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Contents Bulletin Scripting in shell and Perl Network troubleshooting History Humor

Facebook = Spyware

Facebook as a Giant Database about Users

Illustration by Sang Mun (Bloomberg)
News Social Sites as intelligence collection tools Recommended Links Many faces of Facebook Blocking Facebook Search engines privacy
National Security State How to collect and analyse your own metadata Total control: keywords in your posts that might trigger surveillance Cyberstalking Search engines privacy Big Brother is Watching You
HTTP Servers Log Analyses Privacy is Dead – Get Over It Many faces of Facebook Google sites Prizm-related humor Etc

Facebook is not your friend, it is a surveillance engine.


--Richard Stallman

If the Stasi still existed it would force everyone to create a Facebook page

The Guardian

I've often wondered what sort of person would listen to the lines "Every step you take/I'll be watching you" and thought, "Ahhhh, that's so romantic." Fucking weirdos.

The company’s [Facebook's] flubs in this area [privacy] reveal a fundamental tension in the way sophisticated ad-supported sites work. Consumers’ time and information are effectively the price they pay for free Web services. Facebook allows its users to keep up with far-flung friends and family, for instance, in exchange for that information.

NYT


Introduction

Anybody who think that NSA revelations change the nature of Facebook (Facebook = Spyware) or that NSA somehow "intruded" on their privacy is delusional. Information trusted the third party with very dubious agenda can't be private. So in a way NSA has the legitimate right to snoop after all people who open Facebook page.

Facebook is also a powerful propaganda venue, which definitely can influence elections. And not the way Russiagate stories suggest, buying few ads on Facebook changes nothing; being on control of Facebook allow to control the narrative and this election).

As  Raul Ilargi Meije noted ( Google & Facebook Are 1984 ):

Facebook officials have been compared to the Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels by a former investor. Roger McNamee also likened the company's methods to those of Edward Bernays, the 'father of public' relations who promoted smoking for women. Mr McNamee, who made a fortune backing the social network in its infancy, has spoken out about his concern about the techniques the tech giants use to engage users and advertisers. [..] the former investor said everyone was now 'in one degree or another addicted' to the site while he feared the platform was causing people to swap real relationships for phoney ones.

And he likened the techniques of the company to Mr Bernays and Hitler's public relations minister. 'In order to maintain your attention they have taken all the techniques of Edward Bernays and Joseph Goebbels, and all of the other people from the world of persuasion, and all the big ad agencies, and they've mapped it onto an all day product with highly personalised information in order to addict you,' Mr McNamee told The Telegraph. Mr McNamee said Facebook was creating a culture of 'fear and anger'. 'We have lowered the civil discourse, people have become less civil to each other..'

He said the tech giant had 'weaponised' the First Amendment to 'essentially absolve themselves of responsibility'. He added: 'I say this as somebody who was there at the beginning.' Mr McNamee's comments come as a further blow to Facebook as just last month former employee Justin Rosenstein spoke out about his concerns. Mr Rosenstein, the Facebook engineer who built a prototype of the network's 'like' button, called the creation the 'bright dings of pseudo-pleasure'. He said he was forced to limit his own use of the social network because he was worried about the impact it had on him.

... ... ...

As Google, Facebook and the CIA are ever more entwined, these companies become so important to what 'the spooks' consider the interests of the nation that they will become mutually protective. And once CIA headquarters in Langley, VA, aka the aptly named "George Bush Center for Intelligence", openly as well as secretly protects you, you're pretty much set for life. A long life.

 

If you join Google or Facebook you should have no expectations of privacy

In Australia any expectations of privacy isn't legally recognized by the Supreme Court once people voluntarily offered data to the third party. Here is a relevant Slashdot post:

General Counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence Robert S. Litt explained that our expectation of privacy isn't legally recognized by the Supreme Court once we've offered it to a third party.

Thus, sifting through third party data doesn't qualify 'on a constitutional level' as invasive to our personal privacy. This he brought to an interesting point about volunteered personal data, and social media habits. Our willingness to give our information to companies and social networking websites is baffling to the ODNI.

'Why is it that people are willing to expose large quantities of information to private parties but don't want the Government to have the same information?,' he asked."

... ... ...

While Snowden's leaks have provoked Jimmy Carter into labeling this government a sham, and void of a functioning democracy, Litt presented how these wide data collection programs are in fact valued by our government, have legal justification, and all the necessary parameters.

Litt, echoing the president and his boss James Clapper, explained thusly:

"We do not use our foreign intelligence collection capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies in order to give American companies a competitive advantage. We do not indiscriminately sweep up and store the contents of the communications of Americans, or of the citizenry of any country. We do not use our intelligence collection for the purpose of repressing the citizens of any country because of their political, religious or other beliefs. We collect metadata—information about communications—more broadly than we collect the actual content of communications, because it is less intrusive than collecting content and in fact can provide us information that helps us more narrowly focus our collection of content on appropriate targets. But it simply is not true that the United States Government is listening to everything said by every citizen of any country."

It's great that the U.S. government behaves better than corporations on privacy—too bad it trusts/subcontracts corporations to deal with that privacy—but it's an uncomfortable thing to even be in a position of having to compare the two. This is the point Litt misses, and it's not a fine one.

In a very profound way Facebook was never a "social site". It was always anti-social site. Facebook exploits people's own sense of vanity and desire to invade other people's privacy. There is no requirement to plaster your life all over the internet.

In a very profound way Facebook was never a "social site". It was always anti-social site. Facebook exploits people's own sense of vanity and desire to invade other people's privacy. There is no requirement to plaster your life all over the internet.

Facebook has been a personal information sucking device since its inception. It is a toxic, faceless suburban wasteland which actually makes people more lonely (Suburbanization of Friendships and Solitude)

April 18, 2012

Facebook may be making us lonely, giving users the information age equivalent of a faceless suburban wasteland, claims the fantastic cover story of The Atlantic. Key excerpts:

We were promised a global village; instead we inhabit the drab cul-de-sacs and endless freeways of a vast suburb of information.

At the forefront of all this unexpectedly lonely interactivity is Facebook.

Facebook makes real relationships harder:

That one little phrase, Your real friends—so quaint, so charmingly mothering—perfectly encapsulates the anxieties that social media have produced: the fears that Facebook is interfering with our real friendships, distancing us from each other, making us lonelier; and that social networking might be spreading the very isolation it seemed designed to conquer.

Here’s why:

Our omnipresent new technologies lure us toward increasingly superficial connections at exactly the same moment that they make avoiding the mess of human interaction easy. The beauty of Facebook, the source of its power, is that it enables us to be social while sparing us the embarrassing reality of society—the accidental revelations we make at parties, the awkward pauses, the farting and the spilled drinks and the general gaucherie of face-to-face contact. Instead, we have the lovely smoothness of a seemingly social machine. Everything’s so simple: status updates, pictures, your wall.

Finally, FB fosters a retreat into narcissism:

Self-presentation on Facebook is continuous, intensely mediated, and possessed of a phony nonchalance that eliminates even the potential for spontaneity. (“Look how casually I threw up these three photos from the party at which I took 300 photos!”) Curating the exhibition of the self has become a 24/7 occupation.

Facebook users retreat from “messy” human interaction and spend too much of their time curating fantasy avatars of themselves to actually to out and meet real people:

The relentlessness is what is so new, so potentially transformative. Facebook never takes a break. We never take a break. Human beings have always created elaborate acts of self-presentation. But not all the time, not every morning, before we even pour a cup of coffee.

The always-on effects are profound:

What Facebook has revealed about human nature—and this is not a minor revelation—is that a connection is not the same thing as a bond, and that instant and total connection is no salvation, no ticket to a happier, better world or a more liberated version of humanity. Solitude used to be good for self-reflection and self-reinvention. But now we are left thinking about who we are all the time, without ever really thinking about who we are. Facebook denies us a pleasure whose profundity we had underestimated: the chance to forget about ourselves for a while, the chance to disconnect.

One of the deepest and best researched meditations on FB 2012.

Another meaning to a catch phrase "America. The land of the Free."

On the other hand Facebook gave another meaning to a catch phrase "America. The land of the Free." And this new meaning is: free as in "free NSA information collection space". That’s information about us, which are FREE to sell by sites like Facebook to government and other highest bidders. As John Naughton noted (With friends like Facebook, who needs sociopaths):

Jan 28, 2012 | The Guardian

The truth is that companies such as Facebook are basically the corporate world's equivalent of sociopaths, that is to say individuals who are completely lacking in conscience and respect for others.

In her book The Sociopath Next Door, Martha Stout of Harvard medical school tries to convey what goes on in the mind of such an individual. "Imagine," she writes,

"not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern of the wellbeing of strangers, friends, or even family members.

Imagine no struggles with shame, not a single one in your whole life, no matter what kind of selfish, lazy, harmful, or immoral action you had taken. And pretend that the concept of responsibility is unknown to you, except as a burden others seem to accept without question, like gullible fools."

Welcome to the Facebook mindset.

Facebook strange story of mediocre site that had risen to prominence against significant odds (and now, in retrospect, we can see invisible hand of US government in Facebook success; see nice Onion parody which was create BEFORE snowden revelations) reveals a fundamental tension in the way sophisticated ad-supported sites work. It is information about you, that you pay for free Web services.

Why (else) do you think that such a mediocre coded site went from “0-to-’Everywhere' ” in such a short time? For example AddThis button tracks users across all sites that use their button to generate profile data that they sell to advertisers (and probably not only advertisers ;-) so they can better target their ads. Generally, when browsing the web, you are continuously being tracked by facebook, even if you are not a Facebook usr. Not only by the websites you are visiting, but also by major companies that embed their ‘content’ into other websites through ads and analytics. As a result, companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook that has this "likes infrastructure" have an almost complete picture of your online activity.

Information that you put in your Facebook page has implications for you that few people understand. Even reveling just your circle of on-line friends provides far more information about you then you might expect (The Social Graph Knows No Secrets):

A scientific study into the implications of the social graph. It’s not the information you “share”, it’s the graph that reveals everything about you. Key quotes:

The increasing amount of personal information that can be gleaned by computer programs that track how people use Facebook has been revealed by an extensive academic study.

Such programs can discern undisclosed private information such as Facebook users’ sexuality, drug-use habits and even whether their parents separated when they were young, according to the study by the University of Cambridge academics.

In one of the biggest studies of its kind, scientists from the university’s psychometrics team and a Microsoft-funded research centre analyzed data from 58,000 Facebook users to predict traits and other information that were not provided in their profiles.

The algorithms were 88 per cent accurate in predicting male sexual orientation, 95 per cent for race and 80 per cent for religion and political leanings. Personality types and emotional stability were also predicted with accuracy ranging from 62-75 per cent.

Facebook declined to comment.

The study highlights growing concerns about social networks and how data trails can be mined for sensitive information, even when people attempt to keep information about themselves private. Less than 5 per cent of users predicted to be gay, for example, were connected with explicitly gay groups.

Michal Kosinksi, one of the report’s authors, told the Financial Times that the university’s techniques could easily be replicated by companies to infer personal attributes a person did not wish to share, such as sexual orientation or political views:

“We used very simple and generic methods. Marketing companies and internet companies could spend much more time and resources, and hence get much higher accuracy than we did.”

The Problem of Over-sharing of Personal Information

The key problem with social sites is that many, probably most Facebook users overshare -- voluntarily post reams of personal data about themselves, including keeping their photo archives online, etc (It’s the Dopamine, Stupid):

Oversharing on social media may be a quasi-sexual experience with intrinsic value and commensurate reward-system stimulation, just like a delicious meal or a sexual contact.

The reward given by a person’s brain when a Facebook posting of theirs is viewed, liked and commented on has proven to be comparable in pleasure to the response from food and sex, according to a recent Harvard University study.

So now you know that someone obsessively using their smartphone for “sharing” is actually quasi-masturbating.

So while East Germany analog of the Department of Homeland Security called Ministry for State Security (Stasi) needed to recruit people to spy about you, now you yourself serves as a informer voluntarily providing large multinationals like Facebook, Yahoo, Google and Microsoft and allied with them governments all the tracking information about your activities ;-).

Scientella palo alto

...Facebook always had a very low opinion of peoples intelligence - and rightly so!

I can tell you Silicon Valley is scared. Facebook's very existence depends upon trusting young persons, their celebrity wannabee parents and other inconsequential people being prepared to give up their private information to Facebook.

Google, now that SOCIAL IS DEAD, at least has their day job also, of paid referral advertising where someone can without divulging their "social" identity, and not linking their accounts, can look for a product on line and see next to it some useful ads.

But Facebook has nothing without people silly enough to exchange privacy for photosharing.

... ... ...

Steve Fankuchen Oakland CA

Cook, Brin, Gates, Zuckerberg, et al most certainly have lawyers and public relations hacks that have taught them the role of "plausible deniability."

Just as in the government, eventually some low or mid-level flunkie will likely be hung out to dry, when it becomes evident that the institution knew exactly what was going on and did nothing to oppose it. To believe any of these companies care about their users as anything other than cash cows is to believe in the tooth fairy.

From the very beginning Facebook was not about users; the key to commercial success is that Facebook has what any spy agency wants: vast amounts of private data stored on the servers outside of any user control that have sophisticated software installed with the specific purpose to analyze all the data stored in the database. So Facebook is not just social site, this is just a fake façade for a provider of data analytics about its customers. And to get their hands on those data and related technologies United States intelligence agencies invest in Silicon Valley start-ups, award classified contracts and recruit technology experts. (SiliconValley and Spy Agency Bound by Strengthening Web, NYT, Jun 20, 2013). As we now know, Prism program provided direct access to all user data to the NSA.

In a way, Facebook, a very primitive site with the frontend written PHP is the greatest intelligence tool ever made by man ;-). Most people don't understand that and put way too much personal information into it. Which of course is mined, sold to advertisers, transferred to three letter agencies, etc.

When Max Kelly, the chief security officer for Facebook, left the social media company in 2010, he did not go to Google, Twitter or a similar Silicon Valley concern. Instead the man who was responsible for protecting the personal information of Facebook’s more than one billion users from outside attacks went to work for another giant institution that manages and analyzes large pools of data: the National Security Agency.

Mr. Kelly’s move to the spy agency, which has not previously been reported, underscores the increasingly deep connections between Silicon Valley and the agency and the degree to which they are now in the same business. Both hunt for ways to collect, analyze and exploit large pools of data about millions of Americans.

The only difference is that the N.S.A. does it for intelligence, and Silicon Valley does it to make money.

Also some people just are incapable to understand consequences of their own actions. If you sign up to Facebook, there's should be no any expectations of privacy, as you’re putting yourself “out there”. And you can close your Facebook account if you start to worry what nonsense you put into it :-). But the cat is out of the bag. Honestly.

Famous Onion Spoof: Facebook Is CIA's Dream Come True

Here is a nice take on the subject (The Onion Facebook Is CIA's Dream Come True)

As the “single most powerful tool for population control,” the CIA’s “Facebook program” has dramatically reduced the agency’s costs — at least according to the latest “report” from the satirical mag The Onion.

Perhaps inspired by a recent interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who called Facebook “the most appalling spy machine that has ever been invented,” The Onion‘s video fires a number of arrows in Facebook’s direction — with hilarious results.

In the video, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is dubbed “The Overlord” and is shown receiving a “medal of intelligence commendation” for his work with the CIA’s Facebook program.

The Onion also takes a jab at FarmVille (which is responsible for “pacifying” as much as 85 million people after unemployment rates rose), Twitter (which is called useless as far as data gathering goes), and Foursquare (which is said to have been created by Al Qaeda).

Check out the video below and tell us in the comments what you think.

CIA's 'Facebook' Program Dramatically Cut Agency's Costs Onion News Network

In view of existence of Prizm program Onion video looks in quite different light now. And it is not funny.

The key to Facebook success is the simple fact that there is definitely strength in numbers (and here I mean the number of lemmings ;-):

Further, around 9.2 million people joined Facebook in a single month--for just these top 10 nations--bringing these countries membership tally to over 232 million (nearly 3.5% of the world's population by current estimates). The global membership figure swelled to 411 million, which is 6% of the people in the world. Facebook, stuffed with personal data on each member, is becoming the world's phone book. The implications for social change are potentially huge.

And given Facebook's usual shall we say, avant garde, approach to Net privacy...it's also kinda scary.

At the same time people lived and survived and even managed to undermine attempts in total surveillance in the past. Let's take email as an example. For example, as soon that you understand that all your emails are stored you start thinking of fooling the system just because people resent the total surveillance not because they are doing something unlawful.

The key problem here is that it is difficult, almost impossible to distinguish signal from noise by algorithmic means (and in case of email junk mail from a "informative" mail). Especially if useful signal is artificially injected into junk mail frame. Using slang -- an informal nonstandard vocabulary composed typically of coinages, arbitrarily changed words, and extravagant, forced, or facetious figures of speech -- is another difficult to solve algorithmically problem. Another problem is signal/noise ratio. Large amount non-informative mails are cloggering the filters and generating such flow artificially might be a feasible counter push for mass email surveillance.

As a joke, try to experiment by sending yourself from Facebook address to another addresses (you can recruit your relatives for the experiment) emails that fake your passion to cars or cats and see how your advertisements change.


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[Dec 14, 2017] Tech Giants Trying to Use WTO to Colonize Emerging Economies

Notable quotes:
"... The initiative described in this article reminds me of how the World Bank pushed hard for emerging economies to develop capital markets, for the greater good of America's investment bankers. ..."
"... By Burcu Kilic, an expert on legal, economic and political issues. Originally published at openDemocracy ..."
"... Today, the big tech race is for data extractivism from those yet to be 'connected' in the world – tech companies will use all their power to achieve a global regime in which small nations cannot regulate either data extraction or localisation. ..."
"... One suspects big money will be thrown at this by the leading tech giants. ..."
"... Out of idle curiosity, how could you accurately deduce my country of origin from my name? ..."
Dec 14, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

December 14, 2017 by Yves Smith Yves here. Notice that Costa Rica is served up as an example in this article. Way back in 1997, American Express had designated Costa Rica as one of the countries it identified as sufficiently high income so as to be a target for a local currency card offered via a franchise agreement with a domestic institution (often but not always a bank). 20 years later, the Switzerland of Central America still has limited Internet connectivity, yet is precisely the sort of place that tech titans like Google would like to dominate.

The initiative described in this article reminds me of how the World Bank pushed hard for emerging economies to develop capital markets, for the greater good of America's investment bankers.

By Burcu Kilic, an expert on legal, economic and political issues. Originally published at openDemocracy

Today, the big tech race is for data extractivism from those yet to be 'connected' in the world – tech companies will use all their power to achieve a global regime in which small nations cannot regulate either data extraction or localisation.

n a few weeks' time, trade ministers from 164 countries will gather in Buenos Aires for the 11th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference (MC11). US President Donald Trump in November issued fresh accusations of unfair treatment towards the US by WTO members , making it virtually impossible for trade ministers to leave the table with any agreement in substantial areas.

To avoid a 'failure ministerial," some countries see the solution as pushing governments to open a mandate to start conversations that might lead to a negotiation on binding rules for e-commerce and a declaration of the gathering as the "digital ministerial". Argentina's MC11 chair, Susana Malcorra, is actively pushing for member states to embrace e-commerce at the WTO, claiming that it is necessary to " bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots ".

It is not very clear what kind of gaps Malcorra is trying to bridge. It surely isn't the "connectivity gap" or "digital divide" that is growing between developed and developing countries, seriously impeding digital learning and knowledge in developing countries. In fact, half of humanity is not even connected to the internet, let alone positioned to develop competitive markets or bargain at a multilateral level. Negotiating binding e-commerce rules at the WTO would only widen that gap.

Dangerously, the "South Vision" of digital trade in the global trade arena is being shaped by a recent alliance of governments and well-known tech-sector lobbyists, in a group called 'Friends of E-Commerce for Development' (FED), including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Uruguay, and, most recently, China. FED claims that e-commerce is a tool to drive growth, narrow the digital divide, and generate digital solutions for developing and least developed countries.

However, none of the countries in the group (apart from China) is leading or even remotely ready to be in a position to negotiate and push for binding rules on digital trade that will be favorable to them, as their economies are still far away from the technology revolution. For instance, it is perplexing that one of the most fervent defenders of FED's position is Costa Rica. The country's economy is based on the export of bananas, coffee, tropical fruits, and low-tech medical instruments, and almost half of its population is offline . Most of the countries in FED are far from being powerful enough to shift negotiations in favor of small players.

U.S.-based tech giants and Chinese Alibaba – so-called GAFA-A – dominate, by far, the future of the digital playing field, including issues such as identification and digital payments, connectivity, and the next generation of logistics solutions. In fact, there is a no-holds-barred ongoing race among these tech giants to consolidate their market share in developing economies, from the race to grow the advertising market to the race to increase online payments.

An e-commerce agenda that claims unprecedented development for the Global South is a Trojan horse move. Beginning negotiations on such topics at this stage – before governments are prepared to understand what is at stake – could lead to devastating results, accelerating liberalization and the consolidation of the power of tech giants to the detriment of local industries, consumers, and citizens. Aware of the increased disparities between North and South, and the data dominance of a tiny group of GAFA-A companies, a group of African nations issued a statement opposing the digital ambitions of the host for MC11. But the political landscape is more complex, with China, the EU, and Russia now supporting the idea of a "digital" mandate .

Repeating the Same Mistakes?

The relationships of most countries with tech companies are as imbalanced as their relationships with Big Pharma, and there are many parallels to note. Not so long ago, the countries of the Global South faced Big Pharma power in pharmaceutical markets in a similar way. Some developing countries had the same enthusiasm when they negotiated intellectual property rules for the protection of innovation and research and development costs. In reality, those countries were nothing more than users and consumers of that innovation, not the owners or creators. The lessons of negotiating trade issues that lie at the core of public interest issues – in that case, access to medicines – were costly. Human lives and fundamental rights of those who use online services should not be forgotten when addressing the increasingly worrying and unequal relationships with tech power.

The threat before our eyes is similarly complex and equally harmful to the way our societies will be shaped in the coming years. In the past, the Big Pharma race was for patent exclusivity, to eliminate local generic production and keep drug prices high. Today, the Big Tech race is for data extractivism from those who have yet to be connected in the world, and tech companies will use all the power they hold to achieve a global regime in which small nations cannot regulate either data extraction or data localization.

Big Tech is one of the most concentrated and resourceful industries of all time. The bargaining power of developing countries is minimal. Developing countries will basically be granting the right to cultivate small parcels of a land controlled by data lords -- under their rules, their mandate, and their will -- with practically no public oversight. The stakes are high. At the core of it is the race to conquer the markets of digital payments and the battle to become the platform where data flows, splitting the territory as old empires did in the past. As the Economist claimed on May 6, 2017: "Conflicts over control of oil have scarred the world for decades. No one yet worries that wars will be fought over data. But the data economy has the same potential for confrontation."

If countries from the Global South want to prepare for data wars, they should start thinking about how to reduce the control of Big Tech over -- how we communicate, shop, and learn the news -- , again, over our societies. The solution lies not in making rules for data liberalization, but in devising ways to use the law to reduce Big Tech's power and protect consumers and citizens. Finding the balance would take some time and we are going to take that time to find the right balance, we are not ready to lock the future yet.

Jef , December 14, 2017 at 11:32 am

I thought thats what the WTO is for?

Thuto , December 14, 2017 at 2:14 pm

One suspects big money will be thrown at this by the leading tech giants. To paraphrase from a comment I made recently regarding a similar topic : "with markets in the developed world pretty much sewn up by the tripartite tech overlords (google, fb and amazon), the next 3 billion users for their products/services are going to come from developing world". With this dynamic in mind, and the "constant growth" mantra humming incessantly in the background, it's easy to see how high stakes a game this is for the tech giants and how no resources will be spared to stymie any efforts at establishing a regulatory oversight framework that will protect the digital rights of citizens in the global south.

Multilateral fora like the WTO are de facto enablers for the marauding frontal attacks of transnational corporations, and it's disheartening to see that some developing nations have already nailed the digital futures of their citizens to the mast of the tech giants by joining this alliance. What's more, this signing away of their liberty will be sold to the citizenry as the best way to usher them into the brightest of all digital futures.

Mark P. , December 14, 2017 at 3:30 pm

One suspects big money will be thrown at this by the leading tech giants.

Vast sums of money are already being thrown at bringing Africa online, for better or worse. Thus, the R&D aimed at providing wireless Internet via giant drones/balloons/satellites by Google, Facebook, etc.

You're African. Possibly South African by your user name, which may explain why you're a little behind the curve, because the action is already happening, but more to the north -- and particularly in East Africa.

The big corporations -- and the tech giants are competing with the banking/credit card giants -- have noted how mobile technology leapt over the dearth of last century's telephony tech, land lines, and in turn enabled the highest adoption rates of cellphone banking in the world. (Particularly in East Africa, as I say.) The payoffs for big corporations are massive -- de facto cashless societies where the corporations control the payment systems –and the politicians are mostly cheap.

In Nigeria, the government has launched a Mastercard-branded national ID card that's also a payment card, in one swoop handing Mastercard more than 170 million potential customers, and their personal and biometric data.

In Kenya, the sums transferred by mobile money operator M-Pesa are more than 25 percent of that country's GDP.

You can see that bringing Africa online is technically a big, decade-long project. But also that the potential payoffs are vast. Though I also suspect China may come out ahead -- they're investing far more in Africa and in some areas their technology -- drones, for instance -- is already superior to what the Europeans and the American companies have.

Thuto , December 14, 2017 at 4:58 pm

Thank you Mark P.

Hoisted from a comment I made here recently: "Here in South Africa and through its Free Basics programme, facebook is jumping into bed with unsuspecting ISPs (I say unsuspecting because fb will soon be muscling in on their territory and becoming an ISP itself by provisioning bandwidth directly from its floating satellites) and circumventing net neutrality "

I'm also keenly aware of the developments in Kenya re: safaricom and Mpesa and how that has led to traditional banking via bank accounts being largely leapfrogged for those moving from being unbanked to active economic citizens requiring money transfer facilities. Given the huge succes of Mpesa, I wouldn't be surprised if a multinational tech behemoth (chinese or american) were to make a play for acquiring safaricom and positioning it as a triple-play ISP, money transfer/banking services and digital content provider (harvesting data about users habits on an unprecedented scale across multiple areas of their lives), first in Kenya then expanded throughout east, central and west africa. I must add that your statement about Nigeria puts Mark Zuckerberg's visit there a few months back into context somewhat, perhaps a reconnaissance mission of sorts.

Out of idle curiosity, how could you accurately deduce my country of origin from my name?

Mark P. , December 14, 2017 at 6:59 pm

Out of idle curiosity, how could you accurately deduce my country of origin from my name?

Though I've lived in California for decades, my mother was South African and I maintain a UK passport, having grown up in London.

Mark P. , December 14, 2017 at 3:34 pm

As you also write: "with markets in the developed world pretty much sewn up by the tripartite tech overlords (google, fb and amazon), the next 3 billion users for their products/services are going to come from developing world."

Absolutely true. This cannot be stressed enough. The tech giants know this and the race is on.

Mattski , December 14, 2017 at 3:41 pm

Been happening with food for 50 years.

[Dec 13, 2017] 'You are being programmed,' former Facebook executive warns by Rozina Sini

Dec 13, 2017 | www.bbc.com

A former Facebook executive has criticised the social network for ripping society apart during a question and answer session.

Chamath Palihapitiya, who worked as Facebook's vice president for user growth, was speaking at an event run by the Stanford Graduate School of Business on 10 November in which he described feeling "tremendous guilt' in helping the company attract two billion users.

His comments echoed remarks by Sean Parker, one of the early pioneers of Facebook, who spoke on 8 November , saying the social network provided "a dopamine hit and a social validation feedback loop, that exploited a vulnerability in human psychology."

However, coverage this week has seen thousands responding to Palihaptiya's words.

"We have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works," he told the audience.

He advised people take a "hard break" from social media, describing its effect as "short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops."

'You are being programmed'

"We curate our lives around this perceived sense of perfection, because we get rewarded in these short term signals: Hearts, likes, thumbs up," Palihaptiya said.

"We conflate that with value and we conflate it with truth, and instead what it really is is fake, brittle popularity that's short term and leaves you even more vacant and empty before you did it.

"You don't realise it but you are being programmed."

Palihapitiya said he could not offer a solution but deals with the problem himself by not using social media anymore, something which he says has caused tension with his family and friends.

[Dec 03, 2017] Google Facebook Are 1984 - Tax Them 'Til They Bleed by Raul Ilargi Meije

I would not put YouTube in the same set of Facebook. This is a different platform. And much more useful. IMHO no respectful person that I know uses Facebook for putting personal information on it. Only teenagers are doing that. And even among them resentment against Facebook is common.
Google with its search engine is a more dangerous beast, but there are alternatives. many people stitched for Google to other search engines. That does not give much privacy protection other then moral satisfaction, but still it is stupid just to use Big Brother search engine voluntarily if you can avoid it.
Notable quotes:
"... For Google and Facebook as the world's new major -only?!- ad agencies: Tax the heebies out of them or forbid them from running any ads at all. Why? Because they extract enormous amounts of productive capital from society. Capital they, as Varoufakis says, do not even themselves create. ..."
"... As Google, Facebook and the CIA are ever more entwined, these companies become so important to what 'the spooks' consider the interests of the nation that they will become mutually protective. And once CIA headquarters in Langley, VA, aka the aptly named "George Bush Center for Intelligence", openly as well as secretly protects you, you're pretty much set for life. A long life. ..."
"... I know, you were thinking it was 'the Russians' with a few as yet unproven bucks in Facebook ads that were threatening US and European democracies. Well, you're really going to have to think again. ..."
Nov 12, 2017 | www.zerohedge.com
Authoredr via The Automatic Earth blog,

An entire library of articles about Big Tech is coming out these days, and I find that much of it is written so well, and the ideas in them so well expressed, that I have little to add. Except, I think I may have the solution to the problems many people see. But I also have a concern that I don't see addressed, and that may well prevent that solution from being adopted. If so, we're very far away from any solution at all. And that's seriously bad news.

Let's start with a general -even 'light'- critique of social media by Claire Wardle and Hossein Derakhshan for the Guardian:

How Did The News Go 'Fake'? When The Media Went Social

Social media force us to live our lives in public , positioned centre-stage in our very own daily performances. Erving Goffman, the American sociologist, articulated the idea of "life as theatre" in his 1956 book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, and while the book was published more than half a century ago, the concept is even more relevant today. It is increasingly difficult to live a private life, in terms not just of keeping our personal data away from governments or corporations, but also of keeping our movements, interests and, most worryingly, information consumption habits from the wider world.

The social networks are engineered so that we are constantly assessing others – and being assessed ourselves. In fact our "selves" are scattered across different platforms, and our decisions, which are public or semi-public performances, are driven by our desire to make a good impression on our audiences, imagined and actual. We grudgingly accept these public performances when it comes to our travels, shopping, dating, and dining. We know the deal. The online tools that we use are free in return for us giving up our data, and we understand that they need us to publicly share our lifestyle decisions to encourage people in our network to join, connect and purchase.

But, critically, the same forces have impacted the way we consume news and information. Before our media became "social", only our closest family or friends knew what we read or watched, and if we wanted to keep our guilty pleasures secret, we could. Now, for those of us who consume news via the social networks, what we "like" and what we follow is visible to many [..] Consumption of the news has become a performance that can't be solely about seeking information or even entertainment. What we choose to "like" or follow is part of our identity, an indication of our social class and status, and most frequently our political persuasion.

That sets the scene. People sell their lives, their souls, to join a network that then sells these lives -and souls- to the highest bidder, for a profit the people themselves get nothing of. This is not some far-fetched idea. As noted further down, in terms of scale, Facebook is a present day Christianity. And these concerns are not only coming from 'concerned citizens', some of the early participants are speaking out as well. Like Facebook co-founder Sean Parker:

Facebook: God Only Knows What It's Doing To Our Children's Brains

Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, gave me a candid insider's look at how social networks purposely hook and potentially hurt our brains. Be smart: Parker's I-was-there account provides priceless perspective in the rising debate about the power and effects of the social networks, which now have scale and reach unknown in human history. [..]

"When Facebook was getting going, I had these people who would come up to me and they would say, 'I'm not on social media.' And I would say, 'OK. You know, you will be.' And then they would say, 'No, no, no. I value my real-life interactions. I value the moment. I value presence. I value intimacy.' And I would say, 'We'll get you eventually.'"

"I don't know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying, because [of] the unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or 2 billion people and it literally changes your relationship with society, with each other It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it's doing to our children's brains."

"The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, was all about: 'How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?'" "And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that's going to get you to contribute more content, and that's going to get you more likes and comments."

"It's a social-validation feedback loop exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you're exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology." "The inventors, creators -- it's me, it's Mark [Zuckerberg], it's Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it's all of these people -- understood this consciously. And we did it anyway."

Early stage investor in Facebook, Roger McNamee, also has some words to add along the same lines as Parker. They make it sound like they're Frankenstein and Facebook is their monster.

How Facebook and Google Threaten Public Health – and Democracy

The term "addiction" is no exaggeration. The average consumer checks his or her smartphone 150 times a day, making more than 2,000 swipes and touches. The applications they use most frequently are owned by Facebook and Alphabet, and the usage of those products is still increasing. In terms of scale, Facebook and YouTube are similar to Christianity and Islam respectively. More than 2 billion people use Facebook every month, 1.3 billion check in every day. More than 1.5 billion people use YouTube. Other services owned by these companies also have user populations of 1 billion or more.

Facebook and Alphabet are huge because users are willing to trade privacy and openness for "convenient and free." Content creators resisted at first, but user demand forced them to surrender control and profits to Facebook and Alphabet. The sad truth is that Facebook and Alphabet have behaved irresponsibly in the pursuit of massive profits. They have consciously combined persuasive techniques developed by propagandists and the gambling industry with technology in ways that threaten public health and democracy.

The issue, however, is not social networking or search. It is advertising business models. Let me explain. From the earliest days of tabloid newspapers, publishers realized the power of exploiting human emotions. To win a battle for attention, publishers must give users "what they want," content that appeals to emotions, rather than intellect. Substance cannot compete with sensation, which must be amplified constantly, lest consumers get distracted and move on. "If it bleeds, it leads" has guided editorial choices for more than 150 years, but has only become a threat to society in the past decade, since the introduction of smartphones.

Media delivery platforms like newspapers, television, books, and even computers are persuasive, but people only engage with them for a few hours each day and every person receives the same content. Today's battle for attention is not a fair fight. Every competitor exploits the same techniques, but Facebook and Alphabet have prohibitive advantages: personalization and smartphones. Unlike older media, Facebook and Alphabet know essentially everything about their users, tracking them everywhere they go on the web and often beyond.

By making every experience free and easy, Facebook and Alphabet became gatekeepers on the internet, giving them levels of control and profitability previously unknown in media. They exploit data to customize each user's experience and siphon profits from content creators. Thanks to smartphones, the battle for attention now takes place on a single platform that is available every waking moment. Competitors to Facebook and Alphabet do not have a prayer.

Facebook and Alphabet monetize content through advertising that is targeted more precisely than has ever been possible before . The platforms create "filter bubbles" around each user, confirming pre-existing beliefs and often creating the illusion that everyone shares the same views. Platforms do this because it is profitable. The downside of filter bubbles is that beliefs become more rigid and extreme. Users are less open to new ideas and even to facts.

Of the millions of pieces of content that Facebook can show each user at a given time, they choose the handful most likely to maximize profits. If it were not for the advertising business model, Facebook might choose content that informs, inspires, or enriches users. Instead, the user experience on Facebook is dominated by appeals to fear and anger. This would be bad enough, but reality is worse.

And in a Daily Mail article, McNamee's ideas are taken a mile or so further. Goebbels, Bernays, fear, anger, personalization, civility.

Early Facebook Investor Compares The Social Network To Nazi Propaganda

Facebook officials have been compared to the Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels by a former investor. Roger McNamee also likened the company's methods to those of Edward Bernays, the 'father of public' relations who promoted smoking for women. Mr McNamee, who made a fortune backing the social network in its infancy, has spoken out about his concern about the techniques the tech giants use to engage users and advertisers. [..] the former investor said everyone was now 'in one degree or another addicted' to the site while he feared the platform was causing people to swap real relationships for phoney ones.

And he likened the techniques of the company to Mr Bernays and Hitler's public relations minister. 'In order to maintain your attention they have taken all the techniques of Edward Bernays and Joseph Goebbels, and all of the other people from the world of persuasion, and all the big ad agencies, and they've mapped it onto an all day product with highly personalised information in order to addict you,' Mr McNamee told The Telegraph. Mr McNamee said Facebook was creating a culture of 'fear and anger'. 'We have lowered the civil discourse, people have become less civil to each other..'

He said the tech giant had 'weaponised' the First Amendment to 'essentially absolve themselves of responsibility'. He added: 'I say this as somebody who was there at the beginning.' Mr McNamee's comments come as a further blow to Facebook as just last month former employee Justin Rosenstein spoke out about his concerns. Mr Rosenstein, the Facebook engineer who built a prototype of the network's 'like' button, called the creation the 'bright dings of pseudo-pleasure'. He said he was forced to limit his own use of the social network because he was worried about the impact it had on him.

As for the economic, not the societal or personal, effects of social media, Yanis Varoufakis had this to say a few weeks ago:

Capitalism Is Ending Because It Has Made Itself Obsolete – Varoufakis

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has claimed capitalism is coming to an end because it is making itself obsolete. The former economics professor told an audience at University College London that the rise of giant technology corporations and artificial intelligence will cause the current economic system to undermine itself. Mr Varoufakis said companies such as Google and Facebook, for the first time ever, are having their capital bought and produced by consumers.

"Firstly the technologies were funded by some government grant; secondly every time you search for something on Google, you contribute to Google's capital," he said. "And who gets the returns from capital? Google, not you. "So now there is no doubt capital is being socially produced, and the returns are being privatised . This with artificial intelligence is going to be the end of capitalism."

Ergo, as people sell their lives and their souls to Facebook and Alphabet, they sell their economies along with them.

That's what that means. And you were just checking what your friends were doing. Or, that's what you thought you were doing.

The solution to all these pains is, likely unintentionally, provided by Umair Haque's critique of economics. It's interesting to see how the topics 'blend', 'intertwine'.

How Economics Failed the Economy

When, in the 1930s, the great economist Simon Kuznets created GDP, he deliberately left two industries out of this then novel, revolutionary idea of a national income : finance and advertising. [..] Kuznets logic was simple, and it was not mere opinion, but analytical fact: finance and advertising don't create new value , they only allocate, or distribute existing value in the same way that a loan to buy a television isn't the television, or an ad for healthcare isn't healthcare. They are only means to goods, not goods themselves. Now we come to two tragedies of history.

What happened next is that Congress laughed, as Congresses do, ignored Kuznets, and included advertising and finance anyways for political reasons -after all, bigger, to the politicians mind, has always been better, and therefore, a bigger national income must have been better. Right? Let's think about it. Today, something very curious has taken place.

If we do what Kuznets originally suggested, and subtract finance and advertising from GDP, what does that picture -a picture of the economy as it actually is reveal? Well, since the lion's share of growth, more than 50% every year, comes from finance and advertising -whether via Facebook or Google or Wall St and hedge funds and so on- we would immediately see that the economic growth that the US has chased so desperately, so furiously, never actually existed at all.

Growth itself has only been an illusion, a trick of numbers, generated by including what should have been left out in the first place. If we subtracted allocative industries from GDP, we'd see that economic growth is in fact below population growth, and has been for a very long time now, probably since the 1980s and in that way, the US economy has been stagnant, which is (surprise) what everyday life feels like. Feels like.

Economic indicators do not anymore tell us a realistic, worthwhile, and accurate story about the truth of the economy, and they never did -only, for a while, the trick convinced us that reality wasn't. Today, that trick is over, and economies grow , but people's lives, their well-being, incomes, and wealth, do not, and that, of course, is why extremism is sweeping the globe. Perhaps now you begin to see why the two have grown divorced from one another: economics failed the economy.

Now let us go one step, then two steps, further. Finance and advertising are no longer merely allocative industries today. They are now extractive industries. That is, they internalize value from society, and shift costs onto society, all the while creating no value themselves.

The story is easiest to understand via Facebook's example: it makes its users sadder, lonelier, and unhappier, and also corrodes democracy in spectacular and catastrophic ways. There is not a single upside of any kind that is discernible -and yet, all the above is counted as a benefit, not a cost, in national income, so the economy can thus grow, even while a society of miserable people are being manipulated by foreign actors into destroying their own democracy. Pretty neat, huh?

It was BECAUSE finance and advertising were counted as creative, productive, when they were only allocative, distributive that they soon became extractive. After all, if we had said from the beginning that these industries do not count, perhaps they would not have needed to maximize profits (or for VCs to pour money into them, and so on) endlessly to count more. But we didn't.

And so soon, they had no choice but to become extractive: chasing more and more profits, to juice up the illusion of growth, and soon enough, these industries began to eat the economy whole, because of course, as Kuznets observed, they allocate everything else in the economy, and therefore, they control it.

Thus, the truly creative, productive, life-giving parts of the economy shrank in relative, and even in absolute terms, as they were taken apart, strip-mined, and consumed in order to feed the predatory parts of the economy , which do not expand human potential. The economy did eat itself, just as Marx had supposed – only the reason was not something inherent in it, but a choice, a mistake, a tragedy.

[..] Life is not flourishing, growing, or developing in a single way that I or even you can readily identify or name. And yet, the economy appears to be growing, because purely allocative and distributive enterprises like Uber, Facebook, credit rating agencies, endless nameless hedge funds, shady personal info brokers, and so on, which fail to contribute positively to human life in any discernible way whatsoever, are all counted as beneficial. Do you see the absurdity of it?

[..] It's not a coincidence that the good has failed to grow, nor is it an act of the gods. It was a choice. A simple cause-effect relationship, of a society tricking itself into desperately pretending it was growing, versus truly growing. Remember not subtracting finance and advertising from GDP, to create the illusion of growth? Had America not done that, then perhaps it might have had to work hard to find ways to genuinely, authentically, meaningfully grow, instead of taken the easy way out, only to end up stagnating today, and unable to really even figure out why yet.

Industries that are not productive, but instead only extract money from society, need to be taxed so heavily they have trouble surviving. If that doesn't happen, your economy will never thrive, or even survive. The whole service economy fata morgana must be thrown as far away as we can throw it. Economies must produce real, tangible things, or they die.

For the finance industry this means: tax the sh*t out of any transactions they engage in. Want to make money on complex derivatives? We'll take 75+%. Upfront. And no, you can't take your company overseas. Don't even try.

For Uber and Airbnb it means pay taxes up the wazoo, either as a company or as individual home slash car owners. Uber and Airbnb take huge amounts of money out of local economies, societies, communities, which is nonsense, unnecessary and detrimental. Every city can set up its own local car- or home rental schemes. Their profits should stay within the community, and be invested in it.

For Google and Facebook as the world's new major -only?!- ad agencies: Tax the heebies out of them or forbid them from running any ads at all. Why? Because they extract enormous amounts of productive capital from society. Capital they, as Varoufakis says, do not even themselves create.

YOU are creating the capital, and YOU then must pay for access to the capital created.

Yeah, it feels like you can just hook up and look at what your friends are doing, but the price extracted from you, your friends, and your community is so high you would never volunteer to pay for it if you had any idea.

The one thing that I don't see anyone address, and that might prevent these pretty straightforward "tax-them-til they-bleed!" answers to the threat of New Big Tech, is that Facebook, Alphabet et al have built a very strong relationship with various intelligence communities. And then you have Goebbels and Bernays in the service of the CIA.

As Google, Facebook and the CIA are ever more entwined, these companies become so important to what 'the spooks' consider the interests of the nation that they will become mutually protective. And once CIA headquarters in Langley, VA, aka the aptly named "George Bush Center for Intelligence", openly as well as secretly protects you, you're pretty much set for life. A long life.

Next up: they'll be taking over entire economies, societies. This is happening as we speak . I know, you were thinking it was 'the Russians' with a few as yet unproven bucks in Facebook ads that were threatening US and European democracies. Well, you're really going to have to think again.

The world has never seen such technologies. It has never seen such intensity, depth of, or such dependence on, information. We are simply not prepared for any of this. But we need to learn fast, or become patsies and slaves in a full blown 1984 style piece of absurd theater. Our politicians are AWOL and MIA for all of it, they have no idea what to say or think, they don't understand what Google or bitcoin or Uber really mean.

In the meantime, we know one thing we can do, and we can justify doing it through the concept of non-productive and extractive industries. That is, tax them till they bleed.

That we would hit the finance industry with that as well is a welcome bonus. Long overdue. We need productive economies or we're done. And Facebook and Alphabet -and Goldman Sachs- don't produce d*ck all.

When you think about it, the only growth that's left in the US economy is that of companies spying on American citizens. Well, that and Europeans. China has banned Facebook and Google. Why do you think they have? Because Google and Facebook ARE 1984, that's why. And if there's going to be a Big Brother in the Middle Kingdom, it's not going to be Silicon Valley.

[Nov 30, 2017] How Facebook and Google threaten public health and democracy by Roger McNamee

Notable quotes:
"... In an interview this week with Axios, Facebook's original president, Sean Parker, admitted that the company intentionally sought to addict users and expressed regret at the damage being inflicted on children. ..."
"... The term "addiction" is no exaggeration. The average consumer checks his or her smartphone 150 times a day, making more than 2,000 swipes and touches. The applications they use most frequently are owned by Facebook and Alphabet, and the usage of those products is still increasing. ..."
"... From the earliest days of tabloid newspapers, publishers realized the power of exploiting human emotions. To win a battle for attention, publishers must give users "what they want," content that appeals to emotions, rather than intellect. Substance cannot compete with sensation, which must be amplified constantly, lest consumers get distracted and move on. ..."
"... Roger McNamee is Managing Director at Elevation Partners and an early stage investor in Google and Facebook. ..."
Nov 30, 2017 | www.theguardian.com

In an interview this week with Axios, Facebook's original president, Sean Parker, admitted that the company intentionally sought to addict users and expressed regret at the damage being inflicted on children.

This admission, by one of the architects of Facebook, comes on the heels of last week's hearings by Congressional committees about Russian interference in the 2016 election, where the general counsels of Facebook, Alphabet (parent of Google and YouTube), and Twitter attempted to deflect responsibility for manipulation of their platforms.

The term "addiction" is no exaggeration. The average consumer checks his or her smartphone 150 times a day, making more than 2,000 swipes and touches. The applications they use most frequently are owned by Facebook and Alphabet, and the usage of those products is still increasing.

In terms of scale, Facebook and YouTube are similar to Christianity and Islam respectively. More than 2 billion people use Facebook every month, 1.3 billion check in every day. More than 1.5 billion people use YouTube. Other services owned by these companies also have user populations of 1 billion or more.

Facebook and Alphabet are huge because users are willing to trade privacy and openness for "convenient and free." Content creators resisted at first, but user demand forced them to surrender control and profits to Facebook and Alphabet.

The sad truth is that Facebook and Alphabet have behaved irresponsibly in the pursuit of massive profits. They have consciously combined persuasive techniques developed by propagandists and the gambling industry with technology in ways that threaten public health and democracy. The issue, however, is not social networking or search. It is advertising business models. Let me explain.

From the earliest days of tabloid newspapers, publishers realized the power of exploiting human emotions. To win a battle for attention, publishers must give users "what they want," content that appeals to emotions, rather than intellect. Substance cannot compete with sensation, which must be amplified constantly, lest consumers get distracted and move on.

"If it bleeds, it leads" has guided editorial choices for more than 150 years, but has only become a threat to society in the past decade, since the introduction of smartphones. Media delivery platforms like newspapers, television, books, and even computers are persuasive, but people only engage with them for a few hours each day and every person receives the same content.

Today's battle for attention is not a fair fight. Every competitor exploits the same techniques, but Facebook and Alphabet have prohibitive advantages: personalization and smartphones. Unlike older media, Facebook and Alphabet know essentially everything about their users, tracking them everywhere they go on the web and often beyond.

By making every experience free and easy, Facebook and Alphabet became gatekeepers on the internet, giving them levels of control and profitability previously unknown in media. They exploit data to customize each user's experience and siphon profits from content creators. Thanks to smartphones, the battle for attention now takes place on a single platform that is available every waking moment. Competitors to Facebook and Alphabet do not have a prayer.

Facebook and Alphabet monetize content through advertising that is targeted more precisely than has ever been possible before. The platforms create "filter bubbles" around each user, confirming pre-existing beliefs and often creating the illusion that everyone shares the same views. Platforms do this because it is profitable. The downside of filter bubbles is that beliefs become more rigid and extreme. Users are less open to new ideas and even to facts.

Of the millions of pieces of content that Facebook can show each user at a given time, they choose the handful most likely to maximize profits. If it were not for the advertising business model, Facebook might choose content that informs, inspires, or enriches users. Instead, the user experience on Facebook is dominated by appeals to fear and anger. This would be bad enough, but reality is worse.

Any advertiser can get access to any Facebook user over unsupervised, automated systems. Five million advertisers do so every month. The Russians took advantage of this first to sow discord among Americans and then to interfere in the 2016 election. Other bad actors exploited Facebook in other areas. One company surveilled protest groups and marketed that data to police departments.

Financial institutions were investigated for using Facebook advertising tools to discriminate on the basis of race. Facebook is not the only problem. Alphabet provides Chromebooks to elementary schools with the objective of capturing the attention, and perhaps even behavioral data, about children. At the same time, Alphabet's YouTube Kids is a site filled with inappropriate content that creates addiction in children far too young to resist.

While optimizing for profit is understandable and generally appropriate, Facebook and Alphabet have caused harm that requires serious discussion and remediation.

Facebook and Alphabet assert they are not media companies and therefore are not responsible for what third parties do on their platforms. While that position might be reasonable from start-ups, it is not appropriate from companies who control seven of the top 10 platforms on the internet and exhibit the behaviors of monopolies.

Society regulates products that create addiction. We have laws to prevent discrimination and election manipulation. None of these regulations and laws has yet been applied to Facebook and Google . The time has come.

Roger McNamee is Managing Director at Elevation Partners and an early stage investor in Google and Facebook.

[Nov 30, 2017] How Facebook and Google threaten public health – and democracy by Roger McNamee

Nov 30, 2017 | www.theguardian.com

In an interview this week with Axios, Facebook's original president, Sean Parker, admitted that the company intentionally sought to addict users and expressed regret at the damage being inflicted on children.

This admission, by one of the architects of Facebook, comes on the heels of last week's hearings by Congressional committees about Russian interference in the 2016 election, where the general counsels of Facebook, Alphabet (parent of Google and YouTube), and Twitter attempted to deflect responsibility for manipulation of their platforms.

The term "addiction" is no exaggeration. The average consumer checks his or her smartphone 150 times a day, making more than 2,000 swipes and touches. The applications they use most frequently are owned by Facebook and Alphabet, and the usage of those products is still increasing.

In terms of scale, Facebook and YouTube are similar to Christianity and Islam respectively. More than 2 billion people use Facebook every month, 1.3 billion check in every day. More than 1.5 billion people use YouTube. Other services owned by these companies also have user populations of 1 billion or more.

Facebook and Alphabet are huge because users are willing to trade privacy and openness for "convenient and free." Content creators resisted at first, but user demand forced them to surrender control and profits to Facebook and Alphabet.

The sad truth is that Facebook and Alphabet have behaved irresponsibly in the pursuit of massive profits. They have consciously combined persuasive techniques developed by propagandists and the gambling industry with technology in ways that threaten public health and democracy. The issue, however, is not social networking or search. It is advertising business models. Let me explain.

From the earliest days of tabloid newspapers, publishers realized the power of exploiting human emotions. To win a battle for attention, publishers must give users "what they want," content that appeals to emotions, rather than intellect. Substance cannot compete with sensation, which must be amplified constantly, lest consumers get distracted and move on.

"If it bleeds, it leads" has guided editorial choices for more than 150 years, but has only become a threat to society in the past decade, since the introduction of smartphones. Media delivery platforms like newspapers, television, books, and even computers are persuasive, but people only engage with them for a few hours each day and every person receives the same content.

Today's battle for attention is not a fair fight. Every competitor exploits the same techniques, but Facebook and Alphabet have prohibitive advantages: personalization and smartphones. Unlike older media, Facebook and Alphabet know essentially everything about their users, tracking them everywhere they go on the web and often beyond.

By making every experience free and easy, Facebook and Alphabet became gatekeepers on the internet, giving them levels of control and profitability previously unknown in media. They exploit data to customize each user's experience and siphon profits from content creators. Thanks to smartphones, the battle for attention now takes place on a single platform that is available every waking moment. Competitors to Facebook and Alphabet do not have a prayer.

Facebook and Alphabet monetize content through advertising that is targeted more precisely than has ever been possible before. The platforms create "filter bubbles" around each user, confirming pre-existing beliefs and often creating the illusion that everyone shares the same views. Platforms do this because it is profitable. The downside of filter bubbles is that beliefs become more rigid and extreme. Users are less open to new ideas and even to facts.

Of the millions of pieces of content that Facebook can show each user at a given time, they choose the handful most likely to maximize profits. If it were not for the advertising business model, Facebook might choose content that informs, inspires, or enriches users. Instead, the user experience on Facebook is dominated by appeals to fear and anger. This would be bad enough, but reality is worse.

Any advertiser can get access to any Facebook user over unsupervised, automated systems. Five million advertisers do so every month. The Russians took advantage of this first to sow discord among Americans and then to interfere in the 2016 election. Other bad actors exploited Facebook in other areas. One company surveilled protest groups and marketed that data to police departments.

Financial institutions were investigated for using Facebook advertising tools to discriminate on the basis of race. Facebook is not the only problem. Alphabet provides Chromebooks to elementary schools with the objective of capturing the attention, and perhaps even behavioral data, about children. At the same time, Alphabet's YouTube Kids is a site filled with inappropriate content that creates addiction in children far too young to resist.

While optimizing for profit is understandable and generally appropriate, Facebook and Alphabet have caused harm that requires serious discussion and remediation.

Facebook and Alphabet assert they are not media companies and therefore are not responsible for what third parties do on their platforms. While that position might be reasonable from start-ups, it is not appropriate from companies who control seven of the top 10 platforms on the internet and exhibit the behaviors of monopolies.

Society regulates products that create addiction. We have laws to prevent discrimination and election manipulation. None of these regulations and laws has yet been applied to Facebook and Google . The time has come.

Roger McNamee is Managing Director at Elevation Partners and an early stage investor in Google and Facebook.

[Nov 01, 2017] Don't feed the beast. Duckduckgo is a good alternative to Google. And Facebook and Twitter's revenues are advertisement based

To abandon Amazon is unrealistic, but to control what you are buying (in view that all purchases goes into your Dossier) is probably the necessary precaution.
Google as a search engine deteriorated (Any search engine based on advertizing revenue is promoting spyware. and Google is especially bad in this respect due to its dominant position-- those guy pay Google and push themselves to the top of searches) , and alternative are not much worse, if not batter. It might make sense to change engine periodically, not to stick to a single one.
Facebook is intelligence collection company that masquerade itself as social site. So anybody who use Facebook is actually making creation of a comprehensive dossier on him/her much easier. You contacts are especially important. Same is true for Gmail and hotmail.
Notable quotes:
"... From the beginning of Zuckerberg's empire, I thought Facebook was an idiotic excuse to get people involved in trivia, even the name turned me off. ..."
Nov 01, 2017 | consortiumnews.com

geeyp, November 1, 2017 at 7:18 am

I would like to posit that we stop with the Googling on the internet. I have never "Googled" ever. Oh sure, Google is involved with connecting you when you might click on some links. That you seemingly can't avoid. I also don't Face or Twitter. If everyone could avoid doing that now, perhaps we could show our disdain with these entities acquiescing to Feinstein, et. al. I am so fed up with the Clinton crime family getting away with almost as much as the George H.W. crime family.

Skip Scott , November 1, 2017 at 8:46 am

geeyp-

That is a very good suggestion. Don't feed the beast. Duckduckgo is a good alternative to google. And facebook and twitter's revenues are add based, so don't go there either, as they have been shown to be caving to TPTB. Amazon is also one to avoid for Bezo's links to the CIA.

Jessica K , November 1, 2017 at 9:55 am

From the beginning of Zuckerberg's empire, I thought Facebook was an idiotic excuse to get people involved in trivia, even the name turned me off.

Now, Twitter is planning extending tweets to 280 characters, as if 140 is not bad enough. Unfortunately, Twitter can work to tell lies as well as push back on lies, same for Facebook and Google.

Seriously, this society has become unglued and as Lois says, "It ain't a pretty sight". Bad choices are leading to the American empire's downfall.

There's an interesting article from a week ago on Zero Hedge, "China's Rise, America's Fall", about China's launch of the petroyuan and other countries' desire to get off of dollar dominance.

Has a graph showing empire dominance from Portugal in 15th century, then Netherlands followed by Spain, then France, Great Britain, and finally the American empire, poised to be replaced by China.

[Oct 29, 2017] In Facebook We Antitrust by Patricia J. Williams

The author presentation of Facebook social effects is somewhat hysteric and lacks depth, but still mining data on two billion people is probably the moment when quantity turns into quality. For many people usage of Facebook is the symbol of being stupid. But other are too stupid to notice that they are being used. The same actually is true for Goggle.
Still, those in intelligence agencies who financed Facebook can now be proud.
Notable quotes:
"... Online organizers, who arguably have more awareness of the problems with Facebook, are equally committed to sticking with it, because "that's where the people are." To imagine fixing the democracy-distorting effects of Facebook's power, you have to be able to see beyond its boundaries, to a world where how we learn, play, and socialize isn't structured by the Lawnmower Man and surveillance capitalism. And I fear that our ability to imagine that world is rapidly fading ..."
Oct 29, 2017 | www.thenation.com

On June 27, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, announced that "the Facebook community is now officially 2 billion people!" It took the platform a little more than eight years to reach 1 billion users, and then less than five years to reach the second billion. Close to two-thirds of users visit the site at least once a day. There is no other human entity on earth as big as Facebook -- no country, no business, no single religious denomination.

We have to trust Facebook when its spokespeople say they are not abusing these powers to the benefit of any partisan cause. While the company has tried to downplay its ability to influence political choices, internal documents obtained by The Australian revealed that Facebook routinely tells advertisers that it knows exactly which buttons they should press to sell their products to impressionable young people. We should assume the same is true for other audiences. Don't forget, dear reader, especially if -- as is more than likely -- you are reading this article on Facebook right now: You are not Facebook's customer; you are its product. Facebook's only true constituency is its millions of advertisers.

... ... ...

Indeed, it is becoming more clear with each passing day that operatives tied to Russia used Facebook to insinuate themselves into the 2016 election, by creating fake accounts and group pages, pumping up false news stories, and targeting tens of millions of users with ads designed to sow division and affect their inclination to vote. Because Facebook's algorithms are tuned to optimize "engagement," meaning the amount of time its users spend on the site, such inflammatory content was catnip. But the Russia-Trump connection is not the central question to focus on when it comes to Facebook's power; it's just the tipping point that is causing many people to pay attention at last.

You can't solve a problem if you can't even name it, and we're just beginning to find words to adequately describe the issues raised by Facebook and other dominant tech platforms like Google and Amazon. In a very important article in The Yale Law Journal, "Amazon's Antitrust Paradox," Lina Khan of the Open Markets Institute notes that, while Amazon has lowered prices for consumers across many market categories, it has also abused its monopoly power in numerous ways. For example, it has mined internal data on the usage of its Amazon Web Services platform to figure out which tech start-ups were taking off and thus gain an insider's advantage on investment decisions. It has also created copycat products under the AmazonBasics label to directly compete with outside retailers by using internal data about the best-selling products on the site. Third-party sellers who use Amazon's delivery service do better in search results. Likewise, Google has used its dominant position as the main place that people go to search for information to sometimes favor its own content, such as travel-booking services and restaurant recommendations.

Since Facebook is currently a de facto social utility, it's tempting to propose that it be regulated, perhaps in a manner similar to the ways that the government has regulated telecommunications companies. For example, as Harold Feld of Public Knowledge has argued, Facebook could be required to show that it is not discriminating against particular classes of users or individuals when it comes to who it allows on the platform or how they're permitted to use it. Thus, when Facebook fires up its voter megaphone, the company could be required to show technical auditors that it is indeed being used in a neutral way. Likewise, when Google or Amazon exploit their market dominance in Web searches to privilege their own products, an antitrust case could be made that they're unfairly rigging the marketplace.

It's hard to see where the political will to explore these sorts of remedies is going to come from. Most of my liberal friends, confronted by the evidence that Facebook was used to meddle in the election, still can't find the energy to quit or stop using the platform. Online organizers, who arguably have more awareness of the problems with Facebook, are equally committed to sticking with it, because "that's where the people are." To imagine fixing the democracy-distorting effects of Facebook's power, you have to be able to see beyond its boundaries, to a world where how we learn, play, and socialize isn't structured by the Lawnmower Man and surveillance capitalism. And I fear that our ability to imagine that world is rapidly fading.

Patricia J. Williams is the James L. Dohr Professor of Law at Columbia University School of Law and a columnist for The Nation.

[Oct 22, 2017] What Facebook Did to American Democracy by Alexis C. Madrigal

The danger is that intelligence agencies cause Facebook to influence elections.
Notable quotes:
"... Fowler told Rosen that it was "even possible that Facebook is completely responsible" for the youth voter increase. And because a higher proportion of young people vote Democratic than the general population, the net effect of Facebook's GOTV effort would have been to help the Dems. ..."
"... In June 2014, Harvard Law scholar Jonathan Zittrain wrote an essay in New Republic ..."
"... The Filter Bubble, ..."
"... The Filter Bubble ..."
"... The New York Times ..."
"... The New York Times ..."
"... The New York Times ..."
"... The Washington Post, ..."
"... the Pope himself ..."
"... New York Magazine ..."
"... The New York Times Magazine ..."
"... 340 million times ..."
"... Information Operations and Facebook ..."
"... The Washington Post ..."
"... sat with the Obama tech team ..."
"... The New York Times ..."
"... Prototype Politics , ..."
"... The Huffington Post ..."
"... But the point isn't that a Republican beat a Democrat. The point is that the very roots of the electoral system -- the news people see, the events they think happened, the information they digest -- had been destabilized. ..."
"... Chaos Monkeys ..."
"... The information systems that people use to process news have been rerouted through Facebook, and in the process, mostly broken and hidden from view. It wasn't just liberal bias that kept the media from putting everything together. Much of the hundreds of millions of dollars that was spent during the election cycle came in the form of "dark ads." ..."
"... Update: After publication, Adam Mosseri, head of News Feed, sent an email describing some of the work that Facebook is doing in response to the problems during the election. They include new software and processes "to stop the spread of misinformation , click-bait and other problematic content on Facebook." ..."
"... "The truth is we've learned things since the election, and we take our responsibility to protect the community of people who use Facebook seriously. As a result, we've launched a company-wide effort to improve the integrity of information on our service," he wrote. "It's already translated into new products, new protections, and the commitment of thousands of new people to enforce our policies and standards... We know there is a lot more work to do, but I've never seen this company more engaged on a single challenge since I joined almost 10 years ago." ..."
Oct 22, 2017 | www.theatlantic.com

And why it was so hard to see it coming

In the media world, as in so many other realms, there is a sharp discontinuity in the timeline: before the 2016 election, and after.

Things we thought we understood -- narratives, data, software, news events -- have had to be reinterpreted in light of Donald Trump's surprising win as well as the continuing questions about the role that misinformation and disinformation played in his election.

Tech journalists covering Facebook had a duty to cover what was happening before, during, and after the election. Reporters tried to see past their often liberal political orientations and the unprecedented actions of Donald Trump to see how 2016 was playing out on the internet. Every component of the chaotic digital campaign has been reported on, here at The Atlantic , and elsewhere: Facebook's enormous distribution power for political information, rapacious partisanship reinforced by distinct media information spheres, the increasing scourge of "viral" hoaxes and other kinds of misinformation that could propagate through those networks, and the Russian information ops agency.

But no one delivered the synthesis that could have tied together all these disparate threads. It's not that this hypothetical perfect story would have changed the outcome of the election. The real problem -- for all political stripes -- is understanding the set of conditions that led to Trump's victory. The informational underpinnings of democracy have eroded, and no one has explained precisely how.

* * *

We've known since at least 2012 that Facebook was a powerful, non-neutral force in electoral politics. In that year, a combined University of California, San Diego and Facebook research team led by James Fowler published a study in Nature , which argued that Facebook's "I Voted" button had driven a small but measurable increase in turnout, primarily among young people.

Rebecca Rosen's 2012 story, " Did Facebook Give Democrats the Upper Hand? " relied on new research from Fowler, et al., about the presidential election that year. Again, the conclusion of their work was that Facebook's get-out-the-vote message could have driven a substantial chunk of the increase in youth voter participation in the 2012 general election. Fowler told Rosen that it was "even possible that Facebook is completely responsible" for the youth voter increase. And because a higher proportion of young people vote Democratic than the general population, the net effect of Facebook's GOTV effort would have been to help the Dems.

The research showed that a small design change by Facebook could have electoral repercussions, especially with America's electoral-college format in which a few hotly contested states have a disproportionate impact on the national outcome. And the pro-liberal effect it implied became enshrined as an axiom of how campaign staffers, reporters, and academics viewed social media.

In June 2014, Harvard Law scholar Jonathan Zittrain wrote an essay in New Republic called, " Facebook Could Decide an Election Without Anyone Ever Finding Out ," in which he called attention to the possibility of Facebook selectively depressing voter turnout. (He also suggested that Facebook be seen as an "information fiduciary," charged with certain special roles and responsibilities because it controls so much personal data.)

In late 2014, The Daily Dot called attention to an obscure Facebook-produced case study on how strategists defeated a statewide measure in Florida by relentlessly focusing Facebook ads on Broward and Dade counties, Democratic strongholds. Working with a tiny budget that would have allowed them to send a single mailer to just 150,000 households, the digital-advertising firm Chong and Koster was able to obtain remarkable results. "Where the Facebook ads appeared, we did almost 20 percentage points better than where they didn't," testified a leader of the firm. "Within that area, the people who saw the ads were 17 percent more likely to vote our way than the people who didn't. Within that group, the people who voted the way we wanted them to, when asked why, often cited the messages they learned from the Facebook ads."

In April 2016, Rob Meyer published " How Facebook Could Tilt the 2016 Election " after a company meeting in which some employees apparently put the stopping-Trump question to Mark Zuckerberg. Based on Fowler's research, Meyer reimagined Zittrain's hypothetical as a direct Facebook intervention to depress turnout among non-college graduates, who leaned Trump as a whole.

Facebook, of course, said it would never do such a thing. "Voting is a core value of democracy and we believe that supporting civic participation is an important contribution we can make to the community," a spokesperson said. "We as a company are neutral -- we have not and will not use our products in a way that attempts to influence how people vote."

They wouldn't do it intentionally, at least.

As all these examples show, though, the potential for Facebook to have an impact on an election was clear for at least half a decade before Donald Trump was elected. But rather than focusing specifically on the integrity of elections, most writers -- myself included , some observers like Sasha Issenberg , Zeynep Tufekci , and Daniel Kreiss excepted -- bundled electoral problems inside other, broader concerns like privacy , surveillance , tech ideology , media-industry competition , or the psychological effects of social media .

The same was true even of people inside Facebook. "If you'd come to me in 2012, when the last presidential election was raging and we were cooking up ever more complicated ways to monetize Facebook data, and told me that Russian agents in the Kremlin's employ would be buying Facebook ads to subvert American democracy, I'd have asked where your tin-foil hat was," wrote Antonio García Martínez, who managed ad targeting for Facebook back then. "And yet, now we live in that otherworldly political reality."

Not to excuse us, but this was back on the Old Earth, too, when electoral politics was not the thing that every single person talked about all the time. There were other important dynamics to Facebook's growing power that needed to be covered.

* * *

Facebook's draw is its ability to give you what you want. Like a page, get more of that page's posts; like a story, get more stories like that; interact with a person, get more of their updates. The way Facebook determines the ranking of the News Feed is the probability that you'll like, comment on, or share a story. Shares are worth more than comments, which are both worth more than likes, but in all cases, the more likely you are to interact with a post, the higher up it will show in your News Feed. Two thousand kinds of data (or "features" in the industry parlance) get smelted in Facebook's machine-learning system to make those predictions.

What's crucial to understand is that, from the system's perspective, success is correctly predicting what you'll like, comment on, or share. That's what matters. People call this "engagement." There are other factors, as Slate' s Will Oremus noted in this rare story about the News Feed ranking team . But who knows how much weight they actually receive and for how long as the system evolves. For example, one change that Facebook highlighted to Oremus in early 2016 -- taking into account how long people look at a story, even if they don't click it -- was subsequently dismissed by Lars Backstrom, the VP of engineering in charge of News Feed ranking , as a "noisy" signal that's also "biased in a few ways" making it "hard to use" in a May 2017 technical talk.

Facebook's engineers do not want to introduce noise into the system. Because the News Feed, this machine for generating engagement, is Facebook's most important technical system. Their success predicting what you'll like is why users spend an average of more than 50 minutes a day on the site, and why even the former creator of the "like" button worries about how well the site captures attention. News Feed works really well.

But as far as " personalized newspapers " go, this one's editorial sensibilities are limited. Most people are far less likely to engage with viewpoints that they find confusing, annoying, incorrect, or abhorrent. And this is true not just in politics, but the broader culture.

That this could be a problem was apparent to many. Eli Pariser's The Filter Bubble, which came out in the summer of 2011, became the most widely cited distillation of the effects Facebook and other internet platforms could have on public discourse.

Pariser began the book research when he noticed conservative people, whom he'd befriended on the platform despite his left-leaning politics, had disappeared from his News Feed. "I was still clicking my progressive friends' links more than my conservative friends' -- and links to the latest Lady Gaga videos more than either," he wrote. "So no conservative links for me."

Through the book, he traces the many potential problems that the "personalization" of media might bring. Most germane to this discussion, he raised the point that if every one of the billion News Feeds is different, how can anyone understand what other people are seeing and responding to?

"The most serious political problem posed by filter bubbles is that they make it increasingly difficult to have a public argument. As the number of different segments and messages increases, it becomes harder and harder for the campaigns to track who's saying what to whom," Pariser wrote. "How does a [political] campaign know what its opponent is saying if ads are only targeted to white Jewish men between 28 and 34 who have expressed a fondness for U2 on Facebook and who donated to Barack Obama's campaign?"

This did, indeed, become an enormous problem. When I was editor in chief of Fusion , we set about trying to track the "digital campaign" with several dedicated people. What we quickly realized was that there was both too much data -- the noisiness of all the different posts by the various candidates and their associates -- as well as too little. Targeting made tracking the actual messaging that the campaigns were paying for impossible to track. On Facebook, the campaigns could show ads only to the people they targeted. We couldn't actually see the messages that were actually reaching people in battleground areas. From the outside, it was a technical impossibility to know what ads were running on Facebook, one that the company had fought to keep intact .

Pariser suggests in his book, "one simple solution to this problem would simply be to require campaigns to immediately disclose all of their online advertising materials and to whom each ad is targeted." Which could happen in future campaigns .

Imagine if this had happened in 2016. If there were data sets of all the ads that the campaigns and others had run, we'd know a lot more about what actually happened last year. The Filter Bubble is obviously prescient work, but there was one thing that Pariser and most other people did not foresee. And that's that Facebook became completely dominant as a media distributor.

* * *

About two years after Pariser published his book, Facebook took over the news-media ecosystem. They've never publicly admitted it, but in late 2013, they began to serve ads inviting users to "like" media pages. This caused a massive increase in the amount of traffic that Facebook sent to media companies. At The Atlantic and other publishers across the media landscape, it was like a tide was carrying us to new traffic records. Without hiring anyone else, without changing strategy or tactics, without publishing more, suddenly everything was easier.

While traffic to The Atlantic from Facebook.com increased, at the time, most of the new traffic did not look like it was coming from Facebook within The Atlantic 's analytics. It showed up as "direct/bookmarked" or some variation, depending on the software. It looked like what I called "dark social" back in 2012. But as BuzzFeed 's Charlie Warzel pointed out at the time , and as I came to believe, it was primarily Facebook traffic in disguise. Between August and October of 2013, BuzzFeed 's "partner network" of hundreds of websites saw a jump in traffic from Facebook of 69 percent.

At The Atlantic, we ran a series of experiments that showed, pretty definitively from our perspective, that most of the stuff that looked like "dark social" was, in fact, traffic coming from within Facebook's mobile app. Across the landscape, it began to dawn on people who thought about these kinds of things: Damn, Facebook owns us . They had taken over media distribution.

Why? This is a best guess, proffered by Robinson Meyer as it was happening : Facebook wanted to crush Twitter, which had drawn a disproportionate share of media and media-figure attention. Just as Instagram borrowed Snapchat's "Stories" to help crush the site's growth, Facebook decided it needed to own "news" to take the wind out of the newly IPO'd Twitter.

The first sign that this new system had some kinks came with " Upworthy -style " headlines. (And you'll never guess what happened next!) Things didn't just go kind of viral, they went ViralNova , a site which, like Upworthy itself , Facebook eventually smacked down . Many of the new sites had, like Upworthy , which was cofounded by Pariser, a progressive bent.

Less noticed was that a right-wing media was developing in opposition to and alongside these left-leaning sites. "By 2014, the outlines of the Facebook-native hard-right voice and grievance spectrum were there," The New York Times ' media and tech writer John Herrman told me, "and I tricked myself into thinking they were a reaction/counterpart to the wave of soft progressive/inspirational content that had just crested. It ended up a Reaction in a much bigger and destabilizing sense."

The other sign of algorithmic trouble was the wild swings that Facebook Video underwent. In the early days, just about any old video was likely to generate many, many, many views. The numbers were insane in the early days. Just as an example, a Fortune article noted that BuzzFeed 's video views "grew 80-fold in a year, reaching more than 500 million in April." Suddenly, all kinds of video -- good, bad, and ugly -- were doing 1-2-3 million views.

As with news, Facebook's video push was a direct assault on a competitor, YouTube . Videos changed the dynamics of the News Feed for individuals, for media companies, and for anyone trying to understand what the hell was going on.

Individuals were suddenly inundated with video. Media companies, despite no business model, were forced to crank out video somehow or risk their pages/brands losing relevance as video posts crowded others out.

And on top of all that, scholars and industry observers were used to looking at what was happening in articles to understand how information was flowing. Now, by far the most viewed media objects on Facebook, and therefore on the internet, were videos without transcripts or centralized repositories. In the early days, many successful videos were just "freebooted" (i.e., stolen) videos from other places or reposts. All of which served to confuse and obfuscate the transport mechanisms for information and ideas on Facebook.

Through this messy, chaotic, dynamic situation, a new media rose up through the Facebook burst to occupy the big filter bubbles. On the right, Breitbart is the center of a new conservative network. A study of 1.25 million election news articles found "a right-wing media network anchored around Breitbart developed as a distinct and insulated media system, using social media as a backbone to transmit a hyper-partisan perspective to the world."

Breitbart , of course, also lent Steve Bannon, its chief, to the Trump campaign, creating another feedback loop between the candidate and a rabid partisan press. Through 2015, Breitbart went from a medium-sized site with a small Facebook page of 100,000 likes into a powerful force shaping the election with almost 1.5 million likes. In the key metric for Facebook's News Feed, its posts got 886,000 interactions from Facebook users in January. By July, Breitbart had surpassed The New York Times ' main account in interactions. By December, it was doing 10 million interactions per month, about 50 percent of Fox News, which had 11.5 million likes on its main page. Breitbart 's audience was hyper-engaged.

There is no precise equivalent to the Breitbart phenomenon on the left. Rather the big news organizations are classified as center-left, basically, with fringier left-wing sites showing far smaller followings than Breitbart on the right.

And this new, hyperpartisan media created the perfect conditions for another dynamic that influenced the 2016 election, the rise of fake news.

Sites by partisan attention ( Yochai Benkler, Robert Faris, Hal Roberts, and Ethan Zuckerman )

* * *

In a December 2015 article for BuzzFeed , Joseph Bernstein argued that " the dark forces of the internet became a counterculture ." He called it "Chanterculture" after the trolls who gathered at the meme-creating, often-racist 4chan message board. Others ended up calling it the "alt-right." This culture combined a bunch of people who loved to perpetuate hoaxes with angry Gamergaters with "free-speech" advocates like Milo Yiannopoulos with honest-to-God neo-Nazis and white supremacists. And these people loved Donald Trump.

"This year Chanterculture found its true hero, who makes it plain that what we're seeing is a genuine movement: the current master of American resentment, Donald Trump," Bernstein wrote. "Everywhere you look on 'politically incorrect' subforums and random chans, he looms."

When you combine hyper-partisan media with a group of people who love to clown "normies," you end up with things like Pizzagate , a patently ridiculous and widely debunked conspiracy theory that held there was a child-pedophilia ring linked to Hillary Clinton somehow. It was just the most bizarre thing in the entire world. And many of the figures in Bernstein's story were all over it, including several who the current president has consorted with on social media.

But Pizzagate was but the most Pynchonian of all the crazy misinformation and hoaxes that spread in the run-up to the election.

BuzzFeed , deeply attuned to the flows of the social web, was all over the story through reporter Craig Silverman. His best-known analysis happened after the election, when he showed that "in the final three months of the U.S. presidential campaign, the top-performing fake election-news stories on Facebook generated more engagement than the top stories from major news outlets such as The New York Times , The Washington Post , The Huffington Post , NBC News, and others."

But he also tracked fake news before the election , as did other outlets such as The Washington Post, including showing that Facebook's "Trending" algorithm regularly promoted fake news. By September of 2016, even the Pope himself was talking about fake news, by which we mean actual hoaxes or lies perpetuated by a variety of actors.

The longevity of Snopes shows that hoaxes are nothing new to the internet. Already in January 2015 , Robinson Meyer reported about how Facebook was " cracking down on the fake news stories that plague News Feeds everywhere ."

What made the election cycle different was that all of these changes to the information ecosystem had made it possible to develop weird businesses around fake news. Some random website posting aggregated news about the election could not drive a lot of traffic. But some random website announcing that the Pope had endorsed Donald Trump definitely could . The fake news generated a ton of engagement, which meant that it spread far and wide.

A few days before the election Silverman and fellow BuzzFeed contributor Lawrence Alexander traced 100 pro–Donald Trump sites to a town of 45,000 in Macedonia . Some teens there realized they could make money off the election, and just like that, became a node in the information network that helped Trump beat Clinton.

Whatever weird thing you imagine might happen, something weirder probably did happen. Reporters tried to keep up, but it was too strange. As Max Read put it in New York Magazine , Facebook is "like a four-dimensional object, we catch slices of it when it passes through the three-dimensional world we recognize." No one can quite wrap their heads around what this thing has become, or all the things this thing has become.

"Not even President-Pope-Viceroy Zuckerberg himself seemed prepared for the role Facebook has played in global politics this past year," Read wrote.

And we haven't even gotten to the Russians.

* * *

Russia's disinformation campaigns are well known. During his reporting for a story in The New York Times Magazine , Adrian Chen sat across the street from the headquarters of the Internet Research Agency, watching workaday Russian agents/internet trolls head inside. He heard how the place had "industrialized the art of trolling" from a former employee. "Management was obsessed with statistics -- page views, number of posts, a blog's place on LiveJournal's traffic charts -- and team leaders compelled hard work through a system of bonuses and fines," he wrote. Of course they wanted to maximize engagement, too!

There were reports that Russian trolls were commenting on American news sites . There were many, many reports of Russia's propaganda offensive in Ukraine. Ukrainian journalists run a website dedicated to cataloging these disinformation attempts called StopFake . It has hundreds of posts reaching back into 2014.

A Guardian reporter who looked into Russian military doctrine around information war found a handbook that described how it might work. "The deployment of information weapons, [the book] suggests, 'acts like an invisible radiation' upon its targets: 'The population doesn't even feel it is being acted upon. So the state doesn't switch on its self-defense mechanisms,'" wrote Peter Pomerantsev.

As more details about the Russian disinformation campaign come to the surface through Facebook's continued digging, it's fair to say that it's not just the state that did not switch on its self-defense mechanisms. The influence campaign just happened on Facebook without anyone noticing.

As many people have noted, the 3,000 ads that have been linked to Russia are a drop in the bucket, even if they did reach millions of people. The real game is simply that Russian operatives created pages that reached people "organically," as the saying goes. Jonathan Albright, research director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, pulled data on the six publicly known Russia-linked Facebook pages . He found that their posts had been shared 340 million times . And those were six of 470 pages that Facebook has linked to Russian operatives. You're probably talking billions of shares, with who knows how many views, and with what kind of specific targeting.

The Russians are good at engagement! Yet, before the U.S. election, even after Hillary Clinton and intelligence agencies fingered Russian intelligence meddling in the election, even after news reports suggested that a disinformation campaign was afoot , nothing about the actual operations on Facebook came out.

In the aftermath of these discoveries, three Facebook security researchers, Jen Weedon, William Nuland, and Alex Stamos, released a white paper called Information Operations and Facebook . "We have had to expand our security focus from traditional abusive behavior, such as account hacking, malware, spam, and financial scams, to include more subtle and insidious forms of misuse, including attempts to manipulate civic discourse and deceive people," they wrote.

One key theme of the paper is that they were used to dealing with economic actors, who responded to costs and incentives. When it comes to Russian operatives paid to Facebook, those constraints no longer hold. "The area of information operations does provide a unique challenge," they wrote, "in that those sponsoring such operations are often not constrained by per-unit economic realities in the same way as spammers and click fraudsters, which increases the complexity of deterrence." They were not expecting that.

Add everything up. The chaos of a billion-person platform that competitively dominated media distribution. The known electoral efficacy of Facebook. The wild fake news and misinformation rampaging across the internet generally and Facebook specifically. The Russian info operations. All of these things were known.

And yet no one could quite put it all together: The dominant social network had altered the information and persuasion environment of the election beyond recognition while taking a very big chunk of the estimated $1.4 billion worth of digital advertising purchased during the election. There were hundreds of millions of dollars of dark ads doing their work. Fake news all over the place. Macedonian teens campaigning for Trump. Ragingly partisan media infospheres serving up only the news you wanted to hear. Who could believe anything? What room was there for policy positions when all this stuff was eating up News Feed space? Who the hell knew what was going on?

As late as August 20, 2016 , the The Washington Post could say this of the campaigns:

Hillary Clinton is running arguably the most digital presidential campaign in U.S. history. Donald Trump is running one of the most analog campaigns in recent memory. The Clinton team is bent on finding more effective ways to identify supporters and ensure they cast ballots; Trump is, famously and unapologetically, sticking to a 1980s-era focus on courting attention and voters via television.

Just a week earlier, Trump's campaign had hired Cambridge Analytica. Soon, they'd ramped up to $70 million a month in Facebook advertising spending. And the next thing you knew, Brad Parscale, Trump's digital director, is doing the postmortem rounds talking up his win .

"These social platforms are all invented by very liberal people on the west and east coasts," Parscale said. "And we figure out how to use it to push conservative values. I don't think they thought that would ever happen."

And that was part of the media's problem, too.

* * *

Before Trump's election, the impact of internet technology generally and Facebook specifically was seen as favoring Democrats. Even a TechCrunch critique of Rosen's 2012 article about Facebook's electoral power argued, "the internet inherently advantages liberals because, on average, their greater psychological embrace of disruption leads to more innovation (after all, nearly every major digital breakthrough, from online fundraising to the use of big data, was pioneered by Democrats)."

Certainly, the Obama tech team that I profiled in 2012 thought this was the case. Of course, social media would benefit the (youthful, diverse, internet-savvy) left. And the political bent of just about all Silicon Valley companies runs Democratic . For all the talk about Facebook employees embedding with the Trump campaign , the former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, sat with the Obama tech team on Election Day 2012.

In June 2015, The New York Times ran an article about Republicans trying to ramp up their digital campaigns that began like this: "The criticism after the 2012 presidential election was swift and harsh: Democrats were light-years ahead of Republicans when it came to digital strategy and tactics, and Republicans had serious work to do on the technology front if they ever hoped to win back the White House."

It cited Sasha Issenberg, the most astute reporter on political technology. "The Republicans have a particular challenge," Issenberg said, "which is, in these areas they don't have many people with either the hard skills or the experience to go out and take on this type of work."

University of North Carolina journalism professor Daniel Kreiss wrote a whole (good) book, Prototype Politics , showing that Democrats had an incredible personnel advantage. " Drawing on an innovative data set of the professional careers of 629 staffers working in technology on presidential campaigns from 2004 to 2012 and data from interviews with more than 60 party and campaign staffers," Kriess wrote, "the book details how and explains why the Democrats have invested more in technology, attracted staffers with specialized expertise to work in electoral politics, and founded an array of firms and organizations to diffuse technological innovations down ballot and across election cycles."

Which is to say: It's not that no journalists, internet-focused lawyers, or technologists saw Facebook's looming electoral presence -- it was undeniable -- but all the evidence pointed to the structural change benefitting Democrats. And let's just state the obvious: Most reporters and professors are probably about as liberal as your standard Silicon Valley technologist, so this conclusion fit into the comfort zone of those in the field.

By late October, the role that Facebook might be playing in the Trump campaign -- and more broadly -- was emerging. Joshua Green and Issenberg reported a long feature on the data operation then in motion . The Trump campaign was working to suppress "idealistic white liberals, young women, and African Americans," and they'd be doing it with targeted, "dark" Facebook ads. These ads are only visible to the buyer, the ad recipients, and Facebook. No one who hasn't been targeted by then can see them. How was anyone supposed to know what was going on, when the key campaign terrain was literally invisible to outside observers?

Steve Bannon was confident in the operation. "I wouldn't have come aboard, even for Trump, if I hadn't known they were building this massive Facebook and data engine," Bannon told them. "Facebook is what propelled Breitbart to a massive audience. We know its power."

Issenberg and Green called it "an odd gambit" which had "no scientific basis." Then again, Trump's whole campaign had seemed like an odd gambit with no scientific basis. The conventional wisdom was that Trump was going to lose and lose badly. In the days before the election, The Huffington Post 's data team had Clinton's election probability at 98.3 percent. A member of the team, Ryan Grim, went after Nate Silver for his more conservative probability of 64.7 percent, accusing him of skewing his data for "punditry" reasons. Grim ended his post on the topic, "If you want to put your faith in the numbers, you can relax. She's got this."

Narrator: She did not have this.

But the point isn't that a Republican beat a Democrat. The point is that the very roots of the electoral system -- the news people see, the events they think happened, the information they digest -- had been destabilized.

In the middle of the summer of the election, the former Facebook ad-targeting product manager, Antonio García Martínez, released an autobiography called Chaos Monkeys . He called his colleagues "chaos monkeys," messing with industry after industry in their company-creating fervor. "The question for society," he wrote, "is whether it can survive these entrepreneurial chaos monkeys intact, and at what human cost." This is the real epitaph of the election.

The information systems that people use to process news have been rerouted through Facebook, and in the process, mostly broken and hidden from view. It wasn't just liberal bias that kept the media from putting everything together. Much of the hundreds of millions of dollars that was spent during the election cycle came in the form of "dark ads."

The truth is that while many reporters knew some things that were going on on Facebook, no one knew everything that was going on on Facebook, not even Facebook. And so, during the most significant shift in the technology of politics since the television, the first draft of history is filled with undecipherable whorls and empty pages. Meanwhile, the 2018 midterms loom.

Update: After publication, Adam Mosseri, head of News Feed, sent an email describing some of the work that Facebook is doing in response to the problems during the election. They include new software and processes "to stop the spread of misinformation , click-bait and other problematic content on Facebook."

"The truth is we've learned things since the election, and we take our responsibility to protect the community of people who use Facebook seriously. As a result, we've launched a company-wide effort to improve the integrity of information on our service," he wrote. "It's already translated into new products, new protections, and the commitment of thousands of new people to enforce our policies and standards... We know there is a lot more work to do, but I've never seen this company more engaged on a single challenge since I joined almost 10 years ago."

[Oct 16, 2017] Who rules this Facebook

Notable quotes:
"... Among the advertisements included hundreds of irrelevant issues (even simple pictures with puppies), while 65% of the messages were uploaded after the US presidential elections, so, apparently, they would not had been able to influence the final result. So, the big news was not the content of the Ads, but the fact that Zuckerberg agreed to cooperate with the US authorities by offering information of Facebook users - a policy immediately followed by Google and Twitter. ..."
"... For many, the informal proclamation was an expression of "subjugation" to the US deep state, and especially to the reborn camp of neoconservatives, who, led by Hillary Clinton, have launched a new witch hunt against Moscow. For others, it was just a compromise move that proved that Zuckerberg can "swim" comfortably into the deep waters of the American political scene. ..."
Oct 16, 2017 | failedevolution.blogspot.gr

The decision of the founder of Facebook to work with the US authorities on the hunting of Russian hackers is a turning point in the policy of the largest social medium on the planet. Perhaps it is the moment that officially enters the political arena.
globinfo freexchange
There are two things that have been commonplace for White House occupants for centuries: a long tour in all the American states before the elections and a proclamation to the American people after their election. Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook, did both.
In the last year he visits all the American states, taking pictures with farmers, workers, priests and even addicted people in a personal "election campaign" without any opponents. And then, it was time to turn Urbi et Orbi to the two billion "believers" who keep active Facebook accounts.
The reason was that the known social medium allowed the publication of paid Ads by Russian users, supposedly aimed at influencing the outcome of the US elections. Although initially Facebook reported that it had not identified any suspicious action, when the pressures began to rise, Zuckerberg said in his "statement" that he would provide data to a congressional committee for about 3,000 related Ads posted on his pages. Of course, as the researcher and journalist Max Blumenthal explained, this "treasure" turned out to be coal too.
Among the advertisements included hundreds of irrelevant issues (even simple pictures with puppies), while 65% of the messages were uploaded after the US presidential elections, so, apparently, they would not had been able to influence the final result. So, the big news was not the content of the Ads, but the fact that Zuckerberg agreed to cooperate with the US authorities by offering information of Facebook users - a policy immediately followed by Google and Twitter.
For many, the informal proclamation was an expression of "subjugation" to the US deep state, and especially to the reborn camp of neoconservatives, who, led by Hillary Clinton, have launched a new witch hunt against Moscow. For others, it was just a compromise move that proved that Zuckerberg can "swim" comfortably into the deep waters of the American political scene.
In any case, the incident once again brought to light the terrifying power that Facebook has acquired in the already oligopolistic market of social media. "Facebook users could outnumber Christians before the end of the year" CNBC stated a few days ago - a peculiar way indeed to explain that soon one-third of the world's inhabitants will use Zuckerberg's platform at least once a month.
The case of the Russian Ads, however, has triggered an even more interesting debate. Most of those who criticized Zuckerberg's decision accused him of interfering in the operation of the algorithms that determine which news, Ads, and friend's messages will be viewed by each user on his "wall". This view, however, implies that algorithms consist a kind of objective (and mostly apolitical) mechanism.
In a sense, as writer Franklin Foer explained in his new book, "World Without Mind," the myth of the objective algorithm is the contemporary expression of a technocratic concept, first appeared in 18th century Europe by writers such as Henri de Saint-Simon.
Known as the Utopian precursor of "scientific socialism," Saint-Simon envisioned a society in which the interests of the corrupt old regime and the chaos that the power of "mob" might bring to the society, would give their place to a body of technocrats engineers who would regulate the functioning of society exclusively with scientific criteria. Instead of philosophers in politics, or, philosophical politicians, the new vision foresaw positions only for engineers.
The seemingly neutral algorithms of present era, Franklin Foer argues, come to replace the Utopia and the myth of the first technocrats. In fact, as he explains quite thoroughly, each algorithm hides enormous amounts of politics and political economy too, depending on the aspirations of its creators.
Perhaps the next US president will be elected by an algorithm - that of Mark Zuckerberg.
Article by Aris Chatzistefanou, translated from the original source:
http://info-war.gr/pios-kyverna-afto-to-facebook/

[May 25, 2015] Wayne Masden - Five Eyes and Color Revolutions

May 26, 2015 | Strategic Culture Foundation
A recent release of Edward Snowden-provided classified PowerPoint presentation from the National Security Agency (NSA) provides a rather detailed description of how the FIVE EYES signals intelligence alliance of the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand has conspired with the promoters of social media-based revolutions, such as the "Arab Spring", to bring about the collapse of democratically-elected or otherwise stable governments. However, the PowerPoint slides were partially redacted in key areas by the dubious censors of First Look Media, financed by e-Bay founder and multi-billionaire Pierre Omidyar.

The PowerPoint slides illustrate how, in November 2011, the NSA; Canada's Communications Security Establishment (CSE), now Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), the Defense Signals Directorate (DSD) of Australia, now the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD); New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB); and Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) developed a method for not only monitoring but taking control of cell phone and social media networks used for socio-political uprisings. The program, known as "Synergizing Network Analysis Tradecraft", was developed by the FIVE EYES's Network Tradecraft Advancement Team or "NTAT".

... ... ...

The slides show that among the countries where mobile application servers were targeted by the FIVE EYES were France, Cuba, Senegal, Morocco, Switzerland, Bahamas, and Russia. The information targeted by the Western signals intelligence partners included "geolocation and network ownership information for each IP address" that consisted of "network owner name, carrier name, ASN (advanced service network), continent, country, region, city, latitude and longitude, and any other related details". Not of interest to FIVE EYES were such applications as Google, mobile banking, and iTunes.

[Apr 19, 2015] Facebook users' wishful thinking: Cyberbullying, depression won't happen to me

Apr 16, 2015 | phys.org
Facebook users with so-called optimistic bias think they're less likely than other users to experience cyberbullying, depression and other negative social and psychological effects from using the site, a Dartmouth-Cornell study finds.

The study suggests that optimistic bias, or an intrinsic tendency to imagine future events in a favorable light that enhances positive self-regard - in other words, wishful thinking - leaves those Facebook users vulnerable to the negative realities of social media.

The findings appear in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. A PDF is available on request.

"Our findings demonstrate important and novel discrepancies in how people perceive themselves and others concerning the positive and negative outcomes of Facebook use," says lead author Sunny Jung Kim, a postdoctoral research associate in the Psychiatric Research Center and the Center for Technology and Behavioral Health at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. "A growing number of studies report possible benefits and risks of using Facebook and other social media, ranging from effects on self-esteem to cyberbullying. But little is known about how people perceive themselves to be likely to experience these mixed outcomes and what the implications of having these perceptions are."

More information: Kim Sunny Jung and Hancock Jeffrey T.. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. April 2015, 18(4): 214-220. DOI: 10.1089/cyber.2014.0656.

Journal reference: Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking

[Mar 30, 2015] Big Brother Is Here Facebook Reveals Its Master Plan - Control All News Flow

This attack on RT is another skirmish in the war for your minds, http://rt.com/shows/crosstalk/244401-media-eu-nato-us/ , maybe lesser known sites will just be disappeared.
Mar 29, 2015 | Zero Hedge
Submitted by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

In recent months, Facebook has been quietly holding talks with at least half a dozen media companies about hosting their content inside Facebook rather than making users tap a link to go to an external site.

The new proposal by Facebook carries another risk for publishers: the loss of valuable consumer data. When readers click on an article, an array of tracking tools allow the host site to collect valuable information on who they are, how often they visit and what else they have done on the web.

And if Facebook pushes beyond the experimental stage and makes content hosted on the site commonplace, those who do not participate in the program could lose substantial traffic - a factor that has played into the thinking of some publishers. Their articles might load more slowly than their competitors', and over time readers might avoid those sites.

- From the New York Times article: Facebook May Host News Sites' Content

Last week, I came across an incredibly important article from the New York Times, which described Facebook's plan to provide direct access to other websites' content in exchange for some sort of advertising partnership. The implications of this are so huge that at this point I have far more questions than answers.

Let's start with a few excerpts from the article:

With 1.4 billion users, the social media site has become a vital source of traffic for publishers looking to reach an increasingly fragmented audience glued to smartphones. In recent months, Facebook has been quietly holding talks with at least half a dozen media companies about hosting their content inside Facebook rather than making users tap a link to go to an external site.

Such a plan would represent a leap of faith for news organizations accustomed to keeping their readers within their own ecosystems, as well as accumulating valuable data on them. Facebook has been trying to allay their fears, according to several of the people briefed on the talks, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were bound by nondisclosure agreements.

Facebook intends to begin testing the new format in the next several months, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions. The initial partners are expected to be The New York Times, BuzzFeed and National Geographic, although others may be added since discussions are continuing. The Times and Facebook are moving closer to a firm deal, one person said.

Facebook has said publicly that it wants to make the experience of consuming content online more seamless. News articles on Facebook are currently linked to the publisher's own website, and open in a web browser, typically taking about eight seconds to load. Facebook thinks that this is too much time, especially on a mobile device, and that when it comes to catching the roving eyeballs of readers, milliseconds matter.

The Huffington Post and the business and economics website Quartz were also approached. Both also declined to discuss their involvement.

Facebook declined to comment on its specific discussions with publishers. But the company noted that it had provided features to help publishers get better traction on Facebook, including tools unveiled in December that let them target their articles to specific groups of Facebook users, such as young women living in New York who like to travel.

The new proposal by Facebook carries another risk for publishers: the loss of valuable consumer data. When readers click on an article, an array of tracking tools allow the host site to collect valuable information on who they are, how often they visit and what else they have done on the web.

And if Facebook pushes beyond the experimental stage and makes content hosted on the site commonplace, those who do not participate in the program could lose substantial traffic - a factor that has played into the thinking of some publishers. Their articles might load more slowly than their competitors', and over time readers might avoid those sites.

And just as Facebook has changed its news feed to automatically play videos hosted directly on the site, giving them an advantage compared with videos hosted on YouTube, it could change the feed to give priority to articles hosted directly on its site.

Let me try to address this the best I can from several different angles. First off, what's the big picture plan here? As the number two ranked website in the world with 1.4 billion users, Facebook itself is already something like an alternative internet where a disturbing number of individuals spend a disproportionate amount of their time. The only thing that seems to make many of its users click away is content hosted on other people's websites linked to from Facebook users. Other than this outside content, many FB users might never leave the site.

While this is scary to someone like me, to Facebook it is an abomination. The company doesn't want people to leave their site ever - for any reason. Hence the aggressive push to carry outside news content, and create a better positioned alternative web centrally controlled by it. This is a huge power play move.

Second, the New York Times righty asks the question concerning what will publishers get from Facebook for allowing their content to appear on the site seamlessly. Some sort of revenue share from advertisers seems to be an obvious angle, but perhaps there's more.

While Facebook isn't a huge traffic driver for Liberty Blitzkrieg, it isn't totally irrelevant either. For example, FB provided about 3% of the site's traffic over the past 12 months. This is despite the fact that LBK doesn't even have a Facebook page, and I've never shared a link through it. Even more impressive, Facebook drove more traffic to LBK over the same time period than Twitter, and I am very active on that platform. So I can only imagine how important FB is to website editors who actually use it.

This brings me to a key point about leverage. It seems to me that Facebook has all the leverage in negotiations with content providers. If you're a news website that refuses to join in this program, over time you might see your traffic evaporate compared to your competitors whose content will load seamlessly and be promoted by the FB algorithm. If a large percentage of your traffic is being generated by Facebook, can you really afford to lose this?

One thing that FB might be willing to offer publishers in return other than advertising dollars, is increased access to their fan base. For example, when I try to figure out through Google analytics who specifically (or what page) on Facebook is sharing my work, I can't easily do so. Clearly this information could prove very useful for networking purposes and could be quite valuable.

Looking for some additional insight and words of wisdom, I asked the smartest tech/internet person I know for his opinion. It was more optimistic than I thought:

This could be a huge shaper of news on the internet. or it could turn out to be nothing.

Other than saying that I don't really know how to predict what might or might not happen, and I sort of don't care much because it is in the realm (for now at least) of stuff that I don't read (mainstream news), on a site that I never see (Facebook). However, the one thing I wonder in terms of the viability of this is whether in the end it may drive people away from FB.

Back in the day, probably when you weren't so aware of the nascent net, there were two giant "services" on the Internet called Compuserve and America Online. They were each what you are thinking that Facebook is heading toward; exclusive, centralized portals to the whole net. They were also giant and successful at the time. Then people outside of them started doing things that were so much more creative and interesting. At the same time, in order to make everything fit inside their proprietary boxes and categories, they were making everything ever more standardized and boring. Then they just abruptly died.

Given the enormity of what Facebook is trying to achieve, I have some obvious concerns. First, since all of the leverage seems to reside with Facebook, I fear they are likely to get the better part of any deal by wide margin. Second, if they succeed in this push, this single company's ability to control access to news and what is trending and deemed important by a huge section of humanity will be extraordinary.

balolalo
I think this shows how desperate both parties are. The MSM is dying. Facebook has plateued. However the risk is great to both parties. What happens when users hijack the message? And how do they control feedback? I think this will shoot both of them in the foot in the end. BLOWBACK BITCHEZ.

Macchendra

Do you see any of your code on Facebook?

Did I use any of your code?

What? Match.com for Harvard guys?

You know, you really don't need a forensics team to get to the bottom of this.

If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you'd have invented Facebook.

Macchendra

And honestly, the "goy" version of this, classmates.com, had been around for ages stinking up your spam folder. Thank God the MBAs didn't win this battle. They would have monetized it to death. And YOUR opinion has benefited. YOU have been given a voice.

GetZeeGold

The master plan is nothing new.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ForvEyNABs8

fudge

What happens when users hijack the message?

Yes, this is all about control of the 'message'. They are loosing control, this is one option they've chosen and they'll attempt to vilify any and all alternate sources.

This attack on RT is another skirmish in the war for your minds , http://rt.com/shows/crosstalk/244401-media-eu-nato-us/ , maybe lesser known sites will just be disappeared.

WordSmith2013
Who REALLY Controls The Mainstream Media?

Taint Boil

Imagine FaceFuck controlling all the information delivered to the sheep on say ….hmmm, Russia for example.

doctor10

"they" have lost control of the narrative. Can't even get a good game of cowboys and indians going anywhere in the world any longer.

When despite all their insane raving about him, even Putin comes off looking more of a statesman than anybody in the West, its obvious the stories no longer hold together into a believable story

Burt Gummer
I'm gonna twitter this shit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBCUCJNWimo
Paveway IV
"...With 1.4 billion users..."

Yeah, and I account for a dozen of those. I can't remember the username or password or email account that I made up the last time I was forced to use it so I just make up another one. Which I promptly forget again because I never use it.

When you hear your teenage kids say, "Facebook?? Facebook SUCKS" you know it's over for them.

MSM want's to funnel their feces through FB? Hey - I'm all for it. More power to them. I would rather have ALL the knuckle-draggers self-confined to their own little cage somewhere on the periphery of the internet than wandering around loose and showing up on worthwhile sites. Like I would ever even bother to make up yet another fake account on Facebook to read somethign like the NYT, WSJ, WaPo, Bussiness Insider, etc., etc., etc.

bag holder

This sounds exactly like America Online back in the 90s. They tried to create their own self-contained Internet, too. It didn't exactly end well.

in4mayshun

Half the people I know already ditched FB for Instagram. The other half were smart enough never to join FB..

Installing Tails Live Linux Operating System For Preserving Privacy and Anonymity On The Net

October 1, 2014 | nixCraft

in Open Source, Security

Nowadays, privacy does not hold much value when it comes to the privacy of our data on our digital devices or on the internet. In the past few weeks, we learned that everyone who tries to maintain privacy on the net is under suspicion which is all the more reason to try to keep our data, contacts, communications, and whereabouts on the internet anonymous and hidden from prying eyes as much as possible. This holds true even more for people that are more exposed like human rights activists, journalists, lawyers, and even doctors. Some of the distributions that try to assist us with this build on the Tor network.

One of these distributions is Tails, based on Debian Testing. It had a formidable boost when whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed, that he used Tails to stay anonymous. The latest release is Tails 1.1 which was released on July 22. We are going to show you how to set it up on a device like a USB memory stick or a SD card. The term 'installing' is used by the Tails project in this context, but technically this is only partially correct. The easiest way of using Tails is to just copy the bootable image to the device using the linux command dd as opposed to real installations to USB devices. If you want a read-only device for anonymously surfing the internet, that will suffice. If you need a setup that you can also write to and save your work on, the setup is a little bit more complicated, as the Tails installer only works from inside Tails.

We will test both ways of 'installing' Tails.

[Mar 27, 2015] Leave Facebook if you don't want to be spied on, warns EU by Samuel Gibb

March 26, 2015 | The Guardian
The European Commission has warned EU citizens that they should close their Facebook accounts if they want to keep information private from US security services, finding that current Safe Harbour legislation does not protect citizen's data.

The comments were made by EC attorney Bernhard Schima in a case brought by privacy campaigner Maximilian Schrems, looking at whether the data of EU citizens should be considered safe if sent to the US in a post-Snowden revelation landscape.

"You might consider closing your Facebook account, if you have one," Schima told attorney general Yves Bot in a hearing of the case at the European court of justice in Luxembourg.

... ... ...

Schrems maintains that companies operating inside the EU should not be allowed to transfer data to the US under Safe Harbour protections – which state that US data protection rules are adequate if information is passed by companies on a "self-certify" basis – because the US no longer qualifies for such a status.

The case argues that the US government's Prism data collection programme, revealed by Edward Snowden in the NSA files, which sees EU citizens' data held by US companies passed on to US intelligence agencies, breaches the EU's Data Protection Directive "adequacy" standard for privacy protection, meaning that the Safe Harbour framework no longer applies.

Poland and a few other member states as well as advocacy group Digital Rights Ireland joined Schrems in arguing that the Safe Harbour framework cannot ensure the protection of EU citizens' data and therefore is in violation of the two articles of the Data Protection Directive.

... ... ...

Facebook declined to comment.


techcafe CompleteBullShit 27 Mar 2015 21:16

read this: NSA poised to control the internet, by Julian Assange, 1996

techcafe, 7 Mar 2015 21:08

The European Commission has warned EU citizens that they should close their Facebook accounts if they want to keep information private from US security services…

unfortunately, facebook only allows you to 'deactivate' your account-but not delete it. in other words, with farcebook, you may check-out anytime you like, but you can never leave.

i 'deactivated' my facebook account a few years ago, and asked to have my account permanently removed, but facebook won't even respond to my repeated requests.

Loquito 27 Mar 2015 20:16

Facebook is the ultimate expression of the infantile, shallow and narcissistic approach a lot of people take to their lives nowadays. People who like to be watched and spied. People who thoroughly enjoy being stupid.

Raytrek 27 Mar 2015 19:53

I want to be spied on, the spies may learn a thing or two.

Joseph Jessup 27 Mar 2015 19:48

The EU is just a vassal for the US anyway, not sure why everybody is complaining here. The EU is pretty much controlled by the US in all aspects. "If the US says Bark, roll over", the EU does it faithfully, and demonstrates it daily in every sphere of foreign and domestic policy.

EU citizens have no right to complain until they start showing a little pride and independence, because now, it is is just a marionette.

CaptCrash -> BlancoDiabloMagico 27 Mar 2015 19:36

Oh... I filled in a form to close the account, with a reason of "duplicate account". Gone within 48 hours I think.

Zooni_Bubba 27 Mar 2015 19:16

This is the most of course story ever. The US government is breaking all sorts of laws, why would anyone put their information under in their domain. People should also not use any US based software products or email servers.

It is illegal to look through someones mail and therefore should be illegal to look through email, phone records, cookies etc.

GiovannidiPietro0714 27 Mar 2015 19:09

Leave Facebook . . .

more like leave planet earth, right?

That "Collect it All", "Process it All", "Exploit it All", "Partner it All", "Sniff it All" (tm) mindset, which by the way was started by U.S. IT companies, won't ever be abandoned by "freedom-loving" politicians and police.

... ... ....

Scott Gordon Scott Gordon 27 Mar 2015 17:39

www.businessinsider.com/25-cutting-edge-companies-funded-by-the-central-intelligence-agency-2012-8

Scott Gordon 27 Mar 2015 17:36

there is a story from a few years ago stating a cia agent helped fund facebook

ChristopherPrice Bob Howie 27 Mar 2015 16:23

There's a difference between secrecy and privacy. Having "nothing to hide" is good (which means you are likely a non-secretive, law abiding citizen), and it goes under the category of being transparent with regards to the rule of law. However, your ethical right to privacy is an entirely different discussion. Would you mind if the gov authorities placed a camera inside of your home and took pictures of your unclothed wife?

robertthebruce2014 27 Mar 2015 13:56

The corporate State considers that private enterprise in the sphere of production is the most effective and useful instrument in the interest of the nation. In view of the fact that private organisation of production is a function of national concern, the organiser of the enterprise is responsible to the State for the direction given to production.

State intervention in economic production arises only when private initiative is lacking or insufficient, or when the political interests of the State are involved. This intervention may take the form of control, assistance or direct management
.
(Benito Mussolini, 1935, Fascism: Doctrine and Institutions, pp. 135 / 136)

egbertnosausage -> SusanTorveldtt 27 Mar 2015 13:51

You're being spied upon all the time.

Turn off location services and use on an as needed basis then turn off again.

You're phone is a walking microphone telling companies like Google where you go and who you meet.

Dunnyveg 27 Mar 2015 12:50

Europeans should be just as concerned with keeping their private information away from EU authorities. Both Washington and Brussels are controlled by the same liberals who have declared war on their own citizens.

Alan Tasman 27 Mar 2015 12:20

I agree with this assessment 100%

Loveable Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg called his first few thousand users "dumb fucks" for trusting him with their data, published IM (Instant Message) transcripts show. Zuckerberg has since admitted he made the comments.

Zuckerberg was chatting with an unnamed friend, apparently in early 2004. Business Insider, which has a series of quite juicy anecdotes about Facebook's early days, takes the credit for this one.

The exchange apparently ran like this:

Zuck: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard

Zuck: Just ask.

Zuck: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS

[Redacted Friend's Name]: What? How'd you manage that one?

Zuck: People just submitted it.

Zuck: I don't know why.

Zuck: They "trust me"

Zuck: Dumb fucks

leveut2 27 Mar 2015 12:04

This is almost funny. More correctly put: "EU citizens that they should close their Facebook accounts if they want to keep information private".

Facebook's business plan is:

  1. get people to put as much as their personal information as possible on Facebook,
  2. figure out out to screw them over but good using that personal information, and
  3. screw them over but good.

By putting your information on Facebook you lose any right to complain about snooping by anyone.

uzzername 27 Mar 2015 10:48

Why don't the EU make Facebook put its server farms for European users within the territory of EU.

This way traffic from EU citizens won't leave its borders.

Kelly Trujillo 27 Mar 2015 10:48

So European nations have figured out that they don't want to be part of the U.S. nazification of the whole world. How long before the so called American "intellectual property" companies like Facebook become irrelevant?


BaffledFromBalham -> SirDemilo Brewer 27 Mar 2015 09:02

Who cares if FB is spying on you; if you don't have anything to hide what's the problem?

What if you do have something to hide? What if you were a member of some protest group in your student youth but now wanted to go on holiday to the US ... maybe you might want not want the US government to see all of your old posts of "down with this sort of thing" in case they got touchy and banned you from entering the country.

BaffledFromBalham -> Mike Kelligan 27 Mar 2015 08:52

just look at the contract and what it stipulates

It's not just what's in the contract; the NSA were using the data sent over the wire to by these apps.

BaffledFromBalham -> amberjack 27 Mar 2015 08:48

If the spooks can just suck your data out of the wires, it doesn't really matter which social network you're on.

Indeed, that's why GCHQ were tapping into the undersea internet cables. I guess the only defence then is https.

ID8246338 27 Mar 2015 08:40

One would have to be very stupid to think that any on-line communication is 'safe' or 'private' unless one takes specific steps.

Security has been a concern since the internet started to develop. From the beginning hackers were beavering away to find ways of accessing government systems - many of them very successfully. Many of them became employees of the governments who they were once hacking.

Combine this with the resources available to governments around the world nowadays and the cooperation of social media giants and other providers and its not hard to understand the risks one takes by using the internet.

Although we may think that we are doing nothing that the authorities would be interested in, the fact is that those authorities like data. They can analyse it and do all kinds of projections and discover trends in society which may be a threat to their power. That is the reason - not as much of that analysis is related to crime as they say it is.

Its common sense not to put anything on the internet you do not want others to see - no matter how private you think it is.

Wharfat9 27 Mar 2015 08:05

The idea of spying, snooping, entering into ... is rather against the idea of ´private´. Of course, if a phenotype puts a photo of self, 3/4´s naked, and then starts to blab his/her intimacies ... considering the platform, he/she has somewhat unlatched the locks, cut the barbed wire and otherwise ´invited the world on in.´

We are, aren´t we? .. pretty exhibitionist creatures.

Where we want to ´be seen´ ´heard´ ... offers the silly putty of our little ego´s up for those who want to snoop.

The people at Bluffdale, NSA, FBI, CIA have never had it so good. The kind of data collection they get as freebie, swooping it up by the ton - from willing bedmates throughout the social networks - is the kind of data collection they could only have dreamed of .. if Hoxha could have had this, Albania might be poised to take on the world!

What happens if there comes a day when we just simply turn these things off? What would be gained? What would be lost? The ´puter .. as someone in the U.S. said to me, "can´t live with ´em, can´t live without ´em." Is that really the way it is?

There is lingering curiosity, too: why in the world do governments want to snoop so badly? Beyond simple, grade ´b´ perversity, what is it? The United States, my country, has had as close to zero-success in snooping as has any country in the world, free, unfree, or oblong.

What´s the deal?

.. millions of bucks, snooping .. failure after failure .. what´s the deal?

Everything that could have gone wrong vis-a-vis terrorism, has.

Maybe U.S. officials want to talk about the ´ones they thwarted.´

"Oh, if only you knew!"

.. that, children, would require a leap of faith that he who writes here is not willing to take-make.

Reading the great Malinowski, his investigation of the Trobriand Islanders, one notes a complete, integral society, at work, at play, celebrating, mourning, living. Less than a hundred years ago. The stunning clarity of his writing portrays an integral society. If the society is whole, the community - as sub-strata, is whole, as well. Or, at least, can be ...

One can´t get over the fact that the ones who took the flying lessons before whacking the WTC´s (if this is really how it went) went into small town ´flying schools´ .. being very foreign, and .. ? .. ! .. and, the terrible serial killer who lived next door, ´was such a quiet boy.´

If we have lost it, the integrity, the integral part .. the rest is left-overs, bits ´n pieces, bacon bits, halal. And spying is the least of us. Lord help us.

david wright 27 Mar 2015 05:33

The 'right to be forgotten' legislation, however well-mening, was drafted in fairly complete ignorance of various technical realities. It provides very litle - if any - meaningful protection, beyond a comforting illusion. Would you care to be protected in shipwreck by an illusory life-jacket? Thought not.

General point being that absent accurate, timely and clear technical briefing of lawyers and parliamentary draughters, such laws will be effective purely by chance.

Dave Butler 27 Mar 2015 05:05

As a UK citizen who is already spied on more than any other country in the world what can the Americans find out that GCHQ , the thousands of camera's and the tracking of my phone, plus following my fancy new bank cards purchases is not already in the public domain.

Of course if you have something worth hiding you may feel different......

dralion 27 Mar 2015 04:54

Never joined, it or any other of the anti social networks.

Still can't understand this need to spread its life all over the net to thousands of so called friends. Croaks (as opposed to tweets) are reliable news for many and decision are based on rumours, false information...

There is no need for any of this. People are no more than cattle for those companies, milked out of their money, their time, their liberty of thinking; drone consumers...

ID3547814 -> Khoryos 27 Mar 2015 04:51

Not even FB deleting your account removes everything, from that FB help page;
"Some of the things you do on Facebook aren't stored in your account. For example, a friend may still have messages from you even after you delete your account. That information remains after you delete your account."

This means some incriminating posts you may have made will be stored on your FB friends accounts. Better still, you'll need to get all your friends to make a request to delete their FB accounts too, and their friends as well. Ad infinitum until the only account still using FB is Mark Zuckerburg's.

Денис Панкратов -> Khoryos 27 Mar 2015 04:44

Unfortunately, this is not quite true. By these actions, you can close your page for users, but not for US intelligence. But if you do not intelligence agent, not a politician, not a businessman, but simply communicate on the network, no need to worry. Special services are not interested in you. By the way, not only the "Facebook" is watching you. It is actively engaged in "Google", almost all social networks, file sharing, porn sites and sites for storing files.

The principle is the same: you want to keep confidential information, do not spread it to the network.

amberjack -> BaffledFromBalham 27 Mar 2015 03:54

Would you really trust a social media site set up by a governing organisation? Surely it would be way too tempting for them to fit backdoors for EuroPol to log in and search through all data, public and private.

That could be addressed by using a free open-source product like Diaspora. If everyone can see the code, back doors are easily detected and publicised. And it's a distributed system, so if you're really paranoid, you can install it on your own server and operate it on a peer-to-peer (pod to pod, in Diaspora jargon) basis.

The drawback is, of course, that as sdkeller72 and others have pointed out, once the information is transmitted between different pods/countries, it becomes vulnerable to third parties. If the spooks can just suck your data out of the wires, it doesn't really matter which social network you're on.

If you just don't like Facebook using your private information to pump you full of ads, though, a distributed, democratic system like Diaspora is the way to go.

monostatos 27 Mar 2015 03:44

has anyone found a way to delete a FB account in the real sense of 'delete' and not just abandon. I couldnt find a definitive answer in the comments. The offcial procedure on FB has very little effect on your data.

Its probably best to assume that anything ever uploaded to FB will exist forever right?

Khoryos NoahDiff 27 Mar 2015 03:39

You can delete it, they just make it as hard as possible to find -
https://en-gb.facebook.com/help/224562897555674

NoahDiff 27 Mar 2015 02:57

So the EU is urging people to close their Facebook accounts if they are concerned with possible privacy breaches. Sounds reasonable enough. I agree.

There's just one gotcha. Currently, it seems, there is NO way to actually close your Facebook account. You can deactivate it, but that doesn't actually delete it. All deactivating does is makes your account invisible; all your data is still there.

The closest you can get is to delete every last bit of data in your Facebook account -- and that means sitting there and deleting perhaps years worth of posts to your wall and the like, contacts, and any other services you have used on Facebook. The deactivate it and hope you and no one else trips over it in the future.

If there is anything the EU could demand, it would be to require that FB provide a means to truly delete an account. I mean, it is ridiculous that this is not available, given that this is doable on virtually every other site on the web. Not just ridiculous, outright lazy and irresponsible.

ramacaida58 27 Mar 2015 02:49

Are people naive?

"Face Book" National security project made by National security agencies.

We all applauded well done you clever boy how did you come out with such clever ideas.

But this is democracy we do have the choice to "shut it down or keep it open". We, who are the peaceful ordinary citizens of this word. Have nothing to worry about. May be even it is good for our security. At the end most of us we have nothing to hide.

orag -> Cumming madeiranlotuseater 27 Mar 2015 02:48

No, Facebook is where people post news that the mainstream media are reluctant to publish. It was the first place, for example, where people were extensively warning about NHS privatisation, or about the terrible effects of benefit sanctions.

It's also great for finding links to really interesting science sites, or culture that you may be interest ted in.

argonauta -> madeiranlotuseater 27 Mar 2015 02:46

My dog has 12 friends on FB. She's popular among my friends. I have no FB but my dog loves me anyway. And I love her friends, because the friends of my dog are my friends, chiefly when they were my friends in the first place. It's a win-win-woof situation

Brian -> Haughan Ellenrocr 27 Mar 2015 02:44

We all need to use an instant messaging solution like Cribble where messages can only be decrypted by the intended recipient. That way it doesn't matter where the servers are located because the governments can't read your messages anyway.

John MacKenzie -> tempodulu 27 Mar 2015 02:43

One of Edward Snowdons revelations was never to use Dropbox, ever. Continously monitored apparently.

John MacKenzie 27 Mar 2015 02:40

Can I suggest that, if you want your privacy protected, download Ghostery and ZenMate. Ghostery blocks 'trackers,' essentially online ads and tracking apps that run in the background mining data. For example, at the moment, on the Guardian site, Ghostery is blocking the following -

Audience Science
Criteo (ads)
Double Click (ads)
Facebook Social Graph
Google Ads
Krux Digital (ads)
Net Ratings (analytics)
Outbrain (tracker)
Scorecard Research

Zenmate is a VPN.

Ghostery does make the internet so much better as the pages load faster. They don't need to load ads and trackers all the time.

Just a thought.

[Mar 27, 2015]Big Data Is Watching You

In reality the state took an active role in creating such companies as Google and Facebook. So I would not call their excessive zeal for surveillance of the users accidental. Quote: "Headlines have always been composed to grab attention, but now they can gather intelligence too. Your decision to click-and even the amount of time you spend reading or watching-is a piece of data for which the advertiser will pay good money. As Silverman describes it, the urge to gather endless data about all of us-from our spending habits to the pace of our heartbeats-is a huge, lucrative industry, driven by the fantasy that correlation is causation, that because you did X activity, you'll buy Y product."
March 12, 2015 | In These Times
The hidden price of Google, Twitter and Facebook.

Your decision to click-and even the amount of time you spend reading or watching-is a piece of data for which the advertiser will pay good money.

What are we prepared to give up in the name of convenience? Throughout Jacob Silverman's capacious study of the world we're in and the world we're making-or rather, allowing tech companies to make for us-it's demonstrated repeatedly that billions of us are happy to surrender our privacy to save a few keystrokes. Why not log in to that other website with your Facebook or Twitter or Google ID? Why not use your real identity and photograph, with a record of your movements, all across the web? You have it on Google's word that they're not "evil"; what could be the harm?

Silverman's new book, Terms of Service: Social Media and the Price of Constant Connection, does a thorough, if sometimes long-winded, job of explaining what the harm is and what it could become. He begins with an analysis of the philosophy, variously termed "techno-utopianism" or "cyber-libertarianism," that drives the major social media companies. The ideology should be familiar in essence, if not in name-we've been soaking in it for the past decade. Media theorists, long before the advent of Facebook, were calling it "the Californian ideology." It's what happens when youthful rebelliousness and a countercultural, anti-authoritarian spirit meets gobs of cash and untrammeled power. It's the myth-tirelessly peddled by optimistic tech, business and culture reporters and embraced by the customers who line up for new gadgets-that a corporation that calls its headquarters a "campus" and equips its offices with slides, snacks and free daycare is something other than a capitalist entity, with motives other than profit.

To be fair, the big tech companies-Google and Facebook are the stars here, with Twitter, Tumblr and LinkedIn singing backup - do have goals beyond their bottom line. They want to do the kinds of things that beauty-pageant contestants want to do: cure diseases, end terrorism, go to the moon. They share a disdain for government - Mark Zuckerberg is committed to the idea of "companies over countries" - but also share a zeal for surveillance.

For Silverman, the harm of social media is both specific and philosophical. It turns journalism into a clickbait race, for instance, but it also radically changes our concepts of privacy and identity. He considers the fate of those who are chewed up and spat out by the Internet's nano-fame cycle (nobody gets 15 minutes anymore), whose embarrassing or self-aggrandizing antics, captured on video, do the rounds and attract a quick, overwhelming torrent of derision or rage. But while we might shrug our shoulders at the fate of an Antoine Dodson or a Taylor Chapman (respectively a viral hero and villain), Silverman argues that we should be aware of the numbing and alienating consequences of the viral instinct. Not only does it frequently make clowns of those who are seriously disadvantaged, and destroy reputations and careers, it also molds the larger media world in its own image. Hate-watching a two-minute video of a reality show contestant's racist rant is a sign that you'll give attention to this kind of content-and the site that hosts the video, beholden to its advertisers, traffics in your attention, not your intelligence or humanity.

Headlines have always been composed to grab attention, but now they can gather intelligence too. Your decision to click - and even the amount of time you spend reading or watching-is a piece of data for which the advertiser will pay good money. As Silverman describes it, the urge to gather endless data about all of us - from our spending habits to the pace of our heartbeats - is a huge, lucrative industry, driven by the fantasy that correlation is causation, that because you did X activity, you'll buy Y product.

It may be foolhardy to make predictions about the fast-evolving tech world, but Silverman offers some chilling evidence that the world of "big data" is beginning to affect the choices available to us. Some healthcare companies will lower your premiums if you use a fitness-tracking app (and share that data, of course). Data about what you eat and buy is increasingly being used like your credit score, to determine if you are worthy of that job, that car or that home.

So what? A good citizen who eats her greens and pays her bills has nothing to fear! And if she worries that some misstep-glancing at an unsavory website, running a red light, suffering a computer hack-will damage her, she can just pay protection money to one of several companies that exist to safeguard their clients' online reputations. Silverman has no solution to these linked problems, of course, since there is far too much money driving this brave new world and far too little government will to resist. Mass surveillance is the present and the future. But if information-meaning data points-is corporate power, then knowledge and critical thinking may be citizen power.

Silverman is too cautious and self-conscious a thinker to inspire a revolution. Instead, he advocates a kind of lowlevel "social-media rebellion" - messing with, rather than rejecting, the digitally networked world in which we live. Putting up a cartoon monkey as your online avatar might not feel like much of a blow to the Facebook assault on privacy, but it's an annoyance to the booming facial- recognition industry-and perhaps a few million determined annoyances can disrupt the techno-utopia in favor of the common good.

Joanna Scutts is a freelance writer based in Queens, NY, and a board member of the National Book Critics Circle. Her book reviews and essays have appeared in the Washington Post, the New Yorker Online, The Nation, The Wall Street Journal and several other publications. You can follow her on Twitter @life_savour.

[Mar 14, 2015] Silicon Valley's Web of Lies by Christine Rosen

"Instead of a win-win, the Internet is, in fact, more akin to a negative feedback loop in which we network users are its victims rather than beneficiaries,"
February 26, 2015 | The National Interest

Andrew Keen, The Internet Is Not the Answer (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2015), 288 pp., $25.00.

DURING THE past few years, if you were one of the many people trawling the dating website OkCupid in search of love, you might have received a notice letting you know it had found someone who was an "exceptionally good" match for you. You might have contacted this match and even gone on dates with this person, comfortable in the knowledge that a sophisticated algorithm had done the difficult work of sorting through millions of profiles to find someone with just the right balance of appealing quirks and concupiscent charms to match your own delightful attributes.

What you didn't know is that OkCupid was experimenting on you. Engineers programmed the site to send its users matches that it claimed were "exceptional" but that were in fact bogus-all for the purpose of finding out if you would believe the assessment and pursue the match. Not surprisingly, most users did. We are nothing if not suggestible when it comes to love, even if Cupid's arrow has been replaced by OkCupid's algorithm.

This past summer, Christian Rudder, the founder of OkCupid, was prompted to publicize his company's manipulation of its users in response to the furor created by Facebook's acknowledgement that it, too, often uses the social network as a massive online behavioral-science experiment. In January 2012, more than half a million Facebook users became unwitting lab rats when the company deliberately massaged its users' news feeds by putting either more or less positive information in them, ostensibly to determine if emotions are "contagious." (Short answer: yes, but behavioral science had already proven this; Facebook, by contrast, was not doing this for science. The company wanted to show advertisers that it could manipulate its users.)

For a brief moment, as news of these experiments became public, we caught a glimpse of the chasm that has developed between what technology companies like Facebook and OkCupid assume about their users and how those users actually feel. Some OkCupid devotees were horrified to learn that the site keeps not only every single message sent to a potential date, but also bits of messages erased while trying to craft a perfectly pitched response. The users felt, well, used. Rudder was unmoved. As one of his OkCupid blog posts boasted, "We Experiment On Human Beings!"

Both the public's brief outrage and the hubris of the technology companies would come as no surprise to Andrew Keen, whose new book, The Internet Is Not the Answer, offers a critical narrative of the various ways Silicon Valley is reshaping the world's economy and values-and not for the better. "Instead of a win-win, the Internet is, in fact, more akin to a negative feedback loop in which we network users are its victims rather than beneficiaries," Keen writes. "Rather than the answer, the Internet is actually the central question about our connected twenty-first-century world."

Keen states outright that his book is a synthesis, and it contains both the benefits and drawbacks of one-repetitive and larded with quotations, it mainly advances arguments that have been made already (and in greater depth) by technology critics such as Jaron Lanier, Sherry Turkle and Nicholas Carr. Withal, he provides a timely and necessary overview of how the Internet arrived at its present state and a bracing polemic about where it's headed. If, as MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito once said, "The Internet is not a technology; it's a belief system," then Andrew Keen is one of its more compelling heretics.

SOMETIME AROUND 1989, Keen argues, when computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee sketched the early outline for the World Wide Web, the world changed. This new world, defined by the Internet's expansion, is one that has "created new values, new wealth, new debates, new elites, new scarcities, new markets, and above all, a new kind of economy." It is a world where, as a recent United Nations report noted, more people have cell phones than access to functioning toilets.

Many early Internet champions believed that the Web they were building would connect people in a way that would inaugurate an era of creative, cooperative economic and technological development. Technologists such as Berners-Lee and Robert Kahn had backgrounds in research science and academia; they were not focused on the potential profitability of their enterprise. Once the U.S. government opened up the Internet to commercial use in the early 1990s, however, Keen shows how it "triggered the rush by a new class of technological oligarchs in the United States to acquire prime online real estate."

In Keen's telling, the story of the Internet can be "summarized in a single word: money." One of the creators of the early Web browser Netscape captured the mood well when he said, "The hell with the commune. This was business."

But it is business that, for all of its rhetoric about innovation and disruption, has taken a traditional form. The online world is now dominated by a small group of big companies-Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook foremost among them-that function like the monopolies of old. One technology investor whom Keen cites puts it this way: "The Internet, in its current form, has simply replaced the old boss with a new boss and these new bosses have market power that, in time, will be vastly larger than that of the old boss."

[Mar 07, 2015] Under the Radar, Big Media Internet Giants Get Massive Access to Everything About You By Jeffrey Chester

March 5, 2015 | alternet.org

A White House-backed bill would give the corporate elite control over how our data is used.

Editor's note: The following is the latest in a new series of articles on AlterNet called Fear in America that launched this March. Read the introduction to the series.

The Internet and our digital media are quietly becoming a pervasive and manipulative interactive surveillance system. Leading U.S. online companies, while claiming to be strong supporters of an open and democratic Internet, are working behind the scenes to ensure that they have unlimited and unchecked power to "shadow" each of us online. They have allied with global advertisers to transform the Internet into a medium whose true ambition is to track, influence and sell, in anever-ending cycle, their products and political ideas. While Google, Facebook and other digital giants claim to strongly support a "democratic" Internet, their real goal is to use all the "screens"we use to empower a highly commercialized and corporatized digital media culture.

Last Thursday was widely viewed as a victory for "Internet Freedom" and a blow to a "corporatized" Internet as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) endorsed a historic public utility framework for Network Neutrality (NN). It took the intervention of President Obama last year, who called for "the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality," to dramatically transform the FCC's plans. Its chairman, Thomas Wheeler, a former cable and telecom lobbyist, had previously been ambivalent about endorsing strong utility-like regulations. But feeling the pressure, especially from the president, he became a "born again" NN champion, leading the agency to endorse "strong, sustainable rules to protect the Open Internet."

But the next day, the Obama White House took another approach to Internet Freedom, handing the leading online companies, including Google, Facebook, and their Fortune-type advertising clients, a major political victory. The administration released its long-awaited "Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights" legislation. The bill enables the most powerful corporations and their trade associations to greatly determine what American privacy rights will be. By giving further control over how data are gathered and used online, the administration basically ceded more clout to a corporate elite that will be able to effectively decide how the Internet and digital applications operate, today and in the near future.

How do privacy rules impact the openness of the Internet, and the ability to promote and sustain progressive and alternative perspectives? While much of the public debate on pervasive data mining has focused on the role of the NSA and other intelligence agencies that were exposed by Edward Snowden, there has not been as much discussion on the impact of the commercial data system that is at the core of the Internet today. Google, Facebook, and others use our data as the basis of an ever-expanding global system of commercial surveillance. This information is gathered from our mobile devices, PCs, apps, social networks, and increasingly even TVs-and stored in digital profiles. These far-reaching dossiers-which can be accessed and updated in milliseconds-can include information on our race/ethnicity, financial status, health concerns, location, online behavior, what our children do, whom we communicate with on social media, and much more.

The major online companies are continually expanding their commercial data gathering practices. They now merge and use our online and offline data (what we do online and information collected from store loyalty cards, etc.); track us across all the devices we use (PCs, mobile, etc.); and amass even more data about us supplied by a vast network of data broker alliances and partnerships (such asFacebook with its myriad of data partners, including Acxiom and Epsilon). A U.S. digital data industry "arms race," with companies vying to own the most complete set of records on every consumer, has also led to a wave of mergers and acquisitions, where companies that have already compiled huge datasets on Americans (and global consumers) being swallowed up by even larger ones.

Leading corporations are investing vast sums to harvest and, in their own words, make "actionable" information we now generate nearly 24/7. So-called "Big Data" technologies enable companies to quickly analyze and take advantage of all this information, including understanding how each of us uses online media and mobile phones. A score of "Math Men and Women"-led advertising-technology companies have pioneered the use of super fast computers that track where we are online and, in milliseconds, crunch through lots of our data to decide whether to target us with advertising and marketing (regardless of whether we use a PC or mobile device and, increasingly, using our geolocation information).

These machines are used to "auction" us off individually to the highest bidder, so we can be instantly delivered some form of marketing (or even political) message. Increasingly, the largest brands and ad agencies are using all this data and new tactics to sell us junk food, insurance, cars, and political candidates. For example, these anonymous machines can determine whether to offer us a high-interest pay day loan or a lower interest credit card; or an ad from one political group versus another.

But it's not just the ability to harvest data that's the source of increased corporate clout on the Internet. Our profiles are tied to a system of micro-persuasion, the 21st century updating of traditional "Madison Avenue" advertising tactics that relied on "subliminal" and cultural influence. Today, online ads are constructed by connecting our information to a highly sophisticated digital marketing apparatus. At places like Google's BrandLab, AT&T's Adworks Lab, or through research efforts such as Facebook IQ, leading companies help their well-heeled clients take advantage of the latest insights from neuromarketing (to deliberately influence our emotions and subconscious), social media monitoring, new forms of corporate product placement, and the most effective ways to use all of our digital platforms.

The online marketing industry is helping determine the dimensions of our digital world. Much of the Internet and our mobile communications are being purposely developed as a highly commercialized marketplace, where the revenues that help fund content go to a select, and largely ad-supported, few. With Google, Facebook, major advertisers and agencies all working closely together throughout the world to further commercialize our relationship to digital media, and given their ownership over the leading search engines, social networks, online video channels, and how "monetization" of content operates, these forces pose a serious obstacle to a more democratic and diverse online environment.

One of the few barriers standing in the way of their digital dominance is the growing public concern about our commercial privacy. U.S. companies have largely bitterly opposed proposed privacy legislation-in the U.S. and also in the European Union (where data protection, as it is called, is considered a fundamental right). Effective regulations for privacy in the U.S. would restore our control of the information that has been collected about us, versus the system now in place that, for the most part, enables companies to freely use it. But under the proposed Obama plan, Google, Facebook and other data-gathering companies would be allowed to determine the rules. Through a scheme the White House calls a "multi-stakeholder" process, industry-dominated meetings-with consumer and privacy groups vastly outnumbered and out-resourced-would develop so-called self-regulatory "codes of conduct" to govern how the U.S. treats data collection and privacy. Codes would be developed to address, for example, how companies can track and use our location information; how they compile dossiers about us based on what we do at the local grocery store and read online; how health data can be collected and used from devices like Fitbit; and more. This process is designed to protect the bottom line of the data companies, which the Obama White House views as important to the economy and job growth. (Stealing other people's data, in other words, is one of America's most successful industries). Like similar self-regulatory efforts, stakeholder codes are really designed to sanction existing business practices and enable companies to continue to accumulate and use vast data assets unencumbered. The administration claims that such a stakeholder process can operate more effectively than legislation, operating quickly in "Internet time." Dominated by industry as they are, stakeholder bodies are incapable of doing anything that would adversely impact their own future-which currently depends on the ability to gather and use all our data.

The administration's bill also strips away the power of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which now acts as the leading federal watchdog on privacy. Instead of empowering the FTC to develop national rules that enable individuals to make their own privacy decisions, the bill forces the agency to quickly review (in as little as 90 days) the proposed stakeholder codes-with little effective power to reject them. Companies become largely immune to FTC oversight and enforcement when they agree to abide by the self-regulatory policies their lobbyists basically wrote. In a rare rebuke to the administration, the FTC, leading Congressional Democrats, and the majority of consumer and privacy organizations rejected the White House's privacy plan. But the administration does not appear to be willing, for now, to change its support for the data companies; and as we know, Silicon Valley and their business allies have strong support in Congress that will prevent any privacy law from passing for now.

To see how the online lobby has different views on Internet Freedom, compare, for example the statements of the "Internet Association"-the lobbying trade organization that represents Google, Facebook, Amazon and dozens of other major online data-gathering companies-on last week's two developments. It praised the FCC NN decision for creating "strong, enforceable net neutrality rules … banning paid prioritization, blocking, and discrimination online." But the group rejected the Administration's privacy proposal, as weak as it was, explaining that "today's wide-ranging legislative proposal outlined by the Commerce Department casts a needlessly imprecise net." At stake, as the Internet Association knows, is the ability of its members to expand their businesses throughout the world unencumbered. For example, high on the agenda for the Internet Association members are new U.S. brokered global trade deals, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which will free our digital giants from having to worry about strong privacy laws abroad.

While the NN battle correctly viewed Comcast, Verizon, and other cable and phone giants as major opponents to a more democratic digital media environment, many of the online companies were seen as supporters and allies. But an "open" network free from control of our cable/telco monopolies is just one essential part for a more diverse and public interest-minded online system. Freedom must also prevent powerful interests from determining the very structure of communications in the digital age. Those companies that can collect and most effectively use our information are also gatekeepers and shapers of our Internet Future.

The NN victory is only one key step for a public-interest agenda for digital media. We also must place limits on today's digital media conglomerates, especially their ability to use all our data. The U.S is one of the only "developed" countries that still doesn't have a national law protecting our privacy. For those concerned about the environment, we must also address how U.S. companies are using the Internet to encourage the global public to engage in a never-ending consumption spree that has consequences for sustainability and a more equitable future.

There is ultimately an alignment of interests between the so-called "old" media of cable and the telephone industry with the "new" online media. They share similar values when it comes to ensuring the media they control brings eyeballs and our bank accounts to serve them and their advertising clients. While progressive and public interest voices today find the Internet accessible for organizing and promoting alternative views, to keep it so will require much more work.

Jeffrey Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy ( www.democraticmedia.org).

[Mar 07, 2015] What Surveillance Valley knows about you Crooks and Liars By Yasha Levine

December 22, 2013 | crooksandliars.com

"In 2012, the data broker industry generated 150 billion in revenue that's twice the size of the entire intelligence budget of the United States government-all generated by the effort to detail and sell information about our private lives."
- Senator Jay Rockefeller IV

"Quite simply, in the digital age, data-driven marketing has become the fuel on which America's free market engine runs."

- Direct Marketing Association

* *

Google is very secretive about the exact nature of its for-profit Intelligence operation and how it uses the petabytes of data it collects on us every single day for financial gain. Fortunately, though, we can get a sense of the kind of info that Google and other Surveillance Valley megacorps compile on us, and the ways in which that intel might be used and abused, by looking at the business practices of the "data broker" industry.

Thanks to a series of Senate hearings, the business of data brokerage is finally being understood by consumers, but the industry got its start back in the 1970s as a direct outgrowth of the failure of telemarketing. In its early days, telemarketing had an abysmal success rate: only 2 percent of people contacted would become customers. In his book, "The Digital Perso," Daniel J. Solove explains what happened next:

To increase the low response rate, marketers sought to sharpen their targeting techniques, which required more consumer research and an effective way to collect, store, and analyze information about consumers. The advent of the computer database gave marketers this long sought-after ability - and it launched a revolution in targeting technology.

Data brokers rushed in to fill the void. These operations pulled in information from any source they could get their hands on - voter registration, credit card transactions, product warranty information, donations to political campaigns and non-profits, court records - storing it in master databases and then analyzing it in all sorts of ways that could be useful to direct-mailing and telemarketing outfits. It wasn't long before data brokers realized that this information could be used beyond telemarketing, and quickly evolved into a global for-profit intelligence business that serves every conceivable data and intelligence need.

Today, the industry churns somewhere around $200 billion in revenue annually. There are up to 4,000 data broker companies - some of the biggest are publicly traded - and together, they have detailed information on just about every adult in the western world.

No source of information is sacred: transaction records are bought in bulk from stores, retailers and merchants; magazine subscriptions are recorded; food and restaurant preferences are noted; public records and social networks are scoured and scraped. What kind of prescription drugs did you buy? What kind of books are you interested in? Are you a registered voter? To what non-profits do you donate? What movies do you watch? Political documentaries? Hunting reality TV shows?

That info is combined and kept up to date with address, payroll information, phone numbers, email accounts, social security numbers, vehicle registration and financial history. And all that is sliced, isolated, analyzed and mined for data about you and your habits in a million different ways.

The dossiers are not restricted to generic market segmenting categories like "Young Literati" or "Shotguns and Pickups" or "Kids & Cul-de-Sacs," but often contain the most private and intimate details about a person's life, all of it packaged and sold over and over again to anyone willing to pay.

Take MEDbase200, a boutique for-profit intel outfit that specializes in selling health-related consumer data. Well, until last week, the company offered its clients a list of rape victims (or "rape sufferers," as the company calls them) at the low price of $79.00 per thousand. The company claims to have segmented this data set into hundreds of different categories, including stuff like the ailments they suffer, prescription drugs they take and their ethnicity:

These rape sufferers are family members who have reported, or have been identified as individuals affected by specific illnesses, conditions or ailments relating to rape. Medbase200 is the owner of this list. Select from families affected by over 500 different ailments, and/or who are consumers of over 200 different Rx medications. Lists can be further selected on the basis of lifestyle, ethnicity, geo, gender, and much more. Inquire today for more information.

MEDbase promptly took its "rape sufferers" list off line last week after its existence was revealed in a Senate investigation into the activities of the data-broker industry. The company pretended like the list was a huge mistake. A MEDbase rep tried convincing a Wall Street Journal reporter that its rape dossiers were just a "hypothetical list of health conditions/ailments." The rep promised it was never sold to anyone. Yep, it was a big mistake. We can all rest easy now. Thankfully, MEDbase has hundreds of other similar dossier collections, hawking the most private and sensitive medical information.

For instance, if lists of rape victims aren't your thing, MEDbase can sell dossiers on people suffering from anorexia, substance abuse, AIDS and HIV, Alzheimer's Disease, Asperger Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Bedwetting (Enuresis), Binge Eating Disorder, Depression, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Genital Herpes, Genital Warts, Gonorrhea, Homelessness, Infertility, Syphilis… the list goes on and on and on and on.

Normally, such detailed health information would fall under federal law and could not be disclosed or sold without consent. But because these data harvesters rely on indirect sources of information instead of medical records, they're able to sidestep regulations put in place to protect the privacy of people's health data.

MEBbase isn't the only company exploiting these loopholes. By the industry's own estimates, there are something like 4,000 for-profit intel companies operating in the United States. Many of them sell information that would normally be restricted under federal law. They offer all sorts of targeted dossier collections on every population segments of our society, from the affluent to the extremely vulnerable:

If you want to see how this kind of profile data can be used to scam unsuspecting individuals, look no further than a Richard Guthrie, an Iowa retiree who had his life savings siphoned out of his bank account. Their weapon of choice: databases bought from large for-profit data brokers listing retirees who entered sweepstakes and bought lottery tickets.

Here's a 2007 New York Times story describing the racket:

Mr. Guthrie, who lives in Iowa, had entered a few sweepstakes that caused his name to appear in a database advertised by infoUSA, one of the largest compilers of consumer information. InfoUSA sold his name, and data on scores of other elderly Americans, to known lawbreakers, regulators say.

InfoUSA advertised lists of "Elderly Opportunity Seekers," 3.3 million older people "looking for ways to make money," and "Suffering Seniors," 4.7 million people with cancer or Alzheimer's disease. "Oldies but Goodies" contained 500,000 gamblers over 55 years old, for 8.5 cents apiece. One list said: "These people are gullible. They want to believe that their luck can change."

Data brokers argue that cases like Guthrie are an anomaly - a once-in-a-blue-moon tragedy in an industry that takes privacy and legal conduct seriously. But cases of identity thieves and sophistical con-rings obtaining data from for-profit intel businesses abound. Scammers are a lucrative source of revenue. Their money is just as good as anyone else's. And some of the profile "products" offered by the industry seem tailored specifically to fraud use.

As Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sergeant Yves Leblanc told the New York Times: "Only one kind of customer wants to buy lists of seniors interested in lotteries and sweepstakes: criminals. If someone advertises a list by saying it contains gullible or elderly people, it's like putting out a sign saying 'Thieves welcome here.'"

So what is InfoUSA, exactly? What kind of company would create and sell lists customized for use by scammers and cons?

As it turns out, InfoUSA is not some fringe or shady outfit, but a hugely profitable politically connected company. InfoUSA was started by Vin Gupta in the 1970s as a basement operation hawking detailed lists of RV and mobile home dealers. The company quickly expanded into other areas and began providing business intel services to thousands of businesses. By 2000, the company raised more than $30 million in venture capital funding from major Silicon Valley venture capital firms.

By then, InfoUSA boasted of having information on 230 million consumers. A few years later, InfoUSA counted the biggest Valley companies as its clients, including Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL. It got involved not only in raw data and dossiers, but moved into payroll and financial, conducted polling and opinion research, partnered with CNN, vetted employees and provided customized services for law enforcement and all sorts of federal and government agencies: processing government payments, helping states locate tax cheats and even administrating President Bill Clinton "Welfare to Work" program. Which is not surprising, as Vin Gupta is a major and close political supporter of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

In 2008, Gupta was sued by InfoUSA shareholders for inappropriately using corporate funds. Shareholders accused of Gupta of illegally funneling corporate money to fund an extravagant lifestyle and curry political favor. According to the Associated Press, the lawsuit questioned why Gupta used private corporate jets to fly the Clintons on personal and campaign trips, and why Gupta awarded Bill Clinton a $3.3 million consulting gig.

As a result of the scandal, InfoUSA was threatened with delisting from Nasdaq, Gupta was forced out and the company was snapped up for half a billion dollars by CCMP Capital Advisors, a major private equity firm spun off from JP Morgan in 2006. Today, InfoUSA continues to do business under the name Infogroup, and has nearly 4,000 employees working in nine countries.

As big as Infogroup is, there are dozens of other for-profit intelligence businesses that are even bigger: massive multi-national intel conglomerates with revenues in the billions of dollars. Some of them, like Lexis-Nexis and Experian, are well known, but mostly these are outfits that few Americans have heard of, with names like Epsilon, Altegrity and Acxiom.

These for-profit intel behemoths are involved in everything from debt collection to credit reports to consumer tracking to healthcare analysis, and provide all manner of tailored services to government and law enforcement around the world. For instance, Acxiom has done business with most major corporations, and boasts of intel on "500 million active consumers worldwide, with about 1,500 data points per person. That includes a majority of adults in the United States," according to the New York Times.

This data is analyzed and sliced in increasingly sophisticated and intrusive ways to profile and predict behavior. Merchants are using it customize shopping experience- Target launched a program to figure out if a woman shopper was pregnant and when the baby would be born, "even if she didn't want us to know." Life insurance companies are experimenting with predictive consumer intel to estimate life expectancy and determine eligibility for life insurance policies. Meanwhile, health insurance companies are raking over this data in order to deny and challenge the medical claims of their policyholders.

Even more alarming, large employers are turning to for-profit intelligence to mine and monitor the lifestyles and habits of their workers outside the workplace. Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal described how employers have partnered with health insurance companies to monitor workers for "health-adverse" behavior that could lead to higher medical expenses down the line:

Your company already knows whether you have been taking your meds, getting your teeth cleaned and going for regular medical checkups. Now some employers or their insurance companies are tracking what staffers eat, where they shop and how much weight they are putting on - and taking action to keep them in line.

But companies also have started scrutinizing employees' other behavior more discreetly. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina recently began buying spending data on more than 3 million people in its employer group plans. If someone, say, purchases plus-size clothing, the health plan could flag him for potential obesity - and then call or send mailings offering weight-loss solutions.

…"Everybody is using these databases to sell you stuff," says Daryl Wansink, director of health economics for the Blue Cross unit. "We happen to be trying to sell you something that can get you healthier."

"As an employer, I want you on that medication that you need to be on," says Julie Stone, a HR expert at Towers Watson told the Wall Street Journal.

Companies might try to frame it as a health issue. I mean, what kind of asshole could be against employers caring about the wellbeing of their workers? But their ultimate concern has nothing to do with the employee health. It's all about the brutal bottom line: keeping costs down.

An employer monitoring and controlling your activity outside of work? You don't have to be union agitator to see the problems with this kind of mindset and where it could lead. Because there are lots of things that some employers might want to know about your personal life, and not only to "keep costs down." It could be anything: to weed out people based on undesirable habits or discriminate against workers based on sexual orientation, regulation and political beliefs.

It's not difficult to imagine that a large corporation facing a labor unrest or a unionization drive would be interested in proactively flagging potential troublemakers by pinpointing employees that might be sympathetic to the cause. But the technology and data is already here for wide and easy application: did a worker watch certain political documentaries, donate to environmental non-profits, join an animal rights Facebook group, tweet out support for Occupy Wall Street, subscribe to the Nation or Jacobin, buy Naomi Klein's "Shock Doctrine"? Or maybe the worker simply rented one of Michael Moore's films? Run your payroll through one of the massive consumer intel databases and look if there is any matchup. Bound to be plenty of unpleasant surprises for HR!

This has happened in the past, although in a cruder and more limited way. In the 1950s, for instance, some lefty intellectuals had their lefty newspapers and mags delivered to P.O. boxes instead of their home address, worrying that otherwise they'd get tagged as Commie symps. That might have worked in the past. But with the power of private intel companies, today there's nowhere to hide.

FTC Commissioner Julie Brill has repeatedly voiced concern that unregulated data being amassed by for-profit intel companies would be used to discriminate and deny employment, and to determine consumer access to everything from credit to insurance to housing. "As Big Data algorithms become more accurate and powerful, consumers need to know a lot more about the ways in which their data is used," she told the Wall Street Journal.

Pam Dixon, executive director of the Privacy World Forum, agrees. Dixon frequently testifies on Capitol Hill to warn about the growing danger to privacy and civil liberties posed by big data and for-profit intelligence. In Congressional testimony back in 2009, Dixon called this growing mountain of data the "modern permanent record" and explained that users of these new intel capabilities will inevitably expand to include not just marketers and law enforcement, but insurance companies, employers, landlords, schools, parents, scammers and stalkers. "The information – like credit reports – will be used to make basic decisions about the ability of individual to travel, participate in the economy, find opportunities, find places to live, purchase goods and services, and make judgments about the importance, worthiness, and interests of individuals."

* *

For the past year, Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV has been conducting a Senate Commerce Committee investigation of the data broker industry and how it affects consumers. The committee finished its investigation last week without reaching any real conclusions, but issued a report warning about the dangers posed by the for-profit intel industry and the need for further action by lawmakers. The report noted with concern that many of these firms failed to cooperate with the investigation into their business practices:

Data brokers operate behind a veil of secrecy. Three of the largest companies – Acxiom, Experian, and Epsilon – to date have been similarly secretive with the Committee with respect to their practices, refusing to identify the specific sources of their data or the customers who purchase it. … The refusal by several major data broker companies to provide the Committee complete responses regarding data sources and customers only reinforces the aura of secrecy surrounding the industry.

Rockefeller's investigation was an important first step breaking open this secretive industry, but it was missing one notable element. Despite its focus on companies that feed on people's personal data, the investigation did not include Google or the other big Surveillance Valley data munchers. And that's too bad. Because if anything, the investigation into data brokers only highlighted the danger posed by the consumer-facing data companies like Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Apple.

As intrusive as data brokers are, the level of detail in the information they compile on Americans pales to what can be vacuumed up by a company like Google. To compile their dossiers, traditional data brokers rely on mostly indirect intel: what people buy, where they vacation, what websites they visit. Google, on the other hand, has access to the raw uncensored contents of your inner life: personal emails, chats, the diary entries and medical records that we store in the cloud, our personal communication with doctors, lawyers, psychologists, friends. Data brokers know us through our spending habits. Google accesses the unfiltered details of our personal lives.

A recent study showed that Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to having their online activity tracked and analyzed. Seventy-three percent of people polled for the Pew Internet & American Life Project viewed the tracking of their search history as an invasion of privacy, while 68 percent were against targeted advertising, replying: "I don't like having my online behavior tracked and analyzed."

This isn't news to companies like Google, which last year warned shareholders: "Privacy concerns relating to our technology could damage our reputation and deter current and potential users from using our products and services."

Little wonder then that Google, and the rest of Surveillance Valley, is terrified that the conversation about surveillance could soon broaden to include not only government espionage, but for-profit spying as well.

[Jun 30, 2014] Facebook emotion study breached ethical guidelines, researchers say

quote: "On another matter, I am continually amazed by people's seeming inability to get rid of Facebook. It's not that hard."

The Guardian

Researchers have roundly condemned Facebook's experiment in which it manipulated nearly 700,000 users' news feeds to see whether it would affect their emotions, saying it breaches ethical guidelines for "informed consent".

James Grimmelmann, professor of law at the University of Maryland, points in an extensive blog post that "Facebook didn't give users informed consent" to allow them to decide whether to take part in the study, under US human subjects research.

"The study harmed participants," because it changed their mood, Grimmelmann comments, adding "This is bad, even for Facebook."

But one of the researchers, Adam Kramer, posted a lengthy defence on Facebook, saying it was carried out "because we care about the emotional impact of Facebook and the people that use our product." He said that he and his colleagues "felt that it was important to investigate the common worry that seeing friends post positive content leads to people feeling negative or left out."

The experiment hid certain elements from 689,003 peoples' news feed – about 0.04% of users, or 1 in 2,500 – over the course of one week in 2012. The experiment hid "a small percentage" of emotional words from peoples' news feeds, without their knowledge, to test what effect that had on the statuses or "Likes" that they then posted or reacted to.

The results found that, contrary to expectation, peoples' emotions were reinforced by what they saw - what the researchers called "emotional contagion".

But the study has come in for severe criticism because unlike the advertising that Facebook shows - which arguably aims to alter peoples' behaviour by making them buy products or services from those advertisers - the changes to the news feeds were made without users' knowledge or explicit consent.

Max Masnick, a researcher with a doctorate in epidemiology who says of his work that "I do human-subjects research every day", says that the structure of the experiment means there was no informed consent - a key element of any studies on humans.

"As a researcher, you don't get an ethical free pass because a user checked a box next to a link to a website's terms of use. The researcher is responsible for making sure all participants are properly consented. In many cases, study staff will verbally go through lengthy consent forms with potential participants, point by point. Researchers will even quiz participants after presenting the informed consent information to make sure they really understand.

"Based on the information in the PNAS paper, I don't think these researchers met this ethical obligation."

Kramer does not address the topic of informed consent in his blog post. But he says that "my co-authors and I are very sorry for the way the paper described the research and any anxiety it caused. In hindsight, the research benefits of the paper may not have justified all of this anxiety."

Facebook reveals news feed experiment to control emotions

[Jan 01, 2014] I Decided to Delete All My Facebook Activity By Jennifer Golbeck

"The real lesson I learned from this exercise is how difficult it is to manage one's online persona."
Jan 01, 2014 | Slate

It was hard.

If I had my way, Facebook would have a hard and fast expiration date for posts. I generally don't want most of what I say hanging around longer than I'd keep eggs in the fridge. Sure, some links and videos are worth revisiting-but does anyone really care that I was tired on that Monday in 2008?

But most of our Timelines are full of this rotting nonsense. There's no value in it for me, nor for my friends either, most likely. I'll grant the infrequent occasion for someone to think, "I remember an awesome video that Jen posted last year-let me go find it on her Timeline!" But most of those posts are digital clutter. They aren't interesting, especially when they're taken out of the context in which they were originally posted. I have celebrations of past Washington Capitals victories, well wishes for friends running marathons, and inane comments about the weather. I see no reason to preserve this for prosperity, and since it's my data, I want to be in control of its disposal.

The new year inspires people to make a clean start, and with that motivation, I set out to delete everything I had posted on Facebook that was more than a month old. In 2011, Farhad Manjoo said here on Slate that deleting my past would be easy.

Really, Farhad? You obviously didn't try it.

Finding my past is easy. Facebook's "Activity Log" (found near the top of your Timeline page) shows you everything you've ever done on Facebook: every friendship made, every like, every comment, every cringe-worthy thing you've ever said. I'd go on, but Slate contributor Steve Kolowich already nailed the feeling you get from browsing this excruciating log.

Before deleting everything, you might want to save a copy of it. This is easy. Click on the gear at the top of the Facebook site and select Account Settings. At the bottom of that page is a link to download your data. Facebook will assemble a package of everything you have posted, including photos and videos, and send you a link to a zip file. Now, you can keep a private copy of everything-just in case.

I averaged about 10 "activities" per day. The occasional status update, a handful of likes, a comment here or there-it all adds up. During periods of time when I was active on a Facebook discussion board, the activity was much higher. I joined Facebook in 2005, and, my conservative estimate is that I had roughly 30,000 items to delete. If I had printed out the full log, it would have taken about 2,400 pages.

Deleting 30,000 things takes a long time. In the Activity Log, there's a pencil icon next to each item. Clicking that shows a menu of options. Some items can be truly purged; the Delete option is in the menu itself.

Some events can't be deleted. For Likes, the closest equivalent is unlike. Although it felt a bit harsh, I was committed. So, I unliked everything. Other events (like friendships) aren't as easy; short of unfriending someone, the only option is to mark them Hidden from Timeline.

On average, it took 20 to 30 minutes to purge a month's worth of posts. After about 12 hours of hand-deleting stories, I decided it was time to automate.

I found two options: the Facebook Timeline Cleaner and Absterge, both scripts than can run in the Firefox or Chrome browsers. Both are actively maintained, which is important. Facebook changes its code frequently, so tools that interact with it need to keep up. They're also open-source, so other coders can check them to make sure they work properly (and don't do anything nefarious).

Facebook Timeline Cleaner is the more nuanced option. It allows you to delete posts older or younger than a given time. However, it didn't work well for me. I spent a week trying to get it to work in Firefox and Chrome. It would run for eight to 10 hours, delete some things, and then the browser would crash. I tried it for only very old posts, but it still fizzled. I suspect this is because I had so much activity, and the computational power required to run the script was more than the browser could handle.

Absterge is less subtle: It deletes everything. You do have some control-you can choose types of activity from the left-hand side of the Activity Log and purge only those posts. For example, pick "likes," then click the Absterge button. It deletes all the likes.

Daniel

Facebook doesn't actually "delete" anything, they just don't display it. This is a company that keeps "shadow profiles" for people that haven't even signed for the service, populated with data gleaned from other sources. It's important for people to know exactly what happens when they hit "delete."

Pepin the Short

@QwertyQwert

"Facebook should welcome my want to make my page cleaner by only keeping what I consider as the highlights of my page"


In case you haven't noticed, Facebook is in the business of selling your personal information; they are not in the "social experience" business and they don't care if your page looks clean (it looks the way it looks because they designed it to look that way). All they care about is:

  1. You posting more information about yourself and your friends
  2. You NOT deleting ANY information
  3. Selling your information to advertisers
  4. Satisfying the gods of Wall Street with an ever increasing stock price

Pepin the Short

@QwertyQwert

Facebook wants your information visible to the world and the more the better (I'm sure they have some kind of metric for it). Let's say you walk into Walmart and see all the aisles and shelves are full of everything you're looking for (an analogy to your information being visible on Facebook) - that's a positive experience for you and others. Now let's say you delete your information (even though Facebook still has it on their servers and is available for sale), this would be like walking into a Walmart and seeing barren and empty shelves even though they have merchandise in their backroom. The store looks unused and abandoned which is not a pleasant user experience.

You said that "Now I find myself checking incoming interns out on Facebook looking for troublemakers." Well what if suddenly all the posters deleted their information? Facebook may still have the previous information on their servers, but the Facebook website has suddenly become more useless to you. Now imagine if everyone made their information private or deleted it. This would effectively make Facebook useless to the people that matter, which are the advertisers (I hope you didn't think it was you, silly.)

Irwin Busk

Nothing is actually deleted from the back end servers (the actual database, and backup storage).

[Dec 19, 2013] Tech Leaders and Obama Find Shared Problem: Fading Public Trust

Dec 18, 2013 | NYT

For months, leading technology companies have been buffeted by revelations about government spying on their customers' data, which they believe are undermining confidence in their services.

"Both sides are saying, 'My biggest issue right now is trust,' " said Matthew Prince, co-founder and chief executive of CloudFlare, an Internet start-up. "If you're on the White House side, the issue is they're getting beaten up because they're seen as technically incompetent. On the other side, the tech industry needs the White House right now to give a stern rebuke to the N.S.A. and put in real procedures to rein in a program that feels like it's out of control."

The meeting of Mr. Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and 15 executives from the likes of Apple, Google, Facebook and Yahoo came a week after those companies and other giants, usually archrivals, united in a public campaign calling for reform in government surveillance practices.

On Monday, a federal district judge ruled that the N.S.A. sweep of data from all Americans' phone calls was unconstitutional, a ruling that added import to the discussions.

...Several executives, including Ms. Mayer, the chief executive of Yahoo, expressed concerned that foreign countries may now decide to prevent all the user data generated by users in a foreign country from flowing to the United States, the people said. One such law has been proposed in Brazil. The executives said these laws would significantly hurt their businesses and America's start-up economy.

...The meeting reflected a shift in the tech sector's once-close relationship with Mr. Obama, whose 2008 election many industry executives generously supported.

Chuck Woods, ID

I don't see how there can be any trust restored until the administration changes it's outlook on Edward Snowden. Without the revelations about wholesale spying and illegal data collection by Snowden we would not even be having this national discussion. President Obama will be on the wrong side of history if he doesn't recognize the value of this issue. It would be sad if he is remembered as the president of drones and spying on citizens. Perhaps healthcare will save him from that. But isn't about time he stood up to the spooks and hawks who pull many of the levers.

Deregulate_This, Oregon

President Obama meets with these particular tech CEOs? The same ones who claim there are no CS graduates in America? The same ones who abuse the H-1B visa program and undercut American wages? The same ones who happily signed on to sell information to the C.I.A. and N.S.A.? (Our tax dollars pay for access to their data - see previous NYT articles about payouts to tech companies)

I've worked in the tech industry for 15 years and have seen massive layoffs of Americans while they send jobs overseas. Now, they are being used as Obama's advisers? What could they possibly advise? "Lower Wages" "Allow us to outsource more" "Allow us to have permanent unpaid interns" "keep paying us for private user information"?

eric glen
Hopkinton, NH

"The Adminstration told executives that government action related to NSA surveillance would happen in the new year. . . "

Yeah, and if you like your plan you can keep your plan, period.

This article to some degree depicts our President as somehow an outsider to the NSA workings.

He's the commander in chief. He could have changed the system five years ago if he wanted to.

Our President has authorized the spying that has gone on and seeks to prosecute Snowden to the fulll extent of the law. Why, because President Obama believes the government should spy on us.

If only Snowden were an "undocumented worker", he would be safe from prosecution whatever his crimes.

AdamOnDemand, Bloomingdale, NJ

Unchecked power to spy is like any other unchecked power: it corrupts, and while it may be intended for only the best reasons, it won't be used only or even primarily for them for long...

senatordl
new jersey

"The president made clear his belief in an open, free and innovative Internet ". Anyone who believes that is delusional! this president and his congressional co=conspirators are the worst thing that has ever happened to the US. the last thing they believe in is something that is open let alone free. we are no longer free because they take our freedom of choice away on virtually everything. The worst part is people on the government dole don't see it or don't care. if we have not lost what we fought for during several wars then this war is even more insidious because most people are not even aware that it's being waged against them.

Brooklyn Song, Brooklyn
NYT Pick

Facebook and Google are 1) speaking with Obama about how bad the NSA spying is for business, and b) buying fiber optic cables to evade government spying out their customers (us).

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2525732/Facebook-Google-b...

In other words, giant corporations are the good guys now. Brave new world.

rcrogers6, Durham, NC

It's a little late to install a competent IT professional to run the website development contract - or should I say contracts. The mismanagement began when President Obama eschewed competent advice and turned the ACA implementation over to the White House staffers who shepherded it through Congress. This concrete demonstration of the President's lack of any managerial background and unwillingness to accept expert advice has permeated his presidency and led to the disappointment of those of us who voted for him - twice.

I cannot imagine anything concerning either of the meeting's subjects that would warrant that grin or the reciprocating smiles of the apparent sycophants. We will soon see what impact this president's ignorance and arrogance has had on the fortunes of the Democratic Party in the 2014 elections. Next time, I will try not to be influenced by a charismatic candidate and look for one who brings some experience to the table. I honestly had looked forward to change and a new era in politics. Well, in regard to the Legislative Branch, that's what I got - in the form of a disaster. The Executive, in lieu of change, has just delivered more of the same with a soupcon of additional incompetence.

alan, United States

Since it is obvious to even a blind man that the government has no real desire to protect Americans from illegal spying< I hope Brazil and other nations will pass laws that forces tech companies to keep their citizens data in their respective countries.

This will costs the tech industries billions of dollars. That is the only way they will get out of bed with the government. They can cry foul all they want to but it sounds hollows. After all, AT&T and the other phone companies turned over call records to the government after 911 without a whimper.

Maybe when enough people stop using their services or go with a company that is serious about users' privacy, Microsoft and the rest will do the right thing.

Nathan an Expat, China

The Internet companies' real concern is loss of overseas markets due to revelations they were providing voluntary and/or unwitting back door access to their customer data to US intelligence services. If their overseas clientele and their governments wake up this might lead to a "balkanisation!" of the Internet -- that translates into loss of market share for the major players. Most amusing is that major telecommunication companies like CISCO, Juniper and Alcatel who by definition have to be major players in this activity have managed with the collusion of mainstream media to keep a low profile on this. No visits to the White House for them because they are fully in line with these programs and have been for decades. Meanwhile, the US senators advise/warn foreigners not to buy telecommunication systems from China's Huawei because you know . . .

Jerry, New York

It's nice when the families get together to decide how to divide control over citizens and their money. God bless them.

Trenton, Washington, D.C.

The tech moguls are creating the devices and application that track the 99 percent's every move, thought and action--technology they sell to the federal government. They lobby for privatizing of public services so they can exert even greater control.

And, yeah, if they're not Libertarians feeding at the public trough, they're Democrats.

All it will take is one well-coordinated nationwide terrorist attack and we'll all be in virtual lock-down via technology created and peddled by these children.

Watch for the false flag.

Jim Michie, Bethesda, Maryland

What amazes me is how and why Barack Obama keeps flashing those toothy smiles. Here is a man who "gave us hope" and "promised" us so much, but delivered so little, continuing many of the ugly, dark policies of the Bush regime and adding his own. Among so many betrayals, Obama has failed to close his gulag, Guantanamo, failed to bring all of our troops home, expanded his war capabilities, failed to prosecute his felon friends on Wall Street and in the too-big-to-jail banks, launched a war on both whistleblowers and journalists, worked closely with the for-profit "health insurance industry" to create a "Frankenstein health care plan" and I could go on and on and on and on. "Fading trust," you say, New York Times? Shouldn't your headline read, "Tech Leaders and Obama Find Shared Problem: Lost Public Trust"!

John, Hartford

Reflects a shift? It actually reflects the closeness and interdependence of the relationship between government the tech industry. At times I wonder who writes these articles, 28 year old techno whizzes who may know all about IT but very little about the realities of power?

66hawk, Gainesville, VA

This article feel like empty calories to me. The characterization of the meeting is mostly critical when it seems that the fact that the meeting was held and that an exchange of viewpoints was accomplished made the meeting a success. I have no doubt that Obama will address some of the concerns that the tech industry has while still maintaining the ability to protect our nation from terrorists. The problem of getting people to trust that social media and the internet are totally secure is probably unsolvable. If you don't want someone to have access to your information, you certainly don't want to use Facebook.

Pat Choate, Washington, Va.

The expose of the NSA excesses and that Agency's linkages with these corporations is taking a heavy tool on these companies' foreign-derived bottom line and global reputation. What citizen or company in any foreign country wants to do business with a corporation that is secretly funneling their clients' data to US spy agencies.

Big Tech's concern for their profits will result in more pressures for "reforms" at NSA than anything the Congress, Courts or Administration would ever do on their own.

Steve Fankuchen, Oakland CA

The information Americans gladly give to private companies is more of a threat to individual well-being and collective democracy than the egregious data collecting of the government. The real danger is that Apple is much more popular than the government, because people understand what their iPod does for them but not what the government does for them.

The workings of the government are, compared to that of the big tech corporations, quite transparent. You may or may not like the influence of the Koch brothers money on politics, but at least it all plays out in a relatively public arena. Google not so much. And, while our electoral process is very far from perfect, you have more of an influence on that than you do on corporate policy. Have you tried voting Tim Cook or Mark Zuckerberg out of office?

What the government is doing now it has done for decades, spying with whatever tools were available. They may have new tools, but so do those they want to spy on. What is different now is that there are huge, wealthy corporations whose profit largely come from spying and espionage i.e. the collection of your info with or without your permission. And to the extent that you may have become dependent on the internet and these companies, they simply make you an offer you can't refuse.

Dean Charles Marshall, California

Steve your comment is "spot on". Our deification of technology is beyond absurd. At the end of the day the Internet has become a vast "sink hole" of distraction where tech companies rake in billions covertly pimping off our private information in exchange for bits and bits of superfluous and dubious information we crave, but for reasons we can't explain. Thanks to companies like Google, Apple and Facebook we've become a nation of techno zombies enamored with the trivial pursuit.

ronco, San Francisco

Those private companies don't intentionally weaken security and encryption standards in order to make breaking into encrypted data streams easier. Those companies make a living by ensuring the integrity of the data that you host with them. One has choices whether to give data to those companies in order to get services from them or to pay in a more traditional model. When a company is found to play loosely with data they are sussed out very quickly and very publicly. We don't have a recourse against the NSA - voting is a very slow process.

While researchers have known about the weaknesses introduced into data encryption standard algorithms by the NSA, none of them spoke up about it because of the chilling effect it would have on getting grants for their research.

It is a vicious circle that is not only strengthened by criminal prosecution but also character assassination and black listing at government levels. There's nothing inherently good or evil about corporations or their motives but I usually have a choice about where I purchase goods and services or even build my own company to compete. The fact that we can't trust our government to do the right thing and haven't been able to have that trust since 9/11 is a problem because one either has to wait for the voting process to eventually work (a generation?) or just vote with their feet.

Scientella, palo alto

Spying by the NSA is unconstitutional.
Silicon Valley has changed from a benevolent geek town to run by ruthless, parasitic, dishonest, money crazed functionaries of the policed state.

Jack O'Hanlon
San Juan Islands

Where was Cisco? If you want to ask some deep questions about a technology company that has sold billions of dollars worth of IP routing and switching equipment worldwide that now seems to have engineered back door access for the NSA, Cisco would be the banner carrier.

No subsea system, no terrestrial network can function without Cisco equipment in line somewhere. When Cisco claims it drives the Internet, it is not kidding.

Ironic in this is the fact that Cisco has lobbied to keep Huawei out of U.S. carrier networks based on "security issues" that have been discussed in general terms, ie, backdoors that would allow the Chinese to compromise U.S. communications.

It now seems that Cisco had some direct experience in understanding this sort of activity.

You can't pick off photonic transmissions (the fiber optic cable hacks revealed in the Snowden documents) unless you can hack the IP routers that send the traffic across the cables. A pure photonic hack is a futuristic endeavour, one that can be conducted so long as the producer of all optic routing has built in back door access at the laser level. Not so easy. All optic routing is called O-O-O, for optical-optical-optical transmission and destination routing of Internet Protocol traffic.

Bill Appledorf, British Columbia

Give me a break.

Corporate America spies on everyone to personalize the limits of the cognitive sandbox each consumer wanders in.

The NSA's job is to make sure no one extricates themselves from virtual reality, discovers the planet Earth, and finds out what global capitalism has been doing to it and the people who live here.

Information technology and covert intelligence are the public and secret sides of one and the same coin.

Cisco, Juniper, Alcatel, Huawei and a scant few others build what are called - O-E-O routers, for optical-electrical-optical transmission. The NSA is hacking the E part of this, with the vendors' potential help, obviously.

Bruce, San Diego, CA

I believe I have a way to regain the public trust: Give Mr. Snowden permission to re-enter the US, give him a Presidential pardon and award him the Congressional Gold Metal. Mr. Snowden maybe labeled a traitor by some in government; if so he is in fine company: Mr. King, Mr. Gandhi, Mr. Mandela, Mr. Patrick Henry. All of whom have been called "Traitor" and all of whom like Mr. Snowden shook up the established order for the betterment of society. Some like Mr. King, Gandhi & Henry paid the ultimate price for their beliefs.

Mr. Snowden has done more to advance the cause of freedom in the US and around the world than anyone for a long, long time. In the process he has made the "Powers That Be" very uncomfortable. Well done Sir!

borntorun45, NY

Do you feel that Snowden should be granted a Presidential pardon for cheating on the exam to obtain employment as a contractor for the NSA in Hawaii with the specific intent of mining data that he should not have had access to in the first place? Maybe you feel that Snowden should be pardoned for absconding to Hong Kong with his stolen files - do you find his fleeing the country of his own accord particularly heroic, proper, or necessary? Or, should he receive a pardon for then making that intelligence available to people who have profited by the purloined intelligence by publishing it for all the world to see, jeopardizing America's security and causing a strain on foreign relations?

Snowden carefully planned his mission, he didn't simply come upon the "leaked files" through his work in Hawaii - he has admitted to taking the job with Booz Allen specifically to obtain the files he stole. He was so much more than a whistleblower - he broke into and entered areas of the NSA he had no legal access to, and he download millions of files. Imagine anyone working in private business doing such a thing, let alone someone who took an oath of secrecy.

How exactly has "Mr. Snowden... done more to advance the cause of freedom in the US and around the world"? We are all being watched whenever we use our computers, cell phones, debit cards - it's the digital age, my friend, and the US government's surveillance of you should be the least of your worries.

Che Beauchard, Manhattan

Can't the photo shown with this article be used as evidence in a trial for a RICO violation? Surely the government has become a Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization in collusion with these corporations.

infinityON, NJ

Sorry, I am having a hard time believing that Google and Facebook are concerned about their users privacy. They are more worried about their bottom lines due to the Snowden revelations. And we can add in the Obama Administration not being concerned about Americans privacy.

Patrick Dugan, Berkeley, CA

Google's entire business is built on respecting the privacy of their users. Sure they've misstepped in the past, usually not on purpose, but the presumption that they blatantly disrespect users and their privacy is uninformed.

Colenso, Cairns

'Try working part time at WalMart for awhile and then tell me that the NSA is your biggest problem.' ~ paul, CA

I sympathise. Nevertheless, if you are a resident of a US town where there's a Walmart or some such, you can choose whether or not to work for Wal-Mart Stores Inc or for some other exploitative US employer. If you don't like it, then you can improve your qualifications or skills, move to another town or even another country. That's always been the American way.

No one, however, US citizen or non-citizen, resident or non-resident in the USA, has any direct say whatsoever in what the US National Security Agency decides to do to you. Even the so-called 'courts' that oversee the NSA admit no litigant to the proceedings.

To take up your challenge, therefore, with the exception of those who live in North Korea and similar jurisdictions, I say yes - the NSA *is* everyone's biggest problem.

[Nov 16, 2013] Facebook Reasserts Posts Can Be Used to Advertise By VINDU GOEL

November 15, 2013 | nytimes.com

The company says it made more clear that postings and other personal data can be used in advertising on the site and reiterated that includes information from teenage users.

... ... ...

Facebook has maintained that its previous terms of use granted it the right to use a person's name, face and posts in ads sent to other people in that user's social network. But with the new policy, the company has replaced vaguer language with more specific wording that clarifies its policies.

...Senator Markey, who joined several other lawmakers in introducing a "Do Not Track Kids" bill on Thursday, said in a statement that Facebook's decision not to shield teenagers from advertising underscored the need for Congress to act. Currently, the law only restricts advertising to children under age 13.

While Facebook has clarified its disclosures, it has not yet put into effect two other important provisions of the settlement that would give users more control over how their information is used in sponsored stories.

[Nov 13, 2013] 'The Zuckerberg Files' New Scholarly Archive Scrutinizes Facebook CEO By Marc Parry

"Machiavellian" public-relations methods of tech companies like Facebook: "A new feature, which shares more personal data with advertisers, is rolled out. A blowback ensues. Then comes the company's response: minor changes that largely leave the new feature in place, plus reassuring noises like "we are listening to our users." "
October 25, 2013 | The Chronicle of Higher Education

In 2010 two privacy scholars published an op-ed criticizing the "Machiavellian" public-relations methods of tech companies like Facebook. They analyzed a PR script that may sound familiar to many of Facebook's 1.2 billion users. A new feature, which shares more personal data with advertisers, is rolled out. A blowback ensues. Then comes the company's response: minor changes that largely leave the new feature in place, plus reassuring noises like "we are listening to our users."

"Guided by earlier battles fought by tobacco and drug companies, information-intensive firms have learned how to use rhetoric to distract the public while successfully implementing new programs," the scholars, Chris Hoofnagle and Michael Zimmer, wrote in The Huffington Post. "They are the Machiavellis of privacy."

On Friday, Mr. Zimmer announced a new way to track such rhetoric: "The Zuckerberg Files." The project is an online archive that attempts to collect every public utterance made by Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder and chief executive, including blog posts, magazine interviews, TV appearances, letters to shareholders, public presentations, and other events. The archive runs from a 2004 interview with The Harvard Crimson to more recent fare, like Mr. Zuckerberg's comments at an event The Atlantic held last month in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Zimmer, an assistant professor in the School of Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, says he built the archive in part to enable scholarly investigation of Facebook's "philosophy of information." He plans to analyze Mr. Zuckerberg's evolving response to privacy issues. "The Zuckerberg Files" offers revealing glimpses of those ideas, such as the chief executive's remarks during a 2008 "Web 2.0 Summit":

Four years ago, when Facebook was getting started, most people didn't want to put up any information about themselves on the Internet. Right? So, we got people through this really big hurdle of wanting to put up their full name, or real picture, mobile phone number …

I would expect that, you know, next year, people will share twice as much information as they are this year. And then, the year after that, they'll share twice as much information as they are next year …

… as long as the stream of information is just constantly increasing, and we're doing our job, and, and our, and our role, and kind of like pushing that forward, then I think that, you know, that's, that's just been the best strategy for us.

The archive's bibliographic and metadata are openly available. Due to copyright, though, full-text transcripts and video files are restricted to scholars conducting relevant research.

Beyond privacy, scholars and others outside academe could use the database to look at variety of issues, Mr. Zimmer says, such as what the hot Facebook-related topics have been over time, or what characterizes Mr. Zuckerberg's leadership style.

Mr. Zuckerberg is known for "not being a very good public speaker," Mr. Zimmer notes. He sweats, seems uncomfortable, and gives answers that are brief or that come off as prepackaged. His mannerisms quickly grated on the students who spent hours listening to the Facebook CEO's voice as they helped Mr. Zimmer build his archive. "I have a roomful of students who can do some really good Mark Zuckerberg impersonations," the Milwaukee scholar says.

So why should people care about a Web site archiving his every public peep?

"It's important because Facebook is so much a reflection of him," Mr. Zimmer says. "Even though it's now a public company, he still has an incredible amount of direct and specific control and influence in terms of what the platform is and how it works. And he has the final say on changes of privacy settings and default settings. So the way that Mark Zuckerberg the person views the world-the way he views online sharing, what his philosophy of information is-is really critical to how that platform is going to be designed."

Dryheaves Daily > H Goldstein

... the Facebook has more data on any user than any other company and as Mr. SNowden has shown us, data can be held against you.. We only see the face of the FB dungeons....

There are 20 levls below us that have all the data. Once you hit delete it does not remove it. It is stored in one of hundreds of thousands of servers. FB an Zuckerberg and his minions have too much power and it needs to be recognized.

Consumer groups hammer Facebook privacy violations in federal complaint by Jon Brodkin

"These business practices are Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices"
May 06, 2010 | Network World

On Wednesday, the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a 38-page complaint against the company with the Federal Trade Commission, demanding that Facebook cancel new features introduced in mid-April that compel users to share more information than before.

"Facebook now discloses personal information to third parties that Facebook users previously did not make available," EPIC said in its complaint. "These changes violate user expectations, diminish user privacy, and contradict Facebook's own representations. These business practices are Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices."

In response to the FTC complaint, a Facebook spokesman said, "Our new features are providing beneficial new social experiences to people around the world that are transparent, consistent with user expectations, and in full compliance with legal requirements."

New Facebook Privacy Violations Add to the Network's Woes by David Amerland

February 29, 2012 | Technorati

Common logic dictates that when you have the world's eyes upon you and the FTC breathing down the back of your neck you do not A. Blatantly violate the personal privacy of your users and B. Sound nonchalant about the implications when you're caught and have to explain it.

Facebook, of course, has never been strong on common logic, particularly when it comes to the privacy of its membership base which it seems to treat with the casual grace of a chieftain running a fiefdom. Its looming IPO has probably only served to exacerbate matters.

How else can we explain the fact that Facebook was caught red-handed with the ability to read any text message sent over mobiles and tablets which have downloaded its mobile app. Facebook apparently uses this data as research in the process of developing its own SMS-like messaging service. So far, it has only tapped into the texting inboxes of a handful of users, but it has the power to grab any and all texts if it wants to.

[Nov 08, 2013] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Zuckerberg

Politics

... ... ...

When questioned about the mid-2013 PRISM scandal at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in September 2013, Zuckerberg stated that the U.S. government "blew it." He further explained that the government performed poorly in regard to the protection of the freedoms of its citizens, the economy, and companies.[56]

[Nov 02, 2013] New Snowden revelation NSA collects millions of email and chat address books

...The NSA collects hundreds of millions of address books and contact lists from emails and instant messaging accounts, the Washington Post
PCWorld

According to the NSA's analysis of a single day's collection, Yahoo was the most collected source, followed by Hotmail, Gmail, and Facebook. Facebook's data was by far the most accurate, however, ranking in at 95.87 percent attributable (that is, gave verifiable information on a real person). As a point of comparison, the next highest was Gmail, which came in at a measly 6.97 percent attributable. Facebook's attribution "success rate" is probably due to the social network's insistence on non-anonymity and little spam within the service. In fact, the NSA program could be described to be, in effect, one giant Facebook Graph Search.

Swift2001

In other news, the Census Bureau has kept a complete "census," supposedly for government persons, for over 200 years. Duh-duh-duhhhhh! They have a head count of every household, names, addresses, sex! and age! ohmigawd, the Libertarians will be rilly angry about that!!

As a genealogy guy, I like it. It's allowed me to see past my grandfather, to the civil war, and a nearly-forgotten family past.

I agree heartily that we need reforms, but I have no idea what they should be. You CAN be a privacy nut, you know? So, if they had some reason to come up with the name of a guy I talked on the phone with to get a job 15 years ago, they might find the address he had then, and then trace him by other means? What are they looking for him for? Oh, it's something to do with the New World Order, huh? Sure.

[Oct 31, 2013] Who's more evil – Facebook or Google? by Holly Baxter

October 25, 2013 | The Guardian

Who is most evil on the internet? If we're to believe the latest coverage surrounding Facebook, then we'd probably have to say Mark Zuckerberg and associates, who have decided that graphic video footage of beheadings on the social network are AOK with them, so long as they come with content warnings. Bet you're missing that wanton youthful abandon of Myspace now.

Facebook's explanation for allowing executions galore on your timeline seems to be that the site has morphed over the years from mere social network into noble protector of freedom of information, no matter how disturbing the content. That's right: it's basically WikiLeaks, but with a constant stream of updates about what your old school frenemies' babies weigh. Get rid of all those boundary-pushing, controversial beheadings, and it's a slippery slope to an endlessly banal stream of boring people who spend hours carefully constructing online facades in order to convince "friends" they don't even know in real life that they go to better parties than them. Oh wait.

If you think that it's only Facebook fiddling with the parameters of morality in today's cyberworld, then you might be interested to know that Google is evil too. For those who know Google's motto, "Don't be evil", and have taken it at face value, this could come as something of a surprise. But for those of you who, like me, have a Gmail account and feel ethically torn about it but way too lazy to delete, it might not be such a shocker.

Gmail has been accused of "automatically scanning" the private contents of emails to and from your e-buddies for a while now, and using the information to tailor the advertisements it places in the corners of your screen. From 11 November, it will be widening its remit and taking "names, photos and reviews" from connected sites like YouTube to use in marketing. In other words, don't be surprised if your face and words start appearing in the online adverts that presently irritate you on a daily basis.

What all of this essentially means is that by signing up to a service run by Google, you are no longer just part of the system: you are the system. You are the advertised-to and the advertisement, the customer and the marketer, the instrument of your own drowning in commercial fodder.

But is that evil? In a recent Atlantic article titled What is "evil" to Google?, Ian Bogost argued that Google's wrongs were "evil insofar as they prevent a program from being effectively created and maintained, not because they make that program run wickedly". The company's position on not being evil essentially means a commitment to technological progression, not a commitment to morality (Bogost also points out that Wiktionary has already redefined evil in the case of computing/programming as something that is "undesirable; harmful; bad practice", far removed from what most of us might understand "evil" to mean.) Perhaps, then, not evil at all.

But if turning a blind eye is more your kind of evil, then we shouldn't let accusations levied against Ask.fm this year pass us by. The site, whose audience is mainly teenagers, was linked with the suicides of a number of users last year after they apparently suffered a campaign of vicious cyberbullying facilitated by its anonymous questioning set-up. Ask.fm's failure to monitor and protect its young users was seen at the time as the ultimate online evil: developers had built a platform that could be easily used for harassment, and then failed to take responsibility for creating such a platform seriously. It eventually changed its safety policy, but anonymous questions remain, with a company disclaimer that it "strongly encourages" users to turn the option off.

We saw the same problem with Twitter, where a particular fever pitch of vilification directed at Caroline Criado-Perez drew attention to a situation that had been going on for a long time. Twitter eventually bowed to public pressure and introduced a report abuse button for individual tweets in August, but not before arguing long and hard for its right not to do so based upon the practicalities of sifting through so much material. It wasn't the most sympathetic argument in the world: our lucrative website makes it so easy for people to abuse each other that the volume of reported material after the introduction of a "report abuse" button would make its creation horrendously inconvenient. So why not keep things the way they are?

Unsurprisingly, it didn't fly. It suffered the consequences of its own tweetstorm.

With friends like these in the cybersphere, it's hard to believe that any of us need enemies. And with your data now standing as the most valuable asset you have, there is cause to worry about exactly how evil your email account is versus your networking outlet. You might not see a beheading on Google+, but your music taste may well be gathered, analysed and sold as you type. You might applaud Twitter's new position on abuse, but be less enamoured with the idea of someone policing what you write.

Ultimately, the worldwide web is a scary playground populated with a lot of powerful bullies. The only way to navigate it safely is to scrutinise terms and conditions, monitor your privacy policies and, if in any doubt, opt out. It's a time-consuming inconvenience they're hoping you won't undergo, but it's worth it. In other words, it's a necessary evil.

Dunnyboy

October 25, 2013

It's a funny old thing. Up until very recently I had been the archetypal "I've got nothing to hide, so I don't care if the government reads my emails" kind of guy, but it is really starting to piss me off now. As a result, over the past couple of weeks I've written three letters to friends - real letters, fountain pen and paper letters - and I hadn't written a letter for about a decade. From now on I'm only going to use IM and email for business. Personal stuff is going to go in a letter.

MattVauxhall -> Dunnyboy

Its not that these brands are "Evil" but more that we seem to be in the middle of a giant experiment where all previous norms of privacy have been thrown away in a rush to a brave new world

We need to put the onus of any damage from this back on the companies...it would fix things up quite quickly

LesterJones -> Dunnyboy

...and yet if you sent 30 a day and stuffed them full of photos of yourself and your lunch with accompanying short messages about your success and general happiness people would think your absolutely insane...

...which is strange considering that is all Facebook does...

permafail

Gmail has been accused of "automatically scanning" the private contents of emails to and from your e-buddies for a while now, and using the information to tailor the advertisements it places in the corners of your screen

I don't get adverts on my gmail. Am I doing something wrong, or does it just take installing adblock to cut them out?

TheTrueGeek permafail

I agree. I don't see any adverts when browsing the web. AdBlock is excellent. It tidies up the Guardian site nicely too!

I wont stop the content of emails etc. being trawled to generate ads that might appear elsewhere, and seen by others though.

NB. Ghostery is another plug-in I recommend people use! (to stop/limit your internet movements being tracked)

Zakelius

I recently closed my facebook account and feel great about it. I do have a gmail account, but I only use it for instances where I might get spam and would rather not use my personal email address. So far I'm happy about it but in the long run I'd rather not use any of their products, including youtube (which is owned by Google) which makes things a bit more difficult.

peopleisstupid Zakelius

I don't have any social media accounts. I use Goggles and Tubes because it's helpful, but haven't signed up.

Occasionally you'll find yourself the odd one out in a conversation down the pub, or not quite getting the point of a particular article/story/news item, but it really doesn't make a blind bit of difference.

This isn't a 'look-how-retro-cool' I am comment, it's just a confirmation that you really don't need these things to live a normal, happy, engaged life

Toyin

If people have to make a conscious choice to use Facebook or Google is it right to define the services we subscribe to as evil? Do we not have any role in the decisions we make?

If these businesses offered a life giving or compulsory commodity like water then yes, but they don't. They offer efficient access to on-line information and social networks. Yes their long term ambitions are ethically dubious but to call these networks "a necessary evil" is a stretch, they are more a morally compromised convenience.

James Hudson -> Toyin

Excellent remark, It seems that more and more in our society people are looking to shirk their personal responsibilities and seek someone else to make the moral decisions for them. If Google or Facebook make you uncomfortable, don't use them. They'll soon change when the traffic drops.

Toyin -> James Hudson

They'll soon change when the traffic drops.

Exactly. It's important that users remember that the traffic they generate for these companies through donating their IP for free is utilised to generate advertising revenue. If you can get something useful out of the deal then great, if not then log off.

dogfondler

Social media moguls are wankers, the spooks are bastards. It's an important distinction.

JohnBroggio dogfondler

Absolutely. And as both FB & G hand over our data to the NSA, GCHQ et al, they both fall a long way short of "don't be evil" (I can't speak for their other "talents").


Apresmoiledeluge

It's like hating petrol or fast food.

We use them all the time. Petrol is destroying the climate. Fast food is causing obesity. But we still drive cars and still eat fast food.

I think what we should be doing is looking at battlegrounds. In Facebook and Google the US empire has already one. They keep tabs on everyone.

But Wikipedia is a battle.

NeverMindTheBollocks

Neither.

Sorry to ruin the fun here of "who can we call evil today?".

Reasonable and informed Guardian readers realise that the world is not as simplistic and black-and-white (or black-and-blacker) as portrayed here.

EllisWyatt NeverMindTheBollocks

Oh come on, where's the fun in that. If we believed that actually the world was a complex place of people bumping into each other, acting in a haphazard way and generally being fallible then 90% of CiF contributions would die up overnight!

Where we be without politicians, tories, immigrants, greens, Osborne, bankers, oil companies, lefties, labour, tony blair etc for all the troubles in our lives?

PollitoIngles

[Google/Facebook] Pick your playmates carefully in the internet playground

They're the big kids on the block, controlled by the grand-daddy bully of them all. Choice is: there is no choice.

Tacgnol

Now that Google has decided that I need to 'add an account' to an inescapable front page to be remembered every time I just want to check my fucking e-mail, I'm going with Google. They've also linked (my previously deleted Google Plus) account to Youtube and every time I click to disconnect the two so I can delete Google Plus, it takes me to a page where the disconnect link simply doesn't exist -- and yes, I've taken it to the Google forums, where people were as baffled as I was.

They've made some awful, intrusive changes lately and as soon as I find a good alternative to Gmail, I'm jumping ship. (Any recommendations welcome, by the way.)

BawbagMcWimoweh

Who's more evil – Facebook or Google?

There are lots of different search engines that can be used. Google is simply the most well-known.

Facebook exploits people's own sense of vanity and desire to invade other people's privacy. There is no requirement to plaster your life all over the internet.

[Oct 28, 2013] NSA surveillance Are its practices really all that different from those of Facebook and Google

Europe isn't happy with the U.S. at the moment. The National Security Agency has seen to that. Actually, the anger stretches farther than Europe: Brazil and Mexico have made their displeasure known, and the list of peeved countries will surely grow; as the Guardian reported late last week, the NSA monitored the calls of some 35 world leaders after the U.S. handed over the contacts. Notably, German chancellor Angela Merkel isn't happy that the U.S. was monitoring her personal phone calls as far back as 2002. From the more citizen-centric perspective, Spain is the latest to weigh in-unhappily-based on allegations that the NSA tracked some 60 million calls in the country in the space of a month.

The cascading revelations have put American statecraft to the test. But there could also be economic fallout. Brazil is not pleased that the U.S. has been spying on its president, Dilma Rousseff, and reportedly responded to the news by pulling the plug on Brazil's $4 billion purchase of arms from Boeing. Administration officials have been quick to downplay the economic consequences of its surveillance; the Brazilian government can certainly vote with its pocketbook, but ordinary Brazilians will probably still login to Facebook and Google, no matter how annoyed they are that the U.S. has been watching.

Why is that? Basically, we don't like it when the government-ours or other people's-collects our data for national-security purposes, but we're more or less cool with private companies collecting our data for revenue purposes. What's even more incongruous is that much of the information that the NSA collects about us is from the very same private companies that we're entrusted with our online selves. Data-sharing between private companies: A-OK. Data-sharing between a private company and the government: creepy.

Sure, we willingly offer up our data when we use Facebook, Google, or any other similar site or service. But the bigger issue might be that we simply don't know-or choose not to know, by not reading or remembering the terms and conditions-what's being collected, as if we're waiting around for the Edward Snowden of Facebook to go rogue and tell us. NPR's Larry Abramson recently hired MIT Media Lab professor Cesar Hidalgo to use the program he created, Immersion, to mine Abramson's personal Gmail account. Even without reading the actual contents-simply by parsing the metadata-a startling amount of information could be gathered. "Like a fortune teller, [Hidalgo] could immediately ferret out my closest relationships," Abramson reported. Then, of course, there's Facebook. Today, Leo Mirani of Quartz had a piece demonstrating "the value of what the American security establishment reassures us is 'just metadata' and revealing Facebook's baroque privacy settings as the faith-based garments of the emperor's new clothes." There's also Facebook's facial recognition technology, which means that the company doesn't even really need you to tag photos-it's already got you covered.

None of this is new, but all of it has fresh resonance with the ongoing NSA revelations in showing a stark disconnect of anger. If the government collects our data to stay secure, it's Orwellian. If a private company does it to make money, meh, we keep tagging and liking-and that's great news for their bottom line.

Google has argued that lawsuits against it for improperly scanning the contents of Gmail users' emails should be dismissed because users know that their emails are being read by the company when they signed up for the email service. The real problem is that Google may be right.

Want To Be "Liked"? There's A Virus For That

08/18/2013 | Zerohedge

There was a time when the shadier online "element" was mostly interested in procuring credit card numbers, usually from Eastern European sources, in order to turn a quick buck. However, over time, interest in credit card fraud declined and according to RSA the going rate for 1000 credit card numbers has now dropped to as little as $6.

What has taken the place of monetary online fraud, is artificial "likability" and "popularity." Reuters reports that with the rise of social networking, instead of obtaining credit card numbers, hackers have used their computer skills to create and sell false endorsements - such as "likes" and "followers" - that purport to come from users of Facebook, its photo-sharing app Instagram, Twitter, Google's YouTube, LinkedIn and other popular websites. This can be seen in the costs charged by "service" providers: 1,000 Instagram "followers" can be bought for $15, while 1,000 Instagram "likes" cost $30. It is likely that the going rates for fake popularity on other online social networks, FaceBook and Twitter is comparable.

[Aug 14, 2013] Remnants of Sense

'I will give you free Web hosting and some PHP doodads, and you get spying for free all the time.'"

Harsh words, but important insights, destined to be largely ignored by the herd:

"Mr. Zuckerberg has attained an unenviable record," Moglen said of the founder of Facebook. "He has done more harm to the human race than anybody else his age."

Why? Because, Moglen said, Mark Zuckerberg had harnessed the energy of our social desires to talk us into a swindle. "Everybody needs to get laid," Moglen said.

"He turned it into a structure for degenerating the integrity of human personality, and he has to a remarkable extent succeeded with a very poor deal.

Namely, 'I will give you free Web hosting and some PHP doodads, and you get spying for free all the time.'"

[…]

But as the business press and slavering investors look on eagerly at Zuckerberg's coronation, many believe that the seeds of Facebook's downfall have already been sown. The company might have brought people together like never before, but exploitation is woven inextricably into its DNA. Facebook makes its money by commercializing personal information, watching its users, analyzing their behavior, and selling what it learns.

[…]

What you share and what you click on affects what Facebook knows about your friends, too. And in the aggregate, all this personal information helps build a machine that can know the past and present and make good guesses about the future, a machine whose insights are incredibly valuable to everyone from corporations to state-intelligence services.

[…]

What makes Facebook so valuable isn't the Web ads it serves up, but rather the unprecedented amount of information it has about its users, which it can then sell to third parties. Business intelligence-the data a company can scrape together about its customers-is the fastest-growing segment of enterprise computing. Major tech companies are snapping up companies that make business-intelligence software. But the software that does the data mining is only a tool-what really matters is how much data you have. And Facebook has a lot.

[…]

In Europe at least, Facebook's users are becoming increasingly aware that Facebook is first and foremost a surveillance mechanism, and they don't like it. If that realization spreads, Facebook's most precious asset-its users-could stampede and flee to a safer network.

The societal vanguard will lead the way, out of Facebook and government control, into federated, more open, user-controlled systems that allow for anonymity and privacy.

[Aug 14, 2013] Suburbanization of Friendships and Solitude

April 18, 2012

Facebook may be making us lonely, giving users the information age equivalent of a faceless suburban wasteland, claims the fantastic cover story of The Atlantic. Key excerpts:

We were promised a global village; instead we inhabit the drab cul-de-sacs and endless freeways of a vast suburb of information.

At the forefront of all this unexpectedly lonely interactivity is Facebook.

Facebook makes real relationships harder:

That one little phrase, Your real friends-so quaint, so charmingly mothering-perfectly encapsulates the anxieties that social media have produced: the fears that Facebook is interfering with our real friendships, distancing us from each other, making us lonelier; and that social networking might be spreading the very isolation it seemed designed to conquer.

Here's why:

Our omnipresent new technologies lure us toward increasingly superficial connections at exactly the same moment that they make avoiding the mess of human interaction easy. The beauty of Facebook, the source of its power, is that it enables us to be social while sparing us the embarrassing reality of society-the accidental revelations we make at parties, the awkward pauses, the farting and the spilled drinks and the general gaucherie of face-to-face contact. Instead, we have the lovely smoothness of a seemingly social machine. Everything's so simple: status updates, pictures, your wall.

Finally, FB fosters a retreat into narcissism:

Self-presentation on Facebook is continuous, intensely mediated, and possessed of a phony nonchalance that eliminates even the potential for spontaneity. ("Look how casually I threw up these three photos from the party at which I took 300 photos!") Curating the exhibition of the self has become a 24/7 occupation.

Facebook users retreat from "messy" human interaction and spend too much of their time curating fantasy avatars of themselves to actually to out and meet real people:

The relentlessness is what is so new, so potentially transformative. Facebook never takes a break. We never take a break. Human beings have always created elaborate acts of self-presentation. But not all the time, not every morning, before we even pour a cup of coffee.

The always-on effects are profound:

What Facebook has revealed about human nature-and this is not a minor revelation-is that a connection is not the same thing as a bond, and that instant and total connection is no salvation, no ticket to a happier, better world or a more liberated version of humanity. Solitude used to be good for self-reflection and self-reinvention. But now we are left thinking about who we are all the time, without ever really thinking about who we are. Facebook denies us a pleasure whose profundity we had underestimated: the chance to forget about ourselves for a while, the chance to disconnect.

One of the deepest and best researched meditations on FB 2012.

FB Makes Most Hated List Again

Surely most of the sheep won't mind getting shorn and Zuckerberg will continue to find new ways to shear them. Congrats!

Facebook is the top non-utility company and number four on the "10 Most Hated Companies in America List for 2012".

Facebook has had customer satisfaction issues for some time, but recently did a particularly good job of alienating a portion of its nearly one billion members. According to the ACSI, Facebook is one of the most strongly disliked American companies, beaten out only by three public utilities companies.

This comes in part from the company's continuing user privacy concerns. Mark Zuckerberg's company did not help itself in this regard in 2012, after it announced that it had the right to republish any and all photos in the accounts of its Instagram users.

Surely most of the sheep won't mind getting shorn and Zuckerberg will continue to find new ways to shear them. Congrats!

FB Makes Most Hated Top 10

Survey results:

Facebook currently has more than 800 million users. Any company of this size is sure to have some detractors. Compared to other leading social media sites, however, Facebook has the lowest customer satisfaction score from the American Customer Satisfaction Index. The site has repeatedly irked users by neglecting personal privacy. Notable events include the introduction of facial recognition software, which spurred an investigation by the European Union, and the Facebook timeline. Facebook received significant negative press for forcing new settings on users that changes how their personal information is shared with others. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has only recently said that the company will no longer do this. According to the MSN Money-IBOPE Zogby International customer service survey for 2011, 25.9% of Facebook users described the company's customer service as "poor" - the lowest rating.

Facebook Now Tracks You Online and Off

FB has known everything you do online for some time now. Thanks to its sagging stock price they now take intrusion and user abuse to a new level: FB now matches online and offline data on a massive scale.

Online ads will be targeted at you according to your offline purchases. Here's how to opt out (until FB finds a workaround).

[Aug 10, 2013] DNI Office Asks Why People Trust Facebook More Than the Government

"expectation of privacy isn't legally recognized by the Supreme Court once we've offered it to a third party."

July 21, 2013 Slashdot

Daniel_Stuckey writes

General Counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence Robert S. Litt explained that our expectation of privacy isn't legally recognized by the Supreme Court once we've offered it to a third party.

Thus, sifting through third party data doesn't qualify 'on a constitutional level' as invasive to our personal privacy. This he brought to an interesting point about volunteered personal data, and social media habits. Our willingness to give our information to companies and social networking websites is baffling to the ODNI.

'Why is it that people are willing to expose large quantities of information to private parties but don't want the Government to have the same information?,' he asked."

... ... ...

While Snowden's leaks have provoked Jimmy Carter into labeling this government a sham, and void of a functioning democracy, Litt presented how these wide data collection programs are in fact valued by our government, have legal justification, and all the necessary parameters.

Litt, echoing the president and his boss James Clapper, explained thusly:

"We do not use our foreign intelligence collection capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies in order to give American companies a competitive advantage. We do not indiscriminately sweep up and store the contents of the communications of Americans, or of the citizenry of any country. We do not use our intelligence collection for the purpose of repressing the citizens of any country because of their political, religious or other beliefs. We collect metadata-information about communications-more broadly than we collect the actual content of communications, because it is less intrusive than collecting content and in fact can provide us information that helps us more narrowly focus our collection of content on appropriate targets. But it simply is not true that the United States Government is listening to everything said by every citizen of any country."

It's great that the U.S. government behaves better than corporations on privacy-too bad it trusts/subcontracts corporations to deal with that privacy-but it's an uncomfortable thing to even be in a position of having to compare the two. This is the point Litt misses, and it's not a fine one.

Twitter Co-Founder Biz Stone To Facebook Start a Premium Subscription Service

July 21, 2013 | Slashdot

An anonymous reader writes

"Twitter co-founder Biz Stone today decided to offer some business advice for Facebook: launch a premium subscription service. For $10 a month, Stone figures the company could get rid of ads on its site for those willing to pay to go 'premium.' He says in part: ' Anywhoo, now that I'm using it and thinking about it, I've got an idea for Facebook. They could offer Facebook Premium. For $10 a month, people who really love Facebook (and can afford it), could see no ads. Maybe some special features too. If 10% percent of Facebook signed up, that's $1B a month in revenue. Not too shabby. It's a different type of company, but by way of validation, have a look at Pandora's 1Q14 financial results. Of all Pandora's revenue generators, the highest growth year-over-year by far (114% growth rate) is in subscriptions-people paying a monthly fee for an ad-free experience....."

Anonymous Coward

Yeah Right

It would probably be more like 0.001%.

HornWumpus

Re:Yeah Right (Score:5, Funny)

Think how valuable that list would be. The world's uberchumps.

Art Challenor

Re:Yeah Right (Score:5, Interesting)

I'd pay for a subscription if it gave me access to, and the ability to delete, any information they have that references me.

oPless

Even that figure would be a revenue stream worth having.

Personally I only see adverts when I'm on a machine that doesn't run chrome and I stray off onto "consume this" type of sites. It's quite a shock seeing all the crap regular joe has to put up with.

Anonymous Coward

That'd still be $100,000 a month in revenues, assuming .001% of 1 billion users (they had this number somewhere back end-2012) pays $10 a month.

I'd consider it, depending on the price. Why? Because:
1) I do value my privacy, and control of my data (which is why i'm very selective about what I upload to Facebook today);
2) I do still get some value out of the service Facebook provides;
3) I understand that Facebook does not exist to provide me with free services, and that running an ad blocker as I do currently is kind of underhanded;

Taking those 3 data points together, if they offered ad-free, plus better control over how my data is shared with other people (i.e., "we won't share your data at all"), and a covenant to truly and permanently delete any data I upload or enter into their systems whenever I wish, plus access to, say apis that allow other integrations they've worked hard to make difficult (google, twitter, etc.), I'd consider paying a subscription. I don't know that I'd value it at $10 a month, but offer me a $60 a year discount plan or something? I might go for it.

Anonymous Coward

don't underestimate the gullibility of the average facebook user. malware writers, crooks, hackers and scammers don't.

Anonymous Coward

... they'd still track and sell your data anyway, so what exactly is the point?

Xicor

facebook is already ad-free. just download the free app called adblocker and put it to good use

Anonymous Coward

Adblock? (Score:0)

So his grand advice of making $1B/month (LOL!) is to disable ads?

MightyYar

Adblock + (Score:3)

If you were so addicted to Facebook that the ads really annoyed you, wouldn't you have Facebook enhancing crap installed, like Adblock+? Social Fixer is pretty great, but I'm not quite addicted enough to use it.

--
W..w..W - Willy Waterloo washes Warren Wiggins who is washing Waldo Woo.

mozumder

Ads aren't the problem Re:Adblock + (Score:0)

The ads aren't the problem. No one minds the ads. In fact, if they had any skills, they would make the ads a FEATURE of the site. People actually BUY magazines like Vogue FOR the ads.

The problem is that the content is crap - photos of your friends throwing up, political rants no one cares about, etc..

Subscription services generally offer professional content worth buying. No one wants to buy photos of your friends throwing up.

Facebook tries to filter the content automatically to limit low-value content, but that only gets rid of the bottom-of-the-barrel. They still aren't going to offer professional articles, movies, music, etc.. that people generally pay for.

Their layout sucks too. The web has moved far beyond their old-school layout into magazine-quality layout. Amateur's aren't going to be able to produce magazine quality layout as well.

Facebook has 1 billion users, and ONLY makes $4billion/year. Conde-Nast makes $4billion just from 10 million readers - 1/100th less. Their amateur content is the reason they can only charge $0.10 CPM, whereas a professional media company can charge $50 CPM.

Andy_R

Re:Adblock + (Score:4, Interesting)

Adblock + gets rid of the overt adverts, and FBPurity (http://www.fbpurity.com/) gets rid of the spammy content (game requests, 'questions', 'trending articles', 'promoted posts') and cleans up the UI cruft (news ticker, half the left column).

With those two, and manually turning on the see all posts option for every page, FB doesn't have much left to charge for that you can't get for free.

Re:Facebook isn't that good and people know it (Score:2)
by dingen (958134) writes: Alter Relationship on Sunday July 21, 2013 @11:04AM (#44342261) It used to be the case that Facebook was sort of OK. Nothing special, but not too bad too. But in the last couple of months (years maybe even), it really has declined in quality a lot.

I fully agree that some edge cases are always going to be a problem, but Facebook's utter randomness really goes way beyond acceptable behavior from a software product.

It seems to me that the more you use Facebook, the more you grow upset with it. Which is kind of hard to combine with the "lets let people who love Facebook pay for it" idea, as it really are the people who should love the platform the most who are the ones having the most issues with it.

--
Pretty good is actually pretty bad.


Re:Facebook isn't that good and people know it (Score:3)
by siride (974284) writes: Alter Relationship on Sunday July 21, 2013 @11:05AM (#44342269) People get pissed about FB changes, and then they keep on using it, because the problem is that people don't like change. Can you provide some specific examples of the downhill direction?

Anonymous Coward

Re:Facebook isn't that good and people know it (Score:0)

because the problem is that people don't like change.

You cannot decide that for them. What change? All change? No; some changes are good, and others are bad. This 'You just don't like change' nonsense is just that: nonsense.

siride

Re:Facebook isn't that good and people know it (Score:2)

I can decide that when the same people stop complaining and keep using the service and use the new features without a peep. Remember when they first started having the feed? That caused a huge uproar. Now I'm trying to imagine anyone making good use of Facebook without the feed. That's how I even see stuff to common on or follow up on. So yes, people complain when it changes and it's clear that they're only complaining because of change.

Thanks to the NSA, the Sky May Be Falling on U.S. Cloud Providers

This seems overstated for Facebook, as it caters to the most clueless portion of Internet user population. Also consumer lock-in in tablets is more them 90% between Apple and Google Android and both have genuine interest to keep cloud alive.
Businessweek

U.S. cloud providers could lose between $21.5 billion and $35 billion in revenue over the next three years because of worries about the National Security Agency's PRISM program, which enables the government to access user data from U.S. Internet companies, according to a report this week by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation.

Antipodes

Damn clouds. Low visibility.

Obama, tech executives met to discuss surveillance | Reuters

Seems to me that the Snowden revelations are bad for business. I guess that was what he had to reschedule the Putin meeting for.

[Aug 08, 2013] Do we have an instinct for privacy by Ian Leslie

"...many Facebook users are standing in their bedroom naked without realising there's a crowd outside the window."

August 7, 2013 | Aeon

Too much information. Our instincts for privacy evolved in tribal societies where walls didn't exist. No wonder we are hopeless oversharers

... ... ...

More recently, Edward Snowden's revelations about the panoptic scope of government surveillance have raised the hoary spectre of 'Big Brother'. But what Prism's fancy PowerPoint decks and self-aggrandising logo suggest to me is not so much an implacable, omniscient overseer as a bunch of suits in shabby cubicles trying to persuade each other they're still relevant. After all, there's little need for state surveillance when we're doing such a good job of spying on ourselves. Big Brother isn't watching us; he's taking selfies and posting them on Instagram like everyone else. And he probably hasn't given a second thought to what might happen to that picture of him posing with a joint.

Walls are a relatively recent innovation. Members of pre-modern societies happily coexisted while carrying out almost all of their lives in public view

Stone's story is hardly unique. Earlier this year, an Aeroflot air hostess was fired from her job after a picture she had taken of herself giving the finger to a cabin full of passengers circulated on Twitter. She had originally posted it to her profile on a Russian social networking site without, presumably, envisaging it becoming a global news story. Every day, embarrassments are endured, jobs lost and individuals endangered because of unforeseen consequences triggered by a tweet or a status update. Despite the many anxious articles about the latest change to Facebook's privacy settings, we just don't seem to be able to get our heads around the idea that when we post our private life, we publish it.

At the beginning of this year, Facebook launched the drably named 'Graph Search', a search engine that allows you to crawl through the data in everyone else's profiles. Days after it went live, a tech-savvy Londoner called Tom Scott started a blog in which he posted details of searches that he had performed using the new service. By putting together imaginative combinations of 'likes' and profile settings he managed to turn up 'Married people who like prostitutes', 'Single women nearby who like to get drunk', and 'Islamic men who are interested in other men and live in Tehran' (where homosexuality is illegal).

Scott was careful to erase names from the screenshots he posted online: he didn't want to land anyone in trouble with employers, or predatory sociopaths, or agents of repressive regimes, or all three at once. But his findings served as a reminder that many Facebook users are standing in their bedroom naked without realising there's a crowd outside the window. Facebook says that as long as users are given the full range of privacy options, they can be relied on to figure them out. Privacy campaigners want Facebook and others to be clearer and more upfront with users about who can view their personal data. Both agree that users deserve to be given control over their choices.

... ... ...

We might be particularly prone to disclosing private information to a well-designed digital interface, making an unconscious and often unwise association between ease-of-use and safety. For example, a now-defunct website called Grouphug.us solicited anonymous confessions. The original format of the site was a masterpiece of bad font design: it used light grey text on a dark grey background, making it very hard to read. Then, in 2008, the site had a revamp, and a new, easier-to-read black font against a white background was adopted. The cognitive scientists Adam Alter and Danny Oppenheimer gathered a random sample of 500 confessions from either side of the change. They found that the confessions submitted after the redesign were generally far more revealing than those submitted before: instead of minor peccadilloes, people admitted to major crimes. (Facebook employs some of the best web designers in the world.)

This is not the only way our deeply embedded real-world instincts can backfire online. Take our rather noble instinct for reciprocity: returning a favour. If I reveal personal information to you, you're more likely to reveal something to me. This works reasonably well when you can see my face and make a judgment about how likely I am to betray your confidence, but on Facebook it's harder to tell if I'm trustworthy. Loewenstein found that people were much readier to answer probing questions if they were told that others had already answered them. This kind of rule-of-thumb - when in doubt, do what everyone else is doing - works pretty well when it comes to things such as what foods to avoid, but it's not so reliable on the internet. As James Grimmelmann, director of the intellectual property programme at the University of Maryland, puts it in his article 'Facebook and the Social Dynamics of Privacy' (2008):

'When our friends all jump off the Facebook privacy bridge, we do too.'

Giving people more control over their privacy choices won't solve these deeper problems. Indeed, Loewenstein found evidence for a 'control paradox'. Just as many people mistakenly think that driving is safer than flying because they feel they have more control over it, so giving people more privacy settings to fiddle with makes them worry less about what they actually divulge.

Then again, perhaps none of this matters. Facebook's founder Mark Zuckerberg is not the only tech person to suggest that privacy is an anachronistic social convention about which younger generations care little. And it's certainly true that for most of human existence, most people have got by with very little private space, as I found when I spoke to John L Locke, professor of linguistics at Ohio University and the author of Eavesdropping: An Intimate History (2010). Locke told me that internal walls are a relatively recent innovation. There are many anthropological reports of pre-modern societies whose members happily coexisted while carrying out almost all of their lives in public view.

You might argue, then, that the internet is simply taking us back to something like a state of nature. However, hunter-gatherer societies never had to worry about invisible strangers; not to mention nosy governments, rapacious corporations or HR bosses. And even in the most open cultures, there are usually rituals of withdrawal from the arena. 'People have always sought refuge from the public gaze,' Locke said, citing the work of Paul Fejos, a Hungarian-born anthropologist who, in the 1940s, studied the Yagua people of Northern Peru, who lived in houses of up to 50 people. There were no partitions, but inhabitants could achieve privacy any time they wanted by simply turning away. 'No one in the house,' wrote Fejos, 'will look upon, or observe, one who is in private facing the wall, no matter how urgently he may wish to talk to him.'

The need for privacy remains, but the means to meet it - our privacy instincts - are no longer fit for purpose

... ... ...

Over time, we will probably get smarter about online sharing. But right now, we're pretty stupid about it. Perhaps this is because, at some primal level, we don't really believe in the internet. Humans evolved their instinct for privacy in a world where words and acts disappeared the moment they were spoken or made. Our brains are barely getting used to the idea that our thoughts or actions can be written down or photographed, let alone take on a free-floating, indestructible life of their own. Until we catch up, we'll continue to overshare.

A long-serving New York Times journalist who recently left his post was clearing his desk when he came across an internal memo from 1983 on computer policy. It said that while computers could be used to communicate, they should never be used for indiscreet or potentially embarrassing messages: 'We have typewriters for that.' Thirty years later, and the Kremlin's security agency has concluded that The New York Times IT department was on to something: it recently put in an order for electric typewriters. An agency source told Russia's Izvestiya newspaper that, following the WikiLeaks and Snowden scandals, and the bugging of the Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev at the G20 summit in London, 'it has been decided to expand the practice of creating paper documents'.

Its invention enabled us to capture and store our thoughts and memories but, today, the best thing about paper is that it can be shredded.

[Aug 03, 2013] XKeyscore: NSA tool collects 'nearly everything a user does on the internet'

Think about it: 'nearly everything a user does on the internet'
31 July 2013 | The Guardian

juchefan

The only difference we can achieve is if we all pitch in and boycott social networks and telecom companies that participated in the ravishing and raping of our freedoms.

Therefore get on ipetitions.com and look for boycottfacebook.com and verizon's violation of our privacy and sign the petitions. close your accounts with those despots thus by delivering a financial blow to those companies. other companies will learn not to cooperate with despot gov's.

Is THIS What Wyden Meant by "Allowing the NSA to Deliberately Search for Records of Particular Americans" by emptywheel

July 31, 2013

A month ago, I noted that after Ron Wyden and Mark Udall criticized Keith Alexander for suggesting the NSA could not deliberately search the records of specific Americans, the NSA Director withdrew the white sheet implying such a claim.

The latest report from Glenn Greenwald, describing how XKeyscore allows analysts - with no court review or other oversight - to review already collected information by indexing on metadata.

The purpose of XKeyscore is to allow analysts to search the metadataas well as the content of emails and other internet activity, such as browser history, even when there is no known email account (a "selector" in NSA parlance) associated with the individual being targeted.

Analysts can also search by name, telephone number, IP address, keywords, the language in which the internet activity was conducted or the type of browser used.

One document notes that this is because "strong selection [search by email address] itself gives us only a very limited capability" because "a large amount of time spent on the web is performing actions that are anonymous."

... ... ...

slide entitled "plug-ins" in a December 2012 document describes the various fields of information that can be searched. It includes "every email address seen in a session by both username and domain", "every phone number seen in a session (eg address book entries or signature block)" and user activity – "the webmail and chat activity to include username, buddylist, machine specific cookies etc".

[snip]

One document, a top secret 2010 guide describing the training received by NSA analysts for general surveillance under the Fisa Amendments Act of 2008, explains that analysts can begin surveillance on anyone by clicking a few simple pull-down menus designed to provide both legal and targeting justifications. Once options on the pull-down menus are selected, their target is marked for electronic surveillance and the analyst is able to review the content of their communications

Clark Hilldale on July 31, 2013 at 10:42 am said:

From the Greenwald piece:

An NSA tool called DNI Presenter, used to read the content of stored emails, also enables an analyst using XKeyscore to read the content of Facebook chats or private messages.

An analyst can monitor such Facebook chats by entering the Facebook user name and a date range into a simple search screen.

On Facebook, the company that threatens the wrath of god upon anyone violating their TOS.

Also, the program name XKeyscore sounds like it might generate some type of score for everybody along the lines of a credit score which might aim to rank folks in terms of dangerousness, subversiveness, or plain salaciousness.

[Jul 27, 2013] Terms and Conditions: A movie about privacy policies you'll actually want to watch by Cyrus Farivar

July 27 2013 | Ars Technica

An 80 minute documentary makes the case for data access and privacy rights.

Filmmaker Cullen Hoback adeptly uses a combination of cutesy animation, archival footage, and even guerilla journalism to make a movie that's informative, frightening, and compelling to watch. Hyrax Films provided Ars with an advanced copy-it opened in New York earlier this month, and is currently being screened this weekend in Denver. In late July and early August, TACMA will screen in tech hubs San Francisco and San Jose, as well as Phoenix, Portland, Dallas, Richmond (Virginia), Toronto, and San Diego.

"One says that you're totally anonymous, the other says 'when necessary,' you're not."

Within the first 10 minutes of the film, Hoback reminds us of the halcyon days of the late 1990s commercial Web, when startups rose and fell and a real digital privacy policy in America was bubbling beneath the surface. In early 2001, over a dozen privacy bills were introduced in Congress. But after Sept 11, 2001, the narrator (Hoback himself) intones: "all privacy legislation was either killed or abandoned and the PATRIOT Act was, of course, initiated." The film deftly reminds us that this was the initial seed that gave rise to National Security Agency's blanket telephony metadata collection program. (A Congressional vote to shut down that program was defeated by a slim margin just this past week.)

TACMA goes to the Internet Archive to examine Google's own privacy policy from December 2000, which states:

Upon your first visit to Google, Google sends a "cookie" to your computer. A cookie is a file that identifies you as a unique user. Google uses cookies to track user trends and patterns to better understand our user base and to improve the quality of our service. Google may also choose to use cookies to store user preferences. A cookie can tell us, "This is the same computer that visited Google two days ago," but it cannot tell us, "This person is Joe Smith" or even, "This person lives in the United States."

But then, Google made a fundamental change to that policy in December 2001.

Upon your first visit to Google, Google sends a "cookie" to your computer. A cookie is a piece of data that identifies you as a unique user. Google uses cookies to improve the quality of our service and to understand our user base more. Google does this by storing user preferences in cookies and by tracking user trends and patterns of how people search. Google will not disclose its cookies to third parties except as required by a valid legal process such as a search warrant, subpoena, statute, or court order.

Again, the narrator reminds us that this is a very important difference: "One says that you're totally anonymous, the other says 'when necessary,' you're not."

Enlarge / Filmmaker Cullen Hoback (left) interviewed Max Schrems, an Austrian law student and activist, in Vienna.

www.trackoff.us

"It's not actually gone, it's still there."

Hoback then transitions from talking about Google's privacy policies, to how Facebook has forcibly shifted "social norms" for how and what people share online. The film visits Max Schrems, who has been a thorn in Facebook's side, particularly in Europe, for a few years now.

Ars readers may remember that we profiled the young Austrian law student last fall in the article, "How one law student is making Facebook get serious about privacy." More recently, we covered Schrems' efforts to challenge Facebook's datasharing with the National Security Agency, which he argues should be illegal under European law. (Facebook, with its international headquarters in Ireland, has to follow these laws.)

Schrems shows Hoback, in his Vienna apartment, with the 1,222 pages of his own data that he compelled Facebook to share with him in 2011. With a few keystrokes, Schrems demonstrates how easy it is to search his own data in the PDF that Facebook provided, showing anytime the word "sex" shows up in his entire data file.

"If you hit the 'remove' button, it just means that it's been flagged as deleted-you hide it, actually from yourself. But anyone at Facebook or any government agency who wants to look at it later, can still retrieve it and get it back," Schrems says. "It's not actually gone, it's still there."

"Mark Zuckerberg smiled at me."

Another civil rights advocate that the film quotes from liberally-and who's shown up on the pages of Ars just as much-is Chris Soghoian, now a privacy researcher at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Early on in the film, Soghoian reminds us of the proposed Total Information Awareness program, which was publicly killed, but nearly all of which was shifted over to black operations programs to be run by the NSA and other intelligence agencies.

Even Barrett Brown, the self-proclaimed spokesperson for Anonymous, gets a few minutes of screen time-presumably before getting arrested in September 2012. (He currently faces a slew of federal criminal charges.)

The film closes with Hoback staking out Mark Zuckerberg's house in Palo Alto (which he found with some easy Googling). When Zuck does finally emerge, Hoback approaches him, tells him that he's tried to get an interview through the normal PR channels, but hasn't received any response. Zuck sees the camera, and tells Hoback to stop filming-but what he doesn't realize is that Hoback has a hidden camera in his glasses.

Mark loosens up after he thinks we've stopped recording. And you see that? That right there. That's a smile. Mark Zuckerberg smiled at me. And you know why? Because he thought I'd stopped recording. And he was relieved. Imagine what a relief it would be if all of these companies, and the government, stopped recording everything that we do.

"It's like data slavery."

After watching the film, I called Hoback-currently on tour with his film-and asked him how his own behavior had changed after making the film.

"I always imagine that I'm having a conversation with whoever I'm having a conversation with, and the NSA," he told Ars. "It absolutely [changes my behavior.] It changes how I communicate in phone conversation or what I text. it's frustrating that anything that I do can be logged as a time machine-that's a frightening concept. I use Ghostery and Disconnect, and Firefox with cookies turned off, and DuckDuckGo."

As Hoback continues to show the film around North America, he hopes to see more European-style data protection principles implemented in the United States.

"I think the film is about building awareness," he said. "It's about taking people on the same journey that I went through: taking users to understand the implications of what they're using, then you can open up new opportunities for innovation. There's not a big market for encryption-services that put encryption and privacy at the forefront, these things haven't done well. I think there's room for growth in that field."

Finally, Hoback questioned why the United States doesn't have a concept of habeas data enshrined into our law, as is the case in many other countries.

"Why is that data property of the company?" he asked. "Why isn't it the property of the individual? It's like data slavery. You don't have the right to lend it, it's just taken from you. If we don't have access, and then it's a lack of control-it dis-empowers you. Why is data not a right? These services only exist if users continue to use them."

Unfortunately as it stands I think we're trapped on Facebook, on Google, it's hard to get your data off of them. It's impossible. In order to have some sort of say in all of this, the government needs to step in and say that the Fourth Amendment matters online. How do you make that happen? How do you make the Constitution apply in this space? It's not impossible. It's perfectly doable, [companies and the government] just don't want to do it."

"Ultimately I hope that [my film] supports a movement and relationship to what Snowden has done ... We need shifts in the PATRIOT Act, and all of that is a trickle down of one simple premise: that the Constitution applies online-the next step is data access and data control."

Terms and Conditions May Apply is currently being screened across North America over the coming weeks, but Cullen Hoback is encouraging groups and individuals to hold their own screening, as well.

[Jul 27, 2013] PRISM revelations result in lost business for US cloud companies by Sean Gallagher

July 26 2013 | Ars Technica

The revelations about the National Security Agency's (NSA) broad monitoring of traffic and access to the data of cloud providers spurred by the actions of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden may or may not have hurt national security, depending on who you ask. But according to a recent survey by the industry organization Cloud Security Alliance (CSA), the exposure of NSA's PRISM program is having a very real impact on the bottom line of US cloud service providers in the form of lost overseas customers.

Concerns about NSA surveillance are hardly new. The PATRIOT Act's "Enhanced Surveillance" provisions have raised privacy concerns about using US service providers since it was passed. The allowance for warrantless access to traffic to and from "protected computers," the overly broad definition of what exactly a protected computer is, and provisions for access to business records and metadata about customers left many concerned that the FBI and NSA could gain access to their corporate data just by asking cloud providers nicely for it.

Revelations about the NSA's collection of phone call metadata from telecom companies in 2006 offered more evidence for those concerns.

Two years ago, I was interviewing the CIO of a major Canadian healthcare organization for a story on cloud computing, and asked if he had considered using US cloud providers or software-as-a-service. He said that he couldn't even begin to consider those because of concerns because of Canadian patient privacy laws-not just because of differences between US and Canadian laws, but because of the assumption that NSA would gain access to patient records as they crossed the border.

At the time, the concern might have sounded a bit paranoid. But now that those concerns have been validated by the details revealed by Snowden, US cloud providers are losing existing customers from outside the US, according to the CSA study. The survey of members of the organization found that 10 percent of non-US member companies had cancelled contracts with US providers as a result of revelations about PRISM.

The PRISM revelations are also making it harder for US companies to get new business abroad. Of the non-US respondents to the survey, 56 percent are now less likely to consider doing business with a US service provider. And 36 percent of respondents from US companies said that the Snowden "incident" was making it harder for them to do business overseas.

Enlarge / CSA's survey finds damage already done by Snowden's PRISM revelations.

Cloud Security Alliance

Concerns about government access to cloud data weren't limited to the US alone. Information about the NSA's collaboration with foreign intelligence organizations to provide data on their citizens has also spooked cloud customers about their own countries' surveillance programs. Of all those surveyed, 47 percent rated the process by which their governments obtained user information for terrorist and criminal investigations as poor, with little or no transparency.

The survey suggests that giving cloud providers the ability to provide transparency to customers over government access to data could undo some of the damage done by the PRISM revelations. Ninety-one percent of respondents said that companies should be allowed to publish information about their responses to subpoenas and FISA warrants.

Expand full story
Promoted Comments
  • EgudahlSmack-Fu Master, in training

    The Canadian CIO clearly was misinformed. The NSA would not capture the records when they crossed the border. The US government has privately approached every US based cloud provider and made it clear they interpreted the Patriot Act as applying to any IT system their company touches, even if those systems are hosted entirely offshore / outside US borders. It was also made clear the Patriot Act applied even when the seizure of such records is illegal in the jurisdiction in which the data physically resides. It is clear some kind of pressure was brought to bear, threats of repercussions, if the companies failed to comply with the US Governments requests; otherwise why would corporations comply with requests that are a) not in their business interest and b) counter to local country governance compliance. It comes down to who has a bigger stick (even though they may be speaking very softly indeed)

    4 posts | registered
  • FoolioDisplasiusSmack-Fu Master, in training

    I work for a major Canadian health care technology provider. I wouldn't be surprised if it was the one mentioned in the article. We are setting up a Canadian cloud for an application that is already deployed and used by millions in the US, but could not be used by Canadians because of privacy laws. I'm not sure this decision by Canadian lawmakers has anything to do with the NSA. I think it's just the same concern everyone has regarding health care data privacy. We're not loathe to host in the US per se, we're loathe to host anywhere we can't prosecute breaches of privacy easily.
    Or maybe I'm completely wrong and I owe my job to NSA's overreach. In that case, thanks!

[Jul 14, 2013] ACM TechNews

Your Facebook Friends May Be Evil Bots
InfoWorld (07/08/13) Eagle Gamma

University of British Columbia (UBC) researchers have found that groups of social bots could lead to disaster for large online destinations, or even threaten the fabric of the Internet, having ramifications for the broader economy and society as a whole. The UBC researchers created a "social botnet" and unleashed it on Facebook's more than 1 billion profiles. These social bots pose as online users, adding posts that seem like they came from real people. However, they secretly promote products or viewpoints, and could even siphon off private information. The bots can steal information on a massive scale when coordinated by a botmaster, and the UBC researchers developed a program that creates Facebook profiles and friends regular users. "We saw that the success rate can be up to 80 percent," says UBC's Kosta Beznosov.

The bots follow a specific set of behavioral guidelines that place them in positions from which they can access and disseminate information. The bots explore the social network, progressively expanding through friends of friends. The research is based on a principle called triadic closure, in which two parties connected by a mutual acquaintance will likely connect directly to each other.

The complexity of social botnets makes it difficult to develop an effective security policy, the researchers note.

[Jun 22, 2013] 7 Reasons I Dumped Facebook By Tim Maurer

Jun 22, 2013 | Forbes

It's official. I'm off the Facebook (FB) grid. Nobody offended me. I didn't have a bad experience. While I'm not thrilled about the idea of Big Brother watching my every move, I'm not particularly paranoid about social media sharing. Therefore, I'm sharing why I'm dumping Facebook and committing to Twitter and Instagram.

1) Facebook sucks time from my life, and unlike money, time is a zero sum game (thanks to Laura Vanderkam for reminding us). Without question, some of the time I spend on Facebook is edifying and life-giving. For example, my good friend, Nick Selvi-a husband, father, teacher and musician-is stricken with stage four rectal cancer, and his Facebook page keeps me informed of the battle he and his family are waging. I'll miss that, but hopefully I'll be a real friend and call and visit to support him.

[More from Forbes: In Pictures: The Evolution Of Facebook]

2) Most of my Facebook friends aren't (actually friends). They're not enemies. It's not that I wish them ill, but for the majority of them, there's a reason we don't associate other than on Facebook. For most, it's not because of a geographic disparity or because they don't have an email address or phone number-it's because we're simply not actual…friends. (This makes me wonder if the reason I initially got on Facebook was actually a matter of pride. "How many virtual friends can I assemble?" I appreciated the reminder from Leo Babauta this week that comparing ourselves to others is an exercise in futility.)

3) There are other (better) options for photo sharing. Seeing my friends' and family's pictures, and sharing my own, is what I like most about Facebook. A picture and a caption can generate a belly laugh or bring tears to my eyes. I also know that it is the real-time exchange of family pics that likely inspired 90% of the grandparents who are on Facebook today-so I'm not going to leave them hanging. Now instead of merely using Instagram to obscure my lack of photographic skill and then upload pictures on Facebook, I'll simply use Instagram as my photo exchange medium, inviting only family and close friends to follow me there.

[More from Forbes: 10 Tips For Spring Cleaning Your Career]

4) Facebook brings out the worst in people. How I didn't quit Facebook during the last presidential campaign, I'll never know. The willingness of so many to spew half-baked punditry that almost assuredly alienates them from half of their friends-and convinces precisely no one of their opinion-boggles the mind! Yes, these offenders are buoyed by the 10 Likes they get from the people who think similarly, but scores more harden their opinion in opposition and are likely offended in the process. (If this point doesn't resonate with you, you may be an offender.)

5) I learn more on Twitter. Twitter is to Facebook as a biography is to a novel. I know there's nothing wrong with reading fiction, but I confess that I (wrongly) feel a little guilty when I spend time reading something that didn't (or won't) actually happen. I enjoy being on Twitter, much as I enjoy reading a good biography, but I'm allowed to feel like I'm better for having done so-that I've learned something beneficial. Twitter is now my number one source for hard news and opinions I value, as well as a relational connecting point. Twitter is more of a resource and less of a popularity contest. And let's face it, for all too many, Facebook is really closer to the intellectual or emotional equivalent of eating a tub of Ben & Jerry's in one sitting. (It's not good for you.)

[More from Forbes: 14 Bad Habits That Can Cost You Your Job]

6) The presence of ads on Facebook is getting ridiculous. I care more about you than the fact that you like Cherry Coke. I certainly care more about you than whatever Facebook wants me to buy, and it seems like there are increasingly more ads every day. Am I the only one who notices that?

7) Less is more. I'm on a mission to simplify life, to slow it down to a pace at which it can actually be consumed, not just tasted. I don't want to hide behind the ubiquitous, "I'm really busy" as a badge of honor. I want a lower cost of living (not just financially) and a higher quality of life. I want to limit the number of [things] that compete for my attention so that I can apply more attention to those [things] I care the most about. Less is the new more.

Goodbye, Facebook. Follow me on Twitter: @TimMaurer.

(And just to keep me out of any potential regulatory hot water, my comments here are regarding Facebook as a service-not an investment.)

[Jun 21, 2013] Silicon Valley and Spy Agency Bound by Strengthening Web

When Max Kelly, the chief security officer for Facebook, left the social media company in 2010, he did not go to Google, Twitter or a similar Silicon Valley concern. Instead the man who was responsible for protecting the personal information of Facebook's more than one billion users from outside attacks went to work for another giant institution that manages and analyzes large pools of data: the National Security Agency.

Mr. Kelly's move to the spy agency, which has not previously been reported, underscores the increasingly deep connections between Silicon Valley and the agency and the degree to which they are now in the same business. Both hunt for ways to collect, analyze and exploit large pools of data about millions of Americans.

The only difference is that the N.S.A. does it for intelligence, and Silicon Valley does it to make money.

The disclosure of the spy agency's program called Prism, which is said to collect the e-mails and other Web activity of foreigners using major Internet companies like Google, Yahoo and Facebook, has prompted the companies to deny that the agency has direct access to their computers, even as they acknowledge complying with secret N.S.A. court orders for specific data.

Yet technology experts and former intelligence officials say the convergence between Silicon Valley and the N.S.A. and the rise of data mining - both as an industry and as a crucial intelligence tool - have created a more complex reality.

Silicon Valley has what the spy agency wants: vast amounts of private data and the most sophisticated software available to analyze it. The agency in turn is one of Silicon Valley's largest customers for what is known as data analytics, one of the valley's fastest-growing markets. To get their hands on the latest software technology to manipulate and take advantage of large volumes of data, United States intelligence agencies invest in Silicon Valley start-ups, award classified contracts and recruit technology experts like Mr. Kelly.

"We are all in these Big Data business models," said Ray Wang, a technology analyst and chief executive of Constellation Research, based in San Francisco. "There are a lot of connections now because the data scientists and the folks who are building these systems have a lot of common interests."

Although Silicon Valley has sold equipment to the N.S.A. and other intelligence agencies for a generation, the interests of the two began to converge in new ways in the last few years as advances in computer storage technology drastically reduced the costs of storing enormous amounts of data - at the same time that the value of the data for use in consumer marketing began to rise. "These worlds overlap," said Philipp S. Krüger, chief executive of Explorist, an Internet start-up in New York.

The sums the N.S.A. spends in Silicon Valley are classified, as is the agency's total budget, which independent analysts say is $8 billion to $10 billion a year.

Despite the companies' assertions that they cooperate with the agency only when legally compelled, current and former industry officials say the companies sometimes secretly put together teams of in-house experts to find ways to cooperate more completely with the N.S.A. and to make their customers' information more accessible to the agency. The companies do so, the officials say, because they want to control the process themselves. They are also under subtle but powerful pressure from the N.S.A. to make access easier.

Skype, the Internet-based calling service, began its own secret program, Project Chess, to explore the legal and technical issues in making Skype calls readily available to intelligence agencies and law enforcement officials, according to people briefed on the program who asked not to be named to avoid trouble with the intelligence agencies.

Project Chess, which has never been previously disclosed, was small, limited to fewer than a dozen people inside Skype, and was developed as the company had sometimes contentious talks with the government over legal issues, said one of the people briefed on the project. The project began about five years ago, before most of the company was sold by its parent, eBay, to outside investors in 2009. Microsoft acquired Skype in an $8.5 billion deal that was completed in October 2011.

A Skype executive denied last year in a blog post that recent changes in the way Skype operated were made at the behest of Microsoft to make snooping easier for law enforcement. It appears, however, that Skype figured out how to cooperate with the intelligence community before Microsoft took over the company, according to documents leaked by Edward J. Snowden, a former contractor for the N.S.A. One of the documents about the Prism program made public by Mr. Snowden says Skype joined Prism on Feb. 6, 2011.

Microsoft executives are no longer willing to affirm statements, made by Skype several years ago, that Skype calls could not be wiretapped. Frank X. Shaw, a Microsoft spokesman, declined to comment.

In its recruiting in Silicon Valley, the N.S.A. sends some of its most senior officials to lure the best of the best. No less than Gen. Keith B. Alexander, the agency's director and the chief of the Pentagon's Cyber Command, showed up at one of the world's largest hacker conferences in Las Vegas last summer, looking stiff in an uncharacteristic T-shirt and jeans, to give the keynote speech. His main purpose at Defcon, the conference, was to recruit hackers for his spy agency.

N.S.A. badges are often seen on the lapels of officials at other technology and information security conferences. "They're very open about their interest in recruiting from the hacker community," said Jennifer Granick, the director of civil liberties at Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society.

But perhaps no one embodies the tightening relationship between the N.S.A. and the valley more than Kenneth A. Minihan.

A career Air Force intelligence officer, Mr. Minihan was the director of the N.S.A. during the Clinton administration until his retirement in the late 1990s, and then he ran the agency's outside professional networking organization. Today he is managing director of Paladin Capital Group, a venture capital firm based in Washington that in part specializes in financing start-ups that offer high-tech solutions for the N.S.A. and other intelligence agencies. In effect, Mr. Minihan is an advanced scout for the N.S.A. as it tries to capitalize on the latest technology to analyze and exploit the vast amounts of data flowing around the world and inside the United States.

The members of Paladin's strategic advisory board include Richard C. Schaeffer Jr., a former N.S.A. executive. While Paladin is a private firm, the American intelligence community has its own in-house venture capital company, In-Q-Tel, financed by the Central Intelligence Agency to invest in high-tech start-ups.

Many software technology firms involved in data analytics are open about their connections to intelligence agencies. Gary King, a co-founder and chief scientist at Crimson Hexagon, a start-up in Boston, said in an interview that he had given talks at C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, Va., about his company's social media analytics tools.

The future holds the prospect of ever greater cooperation between Silicon Valley and the N.S.A. because data storage is expected to increase at an annual compound rate of 53 percent through 2016, according to the International Data Corporation.

"We reached a tipping point, where the value of having user data rose beyond the cost of storing it," said Dan Auerbach, a technology analyst with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an electronic privacy group in San Francisco. "Now we have an incentive to keep it forever."

Social media sites in the meantime are growing as voluntary data mining operations on a scale that rivals or exceeds anything the government could attempt on its own. "You willingly hand over data to Facebook that you would never give voluntarily to the government," said Bruce Schneier, a technologist and an author.

James Risen reported from Washington, and Nick Wingfield from Seattle. Kitty Bennett contributed reporting.

[Mar 17, 2013] Schneier The Internet Is a Surveillance State

"Beam me up, Scotty, there's no intelligent life down here!" ;-)
March 16, 2013 | Slashdot

An anonymous reader writes "Bruce Schneier has written a blunt article in CNN about the state of privacy on the internet. Quoting: 'The Internet is a surveillance state. Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, and whether we like it or not, we're being tracked all the time. Google tracks us, both on its pages and on other pages it has access to. Facebook does the same; it even tracks non-Facebook users. Apple tracks us on our iPhones and iPads. One reporter used a tool called Collusion to track who was tracking him; 105 companies tracked his Internet use during one 36-hour period. ... This is ubiquitous surveillance: All of us being watched, all the time, and that data being stored forever. This is what a surveillance state looks like, and it's efficient beyond the wildest dreams of George Orwell. Sure, we can take measures to prevent this. We can limit what we search on Google from our iPhones, and instead use computer web browsers that allow us to delete cookies. We can use an alias on Facebook. We can turn our cell phones off and spend cash. But increasingly, none of it matters. There are simply too many ways to be tracked."

TWX:

Won't work so well. They're starting to write-in to the design of the website to need them in order to get the content.

Same with noscript functions. There are lots of sites that, in order to get content, one has to have otherwise-unrelated scripts functioning for the content to ultimately appear.

I just don't have the browser save anything anymore at close. No cache, no cookies, no login credentials, no history, nothing. I also blocked a whole bunch of crap through my router, and I further block things through the hosts file that *I* don't use but others using the router might want or need.

The solution that I recommend is living in the real world. Get a hobby that isn't principally on the computer. I chose things like auto restoration, model rocketry, and working with older machinery.

They only have power because you give them power. Take away their power by no longer playing the game.

Paul Fernhout:

The need for FOSS intelligence tools for sensemaki (Score:5, Insightful)

Something I wrote a couple years ago: http://pcast.ideascale.com/a/dtd/-The-need-for-FOSS-intelligence-tools-for-sensemaking-etc.-/76207-8319 [ideascale.com] "Now, there are many people out there (including computer scientists) who may raise legitimate concerns about privacy or other important issues in regards to any system that can support the intelligence community (as well as civilian needs). As I see it, there is a race going on. The race is between two trends. On the one hand, the internet can be used to profile and round up dissenters to the scarcity-based economic status quo (thus legitimate worries about privacy and something like TIA). On the other hand, the internet can be used to change the status quo in various ways (better designs, better science, stronger social networks advocating for some healthy mix of a basic income, a gift economy, democratic resource-based planning, improved local subsistence, etc., all supported by better structured arguments like with the Genoa II approach) to the point where there is abundance for all and rounding up dissenters to mainstream economics is a non-issue because material abundance is everywhere. So, as Bucky Fuller said, whether is will be Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race to the very end. While I can't guarantee success at the second option of using the internet for abundance for all, I can guarantee that if we do nothing, the first option of using the internet to round up dissenters (or really, anybody who is different, like was done using IBM computers in WWII Germany) will probably prevail. So, I feel the global public really needs access to these sorts of sensemaking tools in an open source way, and the way to use them is not so much to "fight back" as to "transform and/or transcend the system". As Bucky Fuller said, you never change thing by fighting the old paradigm directly; you change things by inventing a new way that makes the old paradigm obsolete."

Opportunist

There's something worse than no data (Score:4, Interesting)

It's poisoned data. Since it has become virtually impossible to leave no trace and not be tracked, make sure you poison their data pool enough to make the data useless. It's a bit like buying condoms and dog food and making the analyst at your local store freak out.

Also, you can use the data hunger of companies to your advantage. If you dig through the net by my real name, I seem to be rubbing shoulders with the greatest of the industry. Schneier is actually one of them. I have met him briefly, but we're nowhere near the seemingly constant exchange of ideas you'd think we have when you start data mining on me. When preparing for a job interview, rest assured people will start digging through facebook and google to find out what they can about you, and make sure that they find what they're supposed to find. Worked for me pretty well so far.

As for the rest, like I said, make sure the data that can be gathered about you makes no sense. Disinformation is the name of the game, once it becomes impossible to tell truth from lie, the whole data mining effort goes to waste.

[Aug 18, 2012] Privacy is dead on Facebook. Get over it. by Helen A.S. Popkin

Jan 13, 2010 | msnbc.com

Once upon a time at Facebook, or so the story from an anonymous Facebook employee goes, there was a general password employees could use to access Facebook accounts. For kicks and giggles, some Facebook employees, including the one recently interviewed on the Rumpus Web site, did just that.

Two Facebook employees got fired, says Anonymous Facebook Employee, for manipulating user profile information. Others, such as Anonymous Facebook Employee, just peeked.

Is this story even true? Regarding the veracity of Anonymous Facebook Employee's claims, a company spokesperson stated via e-mail: "This piece contains the kind of inaccuracies and misrepresentations you would expect from something sourced 'anonymously,' and we'll leave it at that."

Specifics of the alleged inaccuracies above were not addressed, nor was this other thing: You know all those e-mails you send and receive on Facebook, along with those sent and received by more than 350 million users worldwide? They live forever on a Facebook database that doesn't require a tool and a reason to access it; just a search query, says Anonymous Facebook Employee.

Shocked? Whether or not this story is in any way true, you shouldn't be. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently went on record speaking the same sentiments blathered by the big money data farmers that came before him; none of the cool kids care about privacy. Neither should you.

"You have zero privacy anyway," Sun Microsystems chief executive Scott McNealy famously said in 1999. "Get over it."

This past December, Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt glibly stated in a CNBC interview, "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

Does that include your address, credit card statements, social security number, medical records, legal and financial documents, competitive business secrets, fan fiction, bad poetry, love letters or any ill-advised photos or videos taken in one's hormone-addled youth? Schmidt didn't say.

Then, last week, during an interview at the 2010 TechCrunch awards, Facebook's Zuckerberg said this:

" … in the last 5 or 6 years, blogging has taken off in a huge way and all these different services that have people sharing all this information. People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that's evolved over time."

Zuckerberg was addressing last month's latest privacy evisceration on Facebook; the one that ripped the curtain off user activities, photos, even birthdays, making a whole lot of information previously controlled by users available for anyone on God's green Google (advertisers, identity thieves, stalkers et al.) to see.

What's more, the thick coating of doublespeak made understanding and changing Facebook privacy settings less intuitive than ever.

For some casual Internet users, Zuckerberg's smooth 'n savvy sound bites may seem to make sense. It's true, we as a society are less bashful (a lot of us full-on narcissistic) when it comes to sharing the personal minutiaeb - be it breakfast choice or sexual exploits - previously kept behind closed doors.

But choosing to share your bra color in your Facebook status in an effort to spread breast cancer awareness - or just because - is a whole lot different than having your metaphorical shirt ripped off in the middle of the roller rink by a social network that built its empire luring you and assuring that you that it had nothing but respect for your privacy.

Facebook stomped predecessors MySpace and Friendster not (only) because it wasn't lousy with glitter GIFs or hobbled by crippled servers seemingly riddled with the consumption. College students, then their parents and grandparents, flocked to what is now the world's largest social network site because it offered non-tech heads wary of cyberspace a secluded booth at the back of the Internet where they could hang out with chosen circle of family and friends.

Now, as Facebook successfully copies Twitter in order to compete with it, and monetizes even the virtual kitchen sink as it moves toward its initial public stock offering (IPO), your privacy is the first thing to go. While tech and business bloggers call shenanigans, Facebook's general users are lulled into compliance via public relations doublespeak meant to make you believe this corporate titan is doing it for you, all for you.

For example, according to Facebook's privacy guide, information that users previously had the power to make private - your photo, city, friends, networks and fan pages - are public and searchable, for your own good:

"Making connections - finding people you know, learning about people, searching for what people are saying about topics that interest you - is at the core of our product. This can only happen when people make their information available and choose to share more openly."

Unmentioned is the fact that by decreasing control over your profile, Facebook can compete with Twitter by bringing in more traffic when your info shows up on Google and other search engines. (Meanwhile, users knew Twitter was open and searchable going in.)

Ripping the privacy carpet out from under its users is the kind of shifty behavior that will no doubt result in lawsuits topping that of Facebook's Beacon debacle back in 2007, when user purchases and other Internet activity popped up in Facebook's "news feed" for all friends to see. But what will most users do? Quit Facebook? Maybe. But probably not.

While there are those privacy advocates who will make a big blogging deal of doing just that, most of us will stay for the many positive aspects Facebook offers: Connection with far-away friends and family, a one-stop shop for free e-mail and FarmVille. Technotica, of course, will stay on Facebook as long as you're still there, as it's my job to screech about the importance of your privacy and blah blah blah.

Because here's the thing: Privacy is important - as important, if not more important, than it ever was. You have a right to access popular technology without worrying that anonymous Facebook employees are rifling photos or e-mails. In the larger picture, it is a company's responsibility to spell out policy changes in clear language free of legalese and public relations doubletalk.

What's more, as we live more of our lives online, this goes beyond Facebook. Privacy isn't just about you, even if you have nothing to hide. Privacy is also about those in power abusing personal information, or those in power having their personal information abused in ways that can eventually affect us, the little people.

It's not impossible that Facebook may fall under the weight of its privacy follies. Remember MySpace? Remember Friendster? Come to think of it, Friendster wasn't all that bad. Maybe it's time to give Friendster another try.

Friend Helen A.S. Popkin on Facebook or follow her on Twitter, and see her personal information flapping in the breeze.

Facebook is a Spy Machine

May 18, 2011 | The Socjournal

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange touched on the subject of social networking in an interview with Russia Today, calling Facebook "the most appalling spy machine that has ever been invented."

Assange said he believes Facebook is a giant database of names and records about people, maintained voluntarily by its users but developed for U.S. intelligence to use.

"Everyone should understand that when they add their friends to Facebook, they are doing free work for United States intelligence agencies, and building this database for them," Assange said.

While Assange doesn't claim that Facebook is actually run by U.S. intelligence agencies, the fact that they have access to its records is - in his view - dangerous enough.

"Now, is the case that Facebook is run by U.S. intelligence? No, it's not like that. It's simply that U.S. intelligence is able to bring to bear legal and political pressure to them," he said.

Assange also weighed in on the subject of secret government cables released by WikiLeaks, claiming the really important ones haven't been exposed yet.

"We only released secret, classified, confidential material. We didn't have any top secret cables. The really embarrassing stuff, the really serious stuff wasn't in our collection to release. But it is still out there," he said.

At the end of the interview, Assange trashed the media industry, claiming it is heavily distorting reality to the public and doing too little to prevent wars and remove corrupt governments from power. "It really is my opinion that the media, in general, are so bad, we have to question whether the world would be better off without them altogether," he said.

See the full video of the interview below...

Julian Assange RT interview

The founder of the resource WikiLeaks Julian Assange in an exclusive interview to RT (formerly known as Russia Today) called social network Facebook "the greatest instrument in history for spying." According to Assange, Facebook automatically collects confidential data on the registered site users, and later this information gets to the U.S. intelligence services.

"Facebook - this is the greatest spy vehicle ever created by human beings - the founder of WikiLeaks said in an interview. - Here we are dealing with a very detailed database about people, their habits, their social contacts, addresses, place of residence, relatives - and All these data are in the United States. All are available to American intelligence. "

Answering the question what role social networks play in shaping the recent revolutions in the Middle East, the notorious online journalist suddenly said:

"Facebook in particular is the most disgusting of all espionage tool ever invented. Users should be aware that by adding a contact to your Facebook, they work for U.S. intelligence, updating their database. Other intelligence can either hack Facebook, or obtain the information from the Americans in exchange for some services. "

"Facebook, Google, Yahoo - all these big American companies have a built-in interface for use by American intelligence. Does this mean that Facebook is in the hands of American intelligence? No, it's just different. Just U.S. intelligence agencies can legal and political means to them pressure. They were troublesome to provide each record separately on the agenda, so they have automated the process, "

Recall now pending appeal of a decision of the court in London for his extradition to Sweden, where authorities accuse 39-year-old Australian in sexual crimes. Assange lawyers tend to believe that Sweden is seeking the expulsion order to pass dirt-digger to USA.

Recently, Facebook has puzzled some of their users with new privacy and security settings, and the company's founder, Mark Zuckerberg came out strongly against the anonymity of the Internet. His statement provoked resistance from the founder of of the site 4chan, Christopher "moot" Poole, who believes that using Internet incognito allow to reveal it "in all its unvarnished, unfiltered, brutally primitive beauty."

The authority or, if you will, popularity of Assange did little to change in the situation in social networks. Fishers of souls here have not lost at all, relying on ordinary stupidity.

Over the last five years almost a billion people around the world were in the full sense of the word in the networks, and their number grows with terrifying force. Guidelines for staff of major news agencies almost require the registration of their employees in such social networks as Facebook or "VKontakte". This might be extended to "Live Journal" (popular in Russia social site). What was so far digged using spies will be replaced by being comstantly "in focus of secuty camera". Those easily fooled lemmings will willinglly play a role of Pavlik Morozov in relation to themselves..

As author of the article at Globalist writes:

"The problem of data leakage from social networks, online services and mobile devices is becoming increasingly important. Regularly there are reports that the iOS and Android based send store photos, data on the movements of the device and personal data to network storage"

On May 1 the company "Yandex" admitted that it passed data passed to FSB about some people using the services of "Yandex". Do not forget that social networking can become a meeting place for terrorists and dangerous sociopaths. This fact was mentions many times in publicationsdevoted to social network from the very begiining to superfast growth of populatiry of this type of sites.

The only argument of those who lost faith in conspiracy theories is the following argument: just try to handle this tsunami of data. No increases of staffing in three latter agencies will be enough. Man proposes and God disposes. But apart from politics, social networks has become also amplifies of people not so good social tendencies.

"According to psychologists, the most popular social networks used principle of Maslow's pyramid. According to this theory, the highest level of needs of the individual is self-expression. Thus the social network user not only provide confidential data about himself/herself but also tried to demonstrate achievements, create audio and video clips, his/her own photo galleries.

But few people think about what information we so carelessly reveal of such pages, photos and clips. This information becomes a tasty target for intelligence services and, as the the USA experience had shown a great way for lenders and IRS to determine your true income.

There is also a spectrum of cyber-stalking when a mentally unbalanced person tracks and blackmails innocent person " write the Globalist author. By the way, according to recent data, the son of Kaspersky location (the author refers to kidnapping of sun of the founder of the Antivirus company Kaspersky) and wayabouts were not reveals by hired undercover detectives. Young man himself recklessly pointed out in his blog all the necessary information: the address of residence and your schedule.

We will not be able to live without social networking sites, like we will not stop to eat fish caught from the Japanese coast. Some are heart-rending cry, it's all lies (and poisoned, "Fukushima" fish), others - in vain try to resist progress. I wonder how this is being protected from scrutiny of foreign secret services. Is not it funny that Russian president and other senior officials, created accounts on Facebook and Twitter? It is understandable why such a question was not asked in Julian Assange RT interview.

After all, he has repeatedly admitted that his most important revelations yet to come, and what was already released is "just the tip of the iceberg."

[Jul 2, 2012] Is Facebook a Passing Fad Nearly Half of Americans Think So [STUDY]

Facebook is a data collection agency masquerading as a social site

Nearly half of Americans believe that popular social-networking site Facebook is merely a passing fad, a new study suggests.

A poll conducted by the Associated Press and CNBC found that 46% of respondents think Facebook will fade away as new platforms come along in the future. However, about 43% believe the site will likely be successful for the long haul.

The study was conducted among 1,000 Americans ages 18 and over, with a margin of error of 3.9%.

The survey comes as Facebook readies for its initial public offering later this week. The company confirmed on Tuesday that shares will be priced between $34 and $38, with the company's valuation at more than $100 billion.

[Jul 2, 2012] At Social Site, Only the Businesslike Need Apply By BRAD STONE

Jun 18, 2008 | NYTimes.com

For a Web site, it could hardly look less exciting. Its pages are heavy with text, much of it a flat blue, and there are few photos and absolutely no videos.

But LinkedIn, the social network for professionals, is dull by design. Unlike Facebook and MySpace, the site is aimed at career-minded, white-collar workers, people who join more for the networking than the social.

Now, in the midst of Silicon Valley's recession-proof enthusiasm for community-oriented Web sites, the most boring of the social networks is finally grabbing the spotlight.

On Wednesday, LinkedIn will announce that it has raised $53 million in capital, primarily from Bain Capital Ventures, a Boston-based private equity firm. The new financing round values the company at $1 billion. That heady valuation is more than the $580 million that the News Corporation paid for MySpace in 2005, but less than the $15 billion value assigned to Facebook last year when Microsoft bought a minority stake.

LinkedIn's investment round delays a rumored initial public offering, which would have finally tested the public market's interest in social networking.

"What we didn't want is to have the distraction of being public and to be worried by quarterly performance," said Dan Nye, the buttoned-down chief executive of LinkedIn, who would not be caught dead in the Birkenstocks and rumpled T-shirts favored by MySpace and Facebook employees.

LinkedIn, which says it is already profitable, will use the investment to make acquisitions and expand its overseas operations.

"We want to create a broad and critical business tool that is used by tens of millions of business professionals every day to make them better at what they do," Mr. Nye said.

The average age of a LinkedIn user is 41, the point in life where people are less likely to build their digital identities around dates, parties and photos of revelry.

LinkedIn gives professionals, even the most hopeless wallflower, a painless way to follow the advice of every career counselor: build a network. Users maintain online résumés, establish links with colleagues and business acquaintances and then expand their networks to the contacts of their contacts. The service also helps them search for experts who can help them solve daily business problems.

The four-year-old site is decidedly antisocial: only last fall, after what executives describe as a year of intense debate, did the company ask members to add photos to their profiles.

That business-only-please strategy appears to be paying off. The number of people using LinkedIn, based in Mountain View, Calif., tripled in May over the previous year, according to Nielsen Online. At 23 million members, LinkedIn remains far smaller than Facebook and MySpace, each with 115 million members, but it is growing considerably faster.

LinkedIn also has a more diversified approach to making money than its entertainment-oriented rivals, which are struggling to bring in ad dollars and keep up with inflated expectations for increased revenue.

LinkedIn will get only a quarter of its projected $100 million in revenue this year from ads. (It places ads from companies like Microsoft and Southwest Airlines on profile pages.) Other moneymakers include premium subscriptions, which let users directly contact any user on the site instead of requiring an introduction from another member.

A third source of revenue is recruitment tools that companies can use to find people who may not even be actively looking for new jobs. Companies pay to search for candidates with specific skills, and each day, they get new prospects as people who fit their criteria join LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is set to undergo a radical shift in strategy to find other sources of revenue. Instead of catering primarily to individual white-collar workers, the site will soon introduce new services aimed at companies. It is a risky move that could alienate members who prefer to use the networking site to network - without their bosses peering over their shoulders.

One new product, Company Groups, automatically gathers all the employees from a company who use LinkedIn into a single, private Web forum. Employees can pose questions to each other, and share and discuss news articles about their industry.

Soon, LinkedIn plans to add additional features, like a group calendar, and let independent developers contribute their own programs that will allow employees to collaborate on projects.

The idea is to let firms exploit their employees' social connections, institutional memories and special skills - knowledge that large, geographically dispersed companies often have a difficult time obtaining.

For example, in a test of the feature by AKQA, a digital ad agency in San Francisco, an employee based in Amsterdam recently asked her 350 colleagues on LinkedIn if the firm had done any previous work for television production companies. Executives in San Francisco, New York and London promptly responded to the query.

"This is a collected, protected space for employees to talk to each other and reference outside information," said Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn's founder and chairman.

Becoming even more corporate is something of a gamble for LinkedIn. Many companies might resist the idea of confidential corporate information circulating on LinkedIn's servers - and perhaps being exposed to former employees who are included in the group because they have not updated their LinkedIn résumés. (LinkedIn says every member of a company group can remove people whom they identify as former workers or interlopers.)

Diffusing the purpose of the site might also repel some users.

"It will be extraordinarily challenging to simultaneously serve as a corporate tool and yet promote the 'brand of me' in an emerging free-agent nation," said Keith Rabois, a former LinkedIn executive who is now vice president at Slide, a maker of applications for social networks.

Jeffrey Glass, a partner at Bain Capital, says his firm invested in LinkedIn primarily because it is now becoming popular enough to introduce these kinds of products to companies and other organizations, like universities.

"This is a powerful tool because inside the corporation, there are massive bodies of knowledge and relationships between individuals that the corporation has been unable to take advantage of until now," he said.

The new services could help LinkedIn fend off some new competition. Microsoft, long covetous of rapidly growing social-networking properties, is internally testing a service called TownSquare that allows employees of a company to follow one another's activities on the corporate network.

Executives at Facebook, meanwhile, have recently said that they see networking tools for professionals as a primary avenue of growth. The site recently added networking to the list of options that new users select when they are asked to specify what they intend to do on the site.

Mr. Hoffman was an early investor in Facebook and says he does not want to disparage the competition. But he said that most members of Facebook who are older than 30 use it for entertainment, like playing Scrabulous, a version of Scrabble - not for doing their jobs.

"Scrabulous is not work, and it does not enable you to be an effective professional," he said.

[Jul 2, 2012] Facebook faces criticism on privacy change

December 10, 2009 | BBC News

Critics say people could accidentally share too much information

Digital rights groups and bloggers have heaped criticism on Facebook's changed privacy policy.

Critics said the changes were unwelcome and "nudged" people towards sharing updates with the wider web and made them findable via search engines.

The changes were introduced on 9 December via a pop-up that asked users to update privacy settings.

Facebook said the changes help members manage updates they wanted to share, not trick them into revealing too much.

"Facebook is nudging the settings toward the 'disclose everything' position," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the US Electronic Privacy Information Center (Epic). "That's not fair from the privacy perspective."

Epic said it was analysing the changes to see if they amounted to trickery.

Control reduction

In a statement, the Electronic Frontier Foundation said: "These new 'privacy' changes are clearly intended to push Facebook users to publicly share even more information than before. "

It added: "Even worse, the changes will actually reduce the amount of control that users have over some of their personal data."

Facebook began testing the privacy changes during mid-2009 before introducing them site-wide. The changes let people decide who should see updates, whether all 350 million Facebook members should see them, and if they should be viewable across the web.

Barry Schnitt, a Facebook spokesman, said users could avoid revealing some information to non-friends by leaving gender and location fields blank.

He said the changes to privacy made it easier to tune the audience for an update or status change so default settings of openness should have less impact.

"Any suggestion that we're trying to trick them into something would work against any goal that we have," said Mr Schnitt.

Facebook would encourage people to be more open with their updates because, he said, that was in line with "the way the world is moving".

Assessing the changes, privacy campaigners criticised a decision to make Facebook users' gender and location viewable by everyone.

Jason Kincaid, writing on the Tech Crunch news blog, said some of the changes were made to make Facebook more palatable to search sites such as Bing and Google.

Blogger Marshall Kirkpatrick was worried that the default setting for privacy was to make everything visible to everyone.

"This is not what Facebook users signed up for," he wrote. "It's not about privacy at all, it's about increasing traffic and the visibility of activity on the site."

He also criticised the fact that the pop-up message that greets members asking them to change their privacy settings was different depending on how engaged that person was with Facebook.

He said Facebook was "maddeningly unclear" about the effect of the changes.

Many users left comments on the official Facebook blog criticising the changes. Some said they had edited their profiles and reduced their use of the social site to hide information they do not want widely spread either by accident or design.

DNI Office Asks Why People Trust Facebook More Than the Government
Daniel_Stuckey writes

Slashdot

General Counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence Robert S. Litt explained that our expectation of privacy isn't legally recognized by the Supreme Court once we've offered it to a third party.

Thus, sifting through third party data doesn't qualify 'on a constitutional level' as invasive to our personal privacy. This he brought to an interesting point about volunteered personal data, and social media habits. Our willingness to give our information to companies and social networking websites is baffling to the ODNI.

'Why is it that people are willing to expose large quantities of information to private parties but don't want the Government to have the same information?,' he asked."

... ... ...

While Snowden's leaks have provoked Jimmy Carter into labeling this government a sham, and void of a functioning democracy, Litt presented how these wide data collection programs are in fact valued by our government, have legal justification, and all the necessary parameters.

Litt, echoing the president and his boss James Clapper, explained thusly:

"We do not use our foreign intelligence collection capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies in order to give American companies a competitive advantage. We do not indiscriminately sweep up and store the contents of the communications of Americans, or of the citizenry of any country. We do not use our intelligence collection for the purpose of repressing the citizens of any country because of their political, religious or other beliefs. We collect metadata-information about communications-more broadly than we collect the actual content of communications, because it is less intrusive than collecting content and in fact can provide us information that helps us more narrowly focus our collection of content on appropriate targets. But it simply is not true that the United States Government is listening to everything said by every citizen of any country."

It's great that the U.S. government behaves better than corporations on privacy-too bad it trusts/subcontracts corporations to deal with that privacy-but it's an uncomfortable thing to even be in a position of having to compare the two. This is the point Litt misses, and it's not a fine one.

[Aug 18, 2009] Facebook Hit With Privacy-Violation Lawsuit by Nancy Gohring

Aug 18, 2009 | PCWorld

Five people have filed a suit against Facebook, charging the social-networking company with violating California privacy laws and false advertising.

Facebook users assume that personal information and photos that they post on the site are shared only with authorized friends, the suit, filed in the Superior Court for California in Orange County, says. "Users may be unaware that data they submit ... may be extracted and then shared, stored, licensed or downloaded by other persons or third parties they have not expressly authorized," the suit reads.

Writing and photos that people share on the Internet are protected by law, so using that content without permission from the owner infringes on the creator's rights, the lawsuit alleges.

The suit describes at length a massive data mining operation at Facebook, which it says has transformed itself from a social-networking company to a data-mining company. It faults the company for collecting and analyzing site content without user knowledge or consent.

[ Dec 3, 2007] Facebook is Spyware - Good Luck with That By

December 3, 2007 | Dvorak News Blog

PC World – Facebook Admits Ad Service Tracks Logged-Off Users

Facebook's controversial Beacon ad system tracks users' off-Facebook activities even if those users are logged off from the social-networking site and have previously declined having their activities on specific external sites broadcast to their Facebook friends, a company spokesman said via e-mail over the weekend.

Ok, let me get this straight. You're not using the service but it is spying on you anyway. That's spyware, plain and simple. I guess the users agreed to it in the Terms of Use. Now I'm glad I never installed it.

21 Comments
  1. KarmaBaby says:

    12/5/2007 at 8:22 am

    Why is there so much surprise? Social Networking should really be called Social Marketing. As Dvorak says in his pcmag.com column, the whole purpose is to gather data about you, and use it to identify things that can be sold to you.

    This is America. Making money is our primary function. Is there really any more compelling motive for doing anything?




Etc

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