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Facebook Still Tracks People on Yelp, Duolingo, Indeed (privacyinternational.org)
599 points by hadrien01 15 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 355 comments



Hacker News is a pretty small bubble, but news about Facebook being awful is pretty mainstream at this point. It surprises me that the majority of my family can still tolerate Facebook (and instagram/whatsapp etc.) despite what is known.

I'm pretty vocal among my family about data security/privacy, as I'd like to keep information about me and my family safe from prying eyes, but it takes a lot of effort and know-how to put up walls against the sort of electronic creepiness that's default-on for most of us. It's been almost 3 years, and most of my friends/family still don't have content blockers installed for Safari on iOS. None of my family or friends have made any moves to ditch Facebook, instagram, whatsapp, etc. even though the barrier to entry for new services is so low.

It's frustrating to know that despite how bad they are, despite every new discovery of terribleness, nothing's going to change, and they're just going to get bigger.


Lots of my family just takes the side of "I have nothing to hide".

My little brother is 20 years younger then I and was raised by youtube. I find his attitude towards things really weird. Like I asked him why he didn't use an adblocker to get rid of all the ads and he replied "I want to support to the streamers by watching their ads". As someone who grew up in a more punk/fuck authority, don't sell out 90s this threw me for a total loop. If he was on an android phone he would be mashing that ALLOW ACCESS button to play every game.

I quit facebook after cambridge analytica. Probably 2 weeks of typing "Fa...." into my browser and going "oh wait". There a few birthday parties/bbqs I probably missed because of not being reminded I exist on peoples invite lists, but they weren't the closest friends to begin with.


> I want to support to the streamers by watching their ads

> If he was on an android phone he would be mashing that ALLOW ACCESS button to play every game.

These are different things, and while he might have the same view you express in the second quote, that's not necessarily a foregone conclusion from the first quote.

It's perfectly acceptable to be willing to (and feel obligated to) watch adds to support a program that you enjoy. Not wanting to support anything you consume isn't "fuck authority", it's "fuck everyone else", because it isn't aimed at authority, it's aimed at anyone and everyone that tries to use advertising to support themselves.

I don't think most people would say yes if presented with a choice of "let us read your private instant messages for access", or at least wouldn't after being educated a bit more if they were willing. Giving away privacy is special because you can never get it back (for the specific stuff you gave away), and that's different than people saying they are willing to passively accept some additional content to get what they want. That they might also be giving away privacy is a problem, but that doesn't mean we can infer their position on privacy based on actions they weren't aware they were taking.


> It's perfectly acceptable to be willing to (and feel obligated to) watch adds to support a program that you enjoy. Not wanting to support anything you consume isn't "fuck authority"

I was surprised by the parent post over this too.

By most standards I'm out towards the fringe of the privacy and anti-ad viewpoint; I'm willing to argue that most billboards are intrusive and bad for society. But even I actively whitelist ads when I'm regularly visiting some creator who relies on ads for revenue and has reasonable practices with them. (Not wanting malware is of course a different concern.) It's the place where I'm most willing to see ads; I'm voluntarily directing my attention to content that wouldn't be available any other way, and the ad payouts are going to the people making the content.

It's not just that anti-authority isn't the same as anti-monetization, the punk DIY aesthetic isn't necessarily either. Sure, fuck big record labels, the modern version is probably refusing to let content hosts and scrapers profit off what you make. Buzzfeed does not need to show ads alongside random pictures they swiped off reddit. But warehouse shows still sold tickets, Against All Authority printed their own merch to sell, most people didn't try to fight the power by pretending that artists didn't need money to live.


I'm not surprised so many people only see this issue from one side, which is some version of "Keeping all of your data locked up is the most important thing in the world and ads are always bad. If you disagree with that you are either not technical or stupid."

It seems that nobody ever considers the other side, which would be that people are now targeted with ads that they want to see instead of poorly targeted ads that just waste their time. Another plus is that small advertisers can now afford to advertise alongside companies with much larger budgets by micro-targeting. I've engaged with lots of ads on Facebook and its not because I'm stupid, it's because they are showing me things I'm interested in. There's nothing wrong with being concerned with how data is being used but this constant dialogue from the "never ads" crowd is pretty tired.


> It seems that nobody ever considers the other side, which would be that people are now targeted with ads that they want to see instead of poorly targeted ads that just waste their time.

That’s a tall drink of kool aid.

Nobody wants to see targeted ads that will get them to spend more money than random ads. That’s a basic corollary of nobody wanting to spend more money in general.

Caring about advertising “working” to support businesses is like caring about blacksmiths losing horseshoe replacement work when automobiles arrived.


This is just pure nonsense. I don't doubt you believe it, but Facebook's earnings/advertiser's spend coupled with demonstrated user behavior very quickly put your logic to rest. The statement that nobody wants to see ads that would cause them to spend more money sounds more like a personal preference (and one that I would strongly question in the real world) than an objective fact about society at large.


> Facebook's earnings/advertiser's spend coupled with demonstrated user behavior very quickly put your logic to rest

I don't follow your leap of logic.

I could just as easily say those earnings reports proof how effective psychological warfare is at exploiting the weakness and insecurities of humans in order to part them from the fruits of their labour.


I'm as anti-tracking as anyone, but people generally only open their wallets for things they view as a fair deal, barring extortion.


How can you possibly prove this?

The observations I have made tell me that for some stuff people will buy because it's a good deal (usually non-essential luxury stuff) but for things they actually need in their day-to-day, they pay extortionate prices because there are simply few or zero options.


That's potentially fine and easy enough to solve.

Simply make "I want to see targeted ads" an opt-in choice, then. I suspect the take-up would be a fairly small percentage of the population, but if it would satisfy your needs (and others like you), as well as mine - then I'm all for it!


> Simply make "I want to see targeted ads" an opt-in choice, then. I suspect the take-up would be a fairly small percentage of the population, but if it would satisfy your needs (and others like you), then I'm all for it.

This is disingenuous, I suspect that you know why. The reason few people would opt-in is not because few people support or agree with the premise. The reasons is the very act of "opting-in" to a thing is a huge barrier.

If receiving CPR was "opt-in", I would expect 1/3 of the population would just never get around to it or somehow be confused with the process. I bet you even could drive the opt-in rate down to 10% just by requiring a separate paper form that had to be requested and mailed to specific address.

Targeted ads are a method by which lots of people are able to make a bit more money. These aren't exciting changes but it is the difference between lots of people having hobby and making it their job. As most people don't care enough about the privacy of their internet history to take trivial steps like using private browsing windows. Why should the obligation to be on the large number of people who don't care when the small number of people who do care can take trivial steps, like private browsing?


Woah there! disingenuous?

Using the example of life-saving CPR as a "similar" example seems to be extremely disingenuous of you, and I suspect you know why.

* CPR - almost universally considered a good & essential thing for all humans by any measure (sure, a small number of religious groups might beg to differ).

* Targeted ads - well... not so much. wow.


What? It was just an example about how defaults affect behavior, not a sneaky attempt to blur the idea of right vs wrong.


Although I am guessing you would suddenly start arguing for right vs wrong if I took your own idea about defaults and suggest that all governments which want to restrict Facebook's power (which is probably all of them by now) should just default to blocking access to Facebook and Instagram and Whatsapp unless people go to some government building and sign a release form saying that they are aware of all the consequences of using social networks and that they should not come to the government for help if, say, said social network swindles their kids of real money.


I would say that, regardless of whether the outcome is right or wrong, we know that the default is incredibly powerful, so it's disingenuous to suggest that changing it makes no difference. Which was the original point as I understood it.


I took it as a thinly veiled attempt to paint advertising as axiomatically good.

If the poster didn't intend the post to come across that way, he may be experiencing an inherent bias in his opinion, in that he believes advertising is self-evidently good and simply didn't consider that other people might not agree.

I'm not sure that's any better.


What if the choice were between relevant ads and irrelevant ads? (targeting is the mechanism by which you can make ads relevant)

For an example of irrelevant ads (minimally targeted), start reading your junk mail.


When targeted ads means seeing nothing but ads for TVs for the next month after buying a new TV, I'm willing to take my chances with the untargeted model.


I would call those ads irrelevant ads, and that's a failure in ad targeting today. It's not like ad publishers enjoy wasting money serving impressions to you once you buy the product and fulfill the need.


Because you always have the option of not using the platform in the first place and/or deleting your account. Your willingness to sign in repeatedly knowing the trade-offs signals your agreement to the terms. Facebook doesn't owe anybody a free ad-optional platform to engage with people, they aren't a government entity.


>>Facebook doesn't owe anybody a free ad-optional platform to engage with people, they aren't a government entity.

Unless you are just claiming that shadow profiles are not a real thing [1], I think Facebook is becoming more like a government entity in the sense that you cannot "opt out" of Facebook any more than you can "opt out" of your government, or you can "opt out" of having any friends in your life.

Unlike a government, which, even at its most corrupt and inefficient, is actually supposed to be built with a system of checks and balances to help serve its constituents, and in theory can at least be overthrown via coup or elections, the only thing you have with Facebook is this expectation that they don't "owe anybody" anything.

Make no mistake, Facebook is devious enough to know this, and it also knows there are lots of "useful idiots" (and I don't mean you, I mean the others who think this point shouldn't even be up for discussion!) who keep saying Facebook doesn't owe anybody <anything> without acknowledging that we have a phenomenon here which has never been seen before.

[1] https://www.cnet.com/news/shadow-profiles-facebook-has-infor...


I also found typing "Fa.." became muscle memory. I found blocking it with /etc/hosts worked for me -

https://gist.github.com/thomasbilk/1506210/2d20f47bbcca75b2f...

[edit] I was thinking about redirecting to a google image search of cute animals wearing human clothes but after a few weeks of seeing 'this site can't be reached' my habit was successfully broken


danah boyd has an interesting essay on this - Selling Out’ Is Meaningless

https://medium.com/message/selling-out-is-meaningless-3450a5...


I applaud your attitude. The other child commentors have the naive view like your brother that "enabling ads" give some of a positive impact (supporting artists) than the negatives of current ad industry.

The only way to individuals can fight tracking ads now is to starve the industry out. I am tempted to say take the fight forward and install Ad Clickers https://adnauseam.io/ in every browser you get your hands on.


If they're committed to the position that privacy is not valuable in it's own right, for it's own sake, then you might suggest to them that they put a webcam in front of their toilet.

"Nothing to hide" usually means they don't realize just how much can be known about a person from the trail they leave online.


What am I really losing though by allowing access? The company is passing on info to advertising networks so they can try and get me hooked on more mobile games.

No one cares who you are, they are just trying to sell ad space.


> No one cares who you are, they are just trying to sell ad space.

That's not true at all. GP comment referenced the fact that foreign companies get the data and then manipulate public opinion by spreading lies in a targeted manner, with the direct goal of cheating elections to get far-right, fascist governments in power globally.

> What am I really losing though by allowing access?

We have a lot to lose here. We already lost our democracy. At least temporarily.

> No one cares who you are

Yeah, they do. They care because that gives them power. We know humans like power and we know it is corrupting.

Your posts are spreading dangerous lies. The ad space is not some innocent thing. It is insidious and threatens democracy, with tyrants and dictators already taking over countries with the help of 'innocent ad space' that 'nobody really cares about'.


You've hit on the most nefarious part of all of it. People say they have nothing to hide, I don't doubt it. What they should be concerned about though is the constant, targeted stream of disinformation.

It's one thing when it's a detergent that is claiming to make your clothes whiter, it's another altogether when it's messages suggesting you might also want a whiter neighborhood.


Perhaps even that they believe that they have nothing to hide is, itself, a result of a disinformation campaign.


The asymmetry (power imbalance) bothers me.

People are profiting from my data. All that activity is unknowable to me.

How is that fair?

If I don't get any privacy, then no one else gets any privacy either.

Alternately, establish that everything knowable about me is mine and gimme my cut.


This is the entire issue: it is not "what you have to hide", it is the fact that you have to hide your identity, your location, your associations, your language and every minute bit of information about yourself to receive unbiased information.


Correct - this stuff "doesn't matter" only if what people think doesn't matter.


> What am I really losing though by allowing access?

Sovereignty over your cognitive processes.


Honest question: have you considered that some people are less susceptible to advertising? I used to think comments like yours were just absurd hyperbole, until I noticed them popping up enough that I considered the possibility that some people really do consider themselves utterly helpless in the face of advertising, and perhaps accurately so.

This isn't really an attack on your comment specifically; I just wonder to what extent this differential response drives much of the disagreement I've seen on the topic.

(you could perhaps say the same thing about the legalization of certain drugs).


Not OP, but the truth is that everyone is highly susceptible to advertising and other methods of mental priming. It is probably true that people are susceptible at different levels, though. However, the brain and our environment interact in highly complex ways that affect our behavior a great deal, and this is what advertising is designed to target. That's why a predominant advertising strategy is to equate the product being advertised with social status, something humans have evolved to be very sensitive to (and other social organisms too).

If you're interested in this stuff, I'd recommend the following books:

Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert M. Sapolsky

and

Media Literacy by W. James Potter


People like that are the intellectual equivalent of people who think they can win at three-cars monte; a gift to crooks and a bane to the rest of us. The old saw about looking around the table for the sucker, not finding one, and realizing that you’re the sucker applies. We’re all the same species of primate, and only accepting that along with associated weaknesses puts us in a position to maybe overcome them to a degree.


So I guess the answer is no, you haven't considered it.

My purchase decisions are and always have been pretty simple and articulable: for small-ticket items (eg bath soap), I buy the cheapest thing that I haven't already tried and found under par. For big-ticket items whose value affects my utility significantly (eg smartphones), I spend time doing research and if necessary asking friends who have experience with the products.

I'm not confidently asserting that it doesn't _feel_ like ads don't affect my purchase decision; I'm saying that I don't see anywhere for their first-order effects to affect my purchase process[1].

I'm very aware of the risk of overconfidence here, but this is something I've noticed and wondered about for years. I was pretty unsure of it given the strong prior everyone else seemed to have that ads are all-powerful brainwashing devices. But for years, whenever I have brought it up to people convinced of the ultimate power of ads, I've never gotten anything but lazy dismissals like yours that it's simply hopeless and you're at the mercy of any ad you see.

The two possibilities here are 1) I'm being overconfident and 2) you're not just generalizing your weakness to ads, but universalizing it and unable to admit the possibility of someone who's not as affected. Given everything the above, over all the times I've asked this question over the years, I'm a lot more confident in 2 than I am in 1.

[1] Second-order effects of course exist: the brands stocked by my local Walgreens and those that have visibility in review roundups will of course be skewed somewhat by advertising budgets. This seems inevitable though, and is a substantially different topic than the GP's mention of cognitive sovereignty.


So I guess the answer is no, you haven't considered it.

That definitely isn’t what I said or meant, and it makes it hard to talk to someone who insists on responding to what they’d rather I’d have said in place of what I did say. The only thing I’d add to what I did say, is what darkpuma said.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19324558

Furthermore, people who believe themselves immune to being duped are less likely to admit when they've been duped, because for them to admit they were duped means they must first overcome their ego and admit to themselves they can be duped. For this reason and others, con artists love people who think no con artist could ever trick them.


There is a difference in advertising when it is like some "BUY THIS TSHIRT" sidebar thing and the more pernicious "promoted" story that shows up in your feed you are consuming all times a day.

Also listed in this article is an app called Muslim-Pro which apparently helps with prayer times etc. As someone who is not American, I wouldn't trust this as much as everyone is freaking about Huawei being part of 5G.


Just because all the other reactions are so hostile: even granted that some people are less susceptible to advertising, our susceptibility will vary. There will be times when we are tired, preoccupied, upset, distracted. Advertisers can afford to blanket us with advertisements, to lie in wait for our moments of weakness.


People who have the hubris to think themselves immune to advertising and other underhanded methods of persuasion are in fact the most vulnerable.


To add my own take on this, I think the reason that people who consider themselves "immune to advertising" are the most vulnerable is because they suffer from some sort of cognitive bias where they neatly classify things into "ads" and "non-ads" and never think to question if an instance of the latter is actually the former.

They see the "HeadOn, apply directly to the forehead" low-rent ads and glossy big budget car commercials that associate a sports car with sex appeal or freedom or whatever and think "that's stupid, who would ever be so gullible as to fall for that?" while classifying more insidious things like undisclosed paid reviewers or a subtle product placement as non-ads or even more dangerously, as genuinely informative material. They see effective ads as something else entirely and are thus less likely to resist!


Furthermore, people who believe themselves immune to being duped are less likely to admit when they've been duped, because for them to admit they were duped means they must first overcome their ego and admit to themselves they can be duped. For this reason and others, con artists love people who think no con artist could ever trick them.

Another example: somebody who believes themselves immune to advertisement may casually allow themselves to consume an advertisement (for instance, by failing to use an adblocker.) They may later be in the market for a product in some category for which they saw advertisements, look up facts about various competing products, and make their decision in a way they believe to be a rational appraisal of the product facts, missing the very real possibility that were it not for the ads they casually consumed, they wouldn't be in the market for this sort of product in the first place.

Somebody who is aware of their own weaknesses is more likely to exercise caution than somebody who believes themselves invincible.


This is a perfect example of the hysterical, emotional responses I always see around this topic, where people turn off their reading comprehension and critical thinking skills and turn into shitty pattern-matching buzzword machines. Nobody in this thread said anything about immunity; there's no reason to assume that the hypothetical person I'm talking about has lower susceptibility precisely _because_ he's aware of the effects of advertising and takes steps to control their effects on his purchase decisions.


If you've not taken steps to limit your exposure, then you're too naive to honestly claim you have lower susceptibility. Ad avoidance is the most effective method of ad resistance.


Think of your last (purchase) decision. How much research did you do ? And are you an expert in the field? How did you learn about it ? Can you name five replacements (products) and describe their tradeoffs?


I hesitate to post any thoughts on HN that don't toe the party line, since these days the modal commenter seems to be little more than a pattern-matching and buzzword machine, particularly for topics for which the community has a collectively strong opinion. Commenters like you with some level of reading comprehension and cognitive skills are the reason I still hang around, so thanks for the response!

Your point is well-taken, and I'm definitely aware that ads' effects are a lot more insidious than seeing an ad and consciously deciding to go buy the product. Like many new grad Googlers, I started my career paying my dues for a couple years as an ads engineer and have had plenty of time to think about and hear a hundred different perspectives on advertising's utility and dangers. So rest assured, this isn't based on low-effort theorizing like "I don't _feel_ like ads affect my purchases". My purchases take one of two forms: small-ticket items (eg bath soap) where I buy the cheapest one that meets my constraints, and big-ticket items where it's worth spending at least a couple/few hours researching the options. I just don't see how first-order effects of advertising would creep into this process[1], beyond hand-wavy, unfalsifiable effects on the ultimate purchase decision (subjectively, I don't notice this either: I end up with the low-brand-recognition contrarian choice as often as I do the front-running brand).

Given the strong belief most people have in advertising's irresistibility, I started out with the hypothesis that ads may negligibly affect my purchases as very low-confidence, given the strong priors from others' beliefs. Over the last decade or so, I've 1) periodically (non-rigorously) thought about random purchases I've made and whether ads may have had any effect, and 2) brought this up to people who seem confident that ads are irresistible (both online and in-person), in the hopes that I'd get a good counterargument. The quality of response has been about the same as the dumpster fire the rest of this thread is: not only do people fail to offer any defense of the contrary view, they're emotionally incontinent about someone having the audacity to wonder whether ads don't wield ultimate power over every person. I still don't consider any hypothesis high-confidence until I've heard a high-quality defense of the counterargument, but the fact that I've tried a couple dozen times over the years and gotten only hysterical emotional responses obviously increases my confidence in my hypothesis over time.

Anyway, thanks for reading all that, assuming you got this far. In your opinion, what could I be missing? People with the consistent purchase process explained above seem like the violation of their "cognitive sovereignty" would, at worst, be negligible enough that the phrase would apply to any of a million uncontroversially benign things about society.

EDIT: I forgot to address this in my already too-long comment: "being an expert" on the products in question seems like a non sequitur, since in a world with zero advertising, the information gap would still exist. The salient question is whether ads _fill_ that gap at all, and it seems to me that they don't in this case. Also, inre "Can you name five replacements (products) and describe their tradeoffs?": yes, generally, excluding small-ticket items where pricing drives my purchase decision.

[1] The second-order effect of advertising coloring what's stocked at Walgreens and the discoverability and reviews of a product is unavoidable, but that's an information discoverability problem, not a "cognitive sovereignty" one, and as such is a substantially different topic from the one the GP comment brought up.


My product example was not very good. I'll try another angle. We humans are very biased towards what we know. Even professionals can fall for it, for example judges reading about a crime in the newspaper before the hearing.

Who are these people you speak of? I don't think they exist.


Its not just advertising, its curating your impression of the digital world


Do you recall the discussion last week about Facebook moderators turning from rational people into conspiracy theorists because they are exposed to that crap all day every day?

I would suspect that it is the folks who think they are less susceptible who are most at risk. In a way it makes me think of the misunderstanding around Dunning-Kruger (i.e. it's not an observation about dumb people, it is a warning to people who think they are smart).


A lot of people think they are not susceptible, then close their MacBook, put on their Beats connected to their iPhone put on their Nike shoes go to nearby grocery store and buy a Coca Cola and pay with their Apple Watch.

Yes you might not use any of these products, but highly likely majority that you do is branded. Also you are more susceptible to purchase certain brans that others, that's why advertisers want to target items that you are more likely to purchase.

This is not necessarily bad, but we learned recently that this mechanism was weaponized and things like Brexit and 2016 election is prime example how dangerous this is.


Where you been? these apps track your GPS coordinates 24/7, have your mic open all the time and get access all your contacts. They then sell this data from data aggregator to data aggregator and finally this data was being sold to bounty hunters or anyone who knew someone with access for a few hundred bucks. You can have an ex, stalker, business competitor etc buy your trove.

Did you read about the Cambridge Analytica scandal at all either? I mean if you are fine about someone knowing about everything you ever clicked like on online and directing adds to rile you up politically then fine. Let the algorithms feed you man.


Maybe those people who's job it is to addict you to a mindless mobile game will have to go and get a real job that actually contributes meaningfully to the economy instead of just redistributing consumer demand.


Edgy, but most jobs in a capitalistic, efficiency-obsessed marketplace involve redistributing consumer demand.


So far...


Some people don't like having data collected on them, period. In the end, most of that data results in emotional manipulation in the pursuit of behaviors that businesspeople want


The unfortunate explanation for the phenomena that you're observing is that most people simply don't care about their privacy -- at least not nearly as much as you do.


This. Here's a piece that I wrote that touches on this dissonance:

What Open Source Can Learn From Slack https://www.nemil.com/musings/oss-and-slack.html

> Third, we generally overweight the importance of our personal values when developing a product — without considering how users will make their decision.

> For example, users do value privacy, but many won’t switch to a product that protects their privacy if it means losing what they have — unlike so many of those commenting in Hacker News threads.


> The unfortunate explanation for the phenomena that you're observing is that most people simply don't care about their privacy -- at least not nearly as much as you do.

I don't think that is a fair assessment. Even if that is true technically, it is missing the spirit of the question at hand. I think many people are misinformed about what is happening in data collection and processing, and if they were well-informed, would care more about their privacy. Given that people are intentionally being misled about the implications of giving up their privacy - via various propaganda about how it's not-that-bad, etc - I think it is unfair to state that people "simply don't care about their privacy ... as much as you do".

I think if people knew what was at stake, they would care more. Stating that they "simply don't care" is basically ending the conversation preemptively, such that the only possible future is that there is no privacy.

But I think people are misinformed, greatly. Very few people have any idea how intense FB's data collection efforts are, or how insecure the data is when it goes there, etc. Even NYT pieces do not reach that many Americans. And NYT or other publications are careful and methodical about their writing, barely able to reach into the future and question out loud the future FB is building.

Democracy is at stake. This is more than a question of individual privacy: people need to understand that our society is crumbling due to lack of privacy, because wealthy and powerful institutions are using that intense violation into private American lives to brainwash targeted people with conspiracy theories and other dangerous society-damaging things.

Privacy matters to everyone, I'd wager even to those who think they don't value their individual privacy.


>> I think many people are misinformed about what is happening in data collection and processing, and if they were well-informed, would care more about their privacy.

Yea, people are uninformed. But, I think you're overestimating people's capacity to care about issues that will have no real consequence on their life. The average person just wants to spend time with their family/friends, gossip, and enjoy their hobbies. Facebook helps them do just that.

>> But I think people are misinformed, greatly. Very few people have any idea how intense FB's data collection efforts are, or how insecure the data is when it goes there, etc.

This is exactly the type of information that people don't care about. "So, you're telling me FB knows I'm browsing Groupon for wedding gift deals and looking at cat pictures on Reddit? O, and other people could have access to that data?" Shoulder shrug...

>> Democracy is at stake. This is more than a question of individual privacy: people need to understand that our society is crumbling due to lack of privacy.

I guess this is the type of argument people actually care about. The problem is that their uninstalling Facebook isn't going to change anything, other than making their lives less fun. If there's a real threat to democracy, the solutions need to come via regulation.


> But, I think you're overestimating people's capacity to care about issues that will have no real consequence on their life.

Why do you think that this has no real consequence on their lives? I would state unequivocally that privacy violations have a direct consequence on people's lives. And they see that consequence, too, it's not some hidden thing. I would blame a lack of privacy culture on the election of a lying, cheating government that has directly caused pain to individual Americans. This is happening presently and I believe that if we had valued privacy significantly more over the last two decades, there would be far less physical pain intentionally caused on targeted people.

> This is exactly the type of information that people don't care about. "So, you're telling me FB knows I'm browsing Groupon for house cleaning deals and looking at cat pictures on Reddit? O, and other people could have access to that data?" Shoulder shrug...

What do you mean? I'm not talking about that at all. I'm talking about how when you go to the grocery store and someone snaps a selfie with you in the background, FB knows. They know when you take the subway and where you go, they [will] know pretty much every single detail of your life even if you don't have an account.

I'm not talking about browsing the web. By the way, that privacy violation is real and serious, not something to shrug off.

> The problem is that their uninstalling Facebook isn't going to change anything, other than making their lives less fun

What do you mean by this? Uninstalling Facebook isn't going to change anything because FB spies out the wazoo anyway! And anecdotally, I think that people are generally happier when they spend less time on Facebook, not less happy.

> If there's a real threat to democracy, the solutions need to come via regulation.

Sure - but with the way laws are written, FB's lawyers will write those laws and nothing meaningful will change. More than legislation has to happen, a cultural shift into caring about privacy is needed.


>> What do you mean? I'm not talking about that at all. I'm talking about how when you go to the grocery store and someone snaps a selfie with you in the background, FB knows. They know when you take the subway and where you go.

"I don't care if FB knows I was at the grocery store, or at the mall, or on the subway. I care about not missing the invite to my niece's birthday party."

>> They [will] know pretty much every single detail of your life even if you don't have an account.

Imo, this is fearmongering...


I'm HN reader, I well aware of all these and I still don't care. The stakes simply is not high enough to matter or cause me suffering.


But the important point that it lost on the tech crowd is that being unconcerned about their privacy doesn't make them wrong. Tech people think because they know more about the details of the system and they've deemed it a clear and present danger to civilization, that everyone who disagrees is wrong or stupid. But this is nothing more than extreme hubris.


Actually it does make them wrong.

Privacy is not a "tech crowd" concern, it's a fundamental aspect of our societies and a human right.

Most people don't have to think too much about their freedoms because others fought for them and continue to do so.


>fundamental aspect of our societies and a human right.

"Privacy" isn't an absolute term, so saying privacy is a human right is pretty vacuous.


You start with a premise: "They are not wrong", but you then don't really make a case for why it doesn't make them wrong. All you say is "if you don't agree with me, that's hubris". That's not a very compelling argument and it's also humorous to me for how ironic that is.


There's nothing "ironic" about challenging a unsupported moral claim with its negation. That's usually the only response such claims warrant.


I think you'll find a lot of coherent arguments for privacy's value in this thread.

It goes along the lines of: Privacy is valuable because without privacy A, B, and C will be possible. And, we can all agree A, B, and C would be very very bad.

There are two ways to attack this argument: 1) A, B, and C aren't that bad when compared to the benefits of operating in an environment with less privacy. 2) A, B, and C are possible but unlikely. I.e. this is fearmongering.

I tend to go with 2.


At the very least, I do what I can for myself and my family. I should take that as a small victory.

I was talking to my uncle, a very smart man and a lawyer, about privacy concerns. He said something that will stick with me for years:

"You're like a prophet about this stuff, but like every prophet, you're 30 years too early for us to believe you."


I would also add that they don't properly understand why privacy is important and how its being violated.


It's not simply 'their' privacy in social networks.

The insight that they need to protect their friends is usually very convincing. - My hope is to spread this narrative.


Yes. Privacy is one of those things that doesn't matter, until it does. Then it's usually too late.


Okay. So what's the evil end game of FB privacy?

The government doesn't need Facebook to get your data (they go straight to the ISPs, anyway). There's 10,000 companies that buy and sell your personal data already (and has been for 30 years - you can buy lists for direct mail of people's name, full addresses, numbers, marriage status, estimated income, etc.)


The government doesn't need Facebook to get your data

You're only thinking of the federal level. There are many levels of government, and local governments from states and counties all the way down to companies contracted by the local dog catcher buy the data mined by advertising companies.

and has been for 30 years - you can buy lists for direct mail of people's name, full addresses, numbers, marriage status, estimated income, etc

But for 30 years you haven't been able to track someone's location on a minute-by-minute basis. Or in real-time in the case of buying data from a cell phone carrier. Plus a lot of other invasive information that hasn't been available until FB, G, and others weaponized the avertising industry.

We're not talking about public data. We're talking about companies selling private data.


You can't "buy" data from FB (unless you're referring to a local state PD getting a warrant). FB sells access to ad units, not the data itself.


I guess you've forgotten about the thousands of Facebook "partners" who paid money for access to people's private information.


They didn't. FB used have a more open API (Which HN and other developer communities clamored for), that meant if you you had an app you could see your users contact lists through FB. They shut this off in 2008.


> Okay. So what's the evil end game of FB privacy?

Apart from the evil of "making people buy shit they wouldn't have otherwise" that applies to all advertising the end game is to do price discrimination based on profiles of the individual. If they know you're friends are raving about a holiday somewhere then you'll see a higher price than a casual browser. This way you can extract the maximum amount possible from your customers.


Companies are free to do that now by using direct mail. EstI'll mated income info can be bought on most people in America.


>>Okay. So what's the evil end game of FB privacy?

You are looking at it the wrong way. It's not about Facebook's evil end game today. It's about what their current collection of data enables a future Facebook (or a company that may buy Facebook one day) to do. It's also about what malicious actors, government or otherwise, may do with the data if they get their hands on it, as they have, multiple times, in the recent past.

Today the data is used to show you ads. There is no guarantee that it will be used for just that purpose in the future.


What is the future scenario where this FB data is used wrong, that can't/isn't already being done by collecting ISP data?


But that's actually a tenant of privacy: You are free to care about it only when it matters, and you chose who and on what terms enter into your privacy sphere. Privacy is the inherent understood baseline. Everything else needs to justify it's existence, with explicit consent, and that consent can be removed whenever the individual feels like their individual liberty is now being violated.

I really like this definition of privacy on the Wikipedia page about the subject:

> The right to privacy is our right to keep a domain around us, which includes all those things that are part of us, such as our body, home, property, thoughts, feelings, secrets and identity. The right to privacy gives us the ability to choose which parts in this domain can be accessed by others, and to control the extent, manner and timing of the use of those parts we choose to disclose


This individualist or spacial definition of privacy doesn't make much sense in a world where the effects of privacy loss have macro effects and aren't limited to 'domains'. If you whip out your smartphone while I have a conversation next to you, even in a private or semi-public space, and my records get send somewhere without my knowledge, did you just violate my privacy?

If my boss has a speaker on his desk and I can't reasonably expect to be listened to, but he records me anyway, how do I prevent this?

Privacy needs to be understood as a social good, not as an individual right. Privacy is being destroyed in the same way pollution diminishes air quality, if you have privacy only locked into your home with the blinds shut you might as well not have privacy at all.

Privacy needs to be drastically expanded to have meaning for connected people in a social environment. It should mean I can use the train without being tracked, state a political opinion without forever having it pinned to my name, and without having to feel supervised every time I eat something unhealthy or say something that resembles dissent.


> If you whip out your smartphone while I have a conversation next to you, even in a private or semi-public space, and my records get send somewhere without my knowledge, did you just violate my privacy?

Yes. Privacy is everyone's responsibility. And I say this working in the digital marketing space.

> If my boss has a speaker on his desk and I can't reasonably expect to be listened to, but he records me anyway, how do I prevent this?

You have many options, the most extreme is by not working for people who put you in situations like that. But maybe having a talk would suffice. "Hey sorry I feel like my personal liberty is being violated here, I would prefer not to be recorded without my consent" If your boss insists, then you have the choice of not revealing anything you are not comfortable with being recorded all the way again to the extreme case of replying to everything your boss says with some same crafted response, as an example, "I would love to reply/answer, but not while being recorded".

> Privacy needs to be understood as a social good, not as an individual right.

100% emphatically absolutely not if not for the simple reason that this is contrary to American liberty and where our rights come from, and once you go down that hole, there is no going back.

> Privacy needs to be drastically expanded to have meaning for connected people in a social environment.

One of my favorite writers on this exact topic is Daniel J Solove. (He's the author of one of my favorite papers of all time "I've got nothing to hide and other misunderstandings of privacy" which is now subsequently a book called "Nothing to Hide")


Its like smoking, the danger to oneself and other is clear but yet you can't convince a person to stop smoking if they simply just don't care.

I imagine with privacy it will be even harder because the danger is much less clear.


And like smoking, it is addictive.


Most have no clue of the scope of stalking and creepiness currently ongoing, or in fact the depth of data being collected, collated and invasive profiling involved.

Google, Facebook and others have a whole collection of intentionally misleading dialogues and practices that deceptively conceal what they are doing under the catchall of 'improving user experience' or some such thing. Surely if they actually thought people 'don't care' all these firms and technical folks involved won't feel the need to be deceptive.

This comes across more as tech folks trying to offload their own responsibility in designing, building and profiting from surveillance systems by wishing that people didn't care.


Im fairly security conscious (conscious, as in I see it, but it doesn't mean I care...case by case basis). I use a password manager, all my passwords are separate, Im very careful who I give which piece of data to, etc.

On the other hand, my identity has been stolen 16 billion times by now. Even if it didn't, I own real estate, which means you can infer a hell of a lot of info about me by just looking up my property tax bill, which is public. You could cross reference a lot of data source and get way more than I've ever put on Facebook. Ironically, if you wanted to make my life miserable, Facebook is probably not the first, second, or third place you'd want to go to get the juicy stuff.

So yeah, it's pretty hard to care after a while. My credit reports are frozen, I post on social medias as if I was doing so under my first and last name, assuming they're public anyway, there doesn't exist any embarrassing picture of me or my immediate family in any form (at least that I know of), etc.

I'd like to have privacy, but even if I take every measure I can take, unless I get rid of my credit cards, bank accounts, house, etc, I'll never have it anyway, so...


> I'd like to have privacy, but even if I take every measure I can take, unless I get rid of my credit cards, bank accounts, house, etc, I'll never have it anyway, so...

So if you can't have perfect privacy, you'll have nothing at all? That's quite an all-or-nothing way of looking at this issue.

Well, I was out today when it started raining. I had my raincoat and my wellies in my rucksack, but I didn't have any water proof pants. I'd like to be dry, but unless I could get water proof pants, I'm not going to be dry, so ...


No. I'll take the privacy I can get. However there's a subset of things that I can't hide because they're all over the place, so while I won't post my address here, I'm not particularly afraid at the prospect of Facebook using/leaking it. All my social media posts will be public sooner or later as those orgs inevitably get hacked at some point, so I don't expect privacy there either.

In cases where its realistic in the current world to get privacy, I'll take everything I can get: eg I still think there's a reasonable shot at eventually making cities enforce rules that prevent people from bringing a drone to my window on the 5th freagin floor to take pictures of my bedroom, and I'll certainly push for that to death.


> So if you can't have perfect privacy, you'll have nothing at all? That's quite an all-or-nothing way of looking at this issue.

I don't think that's the point; I think the OP is saying that in OP's particular case, the marginal benefit of Facebook privacy is much smaller than the marginal benefit of privacy in other aspects of life, and the lack of privacy from these various other aspects seem to be here to stay, therefore why worry about something relatively trivial like Facebook?

There may be other fallacies in OP's assumptions of course, but those notwithstanding I agree with the underlying logic. E.g. if I deem riding motorcycles an acceptable risk, then arguably I shouldn't spend energy worrying about whether my airplane will crash.


I don't think he is saying to have nothing at all (refer to credit report freeze), it just means that he picked different fights than the ones you have. Similar to your close family members


Bingo. There's a subset of battles I just gave up on to spend my energy elsewhere. The info Facebook has on me is extremely trivial compared to what's actually out there for anyone to see (like my home address, my phone number, associated with my property value and my email address...which is something I actually care about but can't hide...by law. So what silly things my cat did yesterday? Go right ahead.)


Oh, yeah I can explain that, no problem! I'm one of those people myself. I've never heard of a single example of potential harm that could come as the result of tracking. So as you can imagine, to me these articles seem like a bunch of made-up hoopla over nothing.

To explain my mindset, basically it boils down to:

"Can something bad happen to me as a result of tracking?"

And nobody has ever said "Yes, here are examples."


Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

As to the real life consequences of a laissez-faire approach to privacy:

https://www.businessinsider.com/china-social-credit-system-p...

(Edited to combine my two comments)


Which I why I firmly believe in Nessie and Big Foot.


Nobody claimed it was. But GP's point is that he doesn't understand the hysterical responses to an absence of evidence, and doesn't see why he should change his behavior in the absence of evidence.

Don't get me wrong: I think Facebook is a fundamentally culturally rotten company, and probably disagree with him more than I agree with him. But non sequitur buzzwords like your comment are neither here nor there.


You'll get ads better suited to you. The horror!


> You'll get ads better suited to you. The horror!

Plus all kinds of bonus disinformation based on the profile your data has provided!


The vast majority of disinformation is from organic posts, not ads, and don't benefit from tracking.


"Organic" posts can have their ranking boost by money... Essentially, there are no organic posts. It is all advertising.

Somebody's already linked China's credit score shenanigans which is a good example; I'll also chime in by saying there's been actual books written how IBM (and big data of that time) was a direct factor in making the Holocaust happen (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_and_the_Holocaust). Once when "undesirables" (like myself) can be sorted by any widespread metric ... it's too easy to be used as a weapon for more nefarious means.


This has nothing to do with FB. The government has that data from ISPs already.


Clearly it will be eaaier to figure out who are undesired individuals if one has access to everyones Facebook feed.


I know a lot of people who want to quit Facebook, but nobody wants to be the odd one out who misses event invitations and stuff because they're the one person in their social circle who doesn't have an account. To partially solve this, I've been talking to a group of friends about all forming a pact to quit Facebook at the same time. This idea seems to resonate, and I've already gotten about ten of my friends to agree to it.

It's frustrating to know that despite how bad they are, despite every new discovery of terribleness, nothing's going to change, and they're just going to get bigger.

Plenty of other social networks that once seemed dominant have collapsed in the past. I agree it feels frustrating, but if a large enough minority of users abandons Facebook I do think that we could hit critical mass where even people on FB start using alternative communication tools to keep in touch with ex-Facebookers, and then that'll start creating a positive feedback loop by making it easier for more people to leave as other platforms fill in and pick up the slack.


I'd like to keep information about me and my family safe from prying eyes

What have these prying eyes done to them directly? Yes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but realistically, you only truly learn never to touch the stove again until you get burned. If they never get burned, then maybe they are safer than you think.


This is the real issue, I think. Facebook taking your data has no concrete consequences for most people, so it's easy to see why they might think of the typical "don't use Facebook, it's bad" as fearmongering.


I think the burn will come later, and we won't realize the stove is being turned up until we're the frog in boiling water.

Facebook is a bad company doing bad things (full of, undoubtedly, good people trying to do good things) and I'd prefer not to give them any information about me, as they've proved they will share it with whomever, whenever, and only change behavior after they've been caught. 10 or 15 years from now, when my daughter grows up a bit, I want her to be able to decide what pictures of her are online, how much Facebook (or the new social monolith company) knows about her, and who to share her data with.

I don't know what these companies are going to do with our data in the future, but they have terrible track records, and I know they are not to be trusted. I grew up with a gmail account that holds thousands of hours of gchat logs. I grew up posting stupid stuff on Facebook that probably still exists on their servers. I would gladly give up the meaningless interactions that took place in Facebook for just an ounce of invisibility back.

We don't know what the burn will be, but I can tell you it's coming. I'd just rather not have my hand on the stove when it finally gets turned on.


Facebook unfortunately is very useful for social events and events with people you have recently met and want to organize meetups or events with. Facebook messenger or Whatsapp groups are two of the most convenient ways because people will usually have one of those.

And of course, the choice between the two doesn't matter for this.


WhatsApp having been bought out by Facebook is a big pain. It's the defacto messenger for cross iOS/Android communication (at least where I live), and it's harder and harder to say "no I don't Facebook".


I believe you are discovering that living by your principles requires effort. This is a natural discovery and seems to reflect reality.

I have accepted that it's easier and better for me to be a pragmatist on these stances. Especially because the idea that "facebook is ruining democracy/the world/motherhood/apple pie" is my own biased opinion of the future. And I'm no good at predicting the future.


I’m not even thinking about if Facebook is ruining democracy. I just don’t like the company and I don’t want to use their products. Should be straightforward, but isn’t - to the point that you’re even ignoring your own opinion and using it anyway.

My comment was just a reflection on Facebook’s ever-increasing sphere of influence; I would have had no problem using WhatsApp before it belonged to Facebook.


It sounds like you're backing in to your beliefs based on what you like/dislike. Is that what you mean?

Google Hangouts is available for both iOS and Android.


Google products mix the terrible data privacy of Facebook with terrible Google product design. No thank you.


So is Signal, which isn't under the control of a mass surveillance / advertising corporation.

Replacing Facebook with Google is just replacing one form of terminal cancer with another.


Wouldn't texting be the defacto standard, and works everywhere for the last 25 or so years? Or, omg, actually use that phone app in your phone and call, which also works everywhere?


In a lot of countries the majority of phones plans work on a prepaid credit system and every text you send eats up X amount of credits. You can send an unlimited amount of messages and videos on WhatsApp for free if you have access to the internet. Phone calls eat up even more credits, but you can make as many as you want on WhatsApp.


Not sure where you live but in the UK it certainly does seem like -everyone- from all walks has WhatsApp and would rather talk there.

Obviously texts and phone calls are available, and I do not use WhatsApp because it’s Facebook; my comment was just a reflection on how pervasive Facebook is.


>It surprises me that the majority of my family can still tolerate Facebook (and instagram/whatsapp etc.) despite what is known.

I'm not sure why it's super surprising. Facebook's data collection has never personally harmed me. I like Facebook because it helps me stay connected and tools like whatsapp/messenger are some of the best cross-platform messaging tools.

Yes, Facebook has downsides, but I've never experienced a privacy-related downside.

Someone should provide a link to an article that exposes some really nasty stuff about Facebook--I already know Facebook knows my address and my likes/dislikes and probably what sites I browse (since many sites use Facebook tracking), and it reads my messages, but in a way, I don't really care about those things because Whatsapp and FB Messenger are free.


"I'm not sure why it's super surprising. Facebook's data collection has never personally harmed me."

No need to worry, they have the rest of your life to think of something and a lot more of your data to collect.

Best of all: you will dutifully provide the data while continuing to think that Facebook has never harmed you and you will likely never know how they harm you.


My point is that people keep on saying Facebook is harming me through its data collection, but no one has provided an example. Same with you, you assert that Facebook is harming me without giving evidence or examples of how the data is being misused.


I'm not saying FB is harming you, I'm saying the probability of them harming any user approaches 1 as more data about them is collected and FB get more desperate for growth/money.


> It's frustrating to know that despite how bad they are, despite every new discovery of terribleness, nothing's going to change, and they're just going to get bigger.

IMO, they need a non-profit competitor. There's nothing surprising or innovative left in "share photos and news with selected people" so there's not much value-to-consumers left to innovate on. There is innovation left in how to monetize consumers, but there's not likely to be much value to humanity in that; and there is likely to be a lot of harm. (Looking at you anti-vaxers.)

Non profit. There's needs to be a non-profit facebook alternative to stop all this idiocy.


Because non profits have a better track record of keeping peoples informations safe?


Not having a for-profit rationale would cut down on most, if not all, attempts to sell personal information, because funding could come in different ways (donations, for instance).

Some non-profits have a terrible track record with information security, but that's mostly because their major focus is not IT.


> news about Facebook being awful is pretty mainstream at this point

Given that mainstream media has been pushing the Facebook is evil meme for the last two years since Facebook changed their ranking models to deprioritize news sharing and destroyed traffic to media sites, this is unsurprising.


> It surprises me that the majority of my family can still tolerate Facebook (and instagram/whatsapp etc.) despite what is known.

I don't think I'm THAT concerned with privacy but even I have thought about disabling my Facebook account. What stops me from doing that is that there isn't really a replacement for it. I don't even really post. Essentially the only thing I use it for is messenger.

However, if I disable it I won't have any way to contact the friends I have who live in other countries or who I don't frequently talk to. And please don't tell me to "just use email". I don't want to use a service where I have to find people by some unique ID instead of their actual names.


> even though the barrier to entry for new services is so low.

Except for the entire social network that remains on the old service & not the new one -- which comprises most of the value one obtains from a social network.


It's because nothing's actually happened, from a day-to-day standpoint. Sure, their data is "out there", but what does that even mean? Nothing actually happens, as a result. The problem is too abstract, too theoretical.


it's not that low, read more about Metcalfe's law: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metcalfe%27s_law


I feel the same, and I just don't understand it. Even my wife just doesn't care, even though she understands what Facebook are doing.


> majority of my family can still tolerate Facebook despite what is known

They've got a captive audience. Like it or not, the service that Facebook provides is unparalleled, and short of direct, tangible harm, it's not enough for most people to give that up.


> the service that Facebook provides is unparalleled

Except that it's not. The vast majority of what Facebook does can be done without Facebook. The essential problem now is that there are large numbers of people who have only ever known Facebook and are unaware of how to accomplish those things without it.


> Except that it's not.

Except that it is. Where else than facebook.com can I go to connect with 80%+ of my coworkers, family, and friends?

Like a stereotypical engineer, you're thinking about the software. People don't use Facebook for just the software. They use it for the network.


"Can be done" without Facebook and "Is possible now" without Facebook is two separate things. It would take billions of dollars to create the network effect FB has now, which is the moat any other network would have to cross.


>> It's frustrating to know that despite how bad they are, despite every new discovery of terribleness, nothing's going to change, and they're just going to get bigger.

> They've got a captive audience. Like it or not, the service that Facebook provides is unparalleled, and short of direct, tangible harm, it's not enough for most people to give that up.

I think it's mainly unparalleled from the advertiser perspective, but not the user perspective. I think network effects aren't as compelling to users as is often assumed.

I think Facebook's privacy terribleness will be part of its undoing, but only part. Other things, like fashion, user fatigue, and potentially new regulatory antitrust oversight (to block acquisitions) will be significant factors, and they'll all reenforce each other.


> I think network effects aren't as compelling to users as is often assumed.

Tell that to the carcasses of Facebook's competitors.


What is wrong with whatsapp?


I had a conversation the other day with two journalists on this subject and I was flabbergasted by how little they seem to know. They were under the pretext that when something is free you're the product, but they didn't seem to realize just how many shit Facebook knows about them or how far and deep the tracking goes. I've come to the realization that apart from our community no one else seems to understand what's at stake here.

The real issue is that most people can't make the correlation between personal data that are monitored and ways of exploitation. They don't know that any individual can target them specifically by using their e-mail or phone number. They have this abstract notion that somewhere a company is running a generic ad that shows shoes or cars to them and that's all there is.


I hate this data tracking as much as everyone else here, but is this really a surprise to anyone? I used to put Google Analytics on my blog, and I thought most of the people here were pretty aware of how gigantic the Facebook advertising claws stretched.

I feel like until we have an internet that isn't dependent on ad-networks, this is an inevitability. Targeted ads perform better, and you cannot expect these giant megacorporations to act ethically when it will cut into their profits and while they're technically not violating any laws.


The ad-networks will always try to take extra value regardless of dependence. Ads exist on paid services. My Economist subscription requires me to swipe away Oracle ads. The last flight I was on tried to sign me up for a credit card. No matter what a customer pays, there will always be a temptation to make a bit more money by showing an ad.

Ads will exist until people are empowered to block them.


I think this is the same concept as how people will gravitate in a city to have the worst possible commute they can bear because most people value having a nice home and a nice job over a nice commute. In a similar way services will inevitably be crammed with ads until it starts to negatively affect profits, because people value the content and publishers value money more than either value an ad-free experience.

To stretch the analogy, ad blockers are people who drive in the HOV lane without paying. It isn't so bad that you do it, but if everyone did it the system would break. I personally block ads out of principle because I believe we can transition to a micropayment model and blocking ads forces the issue.

That being said, can anything really ever save us from ads? From my logic in the first paragraph, Patreon et al will eventually be as ad-infested as anything else. Maybe the fundamental answer is to consume less content.


They will also continue to exist because we have been conditioned that the whole internet will cease to exist without them and that ad blocking is "stealing" which is immoral and wrong.


Ad blocking is immoral and wrong. Loading a website with ads has an implicit agreement: I will give you my product (website content) if, in exchange, you agree load these ads.

If you don't want to see ads on a given site, your moral option is to stop visiting the site.

Glad we finally resolved that once and for all. /s


No it is not. It is my browser, coming into my house. Prove to me you are not doing something creepy with the data, being annoying, and providing value back in your ads and I will decide to quit blocking you.


An implicit agreement isn't an agreement at all. there were no terms, was no negotiation, just an expectation projected by the website creator.


What about setting my hostfile to block sites that are known to track me? I'm not explicitly "blocking ads", just "blocking tracking", but a side-effect of this will invariably be that ads are blocked? Is it immoral?


The problem isn't ads. The problem is the stock market. Investors want to see growth every quarter or they punish the company. If your business is making money from ads, you have to increase impressions. At first you can put in more ads. But there's a limit. So, next you move to targeted ads. The overwhelming shadiness to all this is a direct result of investors not seeing past this quarter.

Want to see less intrusive business practices? Get rid of quarterly earnings reports.


'Surprise' shouldn't be the standard required to bring it up, otherwise challenging and changing the status quo wouldn't be possible.


I don't disagree, except the title of the blog post began with "Guess What?", kind of implying new information.


In American English, "guess what" is often used in a somewhat 'sarcastic' manner. Used before expressing annoyance with a continued state of affairs.

Example:

> "Guess what, Jimbo 'forgot' to pay his share of the rent again.


It's a "surprise" only to the extent that Facebook's leaders have been hauled before Congress and promised under oath they value privacy. Or something like that. The insidious thing here is: to the layperson, Facebook has promised to the government to play by some rules, so they must not be doing anything too harmful, or else they'd be in trouble.


> I feel like until we have an internet that isn't dependent on ad-networks, this is an inevitability.

It's not just the internet. Every industry that sells anything uses direct marketing, and that requires collecting information about people. Until you eliminate all advertising and marketing, you will be tracked in some way.

Target famously predicted a teenage girl was pregnant before her father even found out. They did it by tracking and analyzing her purchases, not by digging into data from Facebook. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2012/02/16/how-targ...)

Privacy violation is a symptom, but the cause is capitalists trying to sell as much crap as humanly possible. I'm honestly surprised there isn't an app that pays you to tell advertisers about your friends.


Until you eliminate all advertising and marketing, you will be tracked in some way.

Sort of. There is an acceptable amount of tracking.

For hundreds of years billboard, newspaper, television, and radio advertisers tracked if their ads were working by measuring sales. That was acceptable.

Facebook and Google trying to watch my every move is not acceptable.


It's not only ads, every AB test you run needs tracking user data


> I feel like until we have an internet that isn't dependent on ad-networks, this is an inevitability.

I believe that ad networks as they currently exist are actively destroying the internet.


but is this really a surprise to anyone?

Please don't do this.


> I used to put Google Analytics on my blog

Have you found a viable alternative or removed analytics from your blog altogether?


Not OP, but personally I removed it and don't miss it. But then I'm not trying to monetise everything, so analytics seem more about the ego boost in retrospect. A bit shameful I was willing to compromise my readers' privacy for that.

Depending on your needs, it's pretty easy and interesting to hack something together yourself though.


I think I will resort to looking at the Apache access logs.

I just want to know the number of daily unique visitors and where they are located (geographically).


Not the parent, but I switched to Matomo (https://matomo.org/ - previously known as Piwik) and have been quite happy with it.


In my particular case, I realized I really didn't care about traffic stats with any kind of intimate detail, so I just wrote a thing that tagged the user with a cookie and sent a POST to my site with JS, but even then I eventually just gave up and decided that I really have no interest in the analytics since I really don't have any plans of trying to monetize my blog.


Server-side, goaccess is pretty rudimentary, but it works really well for me.


Personally, I just analyze my web server logs to get this data.


I use Heap Analytics. I get all of the analytics I want, but they aren’t selling the analytics data to advertisers.


>while they're technically not violating any laws.

May you elaborate on that?


As far as I know, Facebook isn't doing anything directly illegal with all this data tracking, and as a consequence there really is no incentive for them to stop. If they were violating a law, we could charge and/or sue the people involved and it would (theoretically) stop.


Oh the number of apps that EVERY TIME are ran try to talk to FB... Even my phone banking apps. I understand that from a game or a selfie app. They are 'silly' by nature. But why the F... would my bank want to notify FB that I am using their app?

The same applies for EVERY airline app I have used over the last 5 years.

NoRoot Firewall for Android, and put a global Deny rule for 31.13.x.x and problem is solved.


> But why the F... would my bank want to notify FB that I am using their app?

It's not that they want to notify Facebook. It's that they get useful functionality from libraries that Facebook makes available. And they've either decided that sharing your info with Facebook is a worthwhile tradeoff for the engineering time, or they don't realize it's happening.


If my bank doesn't realize that their app is opening connections left, right and center, then we got a problem.

The same applies to all airline companies that through their apps and my boarding passes have access to TOO much personal data.


I would like to know if the application owners/developers get some other compensation/$$$$ from the 'pings' they so freely give to my FB. I think I will write to my bank asking them and then ShowHN of the results/letters.


Installing the pixel lets you better target your own ads. Similarly, google gets free pings from developers for "free" analytics, or "free" captcha.


What services are you thinking of?


If you click through to the original PI investigation [1], it says:

> Facebook routinely tracks users, non-users and logged-out users outside its platform through Facebook Business Tools. App developers share data with Facebook through the Facebook Software Development Kit (SDK), a set of software development tools that help developers build apps for a specific operating system.

I don't have more info than that

[1] https://privacyinternational.org/appdata


Facebook has an /excellent/ cross-device graph that no has an alternative to. And its free.


Keep in mind that FB has an analytics product similar to Google analytics. I agree with the outrage over FB, but I'm surprised that thus far Google has mostly skated by without too much scrutiny from the general media.


> I agree with the outrage over FB, but I'm surprised that thus far Google has mostly skated by without too much scrutiny from the general media.

Google has been smarter by being much more low-key about their data collection and potential privacy problems. Facebook's attitude has been so blatantly sleazy, self-serving, and user-hostile that they've made themselves a magnet for negative attention.

Though Google may catch up, due to their questionable permission requirements for some of their apps (e.g. you must enable all the tracking just to use voice commands with Android Auto).


As of Android 6.0 they use the Apple permission model where the app doesn't ask at install time, but at run time and has be able to deal with the permission being denied.


I know, I have Android. They will disable features until you give them some over-broad permission or enable tracking on your account. Another example is Google Maps won't let you use its "home address" feature without enabling "Web and App" activity tracking.

They've also worked around their own permissions model. Google Play Services demands a massive amount of permissions, and will yell and scream and try to scare you if you take them away. IIRC, a lot of Google's own privacy invasions are conducted indirectly using that library.


The thing that Facebook is criticized for in this post is something that Google not only does in an extent that dwarfs Facebook - they also more or less invented it.

This emotional negative bias against Facebook has existed for more than a decade in this otherwise informed and rational community, so it doesn't surprise me anymore.


> But why the F... would my bank want to notify FB that I am using their app?

Probably for ads: either measuring ad conversions, or building ad targeting/exclusion buckets. For example, your bank can exclude your devices from their FB ads because FB already knows you have their app and presumably a customer.


> Oh the number of apps that EVERY TIME are ran try to talk to FB... Even my phone banking apps. I understand that from a game or a selfie app. They are 'silly' by nature. But why the F... would my bank want to notify FB that I am using their app?

Because by doing that they get access to a ton of analytic data?


Has DENY 31.13.x.x broken any important things for you? I'd be curious to try it on my home network.


you can try blocking these on your homenetwork to specifically block facebook domains. then if they swap em around ips etc. you will still block them https://github.com/jmdugan/blocklists/blob/master/corporatio...

there's more of these kinds of lists out there for other intrusive ad companies.


Facebook made a play to be the social layer for the web. A single place where you explicitly create a social network, then you can use it from all kinds of places. Want to share something with your friends? Smack the share button, it’s right here in your app.

Not a bad idea really. The problem is that it turned super predatory. Facebook just wants engagement at all costs. It’s not a tool for managing your life, it’s a tool for someone else to profit off it.


> Not a bad idea really.

I think it's a genuinely bad idea to put any single entity in the driver's seat like that.


these ideas aren't good or bad in this way really. only in their execution we find that the integrity of humans is not developed enough for these kinds of services or capabilities.

problem is that with tracking, people on the tracking side become to greedy for profit, and without tracking / censorship, then the people on the user side become vile and corrupt suddenly :D. either way there will be people enjoying it and people hating it at the same time. there's no pleasing some :D in any case , and really, maybe we should stop trying to do so, and just get on with more useful stuff than debating everlasting debates.

in the end it's more philosophical problem than anything, and how useful are those to debate...(except to people who enjoy that of course!) are we in a simulation, or not? no way to prove it, no impact even if it would be, so why try to get the whole of internet users involved and distracted with it. we can go back and see, that then, it will probably just be people who like to discuss these things who are doing so, and they will always do so.

is it immoral or wrong to make a profit within a capitalist system? Or is it immoral or wrong to expect someone to change their ways or return your investment just because you didn't pay attention and paid for something you didn't want??

example of facebook user mentality i saw in some drunk at a station: - drunk buys a paper from a bum - bum gives paper for 50 cents - drunk gets mad and attacks bum because the paper is a day old.

really, that's the privacy debate in a nutshell.


I think the essence of the privacy problem is even simpler -- it's a question of agency.

I have little choice about whether or not I'm going to be spied on by Facebook, Google, etc. That's the problem. If I could engage in some sort of meaningful informed consent (if I consent to data collection, then it isn't spying), that would resolve 90% of the philosophical issues.

But I can't.


these ideas aren't good or bad in this way really. only in their execution we find that the integrity of humans is not developed enough for these kinds of services or capabilities.

Yes, things that don't exist can't be good or bad, and neither can things be good or bad without people. Once the thing exists at the same time that humans exist, we get opinions on good and bad. One way of deciding whether something is good or bad is whether it works to benefit your life, vs. making things worse.

You can call this a philosophical problem if you want, since pretty much anything can be described the same way, but realizing that FB people are greedy fucks when it comes to our daily datapoints over the course of our entire lives (they hope) is not a matter of theory. I'm not sure how you skated from FB's greed to "people become vile and corrupt when they aren't tracked by FB," though.

is it immoral or wrong to make a profit within a capitalist system?

Sometimes, and sometimes those profits are specifically illegal, with penalties at the level of "decades in prison." We the people get to decide (more or less) what acts qualify for those penalties, and there is no universal truth to which these penalties must be compared. We could put all board members of companies that leak data in prison, calculated at one day for every person's data that was exfiltrated. Strict liability. That is the privacy debate in a nutshell.


Have you tried asking your bank about it? With Facebook's standing diminished, maybe they'd be receptive to removing the association between your bank and Facebook's brand.


Identity verification which helps with fraud prevention most likely. It only has to prevent a small % of fraud attempts to probably be worthwhile for them.


> put a global Deny rule for 31.13.x.x and problem is solved.

Since Facebook is only one of a huge number of other objectionable data leakages apps present to us, I recommend something more expansive than that. I recommend blocking all outgoing traffic entirely by default, and only enabling outgoing traffic for specific apps to specific destinations as needed.


Curious how you manage to do this? Do you use apps, rooted OS, proxy sinkhole, etc?


I run rooted, so I can use AFWall to configure the Linux firewall. Using a VPN-based firewall works as well, but only if you don't want to use a real VPN at the same time (which I do).


I would expect this from any app that implements using FB as your account to sign in, no?


Would any bank use FB for sign-in? That would take things to a whole new low.


Reasons I would use FB for sign in

-facebook already as my bank account info

-facebook already has my social security number

-if facebook doesnt have that stuff, im sure they could buy it or brute force it in seconds. (they can brute force a key for onion addresses...)

-I dont really care if facebook knows WHEN I log in (remember we are just talking log in services, not ad analytics)

-I trust facebook's service itself to be very secure. Facebooks login system its very likely insanely complex to prevent unauthorized logins. They know so much about me, they know when someone isnt me. See also, Google. I dont trust my bank to have this kind of "me detection" like I do Facebook/Google.

Reasons I would not use FB to sign in

-no other way into account if facebook decides to lock my account.

-super arbitrary content policy

-terrible support team to resolve arbitrary issues.

From a technical perspective, facebook seems like an excellent way to verify and secure the identity of "is this me." I cant really think of anyone else at the Google/AzureAD scale who does it better than Facebook. From a customer service perspective, Facebook gets the human side wrong of how to handle people.


> facebook already as my bank account info

> facebook already has my social security number

> if facebook doesnt have that stuff, im sure they could buy it or brute force it in seconds.

Do you not agree that this is a somewhat sad state of affairs?


I dont. I gave them the first two, and the third just speaks to how powerful their compute abilities are and how much money they have. I didnt say they were doing it.


While you are of course completely entitled to provide this information to anyone you see fit, I still find the thought of a bank using FB integration for anything, especially authentication, abominable.

And the fact that FB has your data certainly isn't a justification for a bank using any kind of such integration. My pet store has my credit card data, doesn't mean I want my bank to use them as an identification provider or have any integration with their systems.

And if powerful abilities are what you're looking for, the mafia can also brute force anything out of anyone. So I guess... yay? That's a good reason for banks to use them.

The reasons you yourself gave in the "against" section are sufficient to disqualify them. I have a contract with my bank. Any 3rd party introduced in there is additional liability. When that 3rd party is a company with a proven track record of every shady practice known to man it just reinforces my opinion.

I'm sure there are banks to cater for everyone's tastes. I just don't see a reason why I would ever want to give my business to any such bank.


Would you be mad if your bank offered to allow people to verify their identity with FB, or if they forced it. I dont see why the former bothers you, if you choose not to use that feature.

I would not use FB to log into a bank because of the Against section. Its not the technical implementation, but their human services that make the product too risky to be trusted as my keys to a door. Im not worried about them logging in and poking around my bank, im worried about them locking me out.


I wouldn't be mad, I would just choose to take my business elsewhere.

First of all I do not trust Facebook in any way and would no longer trust my bank if they trusted Facebook. FB does not have any kind of obligation towards me (at least none that they're willing to uphold, even if it means bending or breaking the law). I consider banking to be a critical service to me so I personally wouldn't want them to have anything to do with my bank.

Second of all FB and the bank could at any time share data that would negatively impact me and we already know there are no negative consequences to that as far as the companies are concerned.

And lastly, my bank using this even as an opt-in sets the trend and suggests their intentions in the future. Continuing to use it means endorsing the behavior. Like buying software from a company that also sells to oppressive governments. If I have a choice I avoid it.


I guess I trust facebook more than a small credit union to have secure software, better code review, smarter employees who dont fall for phishing, and less likely to lose their password database. The worst thing to happen to facebook from a security standpoint is either that page preview token or someone logging into some of their back end accounts a while back, and in both cases the people who got in didnt get very far.

Myspace, Adobe, and Dropbox all lost databases.


Why does Facebook need your banking info and SSN? And how in the seventh circle of hell would they feasibly brute force the correct information?


Because if you transfer too much money through them in a month they are required to verify your identity. Federal laws.


What's the connection between FB having to verify your identity and the question of brute forcing anything? I am 100% sure that brute forcing anything is 100% illegal. Using this as an "argument" in this discussion is really scrapping the bottom of the barrel.


Maybe you are reading too much into that line. The point is, im not giving them anything they dont already have access to.

(If they are asking my social to verify my identity, they already know it to verify against.)


But that's you. Some people don't give FB that kind of info. And they definitely don't want the social media identity to be irreversibly tied to their finance. It's not only about what you give FB, it's what you indirectly give to the bank. How long before they share data and that does affect you?

Again, your personal choice could be to post you CC data on your FB wall, you're free to do whatever you want. But you're seeing this very one sided if you assume everybody should be just as comfortable with FB and anything real in their life sharing data, or relying on a 3rd party with 0 obligations towards you for those critical services.

And mind you, the problem isn't that the bank is relying on a third party for things. They may already be using a cloud service, they could also be using an Apple ID or a Microsoft account. It's that they would use a social media platform in general (thus allowing data sharing which will never do the customer any favors), and Facebook in particular (since they have some of the most atrocious morals and unreliable promises).


give what I could consider private (credit card habits, gmails, fb messenger conversations) facebook having my credit card habits would be the least of my worries. maybe they could target me with more relevant ads.

i agree fb is terrible at promises or treating people like they matter, but the only thing they ever do with the data collected on people is make them targetable demographics to advertisers. use an adblocker if you dont want to see them.


How many people here track their users? How many people here track where their users come from, what they click on, who they are, etc?

The constant articles deriding Facebook ring hollow considering most of HN’s audience is engaged in similar behavior.


There’s a very large difference between:

- Tracking the behavior of your own users on your own app, for product improvement purposes (which most users will expect)

- Sending the behavior of your own users on your app to an advertising surveillance company, with an ID that can be used to correlate that behavior with behavior elsewhere, without their knowledge, consent, or reasonable expectation

And before anyone says it, no, a generic line about third-party service partners in a sadistically long TOS/Privacy-policy does not count as meaningful consent. Even Supreme Court justices admit that they don’t read them.


> Tracking the behavior of your own users on your own app, for product improvement purposes (which most users will expect)

Depends. I think it's clear that users do not expect you to record their session, even though it's tracking behavior for product improvement.


I'm not too up to date on the news, but isn't FB building a shadow profile of everyone?

So even if you're not a user, you get tracked and your data gets sold. That to me was a step too far, and got me to really scale back what I share on the Internet.


They don't have shadow profiles. That was FUD spread by the news, and articles like the one we're commenting on now that constantly get voted up to the front page.

Here's Facebook's post explaining what they collect for people who haven't registered: https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2018/04/data-off-facebook/

TLDR: They collect what Google and all the analytics and ad-network companies collect, in order to target ads, along with incidental "user data" like IP address, etc.


> How many people here track their users?

Right across the Internet? Very few, I imagine!


Everyone using Google Analytics is letting a third party track their users across the Internet for the DoubleClick ad network.


> Right across the Internet? Very few, I imagine!

Mainly because they don't have the resources to do it.


I'd like to think plenty of folk here would have ethical objections, too. Perhaps that's wishful thinking.


It's easy to object to something you can't do. I'm sure there's a decent amount of people who would maintain their objections, but many others would "evolve their values" when such behavior became possible and beneficial to them.


I wouldn't do it regardless of resources, because I'm not a sociopath.



This just means that people who already know your phone number and are already your Facebook friend will see your profile if they search for your phone number. That seems pretty harmless to me.


Not to me, for a bunch of reasons -- starting with the fact that it assumes that the phone # you use for 2FA (which nobody should be doing anyway) is the phone # you want people to contact you through.


If lots of people, or very few, do it would that change the ethics?


Speak for yourself! I'm using Piwik but it's not giving me that kind of information.


Why would you defend Facebook with a Tu Quoque?


I'm not defending Facebook. I'm not responding to a logical argument, therefore I'm not committing a logical fallacy. Whether someone believes user tracking is unethical or not is a value judgement, it can't be proven true or not true.


Consider the possibility that there are legitimate cases for limited tracking.

Maybe the scale, motivation and intent matter.


No, those don't matter in my view. The only thing that matters is if the people you're tracking have given you their informed consent to be tracked. If they haven't, then it's simply wrong.


At least for Duolingo there is an easy fix: don’t use it. I’m currently reading a researcher paper written by an employee and while the paper is interested the app itself is abysmally bad. I just tried the app again today just to be sure my opinion wasn’t a mistake but it reinforced it instead.

That app have no lesson, nothing is explained, there is just quizzes slapped on your face until you remember the good answer. The distractors are bad (you can find answer using capitalization in some case), sentences seems to have been generated automatically etc. I cannot fathom how one can learn anything with that nor why it is so popular.


> That app have no lesson, nothing is explained, there is just quizzes slapped on your face until you remember the good answer.

The design of the app isn’t an accident. They want you to start trying immediately. The testing effect works even for vocabulary. If you guess which of four words is the Spanish for milk you’re more likely to remember the answer than if you’re just told it. When you put effort into learning something you’re more likely to remember it, even when the effort is as trivial as a multiple choice test.

> The distractors are bad (you can find answer using capitalization in some case), sentences seems to have been generated automatically etc.

None of this is wrong to be honest. I wouldn’t use any Duolingo course that hadn’t been out of beta for more than a year because there are often plentiful mistakes.

> I cannot fathom how one can learn anything with that nor why it is so popular.

It’s actually pretty good at getting you from nothing to novice for European languages as far as reading goes. And it’s free and gamified, which helps a lot with motivation. You might be mistaking the feeling of learning with actually learning too. Almost everyone does. That’s why most people do massed practice (cramming) instead of distributed (multiple reviews) and interleaved (practice different skills together, not one at a time, even though massed works worse. You feel like you’re learning more with massed.


I've been learning Japanese with it for the past 2 years.

Although I haven't tried other apps (so I don't have a baseline for comparison), their methodology has proven quite effective for me.


I find that super hard to believe... can you read an article from https://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/easy/ with ease, aside from vocab?

I quit Duolingo for Japanese because it was super slow and boring. I went through a few beginner grammar books/websites and started reading native material/talking to natives.

Currently going through KKLC so focusing on kanji/vocab... I passed the JLPT N5 (admittedly so easy it's useless as a certificaiton) with six months of studying from scratch, and I approximately N4 level now (~1 year in).

I know everyone has different goals and timelines, but 2 years of Duolingo feels like it covers what you can learn in <4 months by yourself.


> can you read an article from https://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/easy/ with ease, aside from vocab?

Nope. Perhaps you are right.

> I went through a few beginner grammar books/websites

Would you mind telling which ones you went through?


Sure. And sorry if I sounded rough in my comment... if you're happy with Duolingo it's fine. I put in an hour every day towards Japanese (with a full time job + life on top) so I know I'm in a privileged position when it comes to language learning.

I used the following:

- Genki I, II

The classic Japanese textbooks. They're pretty good and have tons of exercises. Do the exercises!

- Tae Kim's Guide

http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/grammar

Alternative guide written by one guy. Very good as reference or quick learning. Used it to review Genki material.

- Japanese: The Manga Way

I thought this would be stupid but in some ways I liked it more than the other resources. Every chapter goes through grammar/expressions and it uses real manga examples. Vocab is translated for you. Not necessary with the other two resources but if you like manga or want something different, it's fun.

- Japanese Ammo with Misa

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBSyd8tXJoEJKIXfrwkPdbA

Long (20+ mins) lectures on grammar with a lot of examples. Goes on tangents often and some videos are too long but a great source of vocab, native expressions, etc.

- Anki

https://www.ankiapp.com/

You've probably heard of this. I currently use it for kanji but you can use it for whatever I prefer making my own flashcards but there's pre-made decks for vocab from Genki, Tae Kim, grammar etc. I'd link to some but they also include links to pirated PDFs so don't want to get the mods mad at me.

--

With all of that said, the most helpful thing for me has been reading native content in Chrome with this extension -> https://foosoft.net/projects/yomichan/ if you don't read, write, etc. you will not retain stuff. You will start out not understanding anything but slowly you will start reading without even translating to English.

You will hit a wall with vocab without kanji study but you should be good to go for some time with this.


No offence taken.

As next steps, I've installed Yomichan and I plan on purchasing a copy of Genki I.

Thank you very much for the pointers!


If I can chime in, I have made NHK Easier to help practicing on stories from NHK News Web Easy.

https://nhkeasier.com/


Japanese conforms extremely poorly to the duolingo format. As someone who is also learning Japanese, I'm very surprised you've stuck with Duolingo this long. My experience was that it explained nothing. No explanation of particles, the different between hiragana and katakana, no other grammar explanations, etc.


How useful is explicitly learning about the difference in use of hiragana and katakana, really? As far as I’m aware the research on language learning is pretty clear on teaching grammar; teaching it explicitly is no more effective than teaching implicitly. This example is right, that one isn’t is how we learn to speak our native tongues and we faultlessly follow rules we can’t teach all the time, e.g. adjective order in English is opinion, size, physical quality, shape, age, colour, origin, material, type, purpose.

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/abo...


Do you have a link to a paper or two supporting that claim?

Sure as children we learned our natives language by hearing it for years but the point is you can't magically have ten years of everyday language input when learning a foreign language. So then as adult it is way more efficient to learn the underlying rules. If there really was a more efficient method universities would have ditched their curricula for it. But from my experiences they don't and they don't recommend Duolingo either.


Bit off-topic, what what did you find is working well for you?


How are you measuring effectiveness?


Two years ago I had zero knowledge of the language, today I know all hiragana syllables, half of the katakana and a few kanji. I also know some basic vocabulary.

Yeah, maybe "quite effective" is overstating it.


I think if after two years of study you still have no ability to actually communicate in Japanese, then it has actually been shockingly ineffective.


Ok, it's interesting because I also learned Japanese (MA graduate). In comparison, it took me a few days for learning hiragana/katakana plus few weeks more to read them a reasonable speed. Two years before that I've learned about 70 kanji with kunyomi in three weeks during high school. That part was done also with Wikipedia-sensei. Then I actually started learning the language at university.

So, if after two years of using Duolingo you cannot read all the katakana and cannot make a sentence more complex then xxx ha yyy desu it just totally prove how bad the application is. And what's even more damageable is that user think they are making progress and then do not focus on real, useful material.


The phone app is a bit useless on its own. However, they do provide more explanations of grammatical points on their website, plus you can set it so you can type in answers rather than using the "word bank" on the desktop, which makes it a lot harder to guess answers!

It's definitely not as good as having a tutor or structured lessons, but for getting the basics down, when complemented with other study, it seems perfectly fine to me.


I took a couple of semesters of Spanish in school, but not enough to be able to do much with it. I've found Duolingo to be very effective for helping build up vocabulary, and even for learning grammar rules. A couple of things I've found to be very helpful:

- Each lesson has a guide that shows what's new. This is a bit hard to find on the website (click on the lightbulb above the "Practice" button for any lesson), and (last I checked) isn't available at all on mobile.

- There's a discussion board associated with each sentence. This can be immensely helpful for getting tips from more experienced speakers regarding various tricky aspects of the language.

Is it enough to build fluency by itself? Doubtful. But I find it very helpful for building vocab with a ~20-minute daily investment.


That app have no lesson, nothing is explained, there is just quizzes slapped on your face until you remember the good answer.

Sounds like machine learning just met machine teaching.


Reminiscent of programmed learning https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programmed_learning


I agree. I'm an avid language learner and I've always got nowhere trying to use duolingo.

If you want much better results, memrise and flash card apps are WAY better. Learn as much vocab, grammar, irregular verbs, etc. there.

You need to complete that with dialogues. On youtube you can often find these, either teaching videos which are great, or tv shows/movies with subs.


I agree that using Duolingo alone is probably not the most effective way to learn a language, but I find its quick drills work well in tandem with other methods. I'm currently using Babbel (free 3 month trial) with Duolingo and the combo seems to work well. Is there some other app that you would recommend?


It's probably popular because it makes it into a game and it is also easy. You get to feel good about "learning" without actually putting in the effort to really learn on a deeper level.


and it is free


Can you recommend something better?


Yes: grammar books, Wikipedia & websites to grasp the phonology of the language, a native to work on pronunciation, series/movies for more oral input, standardized test word list for vocabulary, MOOCs (quality varies a lot) for introduction & overview, registration to university (remote degree) for anything more advanced. This list is mean to be read with comma meaning 'and' although you can safely skip a few items.


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