starting a new hobby or wanted to buy a present for someone with different interests, I would be very annoyed if results were hidden from me because of a name clash with a product from my purchase history.

A good product search isn't personalized, and doesn't try to predict what I want. It just shows the results in a sensible manner, and lets me use categories and keywords (in addition to user reviews, price, availability, etcetera) to filter the results.


I want it to show me Elixir programming books in addition to strings not 50 string products and 0 books.


Then you may have found a bug in their search algorithm. On Amazon.de I get guitar string and books (and some sort of cologne), and when I click on 'Fremdsprachige Bücher' (for example), I get only books on programming in Elixir.

Surely that's fine?


I feel this is just an opportunity for the conventional media to bring down social media, because the latter has certainly hurt the former's powers to control narratives and agenda, affecting and this affecting the ad revenues. (any surprise why $TWTR and $SNAP took a hit along with $FB?)

Facebook has eaten into Mainstream Media ad revenues, and literally is controlling how news is published, because its platform is so powerful.

When Cambridge Analytica stories first broke out, even I had the same reaction. I hope people stop overreacting as if this never happened earlier.


Up until now the bug was known but it wasn't clear it's exploitable. Now there's an exploit and everyone's getting exploited so people are freaking out.


The issue isn't the data collection. It's campaign finance laws potentially being broken. It just so happens that data collection was at the center of that.


> I don't get what changed?

He made his billions.

I know you mean in a more general sense, but I can't let go of the hypocrisy of this. He sold out millions of users to Facebook, basically the most anti-privacy thing you could possibly do other then just dumping all that information out in the open, becomes incredibly wealthy and now he gives a small amount of that to Signal and is all like #deletefacbook and it's fine? Give me a break.


People didn't want to believe that FB and Google (and the rest) tracking and collecting all that data would really cause harm. Denial (because something is really useful and/or a large part of communication with all your friends+family runs through it) is a strong force.

What changed is that this breach made it harder for people to pretend all that tracking and data harvesting "will probably turn out fine".


>Regulations should have sprouted in Obama years

If people voluntarily want to give away their data, who are we to stop them from doing it?.

I don't use facebook, because I value my privacy more than I value "being connected" or whatever facebook is using to convince people these days, but if my neighbor is happy giving away is data, that's fine, it's his data.


> I don't get what changed?

Momentum. Sometimes people won't do stuff unless they know everyone else is too. If you quit Facebook and your friends still use it, you're missing out. But if all your friends delete it as part of the #deletefacebook trend, it'll be easier for you to do the same thing.


The thing is that now people see a real consequence of that data harvesting, like voting manipulation.


Do people realise they're being manipulated though?


I think people have become acutely aware that there are lots of people being manipulated through online disinformation and propaganda campaigns. But I also think just about everyone assumes that its others who are being manipulated and not themselves. By definition, you can't be manipulated if you know you are being manipulated.


One big factor is that Facebook knew about the problem and lied about it for two years. It’s one thing to know that data is mined and another to learn that what should be a trusted third party is actively trying to keep you from learning about abuse.


What changed is awareness. I would like them to provide a resource which allows users to know which microsegments of facebook audience network they are showing up in, without spending any money.


> I don't get what changed?

What changed is it helped the current President get elected.

The only people who really used to care about Facebook's behavior were people in niche online tech circles like HN. But then the election happened, and the media has been beating the "Facebook is evil" drum very loudly ever since.


> Regulations

Is more government the solution to every problem? Just let people make their choice of whether the product Facebook offers is worth the privacy tradeoff.


Regular folks have no idea how any idea how any of these systems work. It's hard for most people to understand the privacy tradeoffs.

Something like "nutrition facts" for data privacy seems like a reasonable policy.


I think that this is actually a part of the GDPR so in a months time we may have it.


My problem with this argument is that I cannot surf the web without being tracked even if I have chosen not to use their platform. Even if I stopped using the web completely, their platform would still gather info about me from anyone else that has my contact info and has decided to share info with the platform.


My mother/family/friends are not even aware there is a trade off. They only privacy 'problem' they know about is accidentally posting something personal in the wrong spot. There's no understanding of the extensive data collection, connection, and trade that's happening behind the scenes.


If that worked, there would be no outrage about this because everyone who would be unhappy would have already not used it, so there would be no 'reveal' and no scandal happening.

Since people didn't know, and are shocked and annoyed, it follows that people weren't able (for whatever reason) to make the decision in advance.

Is more government not the solution to every problem? It's like a legal wikipedia of all the behaviours people have found to abuse each other in society, all gathered in one place and applied to everyone. Sounds good.


What if you can't judge the privacy tradeoff because it's a complete black box?


Nothing black box about it. If you send data to a company, they have that data.


Except...there is data that is not explicitly sent. My mum doesn't know what an IP address is and therefore wouldn't know it's used for location tracking.


I guess. If I send a letter requesting information to a company with my return address on the envelope and the company sends back a package, is it so shocking that they have recorded your address at the end of the transaction?


To be honest, if things like this has to happen, I think Google should be the first.

https://qz.com/520652/groundwork-eric-schmidt-startup-workin...


>"developed anything in messenger even today"

I have developed several, your statement is misleading. Messenger user profile API gives,

first_name, last_name, profile_pic, locale, timezone (non precise), gender, is_payment_enabled, last_ad_referral,

Which IMO is much safer than using direct Facebook Graph API. My point being Messenger apps are in-fact better than apps which uses Facebook login when it comes to privacy i.e if you have to use Facebook platform.


So I want to cut off an argument at the pass here. Specifically: "Everyone knows Facebook already gathers all of your data."

We, as people here both on HN and people in the tech world take for granted the fact that we both know and understand how our systems work (mostly). We know that companies package and sell our data, that if something is 'free' the real subscription fee is what they collect on us during each use. But there is a significant population that simply doesn't know, think it's too much of a 'conspiracy theory' or don't care.

My parents, as much as I love them, are absolutely hair-tearingly bad at anything related to computers. They've had issues with scammers and Microsoft phoning them up so that they can upgrade their computer's ram. When I tell them about what kind of things Facebook does, they don't understand. They don't get why their data is so valuable ('well so what they get my phone number not like it affects me') and a lot of the time they have trouble understanding what they actually do.

Breaking stories like this is not necessarily surprising no, not to us. But it raises awareness and makes people wonder what companies actually are doing with their data. I doubt it'll result in the bubble that is Facebook finally popping but opportunities like this are always great times to pull aside your family and let them know why things like this matter. And in this current environment people are hyper-aware of things like this possibly more than ever before.

So I don't think the argument should be based around normalizing this sort of behavior by Facebook and other companies but rather revealing it to those that might not be aware.


To add onto this, I believe a large amount of consumers of these products assumed they were only accessing their own data. This story is highlighting how these companies further connect dots between you _and_ all your connections. This is where I feel people didn't recognize the larger scale of all of this, especially with progmatic programming for ads. Any time you try to outline how ad networks work w/r/t to "FB is recording us" you're met with "yeah buts". I think a lot of people didn't want to believe this was possible, but now have no choice but to accept it is very much happening.


It's quite ironic that this is the man who sold WhatsApp and its enormous userbase to facebook, creating a total lock in to the facebook ecosystem for many who do not even use facebook. He would have known what kind of a company facebook is, so I don't understand the contradiction between selling Whatsapp to them and now caring about these issues. Anyway, I am still glad he's getting behind the #deletefacebook movement.


Jan's commitment to privacy motivated WhatsApp. Jan and Acton always have believed in it strongly.

That said, if your company has 50 people, and FB offers nearly $20B. How exactly do you tell those people that you refused an acquisition that huge, because you personally feel that FB is bad. Could you deprive an engineer who has worked his ass off for 4 years >$100M?

Anyway, I was contracting for WhatsApp, when the acquisition happened. Conversations took place, but I'm not going to quote anyone.


As Scott McNealy has said; once you have investors, your company is for sale.

So not only would you have to deprive that engineer but you would also have to explain to Sequoia why you weren’t going to give them a gargantuan return on their investment.


Craigslist did it.

It is very possible to turn down money and avoid becoming a corporate animal.

Does it happen? Yes.

Does it happen very frequently? No.


Craigslist was self-bootstrapped, no?

No outside funding.


So you’re saying they believed in privacy strongly but believed in getting rich more. Got it.

Nothing wrong with that. I’d do the same.


Your beliefs are not as important as obligations which you got yourself into. If you want to act on your own accord and don't compromise, then maintain 100% ownership of your company. When you're managing a company that doesn't belong to you completely anymore, you're obliged to act in the best interest of your shareholders.


Yes, within the institutional role, eg as CEO of a company, a person is obliged to make certain decisions. Eg a CEO is obliged to maximize profits for his company, otherwise the shareholders will fire him.

So if you’re going to criticize capitalism, you should criticize it as an institution.


> CEO is obliged to maximize profits for his company

This is not even close to true.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/harold-meyerson-the-...


> So if you’re going to criticize capitalism, you should criticize it as an institution.

This doesn't have anything to do with capitalism. Any political or economical system that has institutionalized roles will have the same conflicts between duty and personal principles.

And history shows us, in fact, that capitalism has much fewer of such conflicts than any alternative.


He's saying there was social pressure both external and internal, but yeah - of the type you're talking about.


I wrote a draft of an essay: http://yuhongbao.blogspot.ca/2018/03/google-doubleclick-essa... I hasn't even mentioned Urchin/Google Analytics and Mozilla yet.


Supposing Signal had a larger userbase, and got offered a similar deal. Well, it basically did happen; Moxie's previous company Whipser Systems got bought by Twitter, Moxie left after a couple of years, losing his options in the process. I doubt it would happen again.


I get that it's hard to pass up on the money. Once you take it though it's hard to not look hypocritical. Especially since he gave them a large amount of the data that was abused.


Lot's of engineers work their asses off for far less than $100M.


What's the point of working hard if you aren't even going to be paid $100 million?


He owned 20% of Whatsapp, so its possible he didn't want to sell to FB. Only 50.1% of the shareholders presumably had to want to sell to overrule the others.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Acton


I think if he was against the sale he would have said that.


He started a company, and made a delicious exit. Him becoming a privacy advocate maybe was his secondary goal yhat now became primary. Or maybe with his founder he had disagrements but he sold anyway because what else could he do if everyone but you wants that exit?


One thing one might speculate about is that there was a "change it from the inside" motivation. For example, WhatsApp did add Signal's encryption protocol, which I think has been fantastic. Having lots of money available as a fallback to now sponsor alternatives is a nice addition to that.

But of course, all of this is speculation - I can't look inside the man's head.


What if he were given the option today of selling WhatsApp to Facebook (all other things remaining equal)? Do you think he would have refused?


While I agree with you, he's exponentially more powerful now to champion privacy now beyond WhatsApp with the billions he got from that sale.


> I don't understand the contradiction between selling Whatsapp to them and now caring about these issues.

You would refuse $16 billions from Facebook?

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