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Facebook’s global lobbying against data privacy laws (theguardian.com)
200 points by sorokod 16 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 41 comments

> I don’t think it’s a surprise that the UK chancellor would meet the chief operating officer of one of the world’s largest companies …

It is. Politicians need to be transparent and serve the public. Private meetings without public record with big influent corporations is concerning.

Politicians should keep public records of this kind of encounters. That a public officer talks about his right to keep secret talks to remove privacy from his citizens is wrong at many levels.

"Facebook... Used chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg’s feminist memoir Lean In to “bond” with female European commissioners it viewed as hostile."


"the memo reveals that Sandberg’s feminist memoir was perceived as a lobbying tool by the Facebook team and a means of winning support from female legislators for Facebook’s wider agenda"


If someone was looking for a genuine place to deploy the trite phrase "virtue signalling", this is what that actually looks like.

from https://leanin.org/book

In response to Sheryl’s 2010 TEDTalk on the ways women are held back—and the way we hold ourselves back—viewers around the world shared their own stories of struggle and success. This overwhelming response inspired Sheryl to write this book. In Lean In, she shares her personal stories, uses research to shine a light on gender differences, and offers practical advice to help women achieve their goals. The book challenges us to change the conversation from what women can’t do to what we can do, and serves as a rallying cry for us to work together to create a more equal world.

I guess that in a more equal world men and women can more equally act in a morally reprehensible way.

Can't help but wonder if there is a "trickle down" morality effect from the leaders of such powerful organizations like FB.

Can the character of executive leaders be echoed down throughout the organization all the way to its users?

It's hardly feminist.

Serious question: how should we as informed individuals act towards our friends/family that work at Facebook? Is it like working at Blackwater or Haliburton, i.e. worthy of scorn or st least distance ? Or do we accept them and not talk about it and just have a nice time, even though they are actively undermining democracy as we speak?

I talked to a guy working at facebook and he just insisted its not actually that bad and nothing shady is going on. He clarified that nothing shady meant nothing that the public doesn't already know.

I mean, was that guy Zuck? Because I would guess that every engineer at Facebook wasn't aware of all of the shady stuff before it broke. Personally, I'm guessing that much more of this is to come.

Plus, shady is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe it's legal to sell ads that undermine democracy in the West, lead to ethnic cleansing in Burma etc., but it doesn't mean it's not horrendous. And it's guaranteed there will be more examples like those until the platform is regulated (which it has to be imo).

Worse than Blackwater because of the scale.

Yeah I think I tend to agree. But still not sure how to act.

Probably no point in performing scorn, but on the other hand why not just be honest about what you think without being actually angry or rude?

It's great that this is reported by The Guardian. What's missing is a way to communicate the same thing to the masses in a way that motivates them, i.e. somehow linking knowledge of this to a sense of loss or impending loss to the reader or user of Facebook.

Just on Sunday I had lunch with a friend who works at the ECB and asked disbelievingly whether phones and apps can really track your location or not.

So if Guardian readers with TWO PhDs don't get it, how are we going to educate a woman on the breadline with two kids, living in a shanty on the outskirts of Lilongwe?

I fully agree it would be great if the masses would somehow absorb and process this information, but in this case I'd like to think the Guardian a very effective venue.

No politicians on a European level, especially female representatives, would want to be caught dead getting cosy with Facebook. Facebook lobbying efforts are effectively dead in the water for the EU for the moment.

Facebook can prop up or destroy a politician in every EU country overnight by minor tweaks that no one will ever be able to detect. And for every politician that takes a tough stand there will be a politician who won't. They will actively put feelers out about their "flexibility" in return for social media "training/consulting services" for their campaigns before elections, funding for pet projects etc etc etc.

We are way past the point were anything can be done by politicians or the responsible press (both of whom have benefited from social media and have stuff to loose by being hardline). Things should have happened 3-4 years ago. Now we just wait it out till everyone learns lessons the hard way.

Niall Ferguson makes the case that this moment in time (transitioning from hierarchy to hyperconnectedness) has similarities to events that unfolded after the invention of the printing press. People remember the Reformation or Martin Luther as the positive outcome as information and connectedness suddenly exploded. But there were huge chaotic negative outcomes too - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_wars_of_religion

Educating the masses today is as hard as it was back then. Education requires a healthy environment and a good guide/teacher and time. In todays world assuming the press is going to fill this role is very unrealistic.

> “Sheryl took a firm approach and outlined that a decision on the data center was imminent. She emphasized that if we could not get comfort from the Canadian government on the jurisdiction issue, we had other options.” The minister supplied the agreement Facebook required by the end of the day, it notes.

As the old adage goes: Money talks.

At least they didn't succeed in derailing the passing of the GDPR. That's certainly encouraging and I guess the only piece of good news from the article. The rest paints a pretty depressing picture.

The amount of worry they showed in the two articles about GDPR reassures that it was adequate. So long as it's enforced adequately.

The Irish DPC has 10 open cases on Facebook, we'll have to wait and see if they shake out to meaningful change.

What exactly is the expose here? "Company lobbies against laws that threaten its business model", seasoned with various innuendo phrases that mean nothing like "secretive".

> What exactly is the expose here?

Facts & Names.

It's been a while since a Trump or Brexit type unexpected/unpredicted event that Facebook influenced has happened. As in nothing at a national scale.

Does this mean the architecture is getting better? Or are we going to get hit by more randomness soon?

There was reporting last year about Facebook being a catalyst for spreading violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar.

Facebook owned Whatsapp also caused several so called Whatsapp lynchings in India based on rumors that were quickly spread via the app. Brazil's current president's campaign also used a succesful disinformation campaign via Whatsapp.

Measles cases are on the rise in many countries. A lot of nasty politics is appearing in non-English speaking countries which gets no publicity, but it's difficult to trace to Facebook.

Of course, Facebook is merely the carrier for these influences. Some are driven by hostile intelligence agencies, some by opportunistic chancers.


It should be shocking, though. Comments like this don't contribute anything to the discussion and I would argue they're actually harmful because they make people complacent. If Facebook continually assures us that privacy is important in their discourse, but then on a practical level does what they can to destroy it, that's a big scandal and they should be raked across the coals for it.

Edit: typo

I upvoted that comment (admittedly only because it appeared greyed).

> Comments like this don't contribute anything to the discussion...

While flip, it makes a good point: this is a kind of “dog bites man” topic. Such topics can still be usefully addressed, (and the article is a good one) but the outrage should be at the effectiveness (if any) and perhaps techniques rather than the action at all (which unfortunately is the subject of the article title).

> and I would argue they're actually harmful because they make people complacent.

The brevity of the comment is indeed cynical, but it sparled a good comment from you as well as provoking thought on my part of “what makes a discussion like this relevant”

That's fair.

Should it really be "shocking" as in "surprising and bad"? I appears to me that one would have to be willfully ignorant to not be aware that FB & Co are very likely lobbying against privacy laws.

Having it confirmed should make you angry, but it shouldn't come as a surprise.

It depends where you come from. Not everyone is aware of the extent of lobbying. And, it may be - not necessarily - that FB does it more than other companies. These are all details that may get fleshed out in time

That's MO of all large corporation. Take Monsato for example - beautiful website full of happy parents with smiling children and message: "we love you and food quality is important". Behind the scenes: bankrupt farmers by spreading your own copyrighted seeds on their ground and try to patent human genes.

Right, so you're saying it's a symptom of a systemic issue.

Sounds like we're well overdue for an adjustment in laws to ensure that such things cannot go unchecked. Perhaps it's also a sign that globalisation wasn't an exclusively good development as it's tended to make corporations above nations and government. I wonder how we can dramatically rein in all of them so that it's rather more equitable.

Right. I would love to be a fly on the wall and see where things go wrong. Do the happy smiley PR people never talk to the actual figureheads making the corrupt decisions? Are they being held at gunpoint to say these glowing things about the company? etc etc etc.

I think Zuckerberg and Sandberg may not even be trying to be "evil" - maybe they are, I have no clue - they're "just" trying to grow their company in order to "do good in the world". If you convince yourself of something enough then you'll tend to put the blinders on to everything else. But people working jobs need to ask themselves on a continual basis if things are OK or if on the other hand their work causes real pain and misery

If someone quits due to a moral conflict, that just leaves the job open for someone with a lower moral standard. And a $100k salary job is a $100k salary job.

Plus, almost by definition, you have to put the blinders on to work in public relations.

Zuck already achieved his ideal, with a few compromises: well-connected social network of whole world, with no ethical abstention to share.

Remember, just one year ago the common consensus surrounding facebook was - "If you don't want it to be public, don't post it". We have learned so much since then.

Revelations are important.

Knowing how sausages are made makes for a more educated sausage consumer.

and how much would the consumer be educated by news such as "sausage maker lobbies against more sausage regulation"?

if everyone is ill and they know it's from sausage quality, why even discuss about regulating it? Just do it. that's what the short cynic comment was about. this is noise that only serves Facebook by pretending that the obvious action to be taken should be discussed. it's way past that point for online privacy.


> Some people, particularly on the left, are unconcerned about political censorship by Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc, figuring that they will only censor people the left don't like.

Any source for that? That sounds like a gratuitous accusation

> Any source for that?

Does it need a source? I mean, can't it just be taken as trivially true, in the sense that "some people like sex and money" ought just to be taken as true?

Are you claiming that no-one on the left wants, for example, censorship of individuals such as Tommy Robinson? It is trivial to prove otherwise, for example this tweet from Tom Watson, the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, stating:

> I have written to Google CEO @SundarPinchai calling on him, as a matter of urgency, to remove the YouTube page of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, aka Tommy Robinson.

-- https://twitter.com/tom_watson/status/1101931566387941376

> Some people, particularly on the left, are unconcerned about political censorship by Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc, figuring that they will only censor people the left don't like.

The article does not talk about censorship but privacy. That a corporation uses data to sell advertisements has nothing to do with personal expression and censorship.

We can have a discussion about censorship when it's relevant. What has to do your comment with the post?

> We can have a discussion about censorship when it's relevant. What has to do your comment with the post?

Facebook's business model involves violating people's privacy.

Some governments might not want FB to do this. So FB are lobbying them to allow them to violate privacy.

Might it not, therefore, also be the case that FB will do other things to allow them to violate privacy?

And one of these things might be censoring politicians who want FB to respect privacy.

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