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New York governor orders probe into Facebook access to data from other apps (reuters.com)
410 points by tareqak on Feb 22, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 92 comments

Anyone else working in tech for the past few years having more frequent existential crises about what they have enabled?

I have never worked at FB, but I've worked at a few well known yet somewhat controversial companies (in fintech, marketplaces, etc.) that I sometimes feel uneasy about.

Took me several years past school just to get used to the ordinary level of dishonesty and scumminess that's common to pretty much all business, let alone the worse stuff. Sometimes I think my parents (and, to be fair, children's media) messed up by giving me such a keen sense of right and wrong. Enough otherwise-decent people (like, almost all of them) seem to just look at you like there's something wrong with you when you bring this stuff up that I caved, since the alternative seemed to be becoming a living-off-the-land recluse, or a monk or something.

But I still hate it. Still feel like I'm kind of ruined in some sense for not going the really, really hard route to avoid it all. Every day. Some jobs more than others, but even at the best I sometimes go home catching whiffs of something that make me think my soul must have stepped in some dog shit on the way.

It's difficult to tell from your comment how old you are, but I'm in my late 40s and it took me until well into my 30s to find the balance that works for me. It's difficult when so much work seems to require being unquestioning / amoral at best and immoral at worst. The only fixed ideas I had in my head were not working for defence or advertising companies (thanks, Bill Hicks). I now make a nice living running a digital agency that builds websites almost exclusively for third-sector clients (education, non-profit, government etc.) but it took me quite a while to build the skills that would allow me to do that. I can highly recommend starting your own business, no matter how humble, once you've gained enough skills to make what you do valuable to the kind of people you want to work with. The added benefit of working in the third sector is that I'm generally working with nicer people. I think this is partially just the kind of people the sector attracts, but also because the people who work in it aren't so conflicted about the value of what they're doing. So many people I've worked with in corporate environments get fixated on things like status and money, and it just seems to make them bitter and miserable. Along the way I remember one guy in HR in particular who got incredibly excited about me building a link between their HR system and their website so a job that was posted on their HR system automatically turned up on their website. I couldn't believe how small his world had become.

Empathy _sucks_.

But you're a better person for it, don't forget that.

Life's a shitty wooden roller coaster that jostles your neck too much for most of us, but the alternative is not experiencing it at all.

We're pretty fortunate. Start looking for jobs which align with your ideals.

Take a paycut and work at a non profit.

Find an open source maintainer role at a company somewhere.

Find a role at a company building a product you like.

You can do it relatively passively while still working. No harm in looking!

Don't lose hope. You will find your way.

I work in the public sector, so we never do evil things like that. I do often wonder if we’re digitizing too much.

Like I pay for public transportation (I’m Danish, we have great public transportation) with an App, which is nice and all, but the user experience is actually worse than when it was just a piece of paper.

We’ve saved the public billions by making some processes easier, but we’ve also digitised a lot of stuff because there was (is) this general idea that digitisation is always better, and it’s just not. Especially not from a user perspective, if you’re a social worker you now have to know how to use 5-10 complicated and error prone IT systems, on top of your regular job, and we just keep on adding more. I mean,those 5-10 systems are linked to their work on top of that there are another 5-10 adiministrative systems and maybe 50 different digital forms.

None of these systems are necessary mind you, 30 years ago, almost none of them existed and our social workers performed better for less money back then.

Overall digitisation has been a benefit though. We’ve managed to eliminate a lot of repetition, we’ve made the total public sector cheaper and we’ve increased the overall quality of our services, but from a user perspective things have mostly deteriorated.

I have no idea how to fix it either.

I'm not sure I agree that the public sector doesn't do what you call evil things. Like right now in Denmark there are the whole watching every move everyone make via logging phones even though the EU says it is illegal. There's also the thing with forcing children to answer questionnaires that will likely be in the system for... ever basically.

Lots of public sector sites also use Facebook and have Google analytics on their site, so they partake in what Facebook does. Maybe not evil but not good either.

I agree, I should probably have specified which part of the public sector I was in. At a municipal level we try not to do evil things.

> Especially not from a user perspective, if you’re a social worker you now have to know how to use 5-10 complicated and error prone IT systems, on top of your regular job, and we just keep on adding more. I mean,those 5-10 systems are linked to their work on top of that there are another 5-10 adiministrative systems and maybe 50 different digital forms.

The workers are users of those IT systems, but not the end-users of the social services. Those workers' jobs shifted in nature. Their new work is to interact with numerous different IT systems to provide a social service. In the long term, all those workers are currently gathering data that will help to build a new digital social service which won't have those inefficiencies. They work toward the transition to a "better" digital world for the end-users of the social service.

> None of these systems are necessary mind you, 30 years ago, almost none of them existed and our social workers performed better for less money back then.

"better for less money" : According to what sources? What indicators?

> but from a user perspective things have mostly deteriorated.

Same questions, from the end-users perspective of the social services. What indicators are you using?

We could imagine providing a social service without human social workers at all, enabled by digitization, like in all other sectors.

> “better for less money" : According to what sources? What indicators?

I’m tempted to say “pick one”. Workers are less satisfied, more stressed and less efficient. Citizens are less satisfied and receive a lower quality of service. Financially it depends, on paper it’s better but if you add in the cost of sick days and the impact of lower citizen life quality has on society, then a lot of digitisation has been disastrous.

Not all of it, mind you, just some of it.

Again, you don't give any sources or references about what you are stating.

If I can chose an indicator, then I pick my personal experience. I live in Europe and I'm happy with the digital experience of social services I have. I'm 28 years old so I experienced a bit of the pre-internet administrative era and digitization is definitively an improvement. Oftentimes, processes are simplified and can be done remotely, which is definitively a net plus for all disabled people.

> Workers are less satisfied, more stressed and less efficient.

Digitization must be accompanied with change management, and the society's laws must be adapted to a digitized society. In my personal opinion, we should develop idea such as Universal Basic Income, and not make "work" as mandatory as it was. I agree with you that operating everyday administrative softwares isn't a fulfilling job to everyone.

A lot of stuff that I worked on looked like a net-positive at first, but ended up as a zero sum game.

Now I'm producing an affordable, detailed video course that teaches ordinary people auto engineering. It's the most satisfying project I ever worked on but I'm very dependent on companies and products that I don't love: Google, YouTube, Facebook. I don't enjoy dealing with things like Instagram and that directly costs me a lot of money.

I think my Youtube stuff is amongst the best out there but I refuse to put yellow text, red circles, and my own grinning face on the thumbnails. I don't waste 30 seconds at the end of every video begging people to subscribe, ring the bell, support me on Patreon, comment, hit the thumbs up. I'd prefer to tell people what they need to know and send them on their way - that's directly at odds with YouTube who want to keep them from actually going out to the garage at all costs.

Unfortunately, even producing quality stuff you still end up taking a daily swim in a dirty sea filled with everyone else's floating bullshit.

That's what I feel conflicted with as well when I'm building my products as well. I actually am a huge fan of your content and I did find it through a google search asking about parts of a car. I am glad that it brought me to finding it but I feel that especially for content creators there's not a whole lot of options you can have if you want to spread the word. I definitely will be throwing a purchase towards your video series later today.

I worked for a bank, and did my small part to help bring about 2007-2008.

Later, I worked in advertising, helping increase consumption and creation of various plastic trash, sugar-rich concoctions, and other such stuff.

I worked for a company that helped pharmaceutical companies target advertising to people on Facebook and other social networks who were sharing their health issues.

In between, I worked on other stuff, which was not as unsavory, but most of the time it still felt like pushing lots of little squares into square holes, and so on.

Lately, I've decided to just work on my own projects, and not contribute my brainpower to destroying my own habitat.

I am much happier now.

I work on GIS systems that enable organizations to be able to use the maps to spatially visualize their own data so their employees can do their jobs more effectively in the field everyday e.g. firefighters having all firehydrant locations on a ruggedized tablet when fighting fires, 911 dispatch operators use GIS, public utilities use it, government agencies uses it, non profits such as ecological conservation orgs use it. CDC to visualize epidemiology data, and scientists and universities use it to map data for studies and research.

It's very humbling tech with an amazing potential to do good and very developer friendly (they have been writing the code since the 60's) and my dev colleagues have been in this field for decades.

I just joined actually, any GIS nerds on HN care to share their experience and what they love/hate about GIS community/tech? Thanks!

Years ago, I used to feel happy that I am not working for a bank or a wall street firm. Now I am not so sure who is worse - wall street or tech companies, especially the massive ones. Gone are the days of "do no evil" etc, it is just a shit show out there.

Problem is, for all this anguish, I don't know a way out. At least with banks, wall street etc, I can switch to a community bank or something. What exactly is the alternative to Android/iOS, for example?

here too. I'm trying to figure out which different field I could get into (even it means leaving Tech[0] totally) and do something that provides some kind of benefit for humanity and the future of my kids. It was foolish the way I felt in the 90ies thinking that Software and computing would be a net benefit.

there has to be a field which isn't just about data extraction, mass surveillance (or worse).

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19202300

> It was foolish the way I felt in the 90ies thinking that Software and computing would be a net benefit.

I'm so friggin' sick of looking at glowing rectangles (he wrote, looking at a glowing rectangle). Watching all the faffing about with software-enabled workflow insanity and other time-wasters across various industries (including dev itself) I'm even pretty skeptical of the benefits of all this crap.

I have a wholly unverified suspicion that computers and the Internet are very very beneficial in a tiny set of (often very important!) applications, and only potentially but not actually in practice beneficial in the vast majority of cases—and in fact often harmful—such that they're technically a big boon to the economy as a whole but in any particular instance you're likely to encounter are... usually not.

Look into GIS tech, it's used by a lot of good people across government agencies, research universities and public utilities to do their jobs better by spatially visualizing their own data.

Ever wonder why Facebook is giving everyone on earth so much free software and processing power? They seem to be making money, how do they do it?

[10 minutes of deep thought]

Ok, we get it. If someone offers you something of value for free, politely say "no thanks" and run the other way.

Edit: If a for-profit company offers you something of value at no cost, you or someone else will end up paying for it later. Advertisers pay Facebook for your personal data, and you suffer because your privacy has been violated.

The scariest thing about Facebook is that they allow advertisers to target by e-mail. This has a number of implications. Say I want to target a specific individual. I create a bunch of fake profiles to meet the minimum number of required e-mails for an ad and then launch it. This way the only real person who's gonna see it is the one I'm targeting.

Now imagine running this scheme with everyone you know. Your ex, friends, co-workers, your competitors, you name it. You can learn all their needs and desires by creating dozens of fake ads that lead to a bogus site that doesn't actually sell shit but works as a front for whatever product you want to advertise.

I'm not following this. So we have some victim's email that they've linked to Facebook, and we add some fake emails to pad out the minimum number of required emails.

So you have to design a series of ads that are enticing enough to click on, and the victim will click on it. When they realize they clicked on a fake site, they'll exit it. How many people here have clicked on Facebook ads in the last week?

It seems incredibly time consuming, costly, and ineffective. It seems easier just to send some fake emails and check if they opened the email.

People in here aren't the norm so it's irrelevant whether we click on ads or not.

As for the rest, sure it's time consuming if you want to target 50 individuals. If you're aiming for one or two it's 10 minutes work.

Here's a relevant thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17110385

Parent comment made me think of exactly the same article! For those that don't want to click through: an ex-Mormon used targeted Facebook ads to "proselytize" to people they knew from the church, about problems with the church and reasons they should consider leaving it.

This scheme would only work assuming those people are all on facebook and actively use it, correct?

Yes. And they have to use the same e-mail with the one you know.

Not necessarily. Facebook just needs to have associated the email you know with their profile somehow. They can do this silently, thanks to their tracking. There was a thread about it on HN a few weeks ago ok another facebook story.

> If someone offers you something of value for free, politely say "no thanks" and run the other way.

Where does free software fit in this?

Free software has unfortunately turned into a major enabler of the advertising economy. Take Android for example. Before Android, phone makers had to pay for their mobile OS. It was something like $15 to license Symbian. Android destroyed Symbian, in part because it was “free.” But what was the result? It’s not actually free to develop Android, and most of the work is done by paid developers. That investment is recouped, of course, by Google’s data mining and advertising platforms built on Android. And Android destroyed the for-pay mobile OS market—it’s impossible to compete with a “free” OS.

The same thing happened to web browsers, though it’s Microsoft’s fault. You had to pay for web browsers back in the day. And then Microsoft bundled IE to leverage its OS monopoly. And then Google made Chrome, an ad supported browser. Now, the browser is just a purpose-built vector for advertising. Even though Mozilla still exists, almost all its revenue comes from Google.

The problem with free software is that unpaid developers can’t really do things on the scale of Android or Chrome. Today, the overwhelming majority of Linux contributions come from paid developers. That forces you to think about how to monetize the software, if you can’t just charge for it. And that leads to advertising, at least on the consumer side. Open source works okay for businesses, where companies like RedHat can pay for development through support contracts. But it’s been a disaster for consumers. The landscape is littered with formerly viable software niches (photo and video editors, word processors and spreadsheets, etc.) that have been decimated by either free software or free web apps which are linked to advertising.

It's great that "if it's free, you should run away" or "if you're not the customer, you're the product" or any of those other sayings are finally been seen as extremely reductive.

> It's great that "if it's free, you should run away" or "if you're not the customer, you're the product" or any of those other sayings are finally been seen as extremely reductive.

Is it really the case that we've forgotten "There's no such thing as a free lunch?"

That's not the same thing.

Understand why it's free and where the offerer derives value.

- If it's from a company that is commoditizing its money-making products' internal dependencies, and it is in your interest for the software to become a commodity (e.g., you're pondering switching to Linux, which has patches from Google), great. Tough luck for those commercializing that software, though - so just make sure that development is sustainable.

- If it's from a company that's commoditizing its money-making products' complements (see https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2002/06/12/strategy-letter-v/ if you haven't), think carefully about how that complement relationship works. If it's Red Hat producing a window manager, sure, whatever. If it's Red Hat producing a complex infrastructure platform, and they make money based on support to make that platform work, maybe not so much.

- If it's from a company that's making money in an unclear, unrelated way (e.g., you're pondering using Android, which is developed by Google), look extremely skeptically and figure out what their real incentives are. There is a legitimate explanation for Android and Chrome: it's in Google's interest to promote the web as a platform, because they make money on web advertising. But that explanation might not be totally convincing to you, in which case running the other way is a fine answer.

- If it's from a source whose motivations are not linked to the capitalist machine (e.g., someone with a well-paying day job who's working on a side project on weekends), that's fine. Note that things from companies are almost never in this category.

- If it's from a company that hasn't yet realized that it's beholden to the capitalist machine (e.g., the early years of Ubuntu, or a young company with too much VC money), you might as well take advantage of it in the short term but have some plans about the long term.

- If it's from a source that you can pay, despite it being free, and you can afford to pay for it, do so. Pitch in to that developer's Patreon, buy the paid license for the neat monitoring product your company is using, etc.

Incidentally, a lot of people do say "no thanks" and run the other way when presented with free (as in freedom) software

I think they are too inexperienced or shortsighted to see the long term implications of opting in to proprietary software and depending on it. They will later suffer for it, until they learn. And some never learn.

Exactly where the license places it

Two questions: 1) is this site "something of value"? 2) how much did you pay to access it?

Most everything on the internet is free...so are you saying we should just stop using it?

> Most everything on the internet is free...so are you saying we should just stop using it?

Free in what sense? We need to stop constraining the notion of "free" to monetary value.

Yes indeed, thank you!

Even here on HN so many people do not know what they are talking about when they say "free software".

This is a shortsighted viewpoint of how value, money, and the concept of 'free' works. Someone had to put in effort to put up the websites you use for free. Someone is paying or motivating those developers to keep doing that so you don't have to.

The problem is all free software comes at the cost of either being made by someone who is doing it out of kindness or someone who is pawning your data. You cannot know which one it is.

Yes shortsighted, but also uninformed. In an informed sense of the the word group "free software" there are ethical standards connected to it and those are about not "pawning data" as well.

> If someone offers you something of value for free, politely say "no thanks" and run the other way.

You are explicitely asking people to think for themselves and understand what’s going on. From this point of view I think that last bit feels mantra like and going on the opposite.

The same way “if you’re not the customer you’re the product” was relevant in some cases but has started a life on its own and could go continue a long life in a farm upstate I think.

We’re in a world when there is genuine free and extremely valuable things that are not bound to weird schemes. Linux is free, VLC is free, vaccination is free, legal representation for people who can’t afford it is free.

As you point out knowing why it’s free is crucial, and people should take the time to think bout what they want to rely on, instead of following some “don’t talk to strangers” kind of stopgap.

I might nit and say that a lot of these things (especially vaccination and legal representation) are subsidized, the government or insurance is paying so you can get it for “free”.

> I might nit and say that a lot of these things (especially vaccination and legal representation) are subsidized, the government or insurance is paying so you can get it for “free”.

This is not free except in the narrowest sense.

I may be the minority, but I don’t mind the advertising aspect as much. Actually I kind of like that it brings me relevant advertising for kickstarters of board games.

What I dislike is all the other evil stuff they do. All the anti-democracy bullshit, the social experiments, the enablement of genocides, anti-vaxxers, the government bot armies and the total disregard for truth.

It may be because I’m European, but I actually think platforms should be held responsible for all the evil they enable.

I didn’t always, but after a decade of Facebook I don’t think anyone should be able to escape responsibility for having supplied a platform it’s users used for genocide.

> Ok, we get it. If someone offers you something of value for free, politely say "no thanks" and run the other way.

The problem starts when half of your colleagues accept that "something", and start discussing it on HN. (For example: "React", or any other FB open source project).

This rule would entail "run away from HN" (along with most of the rest of the internet)

I agree. But HN is advertising for ycombinator. It is a known quantity what ycombinator wants from this site, so the risk of "paying" some unseen and unfortunate price is small.

I assume this is other apps using FBs analytics toolset? Where I can send a custom event with {email:dillondoyle@gmail.com, data: {likes_dogs: 1, likes_cats: 0}} or what they are mad about is {weight: 120, has_hiv:0} ?

IDK seems silly to me or maybe I'm in too deep and can't see the forest for the trees.

if this is related to the Facebook Mobile SDK it seems that it is sending a lot of data home by default and that setting it up for ethical data collection isn't straightforward for most developers[0]

[0] at least for android, based on this talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0vlD7r-kTc (35C3 - How Facebook tracks you on Android)

edit: add video title

Thanks for posting this - great talk!

Yup. Next story that's going to come out is how Google is "doing the same thing" via Google Analytics etc.

Doesn't Google Analytics forbid passing actual personal user data into it? I thought that's how they solved the GDPR compliance issues, by explicitly declaring it as not fit for personal data (outside what GA collects and anonymizes itself, like IPs).

Yes, their TOS specifically prohibits this: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/2795983

I agree. It seems weird to go after the place that stores the data rather than those who collect it and send it over (the apps).


> Facebook is facing a slew of lawsuits and regulatory inquiries over privacy issues, including a U.S. Federal Trade Commission investigation into disclosures that Facebook inappropriately shared information belonging to 87 million users with the defunct British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.

Cambridge Analytica is not defunct, but rather changed its name to Emerdata. It's too bad Reuters didn't get that part correct.


> Cambridge Analytica is not defunct, but rather changed its name to Emerdata.

Not technically correct, but basically the truth. Cambridge Analytica declared bankrupcy in May of last year and the creators of that company created Emerdata and rehired many previous employees of Cambridge Analytica. Their HQ is even in the same exact building.

They're just playing the shell game, really. "Oh no, we're not the bad guys, we are just mostly made up of those old bad guys and do exactly the same thing in exactly the same way with the exact same location as those old guys... But, as you can clearly see, we have different bank account numbers and a different company name, so we're not the same thing at all."

The trouble is, it works. Depressingly well.

Every story out there is about Cambridge Analytica, only a tiny proportion have been written recently enough to mention the phoenix. Yet they often won't, or give entirely the wrong impression like TFA here (defunct - oh that's a relief it's all over then). The number of old pieces that have had an update is so low as to be effectively none.

So we have to wait for the next scandal.

> The trouble is, it works. Depressingly well.

It does... if countries allow it. There was either some fear that this was happening or deliberate intent to keeping this from happening with the case of North Korea's sanctions - my memory's a bit fuzzy since the class I took where this came up some many years ago.

E.g. Some unethical people would setup a black exports shipping company to ship stuff to North Korea, and then when they got caught, they'd declare bankruptcy, liquidate hardware to some shell or holding company, shut that company down, create a new legal entity, rebuy all of the same equipment from the holding company, and restart the same old behavior. While the courts waste their time chasing defunct companies, the bad actors get to continue their bad behavior. This is just a new version of that game that's even easier since there are far fewer physical assets that need to be shelved or hidden (perhaps even none if the servers are all in someone's cloud).

Countries have largely stopped this kind of sanction-avoidance behavior by arresting the people in charge, ceasing assets to prevent them from being relabeled under the new company, and freezing accounts to prevent recapitalization under these kinds of shell corporations, in addition to requiring strict compliance around interactions with these sanctions countries and business entities.

tl;dr: the CA folks should be sitting in prison right now, and Facebook and Google should be sanctioned and require strict supervision in the way it shares data with its customers, to prevent this kind of microtargeted-electioneering-as-a-service. Laws like the GDPR won't actually stop anyone from collecting onerous data, since it basically only requires people to consent to it, and as we've seen with EULAs, people are willing to click through anything if it gives them the end result of using an application. The time for a law like that would have been literally 15-20 years ago, before companies like Facebook could tell you what someone's likely eaten for lunch or Target could tell when someone's gotten pregnant by their purchase histories. Unlikely we're going to be unringing that particular bell now...

See also, Blackwater => Xe => Academi

Just like Accenture did.... not a new playbook but memory fails.

If you're thinking of Enron, Andersen Consulting and Arthur Andersen were even before then pretty much separate entities and in some cases were competitors. Andersen Consulting formally completed the separation from Arthur Andersen and became Accenture in 2000, a year or so before Arthur Andersen collapsed in the Enron scandal.

Disclosure: Worked for Andersen Consulting early in my career.

> Well, actually...

>Cambridge Analytica is not defunct, but rather changed its name to Emerdata. It's too bad Reuters didn't get that part correct.

That's not true, I used to work there. Everyone was laid off in July or so.

I haven't heard of anyone joining Emerdata, and I do see those guys now and again. I know where all the technical people work. Emerdata was created before the media shitstorm to absorb all the pointless corporate entities that had been created within the SCL group over the years and were now mostly idle.

A few of the people from Cambridge Analytica (or rather SCL elections) started a new political consultancy under the name Auspex International. So focus your conspiracies there if you must, noting:

- They're pretty open about it being an operating business and having employees from CA

- Very few of the higher-ups from SCL are involved, just one guy from the board I think. (He's a 20-something guy and wasn't even on the board til 2018. Bad timing!)

- They haven't taken on any technical staff from CA; although they did try to early on, no one had any trouble finding a job that would be less of a headache.

Please notice that you have engaged in lazy misinformation-spreading and you're participating a conspiracy theory. It's attractive to think that you're hot on the tail of a shadowy illuminati-esque group, but that's not the case. It was just an ad tech company with a few political clients and some snake oil regarding psychographics.

> Please notice that you have engaged in lazy misinformation-spreading and you're participating a conspiracy theory. It's attractive to think that you're hot on the tail of a shadowy illuminati-esque group, but that's not the case. It was just an ad tech company with a few political clients and some snake oil regarding psychographics.

To attack me as you have is both completely unnecessary and undermines your position. Indeed, it might even deepen folks' convictions that it is in the public's best interest that CA is well and truly shut down, and its employees closely scrutinized.

However, as someone who felt the need to create an account specifically to make this statement, I suppose that you either don't understand HN norms of respectful conduct or don't particularly care.

Yes, a basic search on "Cambridge Analytica Emerdata" yields reports that paint a conflicting story of whether the operation is indeed dead. Given their deeds and your statements, good riddance.

thanks for this perspective.

It was just an ad tech company with a few political clients and some snake oil regarding psychographics.

Your snake oil evidently outperformed the best modern medicine. So, congratulations for that, I guess.

Our psychographics were

- ineffective (no change in effectiveness if you randomise which "personality" sees which ad)

- never based on Facebook data during my time of employment there -- early 2016 onwards

- not used in the USA presidential election of 2016

Funny, I went looking for that quote and the word ‘defunct’ seems to have been removed. Maybe TheReg reads HN.

Playing dumb doesn't cut it. Prosecutors needs to go gangbusters. In the meantime, I am now alarmed enough to Kill Facebook with fire(wall rules). https://topnetworkguide.com/how-to-block-websites-using-pfse...

> "The report said that the company can access data in some cases even when the user is not signed into Facebook or does not have a Facebook account."

I realize frivolous comments on HN are frowned upon but frankly this leaves me speechless.

How does nobody know about these? Shadow profiles have been standard in every large advertising network for 15-20 years at least.

If your ad content is on lots of different web properties, you can "track" a user across each one, inferring data about the user one piece at a time, until you have a large profile. Then you use that profile to target ads/marketing. They never have to directly give you any data, but you can make money off of what you learn.

That's the entire reason "tracking" on the web exists. To build shadow profiles for direct marketing. Nobody thought Facebook was doing it too?

One reason could be that FB has __never__ publicly (afaik) positioned itself as an "advertising network." It's also gone on record (afaik) to say it's __not__ akin to traditional (print) publishers. It has said time and again it is a social network, and it's going to save the world.

Mind you, I'm not completely naive. I don't trust MZ & SS, but your expectation that every know and understand the inner workings of all the large aadvertising networks feels a bit excessive.

I don't expect most people to know about it, I just find it odd when news outlets make industry knowledge seem like a secret they're only now revealing.

"This just in: Door locks on most buildings can be easily picked, film at 11"

I believe the speechlessness is at the idea that anyone is surprised Facebook can see your data if you aren’t signed in. As though it’s just a live feed of what you’re doing now or something.

You know, uninstalling all the apps and starting fresh is exactly what I've been wanting to do for a while. Now I have the motivation for it. Goodjob developers (ones with the Facebook SDK), you played yourself.

I believe your data (well not necessarily "your" data because facebook doesnt know who you are), but some data created by you can be accessed by facebook via other people's profiles simply by way of hearing your voice through the other person's app. This can be true for any app with access to microphone. I have also started fresh but I believe the problem goes well beyond just deleting your profiles and apps.

“We are connecting all the people in the world” has a different meaning now. Makes my blood boil.

Direct response to the WSJ article published a few hours ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19226480

That was fast.

Outline'd WSJ Article: https://outline.com/ZUGZzz

Tangentially related article, with demands made earlier this month, by Germany's Federal Cartel Office (WSJ): https://outline.com/Rwbzv4

>The authority ordered Facebook to make changes to its terms of service and how it collects user data. Data collected by the social network from third-party apps and websites can’t be assigned to a user’s Facebook account without their consent. Data gathered from Facebook-owned apps such as WhatsApp and Instagram also can’t be assigned to Facebook accounts without user consent, and if consent isn’t given, the data can only be used within the scope of those apps.

I was at a local political meeting yesterday. This was the talk this morning. A lot of calls went from the State Committee and Senate to the Governor. Infuriating behaviour by Zuckerberg and Facebook’s employees.

For years it was common knowledge the extent to which Facebook collects data but only now it is fashionable to speak up. FB's lobby machine will make sure no action is taken, ever.

Is there some sort of a security site which rates android apps by their level of respecting privacy, something above and beyond the quality gates of the play store?

The Reuters link is crashing Fennec F-Droid, the version of Firefox without the tracking. Anyone know why?

yes, they access to personal data


What laws has Facebook actually broken? Real leadership from the states would see data protection legislation with teeth. Outside of HIPAA it's a wild west and everyone you deal with is selling your data. Why should Facebook be singled out for data that was voluntarily handed over in return for a free service?

Serious question: what do people expect will come up from all these lawsuits? AFAIK Facebook has been sued over and over again since almost the beginning. None of these suits are criminal in nature so noone will go to jail. Even with billion dollar penalty these are penuts and usually gets the stock up now that investors know this specific case is closed. So really whats the purpose of all of this? Its like hitting Moon with millions of asteroids and whether craterred or not, it keeps spinning.

The point of a lawsuit isn't to destroy Facebook or its leadership. It's to stop them from doing some specific thing, and get compensation for the damage that specific thing caused.

Oh I see thanks. So they only break law once get punished and never break it again. Because 0.000000005% of their revenue will teach them a lesson.

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