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[flagged] Facebook–while it apologizes for scandal–funds campaign to block CA data-privacy
200 points by dvlsh 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 46 comments



A post like this, with no article attached, is editorializing. That's the last thing we need on a red-hot topic that has been dominating HN for over a week now. It's an important topic, of course, and that makes it more important to have substantive content grounding the discussions. Please don't submit like this again.

People sometimes do this by mistake when posting an article but since web search doesn't come up with anything for this title other than this HN page, I'm interpreting this submission as abuse rather than a trivial error. Sorry if I've sounded harsh, but this is one trend we really don't need to get going.


Why are people surprised by all this? I am seriously confused. We know corporations do this. We have protested about Big Pharma, Big Oil, Big Tobacco, etc in the past. Why are we surprised Big Tech is doing the exact same thing?

A lot of these tech companies had revolving doors with the ruling administration of the country for 8 years. They have been deeply embroiled in politics for decades. Ironically, Microsoft circa late 1990s serves as a great lesson when you don't have a revolving door with politicians. In my humble opinion, Shkreli is another example of people who didn't kiss the Godfather's hand.

If you got duped by "Don't be evil" or the other "make the world a better place" propaganda by these tech companies, some of the biggest companies this world has ever seen -- then that is on your ignorance. I don't blame Big Tech at all. They will (and should) use the same formula as the other Big Corps for their own self interests. That is what our system requires of them, for better or for worse. We as citizens and consumers should have been vigilant. And to be fair, many on HN have always been vigilant about Big Tech.

In my opinion, people have no right to criticize FB or Google today if they did not feel a chill run down their spines after Snowden's leaks or after AaronSw's death.


> people have no right to criticize FB or Google

I’ve never understood the phrase “X has no right to Y.” In this context, it’s doubly absurd. Americans have a right. A Constitutional right. The very first one in the Bill of Rights.

Users quibbling at Facebook is negotiation (albeit ineffectively done). Voters complaining via political channels is activism, a First Amendment right.


I know you want to quibble part of that one sentence. Let me help you read the full sentence / context so that you can see the deeper point, in case you missed it.

If you read the full context, I said "in my opinion ...", and not "according to American constitutional law ...".

I am using the word "right" in the "moral" sense of the word, and not the "legal" sense of the word (and you can look up the definition of the word "right" if you prefer).

Now, perhaps, you can look at the entire context of that sentence and give address the actual point I was trying to make.


> I am using the word "right" in the "moral" sense of the word

Calling legal, Constitutionally-protected political protest immoral because someone "did not feel a chill run down their spines after Snowden's leaks" isn't better.

Jumping up to your original comment [1]:

> Why are people surprised by all this?

It's novel. Specific beats abstract, actual beats hypothetical, relatable beats austere. In Cambridge Analytica we have a specific example of Facebook dropping the ball and creating actual consequences relatable to the average American.

Americans love to forgive. We wanted to see Zuckerberg acknowledge the issue, take responsibility and overcorrect. (Think: Tylenol [2].) Instead Zuckerberg disappeared for a few days, apologized like he was making a scripted sales pitch [3] and proceeded to do nothing tangibly evident to the average American. Seeing Facebook lie and cheat so brazenly, in respect of a specific, actual and relatable crisis, was novel for many people.

We're also seeing a narrative shift. Facebook once lived in the shadow of Steve Jobs, within Silicon Valley's greater story arc and the myth of the founder. (Think: HBO's Silicon Valley [4].) They were allowed to cut corners as the product of a goofy if influential wunderkid. That's shifting. Shifts surprise. There is no need to throw people under the bus for agreeing later rather than sooner--at the end of the day, agreement is what matters.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16685315

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_Tylenol_murders

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6DOhioBfyY

[4] https://www.hbo.com/silicon-valley


> Why are we surprised Big Tech is doing the exact same thing?

I think you're conflating FaceBook (including Comcast & Verizon - surprise!) with the rest of "Big Tech". I'd like to hear how Apple, Amazon or Microsoft are part this coalition, or as "evil as Big Oil", etc.

Facebook has some poor timing in this news, but lets face it, there're privacy proponents and opponents. Facebook is almost never for privacy.

Notice: Comcast and Verizon are almost always on the wrong side of the issue, including this one.


I don’t have a professionally calibrated evil-meter...

But I’ll tell you why I trust Comcast and Verizon more than Facebook and Gooogle... the former two are completely honest about what they are, the latter two are not.

Typed on an iPhone because Apple is right upfront about what it is the do and how they make money.


Clearly you're not aware of e.g. apple maps says collection, iPhone defaults, or the apple maps business model. This rhetoric that Apple is special in this context is just the reality distortion field still rippling.


That Apple collect some data and keep it on their server I’m ok with that and I had the choice.

But if I learned that Apple gave my data to the company that produce a spyware that some remote friend installed on his computer from a dubious link, of course I would be mad at Apple because something in their security model would be seriously fucked up.


I’m aware Apple collects data, literally everyone collects. Apple is pretty upfront about their tactics to make money, google and Facebook are not.


Point taken, but all four of the companies in your 2nd paragraph are spending significant amounts $800k in total against privacy.

Comcast/Verizon get to collect your data and their rent on your cable/mobile bill.


Nation of spectators, not citizens. See the abysmal voter turnout rate nationally for a presidential election and then realize it's even worse for primaries, and still worse for state and local elections. Some people just like complaining while not participating.

With different motivations, people are enamored with someone else doing the citizening, or even technology doing it.

How many Star Trek episodes involve computer run societies?


One of the writers for Star Trek: The Motion Picture seems to have a thing for computer run societies: Alan Dean Foster.

I must say, I find the story most intriguing. The build-up, how human society was gently subjected to its rule. And then there's the recognition of that machine that there is a "problem", and the completely crazy conclusion that it's an alien influence. Absolutely stunning.

Though honestly, in direct comparison with Big Tech's failure at winning humanity's trust, Colligatarch has my vote any day.


> I don't blame Big Tech at all. They will (and should) use the same formula as the other Big Corps for their own self interests. That is what our system requires of them, for better or for worse.

Please stop perpetuating the myth that businesses have to be evil and that they aren't wrong for doing so. There aren't laws of the universe that say businesses need to do whatever it takes to maximize profit.

Real people work at these places and as long as these people feel like what they are doing is ok, this will continue to happen. And saying "hey, if you're a Facebook employee you're doing exactly what you should be and I don't blame you" is just going to make this worse.

People work there and it's people that need to take responsibility for their own actions.


Why are you surprised that others don't know things or haven't made the connections you've made?


Is lobbying really helpful for the people in the US? For me, it looks like it always benefits the companies and the politicians. Lobbying is illegal in many countries. Why is it allowed there? Under what thoughts? Can someone explain, please?

EDIT: Quickly checked Google. An Investopedia article argues that it's not bribery because it benefits everyone in the country. But we can see that it's always so that the companies make more money right? Only the rich keep getting more money. Also, the article seems to have been written by a lobbying enthusiast!


> Is lobbying really helpful for the people in the US?

The EFF [1] and ACLU [2] are lobbyists. We have a problem in the U.S. with money and politics, but lobbying per se is a natural consequence of the First Amendmenr.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_Frontier_Foundati...

[2] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Civil_Liberties_Uni...


That non-profits play the lobbying game only means that lobbying has won.

I'm pretty sure if you asked them EFF and ACLU would support restrictions on lobbying - they can't compete against billions of dollars funded by well funded corporations.


> they can't compete against billions of dollars funded by well funded corporations.

How would getting rid of lobbying change that equation? If lobbying was gone, what mechanism would be used to discuss issues with legislators?


It's literally the job of legislators to discuss issues with stakeholders to create or repeal laws or regulations. Without lobbying, do you expect politicians to just sit in their offices all day doing nothing?


I expect them to not do so in a pay-to-play manner.

As it is, requests for public comment - the feedback to them goes straight into the paper shredder, but if you throw a bit of money towards the re-election fund, you can write the legislature.

It's corruption, pure and simple.


How is lobbying pay-to-play?


Yes, they should do their jobs without any extra nudging I suppose?


> they should do their jobs without any extra nudging I suppose?

Consider a U.S. Senator representing Arkansas considering a bill regulating nuclear energy. The Senator is no expert in nukes. How should he determine to whom to speak? If a renowned nuclear physicist in California wants to speak with the Senator, should that be banned?

Lobbying, i.e. people--individually or in assembly--expressing their political views to elected leaders, is an inherent side effect of the First Amendment. (And, I'd argue, of democracy.)


But there are well-functioning Democracies in Europe without any sort of lobbying right? Bringing in money automatically removes a ton of people right? The people needing reforms most are the poor and the money makes it impossible for them to have a voice!


It might not be called lobbying, but I assure you equivalents exist. The thing is that most people think that lobbying = bribery. It simply isn’t true.

The process can be corrupted, but that is true regardless of the vehicle.


Why is money involved, though?


> Why is money involved, though?

Two factors over which we don't have a national consensus.

One: the line between political and non-political speech is tough to draw. If I write a blog about the minimum wage, is that political? What if I do it full time? Now I hire a copy editor--is that political spending? What if the blog is openly--and intentionally--partisan?

Two: a metric to determine the degree to which money is a factor in a given piece of speech. Say I paint a political mural on my house's public-facing wall. Is the paint political spending? What if I hire someone to paint it for me, but based on my design? What if my neighbor lets me paint her house? What if my other neighbor, to whom I give the oranges from my orange tree every year, lets me do the same? What if I commission the art but paint it myself?


In countries where lobbying is illegal I'm pretty sure there are other more (or less?) democratic processes in place to communicate the needs of the people and business be that big or small.


They would rely on mobilized grassroots action. Which would be far more effective if we weren't getting shouted out of the room by lobbyists in the first place.


The examples of EFF and ACLU are okay and I'm pretty sure that there are hundreds of well intended lobbying groups in the US. But, I'm often confused by the lack of control or checks for private players with a lot of money like for example, Intuit which blocks easy tax return filing, NRA which blocks gun control/ban, Facebook which blocks privacy bill, etc., There must be so many other examples that an outsider like me cannot comprehend or understand. So how come this is allowed without any protest? It looks like the first amendment is being used to disguise crony capitalism!


Yes, it is hard to explain. Something about those companies employee shareholders individually having free speech rights via the company that they own. It was a recent change.

I don't really mind companies lobbying for things, I suspect that it has more good than bad from open lines of communication of needs from the business community. But the balance has to be right. It shouldn't be one company drowning out a million people.

The NRA is at least made up of real human members. Who shockingly donated $85M to them in since 2005. I may dislike their point of view, but they certainly deserve to be able to lobby.


People get killed in thousands because of them. I'm not sure if they should enjoy this kind of a freedom!


How exactly is it a natural consequence of the first amendment?


It's not just the first amendment, but a three-step failure: (1) government can't restrict people's speech (first amendment); (2) for-profit corporations are "people"; (3) money is speech. That gave us Citizens United[1], and as long as politicians are a bit more subtle than Duke Cunningham[2], it's allowed.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_United_v._FEC

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_Cunningham#/media/File:Du...


This is helpful for illustrating the manipulative nature of a society which has normalized unexplainable support of brands and advertising.

Of course, the reasons to believe (2) and (3) were enacted as a means to a different end are bottomless. They were accomplished by undermining our cultural, emotional, existential perceptions of the world we live in and depleting our capacity to make intelligent decisions.

How was this accomplished? By advertising; the same things motivating Facebook’s entire business model. (and Google’s)

Our campaign financing norms are absurd, and have unruprisingly ruining our whole political complex.


Here is the actual measure and explanation: https://ballotpedia.org/California_Consumer_Personal_Informa...

And yes, I agree FB should keep their distance from opposing this initiative or lobbying against it. In fact, Equifax et al would probably be affected and I hope the initiative passes.

after the FOSTA/SESTA fiasco we need to carefuly figure out the implications of new laws and initiatives before deciding to support them.

And this is one that actually nails it.


Is FOSTA a fiasco for those that supported it? I thought that was just the puritans getting what they wanted.


Its a fiasco for everyone. On the face of it sounds commendable and how can anyone NOT be against trafficking. But the way its implemented not only fails to achieve what it sets out to do, but hinders it by making it Necessary for publishers either actively moderate user contributed content, or avoid it all together, (which is economically more feasible given that the risk of liability for user content "trumps" any other consideration, (pun intended)

since FOSTA/SESTA covers hate speech, sites for political debate either assume the risk an invest heavily in moderation, risk becoming censors of speech or close the doors altogether.

as a "left leaning" commentator so eloquently put it after hearing the lamentations of a "conservative" member of the /pol discussion forum when the new policies were announced in 8chan:

"See what happens? Now burn in the fire you set yourselves"

Nobody (but perhaps the EFF) saw it comibg


Reminder that we can, and should, hold Facebook employees, who hold literally all the power, responsible for this.

If you worked at Facebook past mid-2017 (because that's the only time I know you should have known about it -- really, you should probably have quit earlier) in an non-visa-restricted engineering role and don't have a damn good reason for it, I will never hire you. Same with Uber. And same now, for Google. Your technical merits are worth nothing to me if I don't know you have solid ethics.


Which companies would you view, from a hiring perspective, as having solid ethics?


Let's assume Facebook fixed their privacy flaws. Are we good then ?

Same company (CA) used other tools to manipulate elections. For example, they used Whatsapp to manipulate Kenya elections and this was reported last august by Al Jazeera: https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/listeningpost/2017/08/f...

Did Whatsapp help CA to manipulate elections in Kenya? Nope (If yes, that would be a much bigger scandal). According to the report from Al Jazeera, it could be Telegram or Signal, doesn't matter.

Most people just focus on Facebook but I think it's just the tip of the iceberg. We should actually think about how democratic elections can survive manipulations...


You could just spam channels on Telegram but for Whatsapp and Signal you'd have to get the phone number first, then be added by the receiver. I wonder how they did it. The aljazeera article is not really informative and I can't play the video here.


You didn't check the link. People volunteerly shared fake news with their friends.


They always have been disgusting and will always be. I have ceased all activity on Facebook and my life has never been better. F#ck Facebook and f#ck Zuckerberg.





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