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Facebook Isn’t Sorry, It Just Wants Your Data (buzzfeednews.com)
352 points by minimaxir 68 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 155 comments



It’s very simple: As a consumer, we cannot trust any advertisement company. Their goals are in direct conflict with user privacy. In fact it’s not a wishful goal, it is their business model.

Our attention is very expensive and everything is designed around us to grab us by the neck so to speak. Flashing ads, stories and feeds.

I cannot, absolutely cannot, trust Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Adobe, Facebook, Visa, Amex, MasterCard, etc. These businesses bullshit their way through with “We want to make the world a better place by connecting people.” Yes, that’s great. So charge us for your service and stop forcing me to view ads, selling off my privacy into a giant bidding war of advertisers. Fuck advertisement.

Apple is an exception and I hope they continue to charge premium for their products. I’m happy to shell out money for privacy. But you never know when a multi billion dollar company all of a sudden decides to take a different route. Tim Cook has great personal ethics but we don’t know about the next CEO.

Mark my words: The next big successful companies will be around user privacy. Apple has started to market themselves as such already in their keynotes. Duckduckgo is selling it as their main value proposition.

Edit from comments below: Amazon, Walmart, Sears, Netflix, Visa, Amex, MC.


You left off Amazon from the “can’t trust” list. IMO they would be there even if they hadn’t recently started expanding into advertising, because their business model seems to be to expand existing operations until there’s a critical mass, then slither off into an adjacent sector and repeat.

And, just to round out the list, Netflix looks like one that’s actually trustworthy. They don’t advertise, and the info they have on me is pretty limited, anyway.


That's a good point about Amazon, I added it. Amazon has an incredible amount of data about my purchase history. I'll also add Amex, Visa, and MasterCard.

Netflix - I am conflicted between the choice of giving up my privacy to provide better suggestions. How about I actively go research for a particular movie on my own? Why do I need AI telling me what to watch. Word of mouth is a fantastic way to get recommendations. On the other hand, I would have not found interesting music on Spotify if it wasn't for their recommendation system / radio.


> Apple is an exception and I hope they continue to charge premium for their products.

> Netflix - I am conflicted between the choice of giving up my privacy to provide better suggestions.

I'm confused by this conflict.

Netflix uses your personal data to help you get more out of the service. An argument could be made that they do this because subscribers then tend to remain subscribers for longer; but the counterargument there is that it is because those subscribers are getting more out of their subscriptions. I struggle to see any scenario where recommendations make people who are getting nothing out of the service stick around.

Apple uses personal data to make recommendations as well, but these are advertisements, because they are recommending additional products for purchase (and typically the products of third parties for which Apple gets a cut).

Is the difference here that Apple asks before they use this information?

> giving up my privacy to provide better suggestions.

The act of watching something on Netflix (or even just surfing the app and not watching anything) constitutes giving up your privacy. Netflix now knows (even if it forces itself to forget) something about you. I don't think it is problematic for a company to use this information to improve its services. I don't think the cynical view–that Netflix does it because it keeps subscribers around for longer–really matters here. I can't imagine a scenario where recommendations convince people to stick around who would otherwise need, except in that they provide a better experience.

The owner of a cafe I frequent knows many things about me and uses them to provide a better service. She will sometimes have my drink waiting for me because she knows what I drink and when I am going to be there. She knows I am not going to skip out on a bill, so she will make my drink out of order and let me pay later when the line has died. Etc. etc. I don't see Netflix recommendations as a whole lot different than that; just less personal.

I think sharing personal information with businesses parallels sharing information with individuals. If I tell a friend something and he starts blabbing it all over time (for free or for pay) or tries to use it against me somehow, we're going to have a problem. The same with Netflix. If they try to use it to manipulate me or they start selling it to third parties: problem. I want to control what I share, with who.


Note that Netflix does not just use your data for making suggestions, but also for optimizing the content they create and buy.


This would be relevant if Netflix's suggestions were any better than picking things at random. At least that's my experience.


No matter what you do, even if you don’t rate anything, Netflix knows what you watch, and whether you finished it. I would bet that information alone is almost as strong a signal as what you rate.


I'd bet that is a much greater of indicator of your real taste (and what they can get you to binge) vs. the taste you want people to perceive you as having via ranking


> your real taste (and what they can get you to binge) vs. the taste you want people to perceive you as having via ranking

You make this sound like a question of honesty vs pretense, but "what they can get you to binge" reveals a different set of motives. It's sometimes a question of self-control.

I want to be healthy. I also want to eat junk food. What do I "really" want?

Imagine an online grocery store which noticed they could profit more by hiding healthy options from me and selling me more junk.

Would their AI be acting according to my "real taste"? In a sense, yes. Would it be serving my best interests? No.

If Netflix can entice someone to binge watch TV all weekend, does that mean that's what they "really" wanted?

Every AI serves someone's interests. It's important to ask whose.

And if you want to make an AI that truly serves your users (rather than exploiting them), give them explicit control. Stop with this "we know you better than you know yourself" nonsense. Let them say things like, "yes, I watched that movie / bought that candy, but I wish I hadn't. Please don't use that for future recommendations."


Perhaps even better than what you think you like yourself.


What you would like to watch.

What you actually watch.

This is why I hate YouTube recommendations. It feeds my monkey brain.


If you know mechanics a company is using to extract your attention, it's your responsibility to account for that when using their services. Except for kids, and there are laws against advertising directly to them.

It's a lost cause fighting advertising.


I hate them because they are clearly trying to feed someone else's monkey brain.


There are enormous amounts of product placement in Netflix's content.


And next, they’ll shoot shows with green boxes and green posters, and it will be filled with targeted brands on the fly.

I think that’s the next move as soon as the technology will be ready.


A colleague of mine was working on this very same technology years ago! And they don’t need green boxes - it works perfectly with real billboards that happened to be included in the footage.


What about cereal boxes and soda cans?


Might be possible, but you can’t really advertise the latest LG vacuum cleaner on a cereal box, while on a billboard anything goes.


That’s what I was thinking. The most obvious « ad » for me in shows is when they pick up a cereal box and put it in plain sight.


Yes, but I think someone might pay to change all the soda cans to Pepsi products, for instance.


Geez, Nvidia could call them, "so we hear you're interested in realistic rendering"?

I guess it doesn't need to be real time, so no super graphic cards are needed... or can it be real time? If a website (e.g. a hotel booking site) uses an ad network with "remarketing" (for this example let's say Google), it can tell Google you just looked for a hotel in Venice, and the next site you visit that has Google's banner ads will advertise "Hotel rooms in Venice!". Imagine looking up sweaters on a clothing site, flipping to Netflix, and an extra walks by that looks like you wearing a sweater that you looked at a minute ago...


There is already a non-targeted precedent for this. How I Met Your Mother inserted new ads into reruns a few years ago.

https://ew.com/article/2011/07/07/how-i-met-your-mother-reru...


Most people don’t get mad when they see a coke bottle or an Apple product placed in a scene of a movie or tv show. People do get mad when they are trying to watch TV and they keep being forced to watch a commercial.


General advertising is not a problem. Individually targeted advertising is.

General advertising includes the sign on the door or exterior of the brick and mirter storefront, as well as billboards, magazine/newspaper ads, and product placement in media. It ranges from almost entirely informative (on the storefront) to annoying and off-putting (some billboards, poorly done product placement). This advertising is passive.

Individually targeted ads use extra information about the individual to cater the ad, and thus have an incentive to collect this information. This advertising is active, in that it is bidirectional.

Passive advertising not only still provides some benefit for much less harm, it's also hard to distinguish from purely informational materials in some cases.

It's worth distinguishing these to prevent bike-shedding over details that can be safely ignored when we formulate our arguments accurately.

Edit: s/targeted/individually targeted/ to make it more specific and accurate. That is the theme of the comment, after all...


General advertising is not a problem.

I'm not sure why you would say that. e.g. There's a old silo building overlooking a bay near where I live, opposite a park, which has a huge billboard ad atop it the length of the building, which dominates the skyline. Calling that passive seems odd. It's aggressive, incredibly tasteless, and a symptom of a huge failure of civilization.

edit: And well, this is Sydney. Last night there was a rally at the Sydney Opera House to protest recent events: The head of the Opera House had refused to allow horse-racing ads (!) to be projected onto the sails of the Opera House. A well-known right-wing radio shock-jock got involved, and abusively insisted the ads be shown. Then, incredibly, the Premier of NSW (i.e. the leader of the state) forced the Opera House to back down, and show the ads. There's been widespread incredulity and outrage here about that! So, yeah, it is a problem.


It's passive because you have to be around it to see it, and you have to look that direction, and it isn't tracking how you respond to it.

They are annoying (but that's not inherent, it's entirely possible for someone to buy a billbaord and put up a great work of art or something), but they aren't a problem in the same class as the individually targeted advertisements that incentivize massive data collection and correlation projects and privacy violations.

> Then, incredibly, the Premier of NSW (i.e. the leader of the state) forced the Opera House to back down, and show the ads. There's been widespread incredulity and outrage here about that! So, yeah, it is a problem.

I think that's (possibly) a problem, but in a way entirely divorced from the problem of advertising. It depends entirely on the reason. If it was forced because the Opera house if funded with government money, maybe that plays into whether they can/should reject certain ads. I imagine that would play into the discussion in the U.S. (where whether you accept government money affects whether you can legally exclude certain classes of people, to my knowledge).


All advertising is targeted. Billboard ads change based on the neighborhood you are in. Magazine/Newspaper ads are different from magazine demographic to magazine demographic. TV ads vary dramatically based on channel, time of day, and program.


Well, yes, but I'm using "targeted" in the context of "personally targeted".

Group targeting is less of a problem because then they are working on averages and predominant group characteristics, which does not mean any one individual does correspond to those.

For example, a billboard may target an area with a message mainly meant for LGBT people, or for Hispanic people, but living or frequenting that area foes not mean you are LGBT or Hispanic respectively. There is still a level of anonymity there that protects privacy.

I've updated my original comment to make this more clear, so thanks for calling out the ambiguity.


"Individually targeted ads" is intrinsically more relevant to the individual and leads to better click through rate. It is in the interest of both the company who run these ads and the user who see these ads (that they're much more likely to see something relevant and useful).

If an ad intends to confuse their audience to think they're purely informational material, they probably should not be shown to anyone. That's a completely different issue, and Facebook's ad censoring step is supposed to deal with that.


> "Individually targeted ads" is intrinsically more relevant to the individual and leads to better click through rate.

It also only works when the advertisers know information about you, and the more they know, the better it works. This presents a perverse incentive to get as much information as possible, even if it's not in the individual's best interest.

To lay it out clearly, it is in an individual's best interest to have relevant ads shown if any ads are going to be shown. It is not in an individual's best interest to have personal, private or even possibly harmful information warehoused at different advertising entities. The tension between these two things is what we're discussing, and I think the harm (or possible harm) from having that personal information aggregated far outweighs the benefits to the individual for targeted advertising. That targeted advertising it also helps the company is of little consequence in this specific equation (that is, should I as an individual want this, but of course matters quite a bit in explaining the status quo).


> It is not in an individual's best interest to have personal, private or even possibly harmful information warehoused at different advertising entities.

Largely depends on who you are, I think. I’m not opposed to sharing any of my information with other ad companies


And that's your right. But I think you might also be underestimating what "your information" might be.

What if it's a disease you just discovered you have, and you don't necessarily have all the information yet? Should you be targeted before you've had time to look into it, much less come to terms with it?

What if you have a child with health problems or are part of a pregnancy that has problems? Would you want companies that might take advantage of the situation to be able to target you?

What if you've just been turned down for a job? Should a for-profit college with poor qualities be able to target you right afterwards?

There are many times when we find ourselves in an altered state of mind (even if slightly) where we are more susceptible to our baser emotions. Do we really need to engineer a system so companies can better identify when we are in these states for their benefit and to our detriment?

It's fine if someone wants to knowingly trade their information away for some benefit, but they should be able to see what they are trading away and make an informed assessment. What we have now doesn't really allow for that, and once it's out there, it generally has little to no value later (once you're marked as an ex-con, good luck getting that our of everyone's data sets).


In all of the three examples you gave, I don't see slightest problem of being targeted with those ads. Getting those ads don't mean I act on it in any way. With or without leaked personal information, I get tons of ads whatsoever, and almost 100% of them goes straight to trash.

If the ad is interesting and relevant enough (which is very rare), the next action would be researching the product online, and very occasionally I'd be super happy to know about it. It sounds absurd if anybody would make important decisions like deciding what treatment to get for health problems based on what people say in ads without doing proper research and consulting doctors.


Product placements also aren't targeted beyond the general target audience of the show. Privacy issues are at the heart of targeted ads. Advertisement mediums that cannot dynamically target the individuals are at less risk of violating your privacy.

Of course now advertisers are looking to ultrasonic beacons to get around the lack of targeting and data collection, but for the most part product placements aren't the malicious and disruptive advertisements we've become victims of.


I couldn't agree more. The new age of "cloud DVRs" is infuriating. I used to have a DVR that worked fine, I could skip over whatever I wanted. Now with the "cloud DVRs" we're back to being forced into watching commercials.


Well I guess I’ll notice the pain when I use DirecTV Now Cloud DVR. I noticed a few years ago Comcast started to even restrict On Demand content. They forced users to watch ads and even disabled fast forward!


There's an enormous amount of product placement in every form of televised media, that's how they fund movies and TV shows. Until the brand of soda a character drinks in the show i'm watching changes based on my recent purchasing history or Facebook posts, I'm gonna go ahead and say Netflix is pretty good about how they go about advertising.


China and Russia have major disinformation campaigns running in the United States and around the world. These campaigns have been heavily documented by news organizations and American defense agencies.

A major branch of Russia and China's attack is the ongoing negative PR campaign against tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon. Can these companies improve? Sure. But their infractions are incredibly minor compared to the dictatorships rising in Russia, China, Turkey, etc that are murdering foreign citizens as well as large numbers of their own. They are stealing billions of dollars from their own citizens and taking the world down a terrifying path.

Please reconsider the easy targets of tech companies and have the courage to face true evil in these dictatorships.


There are US laws against sharing out what shows people are watching. So kinda nips that model in the bud.


Laws are irrelevant when you’re a multi-billion dollar corporation with lobbyists. Besides, they don’t need to, when they can just sell targetted advertising.


No one cares. The entire tech industry is built on producing products people don’t need to connect you to people you don’t like. The masses of people don’t care about any of this, and that includes the people that have the luxury to spend extra money on privacy.


That's a good point about "connect you to people you don't like." I was just thinking the other day about how the people I know in real life are likeable, but their online personalities are petty, bigoted, closed minded, and mean spirited. I don't know who's the real them, the people I know in person, or the person online. But for the most part, I wish I didn't know their online persona.


There's not much to be gained by not flinging poo online when everyone else is doing it. It's not like there's any reward for exceeding the lowest common denominator.


Why should your personal standards be determined by other people? You have complete control over what you say online, there's no reason to compromise your personal integrity.


>Why should your personal standards be determined by other people?

People have been conforming to the norms of whatever group they're in for millennia. They're not going to stop now.


I think what you’re missing is that you’re no longer the target of these companies. Second world countries like India and China are still coming online, have billions of potential users, having increasingly more wealth to spend on products, and have a different relationship with privacy and entitlement than those of us in North America and Europe. Right now the challenge is getting these people connected and dealing with the fact that they don’t have access to the best hardware. Many of them are also not past the point of requiring free service. So yeah, I think your view and predictions are comming from a narrow viewpoint that probably most people on HN see as the obvious majority when In reality you’re a shrinking user base in a changing global dynamic.


Unfortunately, you are correct. Even in the US, the privacy discussion has recently picked up steam. These companies and their success is a testament to how they milked the US/Europe market already in past 10-15 years. And they have more to go where India and China are massive targets for expansion.

However, I do think that the narrative is already being talked about in the US/Europe with GDPR, congressional testimony of CEOs and major focus on privacy leaks. Hopefully there will be government action.

I don't know about China, India, Africa/etc. It is absolutely sickening what Facebook tried to do in India with "Free" internet for all. Thankfully, it was shot down at the government level.

I would argue that my viewpoint is missing the extra expansion in APEC, but looking at the revenue numbers and big companies like Apple promoting privacy is an evidence of where the world is going to go.


You are absolutely right.


I think you're completely wrong. You and I care about privacy and it feels like everyone does too because we're only getting signals from inside our own little tech bubble. People don't care about their privacy, it's a simple as that. At least not enough to stop using Facebook and whatnot. Most of my friends and acquaintances are software engineers and couldn't care less about Facebook's scandals and how it uses their data because they "use adblock, anyway". My less techy friends actually enjoy getting targeted ads since, at least, they're not completely inappropriate.

Apple is indeed invested in the "we care about your privacy" narrative. Probably not our of the goodness of their hearts. It differentiates them from the competition even more and is yet another justification for their premiums. I agree with you, they're the good guys for now.


Maybe those who care that much about privacy should use a complete different set of products. I, for one, would be more than happy to let Facebook/Google/Netflix/Yelp to use my personal data to customize their product to serve better content, better ads and better everything to me. I'm much more upset about Yelp when they keep recommending restaurants that I apparently won't care about even I've been feeding them so much information by checking into restaurants I actually like. I'd be glad if they share that information with Google/Facebook, who are much more likely to have better recommendation algorithms.

I downloaded my Facebook history when they provided such a feature, and was completely unable to find anything interesting. Why would I care if they would protect my privacy or not. If protecting privacy leads to much worse user experience, I'd rather they don't


What’s interesting in your Facebook history today is your daily route, when you use your phone, the people you’re connected to through two degrees of separation or by inhabiting the same locations at the same time, and also the provability to swing your vote on a few very particular issues.


I publish my daily route to Google map’s timeline feature. It can show where I have been to in high accuracy. It’s a pretty damn boring route


It is boring to you, today.

It may not be boring for your future employer or future DEA investigator or future parallel-constructed investigation case agent in case you have a funny name or non judeochristian religion or your cousin is an environmental activist.

All easily searchable, in a convenient hyperlinked online dossier, forever.

> If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him. Cardinal Richelieu


And my friends think their phone is spying on them with the built in microphone, due to ultra personalized targeted data. Once I raise their awareness of scummy advertising industry privacy practices, in laymen terms, do they understand that there is a shadow industry tracking their movements and purchase history to manipulate them into purchasing products, do they agree that this is not the future they want to live in.

In my experience, the amount of people that care are simply ignorant of what's going on in ad tech, of no fault of their own. They are tech consumers, raising families, working 9-5, living their life.

We are the tech creators, we need to be looking out for them in addition to ourselves. How can we say they don't care when they simply don't understand?


In my experience, what you're saying's not true. I might have given the wrong impression but the friends I mentioned aren't ignorant at all. "Well, they do have to make money somehow." It's a choice. That's why I say they don't care.

Also, I simpatize with your last sentence but you must understand that consumers expect a lot of software to be free, nowadays. It's really hard to compete with free so I don't blame companies who go the FB route.


"People don't care about their privacy, it's a simple as that."

People do care about their privacy - absolutely - and that 'care' is increasing. That said, I definitely agree with 'bubbletink'.

"Privacy is not a product, it's a feature" is generally what I say, unless it's literally some kind of 'id securing' product you're selling. By that I mean, for a social network or any other non-security product, what users care about most is ease of use, cost, features, access to friends, hype/cool factor ... and then privacy is just one of those later tick-boxes.

So I don't even think that a 'privacy first' Social Network will really take off unless it offers something else, more salient as it's primary offer, with 'privacy' just happening to be a really nice add-on, or better yet, something inherent or existential about the product or architecture.

Also, I do think people are 'voting with their feet' as a lot of folks are switching to things like Instagram, wherein it's just some photos, the ability to message, and not a lot of the deep banter and political stuff. Just fashion, kiddies, kittens, celeb-selfies, and a lot less dialogue. This 'trend' is in a way inherently more private because it implies considerably less personal information, and considerably more default-private activity.

Also remember that Snapchat got big because of 'disappearing videos'. It wasn't just 'stories' - it was 'stories that disappear' and can't be searched! A little bit of sexting innuendo there, but an inherent 'privacy' nature to that.

In then end, we should also consider that many of us (esp. your Eng friends) are not stupid, and may just opt to use FB in a fairly minimalist fashion, i.e. not sharing too-too much.

I used FB in that manner and I make no assumptions about what they are 'learning' about me, and frankly, I don't care that much.

Apple is just not a data/social company - and so this new 'privacy trend' fell on their laps just about the same way the blockchain stuff fell on NVidia. It's a movement that is consistent with their current business model, and so it behoves them to continue in that direction and even support it.

But yes, fully agree, most of us have quite a different perspective than 'joe user' we have to consider that.


Actually, Apple collects plenty of information. They collect app usage statistics, one of the reason why they banned collecting that type of information from third party apps is because Google and Apple have monopolies over that extremely valuable data. Being able to see trends in app usage, who's getting user engagement, is huge. No, your contact details aren't that interesting to them. But your life is still interesting in figuring out how to direct their products. Don't be fooled just because they aren't sticking ads in your face.


> People don't care about their privacy, it's a simple as that.

People DO care about their privacy. However, due to the market dominance of platforms like FB and others, they have no real reasonable alternatives due to lack of competition. So they have to choose between tolerating FB's practices or going with another service with worse UX and/or fewer features.


I don't think the next big company will around user privacy. You are willing to pay a premium for privacy, but the problem is most are not. They are happy to give up their privacy if they get something for free in exchange.

Maybe that is going to change if there is more awareness around privacy, but then the big companies are going to adjust. You said we can't trust ANY advertisement company. I presume you mean companies funded by advertisement revenue. But then you actually give the counter example yourself: DuckDuckGo.

I don't think the people that work at DDG and Apple are more trustworthy, but it's in their interest to take a pro-privacy stance. It differentiates them in the market. If the public cared more about privacy and would be willing to pay for it, existing companies would care about it too and potentially change their revenue models.


I find some of the implications here very interesting.

Apple is rapidly approaching the status of being a luxury goods brand. They certainly charge luxury goods prices. This implies that privacy is a luxury good.

That isn't wrong, in a strictly factual and financial sense. There's money to be made invading privacy that certainly can help defray device costs.

It's possible that some might opine that this might be less than fully right in an ethical sense, however...


Pomme is totally lying about privacy. They are just a little more clever in how they portray themselves to the public.

Everything is networked, and anyone with LS (maybe other tools exist, but LS certainly serves my needs well) can see how many times actions are taken in the form of outgoing requests on your primary content-creation/programming device that isn't just a passive device meant to consume content, and few people have the ability to participate as independent producers of gateways. And on a cell, you have zero visibiility at all. Its a different discussion, but the last time I looked, static IP on your "home" connection - $500 one time fee, and reasonable gigabit speeds in the age of new content? $200/mo. It is a farce that in 2018 Northeastern ISPs get away with 17Mb/s. You have to pay another gatekeeper when in principle I am another node on the network and have all the computers I would possibly need to run a high-availability web service.

But back to la Pomme. They specifically push software updates to individual devices when you reach a certain expense level and cause devices to malfunction deliberately so you have to replace it. This has been documented but the IP lawyers shut you down when you start to talk about it because trade secrets.

When they see you don't have AppleCare (or AppleCare+, or AppleCare++, whatever they want to call it) on a device they will deliberately cause that device to malfunction using a device-specific OTA update that causes things like dead pixels, and other visible obstructions that make the device slightly less usable than it was before.

There is no privacy. If the above isn't the ultimate abrogation of privacy then I don't know what is. And if youre a pure Internet company, then you just don't even have to bother with all those gymnastics since the backend code is yours.

Consumers need to start demanding more visibility into what exactly a company is doing. If they knew, I'm sure they would be outraged at the constant lies they are told. The charade has reached unbelievable proportions.


> When they see you don't have AppleCare (or AppleCare+, or AppleCare++, whatever they want to call it) on a device they will deliberately cause that device to malfunction using a device-specific OTA update that causes things like dead pixels, and other visible obstructions that make the device slightly less usable than it was before.

Citation? I haven't seen any indication that this has happened to any of the Apple devices I've used, over quite a number of years.


https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.dailymail.co.uk/news/articl...

Same bullshit, different context. We have no way of knowing for sure because there are no accepted network traffic monitors and no packet-sniffing capabilities with iPhones or iPads. But my iPad started developing mysterious problems the day after the warranty expired and a line of dead pixels appeared on a device that was never shocked physically in any manner, and was sitting most of the time on a table next to my couch.

I'm glad it hasn't happened to you. Lucky you.


It isn't just those companies. Even retailers like Walmart, Sears etc. collect and sell your data. This is why loyalty cards provide so many discounts; its not just that they want to to be a repeat customer, but your habits are valuable for them to track and sell.


Like target figuring out your daughter is pregnant: https://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/magazine/shopping-habits....


The problem is that people who understand the value of privacy are probably less than 1% of the total population. The rest don't understand or don't care and they are the target consumers of the said corporations. So simply logging out of Facebook or start buying Apple products yourself is not enough anymore. For the same reason I can't buy your prediction about next big successful companies, even if I would like to.


I feel the common rhetoric here is to dictate people what's ok and what's not under the assumption they don't understand.

Many people (including myself) are fine with the price we pay for free online services and understand the downsides. I really don't mind companies trying to show me more relevant ads by tracking and analyzing what I interact with in return for most of the products I use being free.

Obviously a large group of people does either not understand the implications or does not think they are worth the services but I think it's wrong to assume you know what's best for every user.


>....and understand the downsides.

I believe very few people (if any) actually understand the downsides of having a vast amount of personal data aggregated on every user. All the assumptions below are false:

* I know exactly what information on me is given to 3rd parties by online services.

* The 3rd parties can provide 100% guarantee that my personal information will remain secure and won't be stolen by hackers or unlawfully traded by an employee.

* Even if it gets stolen, there is no way my personal information can be used for identity theft or socially engineered account takeover.

* There is no way private aspects of my life (browsing history, online purchases, direct messages, etc.) can become publicly available.


Would you be ok with trading off your medical history for example?

What about insurance companies providing you a quote based on your online habits? Browsing car modification forums and then all of a sudden your car insurance goes up.

What about location based privacy?

What about government powers being able to exploit existing advertisement data infrastructure for law enforcement purposes?

Sure, seeing a new camera ad on instagram is harmless but the overreaching possibilities of sacrificing privacy are deep, profound for the society. There are so many aspects, I've just put forth a few above.


I agree with you on that we shouldn't assume that we know what's best for every user. But how big corporations behave is driven by greed more than anything else. Companies like Google and Facebook are becoming more greedy for data by the day and have started to cross ethical boundaries. And personally, I think greed is not good for anybody.


So, would you be OK then with making it illegal to share any information about people who themselves didn't consent on those "free" platforms? You cannot upload pictures and you cannot mention them?


> The problem is that people who understand the value of privacy are probably less than 1% of the total population.

This is more than enough people to encourage public policy makers to make appropriate policy decisions, and failing that, run for office.

Are you a squeaky wheel? If not, make yourself one.


It's funny because just this morning I came across and read through an article on how hard it has become for progressive minded people to run for, let alone actually get to the office. Here's the link if anyone is interested: http://idlewords.com/2018/10/portrait_of_a_campaign.htm

Sorry if it sounds offensive, but I feel that we (hacker news crowd) really overestimate ourselves. Each one of our votes has the same weight as the rest of the population.


For the most parts our votes count for less because we live in states like NY and CA which get two senators despite staggeringly larger populations than the vast majority of states.

This also means in Presidential elections our votes count less as well.


That's a very sobering article.


Isn't it?

It's sad that this wave of nationalist and right-wing mentality is taking over the world, Brazil being the latest example. My worst fear is that someone like, or worse, than Hitler will have to come along until this trend reverses itself.


And think of what someone who was Hitler-like could do with all of this data that we send these companies (and governments). Just take one example of "rounding up homosexuals"... it couldn't be easier to find out who they are in today's world. Someone knows the products they buy, the type of porn they watch (if they do), the "friends" they communicate with (and what was said), the places they visit or have visited in the past and a myriad of other things all time and date stamped. We just need to look at how China is integrating this type of data into the tech the gov't and police forces are using, ie "social credit system." The data already exists... it's just a matter of how it's used. Seriously, imagine what more Hitler could have/would have done if the Nazis had access to the type of data that is "freely" available today... This data doesn't go away. It can be used at anytime in the future, when "views" change. What's ok now, might not be at some point later on. Let your mind wander a little. Think. We are basically inputting every detail of our lives into "evidence." This isn't a right wing/left wing thing. Socialists would love to make sure you're "in-line" with the party as much as a Nazi would. Again, look at what China is currently doing. Times change, and with that so do the beliefs and morals. What I fear most is how our current data will be used by these future "regimes", however you want to label them. Soon, all of this data will be more about control than it currently is. We're debating stupid annoying ads. Think of the other more serious ramifications with this data in the "wrong hands."


> people who understand the value of privacy are probably less than 1% of the total population

Am I so out of touch? No it must be 99% of people who are wrong.

What exactly is the value of privacy besides the satisfaction that big tech companies aren't making as much money from me?


> Am I so out of touch?

Yes.

> What exactly is the value of privacy besides the satisfaction that big tech companies aren't making as much money from me?

1. Where does that money that they are making come from?

2. The value of privacy is that without it there is no personal autonomy. Without privacy, you lose all power over your life.


> What exactly is the value of privacy besides the satisfaction that big tech companies aren't making as much money from me?

How about knowing that someone is not being deported from a port of entry based on what they posted on Facebook 6 months ago?


Curious as to how you lump Adobe in with that group. Last I checked they just wanted everyone to buy photoshop, did something change?

EDIT: Damn, F Adobe


Adobe has a massive DMP ("Data Management Platform.")

I recommend taking some time to research DMPs and their place ad-tech ecosystem, if you're not aware about them, and be prepared to shit your pants at what they know about you.


They have trackers, as documented on https://better.fyi/trackers/


For one thing, Adobe reader will scan your Windows computer for documents and upload all the titles and authors to Adobe's servers. I don't know if they also upload content by now, but I would guess they probably just fingerprint it, not upload the whole thing. So yeah, Adobe isn't your friend. Of course neither is Apple (you know how obsessed HN seems to be with Apple)



/s/buy photoshop/subscribe to Creative Suite/g and you’re right, IMO.


Duckduckgo is an advertisement company.


This is a very uncomfortable truth. For now it seems like they're better than Google, but the fact is we have no way of confirming it, and no guarantee it will stay like this in the long run.


True, but they serve up ads related to what you're searching for instead of building a profile about your demographic and interests.


He’s pointing out the conflict with the OP’s thesis “As a consumer, we cannot trust any advertisement company”


> So charge us for your service and stop forcing me to view ads, selling off my privacy into a giant bidding war of advertisers. Fuck advertisement.

Easy to say this if you have the money to pay for it which the vast majority of Americans do not.


It’s sad that internet is all free but an average American is OK with spending $105/month on a cable package and STILL be targeted with ads.

What a world we live in. The problem is not that average person doesn’t have money, the problem is that these advertising giants have gotten people to expect that online services should be free (but in exchange for privacy).


I know that Net Neutrality is boring, but remember that when it was repealed that Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, Charter, and the rest now can directly inspect your traffic and inject ads into it.


I agree in general, but what free ad-supported services do Adobe and Microsoft offer?


Adobe[0] has an entire analytics/tracking platform.

Microsoft is likely about the telemetry stuff happening in Windows 10. They're not supported by ads, but the tracking baking into the OS is a non-starter for a lot of tech folks.

[0]:https://www.adobe.com/analytics/adobe-analytics.html


Microsoft may not be directly supported by ads, but they're happy to show you ads in your purchased install of Windows 10 for other Microsoft products (Halo, One Drive, etc.)

EDIT: I'd be happier to hear why I'm incorrect in the place of downvotes.


They also prebundle a bunch of games in the "clean" install.


This is bonkers to me. How is this worth the damage they're doing to the brand?


Maybe the recent open source efforts and GitHub thing: if devs aren’t paying..


Bing?


The next big thing is open source infrastructure projects

https://qbix.com/blog/2017/08/20/centralization-and-open-sou...


Why is Adobe in there? Are they really an ad company?


"Eat, drink, and breathe insights with Adobe Analytics."

https://www.adobe.com/analytics/adobe-analytics.html


Wow, that is indelibly awful - "If you're ready to make a culture of data, where insights are like oxygen and everyone acts on them in real time, then Adobe Analytics is ready for you."

Who writes this stuff!?


Maybe there's an opportunity here for someone to do to Facebook what Craigslist did to print newspapers. What people want is a way to keep in touch with their friends. But that's not a big revenue generator. So the "social networks" put in ads, "sponsored tweets", and other crap. Then users get fed up and leave. (Doubling down on ads as the number of users drops is called "pulling a Myspace").

A basic friends-only system isn't that expensive to run. A low-budget operation like Craigslist could do it with a modest staff. A low fee or infrequent ads could bring in enough revenue to keep it running.


>A basic friends-only system isn't that expensive to run.

The expense depends on what the baseline for "basic" is.

I believe today's average consumer would want basic features to include photos and video sharing. (This consumer expectation having been conditioned by previous $0/month social networks like Facebook.) Needless to say, this requires expensive datacenters with petabytes of harddrives. Rising storage infrastructure costs and was the #1 driver of Facebook costs in 2006. It may still be today. I don't know. I believe storage is still Snapchat's biggest cost component of Google Cloud payments.

So either run a text version of a social network or put storage limits to keep the social network "cheap" to run. My guess is that the typical non-HN type of user would prefer the ads so it's still $0 per month with the ability to share lots of baby photos.


Good point.

Now a "Freemium" app might work. Text is free. Pictures up to a limit are free. A few seconds of video with an expiration time is free. More pictures, longer video, and long term storage all cost.

Fortnite is "freemium", and bringing in over $1BN a year without ads.


I've been thinking about this myself. Small bits of text is free. The occasional photo is free. Maybe not video.

You could also treat brand pages as what they really are: advertising. Charge them a weekly/yearly fee to have the ability to run such a page.


One idea: let people pay if they want to, move old posts and videos to Amazon Glacier or similar long-term storage, and let paid users expedite the retrieval. Matching the Glacier terms, free users have to wait 5-12 hours to see old posts and videos, while paid users can see them in 1-5 minutes.


Who said that the nextgen soc platform will need persistent storage? Just remove everything once it's viewed and leverage the clients for storage.


>A basic friends-only system isn't that expensive to run. A low-budget operation like Craigslist could do it with a modest staff. A low fee or infrequent ads could bring in enough revenue to keep it running.

The technical aspects of such a service are trivial. People try to build new social media sites every day. The problem is building up a network effect. Getting to the scale of Facebook may not ever be possible again for a small startup because the friction for switching services is so great. Until there is some massive technological leap like the internet again, there's really nothing compelling enough for the average person to bother.


Start the same way Facebook did - with the frats at the elite colleges.


The thing is called "personal weblogs", or "blogs" for short.


Blogs are a good answer for the question "how do I post?", but not a good answer for the question "how do I read?". Most people want some kind of aggregator. There are many aggregators out there, but if the answer to the question "how do I post?" is different from the answer to the question "how do I read?", then most people won't overcome the technical friction. Facebook, Twitter, etc. solved the problem by answering both questions, along with other important questions like "how do I restrict who can read my posts?" and "how do I bring in my friends and family?".

I'd really love to see a resurgence of blogs, but any replacement for Facebook needs adequate answers to the kind of questions that blogs always left unanswered.


How about good old fashion RSS for subs? and Password protected sites? The argument you're making is exactly the problem, it is easy, so they capture you and your info.


It's really not. A configurable feed of updates from friends is, in fact, a distinct digital product. That seems self-evident to be honest.


Yea, I think what we really need is more tools for enabling build to build there own stuff.


> infrequent ads could bring in enough revenue to keep it running.

I think you'd have a hard time finding people that would believe that infrequent ads would remain infrequent.


What people want is a way to keep in touch with their friends

Well, that, and the other thing FB got really really good at: I hardly use FB for friends. I use it to track all sports/music/scenes I'm interested in. It has become my number one source for tracking events. There's, as far as I know, nothing which comes closes in aggregating all of that.


The most basic "friends" system is, IMO, an authenticated mailing list with P2P sharing for pictures and movies. Not a lot of money to be made there at all, though it fits the bills for privacy and decentralization.


It would be great to have the Solid version of facebook where users control their own data with a great UI that accesses the data only as allowed by the users.


Yup. And if you get enough users to make it onto Zuck's radar, he'll buy you for unicorn money and you'll be rich! Hey.. whatsapp?


Isnt this what Mastodon is trying to be?


I only largely use Facebook for the events calendar anymore. Big brands and community groups use that part of the site heavily for event promotion. If we want Facebook to become obsolete, we would need to create a comparable event promotion experience elsewhere. So far, though, I've only seen inroads into discovering events already being promoted. The real money is disrupting how events are promoted so the customer doesn't have to do any "discovery" what so ever.


My apologies for the accusatory tone but aren't you kind-of proving the point of the article? Keeping your Facebook account because of the events calendar means you place more value in convenience than you do privacy, Facebook knows it, and they're not going to change.


Wouldn't facebook already have his data anyways even if he deleted his account? I thought they were even making shadow profiles of people who didn't exist?

So if he's not adding new information the only info he's giving them is by what events he clicks which is still valuable.

And then of course if he browses the web with the facebook cookie that probably gives them a significant amount of browser habits, no? Which i feel like really doesn't get enough attention.


I don't think the answer is to just give up. Sure they have shadow accounts. But that data gets stale after you delete your account. And you can hasten that by blocking Facebook domains so that they can't track your movements around the web.


I wasn't saying it was, I was saying maybe said person has figured to himself his event clicking patterns are worth giving up in exchange for the service fb provides that they clearly find of value.

If they add nothing to their profile, and don't browse the web with facebook cookies aren't they not really losing much of worth? If they've made the conscientious decision that event data is worth the events calendar?


Unless OP uses a dummy/fakse account in a container maybe; I wonder what FB still knows about the real you then?


Maybe I am. The point I was trying to make is that FB has event organizers sold on the idea that FB is the place to promote an event. So new events will pretty much elusively be posted to Facebook. You'd have to disrupt that advertising mentality in order to convince users to leave.


You've hit on the key, make it lazy for the user.

Don't make them go search on meetup or eventbrite like a neanderthal.


As I said in my post, Eventbrite can't compete because all the organizations are posting events to Facebook exclusively. You would have to get them to change that practice before users will move.


Facebook is the most consistent company I've ever encountered. They have never really changed and have always hit the same notes over and over.

Remember the beacon fiasco? That was the start of the pattern, the fact that they were so baffled by everyone's reaction was so amazing to me that was the month I deleted my account and never looked back. But they haven't changed one bit since 2007.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facebook_Beacon


It appears the Facebook Apology Tour continues.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/facebook-mark-zuckerber...


Don't use Facebook, as simple as that. Prefer decentralized social networks if you need them, ones that aren't built around profiting on your profile.


> decentralized social networks

I'm sorry but what would the point of this be? A social network is only as useful as it's centralization.


Nope, decentralized doesn't mean disconnected. It means it's not owned or controlled by any one entity and runs on many independent but connected nodes.


Some examples?


There are many people who will still use all the stuff Facebook releases, even though they will know about the data collection things. The world is becoming a creepy place to live, with zero anonymity


But it comes with a camera cover so it doesn't invade your privacy!


So what would be next great wave of internet companys, that doesn't profit on your data? Actually just data storage with strong private encryption?


What about something like Patreon? There probably needs to be a social and cultural shift (i.e. not just technology) to make micropayment "marketplaces" for creators and content actually viable, but I would actually reasonably bet that this is one probable way forward.


I look at Patreon profiles for pretty popular YouTube channels, and rarely do I see them pulling in more than a few hundred bucks a month.

I can only assume they earn most of their money via YT Monetization or with their own ads in video.


The few channels I contribute to earn enough to live on. Here's a couple:

https://www.patreon.com/CaptainDisillusion/overview ($11,471/month)

https://www.patreon.com/GameMakersToolkit/overview ($9,882/month)


Is it your data that it wants or your attention?


Data can be used to get attention. So data first, then however they can monetize that.


Attention is then, in-turn, used to get data. It's a lucrative feedback loop.


Why not both?


They are a righteous circle feeding each other and both for sale to the highest bidder.


I deleted my Instagram and Facebook two weeks ago after being a member since Facebook's .EDU only days.

I urge men and women of good conscious to do the same.


$COMPANY Isn't Sorry, it Just wants your Money; whats the difference?


While the general conclusion is correct, this angst-ridden blog post posing as a news article wouldn't get past the most generous editor a few decades ago. It's sad that Buzzfeed News is considered a legitimate source by some.


> It's sad that Buzzfeed News is considered a legitimate source by some. I think it's fine to differentiate between their fluff and opinion pieces, and some genuinely excellent investigative reporting. Why do we need to simplify to "legitimate" or "not legitimate"?


> It's sad that Buzzfeed News is considered a legitimate source by some.

Everyone has a different definition of "legitimate source" these days.


This headline really says it all, there's not much more to add. George Orwell's Big Brother looks quaint in comparison, besides the fact that the populace consists mainly of believers and fans.

If there has ever been a case for the existence of Free Will, FB membership only supports it. Human freedom is not proven by the great and lofty choices we make, but by the truly shitty and questionable ones.




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