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People Renting Out Their Facebook Accounts for Cash and Free Laptops (buzzfeednews.com)
99 points by jbegley 32 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 58 comments

>One person who said they analyzed what the Pi was doing found it was buying ads on Facebook as well as connecting to a botnet

Why does Buzzfeed assign any credibility to the analysis by a person who claims the raspi "records EVERY KEYSTROKE sent of the network, even SSL connection"? It's really obvious that this guy is completely clueless, he can't even spell "botnet". https://www.reddit.com/r/Scams/comments/2vd1g8/scam_rentyour...

Props to buzzfeed for finding some really funny reddit posts though, like this one where the guy goes on a paranoid fit and cancels his bank cards(???) after finding his roommates raspi https://www.reddit.com/r/whatisthisthing/comments/9ixdh9/fou...

It is buzzfeed after all. They are just living up to their reputation.

Buzzfeed news actually has a pretty solid pulitzer-winning team behind it, this story definitely isn't one of their best.

They were Pulitzer finalists for a couple of years, but I don't think they won. Also, one of the articles that got them that was pretty bad - and I mean Russian mind control chemicals levels supposedly driving someone to suicide bad. (Though to be fair, Buzzfeed initially made it look like an article about the British police and coroners treating a Russian assassination as suicide for no reason, only mentioning that there was evidence no-one else was present and that he had a history of depression and suicide attempts which they suggested were caused by Russian mind control towards the very end. It also took a certain amount of digging to realise that they massively overstated his role in the Litvinenko investigation to justify why Russia would assassinate him.) https://www.buzzfeed.com/janebradley/scientist-who-helped-co...

The teams itself may not have one any Pulitzers, but several members of the team have.

This is the third time im seeing them messing up- the news yesterday about trump was something

I’m not sure they messed up. Go read the Special Counsel’s statement. They say the “characterization” was wrong, not the facts. And when specifically asked, no one in the Administration has actually denied the allegations that Trump directed Cohen to lie.

I don't think Mueller breaks his silence for the first time in 2 years to comment on a news story, just to adjust some marginal details.

This is slightly different though, the Democrats did just take over the House. So a somewhat inaccurate story has a much greater impact on congressional investigations. I'm thinking that Buzzfeed wrote a well-sourced story that wasn't entirely correct. I don't know how inaccurate it was, I'll have to wait until investigations are made public, so I don't think we should believe the Buzzfeed story. But I also don't think that everything in the story was false, and I'm not sure that they badly messed up.

I don't think its very clear that they messed up the Trump story, special counsels office called it inaccurate but I don't really see any reason to blindly believe them.

Look I'm a liberal and all but at this point im beginning to wonder if my side is really stupid or just doesn't want to believe in reality?

I certainly don't blindly believe the BuzzFeed story either. Actually, I haven't even bothered to read it as I don't really care very much about the US president.

I find it bizarre that you think that being a liberal has anything to do with this.

Proclaiming yourself to be a member of the "other" side to try to undermine their arguments by association is becoming a favorite tactic of trolls.

It is, but it’s easy to undermine without resorting to accusations of trolling, by pointing out that attacks on the character of a source of information rather than critique of the information is unconvincing. It also helps as ryanlol did, to point out non sequiturs such as injections identity politics into the mix for no good reason.

Doing exactly that is called 'concern-trolling'

True, but assuming that everybody's general world view matches our own is what got Trump elected in the first place.

Especially the way this is phrased. “I am a liberal” is not something liberals actually say.

For Reddit there is a Chrome plug-in that lets you highlight users who frequently post on specifically troll-heavy subreddits such as The_Donald so you can spot this kind of shit easily.

My guess is they do have actual law enforcement sources who told them what they reported but their sources were wrong.

So is this a good way to delete your Facebook account and get payed doing it? I wonder if the banned accounts content gets deleted or the login is just blocked.

You'd probably want to get rid of all your Facebook activity first? Otherwise they'd see everything you've ever said or done on Facebook.

Huh. Not a bad way to look at it. Run the Chrome extension within a VM or keep whatever laptop/RPi they give you on its own vlan. Might not be too dangerous. Food for thought.

When you delete intentionally they claim they delete your data. I have no idea how or why you could get paid for that.

I think the distinction is that accounts deleted for abuse may actually be removed. Where accounts voluntarily deleted may just become hidden.

Accounts banned for abuse are definitely just banned, and not deleted.

Man, I should've abused my account before deleting it. Oops.

Could facebook not easily destroy these companies? I mean facebook could sign up for literally thousands of these accounts and the article even lists many of the sites that will buy accounts. Then after receiving payment let the guys run the ads so you can get a sense of their campaign and just shadow ban anything they do. The companies would be paying for useless accounts and eventually lose all their money. Is there a reason facebook would not do this?

Is there any reason FaceBook would want to crack down this? It doesn’t hurt their metrics of “Daily Active Users” or cut into their as revenue. It’s not as though they care about integrity after all!

If Facebook wanted these parties to buy ads, they wouldn't have to pay users to hijack their facebook accounts in order to do it.

I tend to agree with you, but it wouldn't be the first time that a company came out with a policy to block some action with a super-obvious (and likely intended) workaround or loophole that they have no inclination to close.

Facebook has done a good job of choking this practice. I think this article had a lot of fear mongering and speculation in it, doesn't appear that he spoke to anyone on the other side of this. It's profitable, but I wouldn't say wildly successful.

On the flip side, I'm not sure how important choking it off completely really is to facebook, why get rid of ad revenue if you can pretend to chase the bad guys and keep everyone happy?

> On the flip side, I'm not sure how important choking it off completely really is to facebook, why get rid of ad revenue if you can pretend to chase the bad guys and keep everyone happy?

It's pretty important. In short, there is no incentive for FB to really keep "bad" ads, "fake" accounts, "spammy" pages and so on, as it creates crappy experience for user. If Facebook would be full of fake accounts, the there would be less people using it, and ads would be less effective (that means less money for FB). If there would be shitty ads, people would use more ad-blockers...

Disclaimer: I worked in Facebook's anti-spam team for couple of years.

I guess this makes sense in the light that fb claims to have a shortage of inventory, so maybe they don't need the money and they are trying harder then it appears.

That said there are some obvious and simple ways to kill this at the root that fb seems to have been ignoring for years. Maybe they are just obvious from the outside looking in when you know how the black hats operate these endeavors.

> Maybe they are just obvious from the outside looking in when you know how the black hats operate these endeavors.

Or, they are just obvious from the outside when you haven't actually tried to solve that problem, but that solution actually don't work. I've seen a lot of "why don't you just do X" in my career questions, where X is something that looks good on first attempt, but in fact is really easy to circumvent by any blackhat (or it was even tried and it didn't work).

I am not saying that your solution don't work, but without you saying which it is, it's impossible to judge.

FB may not like it, but I just see that as the free market correcting the inadequate price of FB ads.

The marginal cost of a FB ad is about 0. If the price charged differs too much from that, resourceful companies will move in to fix that situation!

Anyway, people can (and do) post stupid stuff that litters other people feed. If companies move in and arbitrage, giving money to people and reducing the cost of FB ads for companies, I see that as brilliant!

Besides the difference of intent, it is in practice no different than this weird family member we all have who's spreading questionable content. At least they'll get something out of it!

If you can’t delete, rent it out for abuse. Data will become so unreliable it should hurt their advertising business models. Similar to “social cooling”.

I wholeheartedly agree with this comment. I recently had my facebook account "accidentally reactivated" against my will after I had deactivated it on facebook. I deactivated it a second time, and am currently hoping that it doesn't "come back to life" again for one reason or another. The last time it happened, it was because I was right in the middle of a big california fire and I think facebook was trying to be "helpful" or something by giving me the option of alerting family members that I was okay.

I wouldn't mind deleting everything, loading up facebook onto a VPN-facing VM and selling it for cash and watching it burn. Maybe my old account would become so cluttered with garbage, that they'll be forced to finally let me open up a blank new account with nothing on it that I'll park and forget the password to one day. Only then will the illusion of privacy finally be complete.

Then just permanently delete your account instead of deactivating it?

FWIIW it doesn't really delete the data here either.

Citation: I deleted my account, asked friends if my side of old conversations was still there. It is.

That raises an interesting question: who owns a conversation?

I'm not at all sure how data protection laws, such as GDPR, do or should interact with online messaging systems. For instance, if you ask Google to remove all data they have on you on gmail, do they have to reach into the mailboxes of any other gmail users who have received mail from you and delete those messages?

Or do the recipients count as the ones who are storing that data, so if you want your data out of my mailbox you would have to ask me, not Google?

That would be a big violation of EU laws.

Maybe it depends on jurisdiction.

Yes it would be: but I used the Russian nuclear testing site as my address, so they may not apply GDPR to it.

Russian troll spotted? Maybe that's why Facebook "reactivated" the account so easily.

Yes, I'm sure most Russian trolls use the Russian nuclear test site as their home address when posting from Berkeley.

This is yet another reason that FB should be transparent about adverts run on their system.

In other media, all adverts are visible to all. FB should publish a searchable DB of every advert live, with parameters used and general info about purchaser.

They would then effectively crowdsource the policing of the ad network. The Russian dezinformatsiya & influence campaign that they missed in 2015-16 would have been quickly flagged, to all of our benefit. Also scams -- all it would take is one motivated person with decent search skills to track it down.

As it is today, a total black box, thousands of ads can run that nobody notices, and do real harm, and it's directed at the FB user base.

I think https://www.facebook.com/ads/archive/ might do what you want. You can also view the ads that individual pages run if you go to their pages (it's under the 'Info and Ads' tab)

(I work for FB)

Cool, looks like a good start! Can it be accessed via an API so that journalists can monitor activities of various groups? Any reason it is restricted to just political topics, and how do you expand or limit that inclusion?

I'm curious whether this is actually as dangerous as the article implies for the people participating.

Obviously for most people on HN installing random software and turning over the keys to a social media account is a bad idea. But I know people who have mostly quit Facebook and have an old laptop lying around they never really use with nothing particularly sensitive on it.

Now morally it sounds like this is a bad idea, since the ads are promoting sketchy drugs and gambling. But as far as computer security risk? I'm not sure.

Security risks I can think of:

- lots of information that could be used for identity theft unless you clear it all

- an attack vector for scamming your friends unless you defriend them all

- leaking information about your friends unless you defriend them all

- access to any apps where you’ve used FB as your identity service unless you make sure you have no connected apps

- reputation risk

- just generally having your identity connected to potentially criminal activity

- installing an extension would give attackers access to all your internet traffic (bank accounts etc)

- remote access to your machine using TeamViewer is just nuts

>I'm curious whether this is actually as dangerous as the article implies for the people participating.

It almost certainly is not. There's no reason these guys would be significantly more likely to screw you over than literally any software vendor.

Lots of weird scaremongering in the article:

>“They can easily install a backdoor or steal your personal files including but not limited to personal photos, electronic tax records, banking information, etc,” he said.

... Yeah? It's perfectly normal for people to pay money for software capable of doing all these things. On the other hand, these account rental people are actually compensating you.

I wonder how this guy would feel about Steam for example, millions of people paying for videogames that can easily install a backdoor or steal your personal files.

> There's no reason these guys would be significantly more likely to screw you over than literally any software vendor.

No reason? Compared to literally any software vendor? The fact that their entire business model revolves around shady if not illegal practices designed to circumvent others' terms of service isn't a reason?

Why would that be a reason? Why would they want to harm their existing business by acting like that?

How would they benefit anyway? Installs aren't worth shit. They'd be better off going to a forum and buying thousands of installs for their malware if they wanted to spy on people, the kinds of people renting out their facebook accounts certainly won't be particularly interesting targets.

If someone wanted to "install a backdoor or steal your personal files including but not limited to personal photos, electronic tax records, banking information, etc," this would be the worst imaginable way of achieving that.

>> Why would that be a reason?

In short, because of Bayes' theorem.

That is:

- X% of people with "questionable" morals are willing to scam you when given the opportunity

- <X% of people with "standard" morals are willing to scam you when given the opportunity

Given that these guys have "questionable" morals, the likelihood that they are taking advantage of their software to inflict harm is higher than those with "standard" morals.

When will people rent Hacker News accounts?

Who says that isn't already happening?

I assumed these were scams to get unique combinations of emails and passwords. Surprised they’re real. What’s to stop people from generating new accounts and signing them up?

It's cool that such opportunities exist - basic capitalism. I always thought that Facebook should ether hare revenue for great content with its users (who they like to call their "community" but apparently their door swings only one way) or that companies should emerge that pay users to share ads to their followers as predicted by Bill Gates in "The Road Ahead" and "Business at the Speed of Thought".

Such as instagram ? «Influencers» paid to post photos with native ads (products).

As an option for everyone, not just a select few influencers. You're more likely to buy a Lenovo Carbon laptop if one of your friends post an ad about it than if Kylie Jenner posted about it.

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