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Facebook Team Lands at Delhi Man's House for ID Verification over Political Post (news18.com)
116 points by webmobdev 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 82 comments



The amount of whinging about this is disappointing.

Facebook has a very stringent identity verification process for political ads (I’ve gone through it multiple times). It’s not a joke. They actually really truly want to be sure you are who you say you are. To address the very problem that everyone has been complaining about. Cambridge analytica, influencing elections, etc. etc.

We don’t have all the facts in the story, but:

1. Facebooks clearly states that if you want to run any kind of sponsored posts relating to political content you have to get verified.

2. That verification can take place in many different ways

3. This person was under no obligation to complete the verification process and can simply say no (and also not be allowed to run ads on Facebook)

4. If anything this shows how seriously Facebook is taking political advertising transparency

5. Can someone please explain to me how this is in any way shape or form a privacy violation?


> Can someone please explain to me how this is in any way shape or form a privacy violation?

It’s an etiquette violation. Facebook being Facebook, of course this is something they messed up.

They should have sent an e-mail or verified Fb message saying “as an extra layer of security, we’d like to verify your identity in person—when is a good day in the next week when we may stop by?” (You lose the element of surprise, which gives a bad actor time to e.g. get an Airbnb and print a fake ID, but state-actor level threat models shouldn’t be assumed so early.) Maybe take over a cheap plush animal, or some other swag, as a gift for the user’s trouble.

On one hand, we want Facebook to fight fake news being spread by bots and illegal political ads. On the other hand, we get outraged when they do something as simple as verify someone’s ID. I’m no fan of Facebook, and their sociopathic culture certainly helped bring this to a head, but fundamentally, they aren’t doing anything wrong.


> but state-actor level threat models shouldn’t be assumed so early

Isn't this a response to _exactly_ that threat? Nation-state election interference activities have been detected around the world.


Totally agree. The article is a little unclear, it doesn't mention specifically this was an advertising post. I assume they tried to put $$ behind it. But even if not, you can't complain about FB allowing fake political speech and also complain about them verifying political speech origin.


> Facebook has a very stringent identity verification process for political ads

I don't know why many of you are twisting this and trying to make it seem that this was a verification for a political add, where as the article clearly says it was a personal political post made by the user, and not for any ad!


> Facebooks clearly states that if you want to run any kind of sponsored posts relating to political content you have to get verified.

I can see a problem with this methodology in that most things can be seen as "political", specifically regarding human rights, and in some oppressive communities revealing your identity while promoting human rights is, if not a death sentence, then at least an invitation to harassment from local authorities.


Without this process, someone else can post those ads in your name in order to get the locals to harass or kill you?

If it is too risky to put ads out under your own name, then facebook's ads are probably the correct place to fight for human rights.


If Facebook accounts for the overwhelming majority of the entire internet experience for some demographics, where am I supposed to fight for change?


It sounds like this was done as a result of attempting to buy political ads?

If so I don't think I have a problem with it. If Facebook wants to verify the identity of someone they are doing business with in person - why shouldn't they be able to? It does sound prohibitively expensive for facebook except for huge ad buys though.


> It sounds like this was done as a result of attempting to buy political ads?

No. They wanted to verify if the FB user had indeed posted the political post, and demanded his / her ID to verify the posters "credentials".


You're sure? The article contains the following highly suggestive quote, and "sponsored posts" (aka ads) are a thing.

> When it comes to those who wants to run political ads on Facebook, the company verifies residency of advertisers either by physical verification (by sending someone to the address provided) or by sending a code in the post.


>> When it comes to those who wants to run political ads on Facebook, the company verifies residency of advertisers either by physical verification (by sending someone to the address provided) or by sending a code in the post.

That sentence in the article is a non-sequitur, and only goes to show that FB verify advertisers. The rest of the article makes it clear that the FB representatives were there over a post. Not an advertisement.


Why's it 'land'? Did they helicopter in or something? They make it sound like a special forces raid.

> Only the state can act like this under proper laws

Didn't they just go and knock on his door? Anyone can knock on a door. There's no law against this.


It's a common way to say "show up unannounced" in Indian English.


I wonder if it has anything to do with people showing unannounced and uninvited on the sub continent historically actually had to land there, i.e. the Portuguese and the British.


That seems like a stretch. It's not a literal translation of the equivalent phrase in any Indian language I speak. And there were nearly zero English speakers in India before Europeans came, so it's not like Indians made up the idiom as the British sailed their ships into the harbor.


Makes no sense. The subcontinent has had its fair share of land invasions that required no travel by sea.


Most of them, in fact. I can think of no incursions by sea except for British, Portuguese, and French, none of which were actual 'invasions' at the time so much as merchants wanting to trade (which, of course, did lead directly to the british raj, but that was never the original intention of the EIC).


It's an Indian site, and Indian English idiom can often sound odd to English or American ears.


It's an Indian news site so I'm guessing their usage of english likely varies somewhat from say British english.

> Anyone can knock on a door. There's no law against this

Again, this happened in India, so the laws on behaviour like this may be different.


There are no laws against knocking on doors in India. If you don't want folks knocking on your doors, you would employ someone to prevent them from doing so.


>Didn't they just go and knock on his door? Anyone can knock on a door. There's no law against this.

The Aadhaar card is the equivalent of a social security card. Imagine a FB team knocking on your door demanding your "papers" because of a post you made. Is that acceptable?


What does 'demanding' mean? What are they going to do if you say no?

It sounds like they're asking for something and people don't have to give it if they don't want to. Facebook may stop doing business with them, but that's between them and Facebook.

You're talking like Facebook would have arrested them or something if they didn't show it. I'm not sure that's what's going on here. They're just asking for something. Say 'no' if you don't want to show them.

Unless they're showing up repeatedly or at weird hours of day but that's not implied at all. Sounds like it's just a business visit?


according to a legal expert cited in the article what facebook did is a violation of the users privacy in India.

Secondly, in what world is it normal for a social media company to knock on someone's door for content they posted on their platform?

If I make a comment in the washington post online section, am I going to get 'business visits' from the moderators? This is entirely inappropriate, apparently not even legal in the country in question, and sounds like something out of a cyberpunk parody.


> If I make a comment in the washington post online section

This is formal political advertising, isn't? That's heavily regulated everywhere I know. It's not the same as posting a comment as an individual.

If you buy alcohol in a shop they ask for ID. Nobody thinks that's crazy. If you want to post a political advert they ask for ID. It seems like all they're doing here is rewording that to 'demanding' and making it sound like a police raid.


> This is formal political advertising, isn't?

No, it isn't. It was a personal post on politics. And from the way many posters here seem to suggesting that this was based on an "ad", it seems to be an attempt to change the narrative from the actual facts.

And as per indian experts, it violates our privacy.


First off alochol is a strictly regulated substance and a drug. I hope we're not actually treating speech on online platforms as if it was a dangerous substance.

Secondly, when I go to the store I obviously consent to having my ID checked. What has never happened in my life is that I bought something on an online platform, and one week later the company representative shows up and asks me for my information.

It's one thing to enter some place of business voluntarily, it's an entire different thing for a private company to actually pursue me to my home. In fact, the alcohol store owner has literally no idea where I live, because unlike facebook store owners aren't in the habit of keeping track of my home address.


> First off alochol is a strictly regulated substance and a drug.

And political advertising is also strictly regulated.

> I hope we're not actually treating speech on online platforms as if it was a dangerous substance.

I don't know if you've been following the fake news situation of the last half-decade... it's a bit of a problem.

> I obviously consent to having my ID checked

I think you do as well when you post political adverts on Facebook, don't you? It's not like posting a comment or a business advert.

> It's one thing to enter some place of business voluntarily, it's an entire different thing for a private company to actually pursue me to my home.

Why do you use a word like 'pursue'? This wasn't a car chase. They just knocked on someone's door. 'Demanding', 'pursuing', you're using language to make it sound like something more dramatic than it was.


>And political advertising is also strictly regulated.

The user in question wasn't advertising anything. He was visited for a private post. The mentioning of political advertising in the article isn't related to this case.


Presumably the political post was considered a political advert? Otherwise why is there a bunch of totally irrelevant detail about that in the article?


Unfortunately the uproar over political meddling proves that it's much more dangerous than alcohol.


Either this anonymous person was promoting posts or a group (ie paying facebook) or he was tricked by someone that was falsely claiming to be from Facebook.

Willing to bet money that Facebook is not paying employees to visit people's houses because the government doesn't like a facebook post.


It was someone trying to place a political ad, which by law can only be placed by an Indian citizen. They were verifying that it was actually placed by an Indian citizen.

Isn't this what we wanted after the Russian election stuff? We want them to not foreign operatives to be able to place political ads, so they are trying to enforce that rule.


> "It was like cops come to your door for passport verification. The Facebook representative asked me to prove my credentials by asking for my Aadhaar card and other documents to understand if I am the one who had posted the political content," the person, who did not wish to be named, told IANS.

How many of you would have told the guy to f* off, even if it meant losing your FB account?


> How many of you would have told the guy to f* off, even if it meant losing your FB account?

I wouldn't just tell them to fuck off but call LE on them, it's really not up to FB to send goons to your house to demand paperwork.


> but call LE on them

For what? Anyone can ask anyone for paperwork. People can just say no. It doesn't really sound like a police matter, does it? (Unless there's different laws in India, but it's common-law isn't it?)


In Australia we are frequently reminded that scammers operate by posing.

In that context the correct thing to do is report the incident to police, that way the police can, if they get enough reports, raise an alert through their usual channels to advise the populace to be on the lookout for scammers operating in a particular manner.

Call me paranoid, but I always assume anyone claiming to be from <company> or <government> to be a scammer until proven otherwise, and I tell them that: “if I can’t authenticate you then we can’t communicate, and it’s up to your organisation to work out how to do that”.


> I always assume anyone claiming to be from <company> or <government> to be a scammer until proven otherwise

Yeah, tell them 'no thanks', or just don't answer the door to people you aren't expecting. None of this is a police matter though.


Perhaps you misunderstood the part about how we are encouraged to report these sorts of incidents so law enforcement can be aware of what is occurring in the community.

The police aren’t about to send a car out to investigate every report, or probably any of them. But they can and do raise alerts via their website and social media to advise residents of suspicious activity.

Again, this is in Australia, where I live. Known to be the prototypical nanny-state, but it does have some benefits.


>I wouldn't just tell them to fuck off but call LE on them

How can you even justify this?


Because total strangers appearing at my door to ask for (copies of) identity papers could easily be a precursor to identity fraud. It may surprise you but where I live we are actively encouraged to report suspicious situations to the police:

https://www.politie.nl/themas/melden.html

We also do not have an adversarial relationship with the police, and they genuinely appreciate citizens reporting behavior that is or could be illegal. Some older family members have been scammed by people at their door claiming to be from utility companies, without an official established policy of companies like FB and others doing 'in person' KYC my first assumption would be that something shady is going on.


Oh my God. Do you live in Atherton or something? I always wondered what it would be like to see this stuff live - the frivolous use of police time. The purse-clutching here is unbelievable.


I've long pondered whether there should be some kind of internet police. Lots of shady stuff happening all the time, but since it happens on the internet, in some kind of legal grey zone, companies and individuals get away with it.

However, I did not ever envision that police to be operated by Facebook, of all companies. I was naïvely picturing a rosy future where Facebook would squarely be placed on the other side of legality.


William Gibson portrayed this in Neuromancer in 1984, although it seemed like it was some sort of international force operated by the future equivalent of the UN, or maybe some kind of Interpol with dedicated investigators.


If you mean the Turing Police, they only concerned themselves with illegal AIs.


I'm going to wait for some verification for this story. Sounds too weird to be true.


Good idea, but it sounds plausible to me given their recent activities, like calling the cops on folks they think are suicidal.

Though maybe that just supports the comment about social engineering and identify theft:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19598105


That's exactly what i said myself few days ago when i saw that article about facebook asking users' email password, until it was verified.


Seems reasonable enough to me. The crazy thing is that we live in a world where this is necessary, not that this is what they did. Especially given that it was only done in the time and place surrounding an isolated, and very important, event.


This makes sense. Remember, Facebook has had a problem with bots mass-producing fake identities and using them to spread political content. To develop a bot detector, they need to occasionally check the ground truth of which accounts are real and which are fake.


> This makes sense.

I'm going to go with: No, no it doesn't make any sense at all.

How can anyone authenticate the person coming to their door? That person could be anyone phishing for personal identifying information, or casing the joint.

Probably the best thing do to is say nothing, close the door, and report the incident to the police.


Social engineering + identity theft. "Yeah, I'm from Facebook. Mind showing me your ID? Just need to clear a few things here."


I don't see how that's any different than being carded at a bar or when buying smoke.


Wow this is creepy at too many levels. On other side, will they also start sending teams across India at all "Chowkidar's" posts

P.s. Chowkidar is the prefix ruling party's followers apply on social media


Respect to news18 web devs, site froze my iOS Safari, first one in years.


Impressive commitment to failure. How does a site like this stay in operation?


It killed the back buttons too


This sounds very weird. It's OK if the user has consented to it, but this feels more like the company taking law in it's own hands. Hope it's a one off rather than becoming a norm.


> "This action, if true, clearly infringes upon the privacy of a user. Sending a representative to physically verifying a user is a blatant invasion of his or her privacy space. Only the state can act like this under proper laws," Pavan Duggal, nation's top cyber law expert and a senior Supreme Court advocate, told IANS.


That seems baffling. This it's not like facebook is sending a bunch of goons to ask for your ID "or else". How is this any different than someone coming to your door for marketing purposes? I get there's the privacy aspect because they're asking for ID, but you could always say "no" and slam the door.


Part of the problem is that unless the consent is very explicitly communicated so that there is no doubt, it has the potential to pose substantial risks to people.

When I was at school, I remember a student that went abroad that had to get assistance to find new housing after she'd been thrown out by her host family just for receiving a letter from the political youth organization she was a member of at home in Norway, for example (she was a member of Socialist Youth - the youth organization of a mainstream left wing party that has since been part of ruling coalitions, nothing remotely extremist, but too much for her particular host family).

That was a benign situation compared to what might happen if Facebook starts outing peoples political views to people they may have no expectation of sharing their views with, but who has physical access.

I don't this process will survive contact with the real world very long before they get sued.


If the person didn't want the political views to be public, they shouldn't have tried to buy ads about them.


There is a difference between wanting their views to be public and wanting your neighbours, parents, co-workers etc. to know about them.

Through a lot of human history, people have fought for certain views exactly because they faced oppression and immediate risk to their person for those views.

E.g. gay people wanting equal rights in societies where they at times may place their life at risk to come forward.


People with such concerns should launch their own social media platform so they don't have to be subject to someone else's rules.


Oh, is that all?


I'm convinced we're going to see one of these tech giants eventually challenge a nation state for sovereignty.


Until the people with the actual physical weapons (militaries) get fed up with everyone's bullshit and take shit into their own hands.


Private militaries are an older concept than even nation states.

At one point in the recent past, Chevron had the one of the largest Navies (with weapons) in the world.


The point remains: Why would/should the people with weapons remain subservient to those without?


Not all weapons are equal.

Lets say, Facebook/Google/Amazon provides better infrastructure and security services to some community in India than the local municipality can, because it pays more for it, then the community might actually prefer them.

Now the corporation has a foothold, with armed security services, that are more powerful than the state security - and with the will of the people.

Alphabet is dipping it's toe into the water here with Sidewalk labs.

It's not state to state competition like you may be thinking. That's not how this happens. It's a slow creep/encroachment until you realize you're outgunned and the enemy owns the inside of the wire.


The point is that the people with lots of money and no weapons can easily get weapons.


It's not unprecedented for a nation's military to become subservient to foreign interests. Look at what the military in Columbia did in the 20s under direction from The United Fruit Company:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banana_Massacre


Who has the weapon: the soldier who holds the gun, the general who gives the orders, the government which staffs the military, or the electorate which elects the government?


The major militaries are usually run by governments that have laws that they can enforce without using their militaries.

Or do you want other countries to invade the US because they don't like what facebook is doing?


And what does "run" mean, exactly?

Right now, some states in US can't even make their own law enforcement enforce some of the laws their legislatures (or, in some cases, referendums) have passed recently:

https://psmag.com/social-justice/what-happens-if-sheriffs-re...

We got so abstract in our reasoning about governments and social contracts that we're starting to forget that "political power grows out of the barrel of a gun".


The ones that pay for the soldiers. Unless they plan on looting the populace, they're going to need money.


And what do you think happens when the soldiers realize that they could take more by force, and have no ideological justification remaining to prevent them from doing so?


Unless you're talking about the US Army, there's always someone bigger.


Where’s the profit in that?


If you were to offer odds on this happening on some time frame, what would that time frame be and what would the odds be?

Throwaway internet predictions are cheap. Let's back this with cash.


If true, Facebook is screwed.


Facebook creepiness index reaches 11.




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