Is It Time to Delete Facebook?

Lambert here: Readers will notice that Auerback seems to assume that Cambridge Analytica’s shenanigans with Facebook data shifted votes in 2016 (as do the links to which he cites)*. His post summarizes the political and analytical state of play, but may be usefully read in conjunction with this 2017 post at NC by Marina Bart, who cautioned:

There is no question that modern social media facilitates highly segmented marketing. There is no question that political campaigns can benefit from this. Figuring out who might be receptive to your candidate and their policies, where they vote, and motivating them to go to the polls is fundamental campaign work. But that is not at all the same thing as manipulating people into voting against their interests, which is presumably what is feared (and possibly secretly hoped for) by the fretful Democrats. There is no evidence Cambridge Analytica did any psychological manipulations for Trump.

I’m not saying it’s impossible for Big Data highly segmented psychological manipulation to ever work. But it isn’t happening now; there’s no evidence it will work in the near future; there are many, many obstacles to overcome; and there are two very basic reasons why it cannot be the secret weapon I suspect the Democrats long for.

The most basic one is that voting is not the same as buying stuff. There is no direct connection between casting a vote and getting anything in return, not even the momentary pleasure of buying a candy bar.

(In other words, the current Cambridge Analytical scare is based on a category error.) Of course, from a Wall Street “beauty contest” perspective, what Facebook can actually do may matter less than what people think it can do. From my own perspective, I don’t want Facebook’s filthy data-gathering proboscis nuzzling my personal affairs at all, regardless of any effect it may have, and that goes for Google, too. Whether I’m an outlier in my revulsion remains to be seen.

NOTE * Indeed, were evidence for this assumption to exist, one would assume it would already have been produced. If it has been, I’ve missed it, and I do try to keep track.

By Marshall Auerback, a market analyst and commentator. Originally published at Alternet.

Cambridge Analytica’s systematic harvesting of Facebook user preferences to create detailed models of voter emotions appears to have played a significant role in the election of Donald Trump and the victory of the “Brexiters” on the referendum on whether the United Kingdom should leave the European Union or not. There is shock and anxiety at the revelations about how a few right-wing ideologues were able to exploit Facebook’s database and then use it to justify populist campaigns fronted by publicity hounds of dubious moral and financial principles (Donald Trump, Steve Bannon and Nigel Farage immediately spring to mind).

Whether the Facebook fiasco conclusively proves either Russian involvement in the 2016 election (or the UK’s Brexit referendum), or simply highlights the violation of campaign finance laws, is yet to be determined. But what is certainly beyond dispute from the apparently unauthorized use of Facebook’s database of some 50 million users is that longstanding Madison Avenue advertising techniques worked equally well when applied to majority voting instead of employee practices or consumer spending. One possible outcome is that centralized repositories like Facebook—or Google, or Amazon—could become a ripe target for regulation and/or anti-trust action. Another possibility is that the voluntary participation on which Facebook is built will collapse spontaneously via consumer rejection.

That course of action is currently being advocated by WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton, who is spearheading a #DeleteFacebook campaign.

In one sense, there is nothing new in what Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have done. Way back in 1957, author Vance Packard’s The Hidden Persuaders described how:

“Large-scale efforts are being made, often with impressive success, to channel our unthinking habits, our purchasing decisions, and our thought processes by the use of insights gleaned from psychiatry and the social sciences. Typically these efforts take place beneath our level of awareness, so that the appeals which move us are often, in a sense, ‘hidden.’”

But in a world in which we have all become reliant on the internet for our information, our searches and declared preferences are constantly recorded. Therefore an uncanny amount about us can be learned in a manner that is far more centralized and prone to manipulation than traditional forms of advertising. A wave of shrinkage in traditional advertising firms has correspondingly occurred as the robotic, targeted advertising has become the new norm, largely because it is both cheaper and more effective.

Facebook in particular is a social media way of harnessing interpersonal linkages through the net. Its model must be using those links and the information they generate to create value for advertisers. Any user of Facebook (or Amazon) can easily see how fast browsers insert ads related to one’s most recent searches. So it becomes manifestly clear that these companies are tracking us for common advertising purposes.

Politics has always looked into the underlying motivations of voters to manage them. But using the data as documented by the Guardian, this went to a new level of political detail in 2016 that fueled the faster cycle of hard-hitting Trump campaigning. Facebook, Google, Amazon, Twitter, etc., have all become huge aggregators of this information. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s recent apologies notwithstanding, the companies are either being naïve in proclaiming shock that their data can be misused or, more likely, have been so obsessed with building market share and watching their company market caps explode into the hundreds of billions of dollars that they willfully ignored the scope for abuse. Either way, the information seems to have reached a threshold of importance where governments will step in and disrupt the existing mode, especially now that the full power of this database has been recognized and exploited by a successful political candidate, whether via regulation or antitrust measures. Otherwise, the demands will rise for Facebook to give the data to all, because it cannot guarantee that it has been erased everywhere, which has disturbing implications for our privacy (as well as threatening to destroy Facebook’s business model, the success of which is predicated on the exclusive use of the data aggregated from the user base).

However much someone like Brian Acton, who was made a billionaire courtesy of Facebook’s purchase of his company, might like others to embrace his #DeleteFacebook campaign, that appears problematic, given how successfully the use of Facebook’s model operated in the political context. But there is growing international political momentum to strip the “social network” and its targeted advertising model of much of its abilities to record and use customer data. Former President Barack Obama hinted at this at a recent speech at MIT:

“I do think the large platforms—Google and Facebook being the most obvious, Twitter and others as well, are part of that ecosystem—have to have a conversation about their business model that recognizes they are a public good as well as a commercial enterprise. They’re not just an invisible platform, they’re shaping our culture in powerful ways.”

Obama did not explicitly state what he had in mind for these companies, but he did suggest that at a minimum, “the government should have ‘rules of the road’ to create a level playing field.” Even if users find they can’t do without their daily Facebook fix, Google search, or Amazon shopping spree, the former president is right. A price will be paid as these companies’ activities are increasingly scrutinized.

There are defenses that have been mounted in favor of an unregulated market for Big Data, notably by People Analytics, an organization run by Alex Pentland and his colleagues at MIT’s Media Lab. Pentland feels the very centralized nature of the aggregated data is what makes these companies such excellent research targets:

“With the advent of big data and machine learning, researchers actually have enough data and sufficient mathematical tools to build predictive mathematical models. … If you talk to other people and see what they are doing, you can improve your own performance, and as you talk to more and more people, you continue to do better and better.”

What is not to like? Better decision-making, higher productivity, more efficient communication networks: It looks like a win-win all around. Of course, it was under the guise of research that Cambridge Analytica allegedly got the Facebook data in the first place. It can be used as cover for less benign purposes.

Going further, Pentland cleverly invokes a “New Deal on Data” that allows for the “rebalancing of the ownership of data in favor of the individual whose data is collected. People would have the same rights they now have over their physical bodies and their money.”

In theory, this allows the individual discretion as to how much he/she will share with corporations and government regulators. Pentland goes on to suggest that, “the economy will be healthier if the relationship between companies and consumers is more respectful, more balanced. I think that’s much more sustainable and will prevent disasters.”

Pentland’s optimism sounds somewhat naïve in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations, as well as the current Facebook controversy. Of course, anything that further legitimizes this intrusion on our privacy will be welcomed by these entities. How much do we, the owners of our own personal data, actually control it? As far as the government goes, not much, Snowden’s revelations (or those of WikiLeaks) illustrated. And surely the current Facebook and Cambridge Analytica imbroglio undercuts this benign picture that Pentland describes of a happy, informed consumer who autonomously shares his data with various companies, with a view toward building a more “balanced” relationship.

On the contrary, the Facebook fiasco highlights that there exists a thoroughly unequal partnership between the aggregators of information and the information owners, making abuse almost inevitable. Indeed, it is highly doubtful that most consumers and users are even aware of the extent to which their habits, thoughts, and overall private space are monitored by these companies (to say nothing of the more obvious government and law enforcement agencies, even if we’re not terrorists).

In general, the notion of a level playing field of information or data that the market can freely and efficiently price has been debunked successfully by Nobel Laureates George Akerlof and Joseph Stiglitz. Both have challenged the “efficient market hypothesis,” which holds that market prices or odds reflect all known information, mitigating the need for intrusive government intervention/regulation. If information asymmetry exists, the obvious implication is that there is a need for some form of overriding regulation to rectify this imbalance. This would also seem to apply to Pentland’s New Deal on Data.

Edward Snowden has made us question whether the data and corresponding privacy can be adequately safeguarded from more scrutiny by governments. The more relevant question from the point of view of, say, Silicon Valley and its high tech moguls is whether governments will move more aggressively to control the aggregators themselves, and whether the revelations of their abuses will provoke a backlash, which will impact their companies’ growth and profitability.

Already, as Reuters reported, “Nordea, the Nordic region’s biggest bank, will not let its sustainable funds buy more Facebook shares for the time being.” The European Union has fined Facebook €110m “for ‘incorrect or misleading’ information regarding data sharing between Facebook and WhatsApp” (even though Facebook acquired the latter). And the EU has also proposed that “companies with significant digital revenues in Europe will pay a 3 percent tax on their turnover on various online services in the European Union,” legislation that will cover Facebook (as well as Amazon and Google). Although the tax doesn’t actually address the issue of the database abuse itself, the Cambridge Analytica scandal has dissipated valuable political capital for these companies, which will make it harder for them to stop these attacks on their business model and underlying profitability.

Indeed, the focus on taxing turnover, as opposed to profits, is telling, because sales records are far more difficult to doctor and conceal via accounting subterfuge than profits. In effect, this is tantamount to the EU stating to these tech giants, “Don’t even think about making a transfer payment to Ireland and leaving yourself with an operating loss in our jurisdiction so you can pay no tax.”

As the Brexit referendum illustrates, the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal itself goes well beyond the U.S. Consequently, we can expect an attack on all fronts—the U.S., the EU, and likely Asia as well. At this point it is too early to judge if this will have any impact on the ongoing Mueller investigation, but the economic implications already seem evident. The U.S. equity boom has been partly in reaction to deregulation in banking and elsewhere. The tech industry has largely escaped any kind of regulatory or antitrust scrutiny and has benefited accordingly. As Edward Harrison of the site Credit Writedowns has observed:

“Some of the best performing stocks in the US are the large Internet-centric technology stocks like Facebook. There is even an acronym, FANG, to describe Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google. Add Apple and, together, these five stocks account for one quarter of the Nasdaq’s total market capitalization. They are huge. And Facebook’s data breach represents a threat to them.”

Could it be that public indignation at the Facebook profile harvesting scandal will lead to new regulation that could impede the value of some tech-based advertising models? Will it lead to a consumer backlash that slows the growth of the companies themselves? Certainly, it is easier to attack a wealthy and powerful company, if and when it becomes Public Enemy #1, even though many of these politicos will find themselves attacking the instruments of their own political success (or fundraising sources). Facebook or Google would no doubt argue that their platforms are just a facilitation of the communities inherent in the internet and that they have benefited by exploiting first mover advantage. But a centralized, monopolistic exploitation of these interpersonal links is inviting public intervention, especially as the technology can also survive on a distributed, competitive basis. In the eyes of many, these companies are unlikely to escape the opprobrium of helping to allow the Trump disaster to descend upon us. Overseas, they could well be scapegoated if the British economy falters as a result of leaving the European Union. On a broader scale, this scandal may well destroy any last vestiges of “techno-optimism,” seeing how it has highlighted the misuses of technology and the human damage it can continue to inflict on us far more profoundly than ever before.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

69 comments

    1. polecat

      “This is your brain” …. sounds of polecat cracking open some pre-Easter eggs on to a sizzling haute Pan …. ” this is you brained on Facebook”

      Reply
  1. Disturbed Voter

    Anecdotal evidence … in my case Facebook had no impact on my voting, or who I voted for, in 2016. Advertising is almost always wasted on me anyway. The Internet had a large impact though, because that is how I get news. I self select what I read, instead of being a passive mark for television and newspapers.

    In my case, I already didn’t like Hillary before 2016, and what I read in 2016 didn’t encourage me to vote for her. I didn’t expect Donald to run, get nominated or get elected. And what I read in 2016 didn’t encourage me to vote for him. I ended up voting for a third candidate.

    The biggest negative influence on my voting was both main parties. In so far as facts, not fake news, got out on both main candidates, I don’t see this as a bad thing, but a good thing. The parties wish it were 1968, when there was limited media choices, and a media completely controlled by them.

    I don’t accept statistical inference as usually promoted in political economics. It is too easily corrupted, and correlation doesn’t imply causation. So if people want to limit the impact of new technology, then ban the Internet, only allow three TV stations, and have two newspapers in town, one R and one D.

    Reply
    1. WheresOurTeddy

      with the exception of banning the internet, the “only allow three TV stations, and have two newspapers in town, one R and one D” is already underway by your good friends at Sinclair

      Reply
    2. sgt_doom

      Here in Seattle on the local CBS affiliate (uber-neocon, with the usual number claiming to be faux crats), they recently ran a piece on a brainless twit on the faculty of the University of Washington, explaining “an attempt at adult-level discourse” on her part with a family member regarding fake news. While she (according to her account) was discussing “real” fake news, her family member turned out to be actually referring to the Washington Post (or is that called the Bezos Post now???) and the New York Times as fake news.

      The UW faculty member thought this was hilarious, calling those two rags fake news!

      Funny, I’ve considered them to be fake news since I began reading them back in 1960, and was patently certain of it after the coverage in the aftermath of the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and Rev. King.

      Glad I have never fallen for all the false narratives: Absolute authority comes from the pages of WaPo and the NY TImes, and Facebook dictates whom people vote for!

      Reply
  2. Mrs Smith

    I just posted the text below on FB last night, and I think it’s relevant here too. I’m well aware of data privacy issues, and have been for quite some time, having researched this for a large global tech company going back about ten years ago. I am no tech expert, and anyone can do the things I suggest below. This isn’t about living in a bubble, it’s about being clear about what messaging we might be receptive to, and being Ok with sharing data in a more focused way.

    “FANG” and other global entities are all aware of what they’re getting for free and it’s frankly up to us as individuals to keep an eye on what we’re giving away. CA isn’t interested in me because I don’t fall into their sweet spot of “easily influenced” or being susceptible to “fake news,” but that doesn’t mean that my data isn’t being scraped and used by tons of other entities. It’s my job to make sure I’m aware, and mostly OK with who’s getting access to me.

    For those who want to stay on FB, it’s not impossible to have more control of your data, it just takes time and a little effort:

    “I’ve had several friends decide to delete their FB accounts in the last few days, and I’ll admit, I’ve been thinking about it for quite a long time. Since I’m the admin for our company page, I have waffled on it now for about a year.

    About six weeks ago, I considered logging out on a somewhat permanent basis, but I decided I would try and “clean up” my FB account first to see if it made any difference. I deleted all the “liked” pages (OMG sooo many), cleared my preferences/interests, and reviewed my friend and privacy settings. I use FB Purity and ad blockers too. I noticed a difference immediately.

    When the CA news came out I wasn’t entirely surprised, as our work revolves a lot around global issues of data privacy—among other tech/dev/design issues—and I have always tried to be conscientious of my own digital footprint—with the full knowledge that I am the product in many aspects of modern life. The reality is, I can’t live and work in the world of today and not expect to share (with or without consent) a certain amount of personal information, especially considering the vast amount of digital material I consume on a daily basis.

    Here’s the thing, after reading this article in the FT, I voluntarily supplied my FB profile to “Apply Magic Sauce” and was informed that the software couldn’t extract “enough” data about me to determine my psychometric profile. I am a blank to their software. I also supplied my Twitter account which returned a notification that I was “probably male but wasn’t afraid to show my feminine side” (hahahahaha) and didn’t score strongly enough on any of their psychometric assessments to make a strong determination of my profile. Good for me, yes?

    So here’s where I’m gonna make a suggestion that maybe you won’t expect. It’s perfectly fine to stay on FB. You’ll have to be vigilant, and you will have to do some work, but it might not be as hard as you think to maintain a presence on social media without being targeted by badly-intentioned advertisers and influencers.

    1. Pay attention and keep your profile clean. Review your privacy settings regularly, and edit “liked” pages, interests, and advertisers as needed.

    2. Use FB in ways that work for you, not against you. It’s cool to post baby and animal pics if you’re OK with getting the right coupons from Target or Wal•Mart. If it’s not, reconsider your options.

    3. This is the big one! Be nice. Avoid fights with bots, trolls and assholes. Really. Don’t attack your friends either, even if they say something stupid or insensitive. Who gives a shit if some family member or bot tries to rile you up and start a fight. Ignore them. All of them. Be the better person. Or get a Twitter account, so I don’t have to follow you.

    CA targeted people who had impressionable psychometrics—those who are easily agitated are susceptible to “fake news.” If you’re not that person in real life, why be that person on FB? If you are that person in real life, you’re probably not my friend anyway. (Btw, I post political articles all the time, and they have a decidedly left perspective, so having a political viewpoint is not the problem here)

    If we’re going to trade personal data for access to social media, then be the type of person who will be targeted by companies/political movements, etc. that you want to associate with. Hold social media to a fair exchange system. But we’ll have to go first…

    For a little while longer I’m going to stay on FB and make an effort to be supportive of my friends, like things I really like, and respond respectfully to those who are respectful of others—something I’ve always tried to do tbh. What can CA, or FB, or Google, or Twitter do if they think all of us are just nice people who get along well, and have reasoned approaches to problems. I’m betting we’ll be left alone, and our social media can be a safer place for us. Leave the “flawed science” targeting for the assholes.”

    Reply
    1. jrs

      One can have a well thought out position and well it’s probably less useful in politics than in buying stuff. Because it’s easier to have a budget, know what one needs and what criteria they use for purchasing decisions (ie is a product well made etc.) and minimize advertiser impact (not entirely eliminate as none of us are entirely above it), than to get what one wants in a political system where one is urged to “vote” but that often doesn’t offer anything one wants: eg Trump v Hillary. There is the long game of trying to get better candidates of course, but this is seldom the focus.

      Reply
    2. notabanker

      If you’ve worked in tech then you should know all the data is still out there. Everything, every click, cell tower, satellite ping, cc transaction, everything. And it’s all vulnerable to the people that hold it and the ones who can steal it.

      Second point, there is a fine line between outrunning the algos and training them.

      Reply
    3. DJG

      Mrs. Smith: Thanks. Excellent comment, with many insights. I will also point out that Jaron Lanier published You Are Not a Gadget in 2010–and followed up with Who Owns the Future?–and in both books he points out that platforms like Facebook are data aggregators who should be paying for our data. He also makes fun of End User Agreements and licenses as a load of hooey–licensed software is one more way the big companies get into one’s computer consistently.

      Using your advice as a jumping-off point:
      1. During the 2016 campaign, as the Clinton supporters became more and more bullying with the constant testimonies as to her being The Most Qualified Candidate Ever, I did a housecleaning. I recommend it to people. Most of my “friends” are people who are writers, artists, and musicians because that is what I do. What I’m not going to do is listen to high-pressure tactics to conform, even as the Clintonians kept posting the fake news of “e-mail account”: Oh, really. So: Do a housecleaning.
      2. Use Facebook as a kind of address book. If you have a bunch of friends who are people you have never met in the flesh, you have a problem.
      3. I have about a dozen Italian friends, again, mainly in the arts but some in software development, who like to post on Facebook. It is an easy way to keep up with them. By coincidence, and by serendipity, a friend of mine posted that she is going to be in group show of painters in a town in the Marches. Another friend then posted that this is the town his father is from. So there are advantages.
      4. It helps to post / read in more than one language. People act as if Facebook is finely calibrated. It isn’t. I post in and read sources in Italian. Facebook fairly often throws up advertisements in Spanish. Yes, Facebook cannot distinguish Italian from Spanish.
      5. “Fake news” is propaganda. If one keeps falling for propaganda, the source isn’t problem. It is one’s own gullibility and intense desire to conform. I’m detecting in the current political chaos in the U S of A an argument along the lines of “the good Germans.” As Buddhists know, one must pay attention all the time. Sleepwalking through one’s political choices is bad for democracy.
      6. Don’t feed the beast by buying a lot of stuff on line. People in my building are getting five or six Amazon deliveries a week. They might as well be wearing a GPS device on the tops of the craniums. Admittedly, I buy airline tickets, train tickets, and hotel resevations on-line. But groceries? Clothes? Shoes?
      7. Don’t sync devices. Facebook was phishing for years to have people synch telephones and other devices to the accounts. We see how that went.
      8. Find the article about deactiving the background settings in Facebook. I deactivated the “platform.” That cut down on FB’s intrusions right away.
      9. I still advocate responding nonsensically to ads. Disposable diapers? Drop down the menu and complain that it is pornography.

      So I will continue on Facebook. It is a chance to keep up with some people who have the same interests that I do. It is easy access to my Italian amici. And “follow” some interesting blogs in Italy and a poetry magazine in Greece. Just don’t think of Facebook as communication.

      I note that as of today, I have 233 “friends.” That is likely too many, but then I have a lot of relatives. If you have 479 “friends,” you live in a cloud of delusion and potential disappointment.

      Reply
    4. shinola

      My dear Mrs Smith,

      I shall put this as nicely as I can – it appears to me that you are either a FB employee/contractor or rather naive. (Or perhaps I’m a bit overly paranoid).

      If you believe that Mother F*ckerberg gives a rats rear end about the sanctity or safety of your personal data, I’ve got a nice bridge I can sell you.

      What really PO’s Zuck about CA’s data harvest is that he only got paid for 270,000 accounts worth of data when he coulda/shoulda been paid for 50 million.

      Adjusting your settings & cleaning up your history may make you feel better, but it really makes no difference. Your rear end, er, data is still being collected, collated & sold.

      Reply
        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          “Ms. Smith was once with McKinsey, and that should explain it to you.”

          ?? ?

          That can’t be right. The “Ms. Smith” who was once with Mckinsey is the nom d’ blog of Susan Weber, who is surely a totally different person than the Mrs. Smith who wrote the comment which kicked off this subthread.

          Or am I wrong?

          Reply
      1. Mrs Smith

        I don’t actually work for FB in any capacity (or McKinsey which I generally despise), and have never had them as a client, though we do work with some other large global tech companies, NGO’s and a lot of non-US government entities. Since I don’t currently live in the US, I’m closely watching how GDPR is gonna go over when it starts in May, and if it actually will make any difference. Americans will just be shrugging their shoulders, if they even have any awareness at all…

        You might call it “naive” but I just call it realistic. A lot of my data is out there, and right now there’s virtually nothing I can do to protect it. Me leaving FB isn’t going to change that.

        I have no illusions about Zuckerberg’s respect for my privacy, (or anyone else’s for that matter) but do recognise that in this lifetime, if I want to work with the system, I have to be in the system. I have several friends who work in dev ops and security, and I listen to what they have to say about best practice and follow it. And yes, they are on FB, and Twitter, and order online, etc.

        My suggestions are for people who like FB and don’t want to leave it, for whatever reason. I’ve encountered a sh!t ton of people there who refuse to believe that their data isn’t private or respected and will insist that they’ve never been targeted by “fake news.” My little bit of care and precaution makes me unappealing to those who would try to “influence” me because there are 50 million out there who are much easier marks.

        Reply
    5. kareninca

      ” It’s perfectly fine to stay on FB. You’ll have to be vigilant . . .”

      Good grief. I have enough to be vigilant about already in life. I don’t need one more hole in my life that I might fall into in a weak moment. I’m glad I never signed onto FB, never ever.

      But if I someday have to for some reason (barf), thanks for the tips. Not that I think they would actually work, but using them might make me feel better.

      Reply
  3. notabanker

    “A price will be paid as these companies’ activities are increasingly scrutinized.”

    Yes, and the big tech’s will cover the cost of the politicians and rules drafting. Taxpayers will pick up the ongoing expenses to administer a system that let’s the big tech point the finger somewhere else.

    Once you put something on the net, you have to assume you have zero control over it, because that is in fact the case.

    Reply
    1. YankeeFrank

      “Put something on the internet” doesn’t mean what you think it means. It really means firms now know where you have spent every minute of the past X years since you got a smartphone, just to name one facet of what they know. Did you intend to put that info “on the internet”?

      Reply
  4. Arizona Slim

    Okay, peeps, Lent is over. But my Facebook fast continues.

    And, come to think of it, said fast will be a month old on Friday, the day of our NC Tucson meetup. Hope to see everyone there!

    Reply
  5. Larry

    Facebook will continue on and on. There is no appetite for true regulation. Most of the current backlash is tied to the thought that some outside factor other than people voting, is responsible for Trump’s electoral college victory. Facebook, Russia, etc. Zuckerberg has been agile in acquiring platforms that should prattle on well after his main garbage factory ceases to be useful because younger people don’t adopt it at sufficiently high rates. Whatsapp and Instagram are massively popular and also in the data suck.

    Reply
  6. Carolinian

    It’s interesting that Obama is now calling for regulation when he no longer has the power or responsibility to bring that about. I recently saw Darkest Hour–an excellent movie–and Obama seems to be our Neville Chamberlain figure–someone always willing to take a stand when it’s too late to make any difference. Thus there is great hue and cry about Trump rescinding policies that Obama only enacted at the last minute as he was going out the door. The Iran deal is one example since it could have taken place years earlier but Obama, and perhaps his Secretary of State, stepped away.

    As for Facebook, who didn’t know they were doing this? Clearly more tech literacy on the part of the public is needed. But perhaps we should be less concerned about the “hidden persuaders” than about the unhidden ones. Most of our news now is openly propagandistic and likely has far more effect on public opinion that Facebook. And unlike commercial enterprises such as Facebook the press was given special protections in the Constitution and really does have an obligation to keep the public honestly informed. Perhaps the real danger is not so much of a public being “persuaded” but rather of the public being lied to.

    Reply
    1. roadrider

      who didn’t know they were doing this?

      Well,its admittedly a very small sample but many of my acquaintances who use Facebook seem to be oblivious to its data mining aspects and abuse of their personal information. When I tell them about it they either fail to grasp the implications or are unconcerned. The overwhelming impression I get is that none of them see past the addictive feedback they get from posting their thoughts or pictures and getting feedback from their contacts.

      I don’t buy into the idea that everyone understands and accepts how much personal information is being mined by Facebook and how its being use (or misused as the case may be),

      Personally, I’ve never had an account with Facebook or any other social media site but I consider myself much better informed about how these businesses operate and the potential dangers than most of the users of these sites that I know.

      Reply
      1. kareninca

        “Well,its admittedly a very small sample but many of my acquaintances who use Facebook seem to be oblivious to its data mining aspects and abuse of their personal information. When I tell them about it they either fail to grasp the implications or are unconcerned.”

        I agree. That is true of a lot of people back in my rural New England home town who use it. They have no idea, and they don’t want to know really, since they think FB is fun.

        Reply
    2. Barry Fay

      Carolinian – spot on! The “Hidden Persuaders” reference is priceless and your conclusions about the real culprits (the press) are shared by at least two of us now!

      Reply
    3. Kris Alman

      Amazon prime customers (and I am not one of them), can watch “Trumping Democracy: Real Money. Fake News. Your Data.” (Also available at Vimeo for a fee.) This December 2017 documentary connects Mercer with Breitbart News, data firm Cambridge Analytica and Facebook dark posts.

      Mathematician Paul-Olivier Dehaye was interviewed in this movie. As a citizen of the EU, he benefits from strict privacy laws with the GDPR: General Data Protection Regulation. With great difficulty, he was able to access his data and that of others processed by Cambridge Analytica. (CA is an offshoot of SCL Group. Strategic Communication Laboratories.)

      Dehaye points out the following:
      https://medium.com/personaldata-io/why-scl-is-concerning-in-one-picture-e5245cc972bf
      Due to outside forces, both war and politics are now continuation of each other, using the same means. That’s not SCL’s fault: blame instead fake news, or if you want to dig deeper point to the opacity of Facebook, Google, etc in all this.

      My main beef however is that SCL blurs those lines as well, and that this is inherent to the design of the company, with its different verticals in politics, military and commercial operations. All those operations are based on the same methodology (Target Audience Analysis) and, as far as can be discerned from the outside, SCL and affiliates have very obscure corporate structures with confusing ownership…

      Similar problems are bound to occur in the area of surveillance, especially at a time where the tools of the trade are supercharged. Time and time again, we have seen personal data collected for one purpose (commercial) slip into a different domain (national security).

      Reply
    4. drumlin woodchuckles

      He isn’t trying to take a stand. He is just trying to take some cheap credit for signaling virtuous belief.

      Reply
  7. Steve Ruis

    I am a bit confused. Quite a number of people are throwing shade on the idea that all of the Russian presidential election propaganda had any affect overall. In an election in which three states made the difference for Donald Trump, each with very close elections, anything that would motivate voters to get out and vote could have had an effect. Plus American business are paying many, many millions of dollars for advertising every year in the belief that it does have an effect.

    Has somebody parsed this out so that the numbers make sense, because conceptually, the Russians efforts seem like they would be effective even as a get out the vote effort of previously committed voters.

    Reply
    1. Steve

      As someone who has boosted posts to reach people locally (art studio events) I looked into the effectiveness of FB ads and boosted posts. I read quite a few analytical articles on how FB boosts posts. From the stuff I could find fewer than 15% of people who are sent a boosted post (ad) ever even look at it. So far I haven’t seen any new information that disputes the 15% number. If the 15 % is correct then the relevant number becomes how many people who view a targeted political ad are persuaded by it.

      Reply
    2. RepubAnon

      It isn’t just Cambridge Analytica, and it isn’t just FaceBook – there’s a whole industry around targeted advertising. The heightened “Big Data” ability to segment the population is a game changer.

      The arguments dismissing the effect of targeted political ads ignore their cumulative effect. We used to hear the same dismissive arguments about media ownership consolidation that we’re hearing now about the impact of targeted advertising in political ads. Looking at AM hate radio, Fox News and Sinclair Broadcasting’s propaganda efforts, can we still say that media ownership consolidation has no effect on politics?

      Targeted advertising needs to be regulated and restricted now, before it becomes even more embedded in our infrastructure. Otherwise, we’ll end up like North Korea – where the only thing anyone hears is what the folks in charge want them to hear.

      Reply
      1. lyman alpha blob

        Targeted advertising has existed long before Fleecebook or even the internet came along.

        There’s a reason radio stations all have different playlists – they are trying to attract a specific audience in order to attract corresponding advertisers. You don’t hear the same ads on a classical music station that you do on a rock station. Same with TV, same with magazines, etc, etc, etc.

        The con here is that FB and the rest have managed to convince people that their targeting works better than the way older media do it. So far I see no evidence that that is the case.

        In fact it could even be the opposite. I can completely block almost all internet ads and not see them at all, much less click on them. In print media and radio that is not an option.

        Reply
    3. Michael Fiorillo

      One of those states you mention was Wisconsin, which Hillary never stepped foot in during the general election campaign, in spite of pleas from in-state organizers.

      Yet Putin and the Buff Bernie coloring page and “Hillary Is A Satan” boxing matches with Jesus gave the election to Trump?

      Here’s a premise, followed by an analogy, which I think provide a strong argument for how preposterous all the ravings about Putin and Russia are: First, all large states spy on each other and seek to influence the internal politics of their geo-political competitors/adversaries. Russia has RT, Sputnik, troll farms and the various stealth shenanigans run by its spy agencies.

      As do we, with Voice of America, the National Endowment for Democracy, and so forth. It’s all part of the Great Game.

      Now, let’s make an analogy between these ongoing pranks (which is what most of them are, practically speaking) and the background radiation that is everywhere around us, but not in sufficient concentrations to cause acute problems, save for some rare, outlier cases.

      That being the case, arguing that Putin/Russia gave the election to Trump is equivalent to a morbidly obese person with diabetes, cancer and heart disease (gained from decades of not exercising the muscles of civic activity, and consuming junk food, culture and news) insisting their diseases were caused by the background radiation in their basement, and not by their toxic lifestyle.

      The Russiagate story is preposterous, and is misdirection intended to keep the Clinton/Obama types in control of the Democratic Party, in spite their catastrophic failures. That would be the case even without the constantly-moving-goalposts of the story, which started out with “collusion” (that story now on life support), then morphed into “hacking the election” (yeah, just like the Vermont electric grid was “hacked” by Putin) and then infernally transformed into Putin “aggravating our disagreements,” which by some occult process was equivalent to a hybrid of 9/11 and Pearl Harbor.

      Putin’s occult powers are further demonstrated by the fact that the majority of those troll ads which “elected” Trump came out after the election.

      Was it Putin who caused the Democrats to lose all three branches of the federal government, and two thirds of all state governments, in less than ten years?

      Was it Putin that led the Democrats to insist on running a very weak and flawed candidate who’s sell-by date had expired years ago, who lost to the most unpopular presidential candidate ever, in spite of outspending him by two-to-one?

      Forget Facebook, stop watching Rachel Maddow!

      Reply
    4. Adam

      There’s no way to parse these numbers out. We’d have to have access to CA’s data to know who exactly was targeted (and then still have to determine at all whether the targeting could even be effective; I haven’t seen the CA ads). Theoretically CA’s method could have been effective, but it would also be an outlier based on research (using advertising successfully in a widely discussed general election is extremely difficult due to the amount of competing noise. It’s very different than normal advertising due to the adversarial nature). CA is of course going to say that their work made all the difference even if it didn’t.

      This also assumes that Hillary wasn’t using similar tactic which is extremely unlikely considering that Obama used them (although the Clinton campaign’s use of data science was so utterly inept that I struggle to imagine that anything they tried using these tactics would have been effective. Their misuse of data science is the reason why Hillary never set foot in Wisconsin. It was a textbook case of someone who knew just enough to be dangerous).

      Reply
      1. Michael Fiorillo

        Indeed, it is, and it’s looking a little worn and ragged by now.

        I hear the same thing from otherwise intelligent, sane, reality-based, show-me-the-evidence people I know, some of them very dear friends. But Trump has caused them to lose their minds, and they are impervious to reason on this issue, as impervious as Trump supporters are said to be in general.

        Reply
  8. David

    I wonder if the solution might be simpler, or at least different, and may come from the demand side, not the supply side.
    If you think about it, Facebook’s business models depends on a chain of unprovable assumptions. First, companies selling goods and services have to think it’s effective to advertise their products. Second, they have to believe that the internet is an effective medium for advertising. Thirdly, they have to choose agencies to create advertising for them. Fourthly, agencies have to believe that internet marketing through Facebook is more effective than other ways of spending the same budgets. And finally, people who see these advertisements have to act on them, to buy more goods and services than they otherwise would, and demonstrably as a result of targeted advertising provided by access to data. And of course Facebook’s raw material, its members, have to continue to believe that it is in their interest to hand over data without getting anything in exchange.
    But there are signs that internet users are becoming increasingly intolerant of advertising (I certainly am) and give up visiting certain sites because they can’t stand being bombarded with pointless demands to buy this or that. If internet advertising tanks, because in the end it’s seen to be ineffective, and much of the media moves to a subscription model, what happens to Facebook then?

    Reply
  9. John

    America loves keeping score…what better way than FB and all the others. It will all get aggregated in a new corporate social credit score keeping company. The Chinese have a wonderful (sarcasm) idea with social credit scores…it will continue to be developed here, outsourced by the Money Party to private equity. And Lambert, opting out will just mean you don’t get to participate…in anything. No tickets to ride. Under corporate policy, there are no rights, only privileges, and they are easy to lose. The shareholders deserve such a policy, yes?

    Reply
  10. Al Swearengen

    Eh, trying to regulate something like “data” is a notion so silly and self-evidently impossible that I think it is silly to even talk about it. The EU can tax these entities and extract a bit of a pound of flesh here and there. DC will of course never meaningfully do so as it is and will be in the pocket of those entities.

    But ask the RIAA and MPAA how well 20 years of anti-piracy efforts have gone. So long as there is a borderless internet it is just a giant whack-a-mole exercise as far as making a meaningful impact.

    Only way to deal with Farcebook? Don’t sign up. If your actual friends are on it you are friends with dullards and get new friends. If this isn’t an option you go to WTF territory and accept that nothing you do that goes onto paper and/or into a database can or will ever be controllable.

    Reply
  11. Rates

    Time to delete Facebook: long time ago.

    Willingness of muppets to do so: zero.

    As usual I predict that final victory will belong to the muppets.

    Reply
    1. phemfrog

      Not all the folks who keep facebook are muppets. for myself, facebook is the ONLY way to engage with certain groups of people. For example, the PTA at my daughter’s school posts important info on FB that it posts nowhere else. It is therefor a necessity that i have a page. That said, i do not have to put any more than the most basic info into the profile. I dont like or save anything. so my footprint on there is minimal (not zero).

      Reply
  12. Norb

    As usual, the short sighted desire to mine personal data for profit leaves open the possibility of major confrontations if other nations or criminals hack into these systems. So much energy is being spent conditioning people to accept having their personal data harvested without complaint, what is going to happen when China, Russia, or any foreign power for that matter, hack, or gain access to unsecured information? Demand war? As corporate power merges with government power, how will corporate espionage differ from espionage run by National governments? The lines become too blurred to distinguish and act accordingly. Smaller acts of pure criminality are confused with National intent or aggressive war policy. Wouldn’t the competitive drive for market share in any economic sector drive actions in that direction out of necessity? Collect and exploit information in order ensure monetary gain.

    We are at a moment in history where National policy and pursuit of narrow self-interest are reaching limits. The contradiction that allowed the rapid rise and exploitation of these information and communication technologies to create vast fortunes has finally bumped into the political reality that these diverse interests are incompatible with each other. The National and the Individual. Oligarchs protecting their fortunes is our moment in history.

    The idea that economic integration world bring about peace, only works when there are clear rules and a certain level of cooperation is aimed at. Without that, economics and finance become just another form of aggressive war. Capitalism, as an economic system, seems unable to construct the conditions needed to avoid this outcome. The US, as the leading capitalist state, has been unable to construct any stable environment to avoid this conflict.

    Going further down this path only breeds more corruption and rewards criminality- thus the desire to make collection and sale of personal data legal- to keep moving the goalpost of the acceptable. It demands a porous architecture be constructed that facilitates snooping and outside review. In such a case, national conflict is more likely if the system is open and interconnected. Russia is acting prudently by hardening their own systems to outside intrusion. Any Nation, for their own security, would do that if they had the resources.

    This fragile, Rube Goldberg machine we call modern civilization will not withstand any major disruptions. Those in power know this and explains the endless rollercoaster of hysteria in the media. In the US, the political balancing act is to keep the looting going, but is becoming more difficult because outside forces have been successful at mastering technology to counter US aggression. Outright, direct war is just one step too far.

    Facebook is just a symptom of the larger problem. Those not seeking prudence and protection from the current abusive system will be in for quite a shock. Pursuit of American Empire has made it’s citizenry schizophrenic. They cannot understand or perceive the US loss of standing around the world.

    It is a good sign that people are beginning to see that they, themselves are the products in this supposedly great system we have constructed and daily participate. Funny how totalitarian societies seem to have turned the tables. Lets get on building hate for China and Russia to explain this slow decline in order to protect the Oligarchy. All the while, freedom and democracy are reduced to farce.

    Reply
  13. John Beech

    John here, and the funny thing regarding the noise of Facebook whether it should be deleted is this; it seems to gloss over ‘why’ people use it in the first place. Can we at least agree that TANSTAAFL has never been repealed? My point is, Facebook is a service, which people like you and me use largely for the purpose of keeping in touch with friends. How? By receiving broadcast news (the content I put up is broadcast). In turn, those receiving the broadcast interact, or not, generally as they see fit. For example, I put a picture of something I did today with my grandchildren, and if you’re part of my network of friends you have a chance to learn about it without my specifically calling you (and the 50 others of my friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and members of family) to share the news.

    Conversely, as a consequence of my posting information, Facebook learns things about me, which are of value to advertisers. Such as the fact I’m a grandfather. How does ‘there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch’ play a role in the conversation? Well, since I don’t pay Facebook for what they do for my benefit, I’m perfectly OK with them gleaning what they may about me, e.g. the information I share to the public about me and mine, and monetize it.

    Folks . . . of course they’re selling my information! Is anybody surprised by this? Wasn’t it understood from the get go that this was the quid pro quo ante for my using their service. If what I had to say weren’t public information, does anybody really believe I’d be putting it up for sundry to see? After all, you don’t see me posting an image of my credit card and sharing the 3-digit magic number off the back, right? Could it be because this is information I view as private while what I did this Easter morning with my grandsons isn’t secret? What am I missing?

    Reply
    1. jrs

      That even though they use facebook most people may not really like the broadcast news aspect, they don’t want their coworkers to know the same thing as the friends they go get smashed at bars with do, as their political organizer friends they plan protests with do, as their mom, as their friend from junior high, as their health issues support group does etc.. There are ways to control it, or were (been a while since I used it), but for most people the broadcast news aspect is not a benefit in almost any cases except to announce one is dead!

      Reply
  14. ckimball

    When people are trapped they will sometimes act in what may be perceived as against their own interests.
    It can be an act of sacrifice if you will ponder. Those in control do not willing vote against their own
    interests. Sometimes the only way to get out of a trap is to do the unthinkable and leave a leg behind.
    Once again peoples response to Trump and Brexit are being invalidated with a characterization of the
    poor uneducated people were manipulated and tricked and that the result of their actions, Trump and
    Brexit were irrational mistakes and that the alternatives were the correct ones. It seems whatever can be used to support this perspective will be. Yes the conversation regarding facebook etc. has merit but when
    it is conflated with Trump and Brexit a different level of conversation needs to occur, a more respectful one.

    Reply
  15. John

    Time to delete Facebook? Yes, of course. It is also time to consider …strongly… deleting other social media platforms as well. Social media may be convenient, although I fail to see how, but is it a positive? I do not think so.

    Reply
  16. Barry Fay

    Did´t read any further than the first sentence. Anyone who begins by asserting such nonsense does not deserve further scrutiny. I immediately moved on to the Marina Bart article – a smart move indeed.

    Reply
  17. Jim Haygood

    Ed Harrison is quoted in Auerback’s essay:

    There is even an acronym, FANG, to describe Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google. Add Apple and, together, these five stocks account for one quarter of the Nasdaq’s total market capitalization. They are huge. And Facebook’s data breach represents a threat to them.

    Errr, yes and no. As far as we know, Apple, Amazon and Netflix aren’t particularly threatened by Facebook’s lack of care with user data. Google is the one which most closely rhymes with Facebook.

    Recognizing this family resemblance, S&P Global Indexes and MSCI are introducing a new Communications Services sector this September, in which Alphabet (parent of Google) and Facebook likely will be the two largest cap members. Both stocks will be leaving the Information Technology sector in which they’re classified now.

    Since Communications Services will include telcos such as Verizon and AT&T (which illegally gave the NSA direct access to its international fiber optic cables in the early 2000s) as well as the MSM broadcast and print media, all of the companies we love to hate will be collected in one convenient corral. A more appropriate name might be the Surveillance and Disinformation sector.

    Google rhymes with Facebook not only in the way it uses search records to create a psychographic profile of users, but also in its harvesting of Gmail content to directly monitor what Gmail users are saying and to whom. It would not be surprising if spook agencies contract with Google to buff up this data for them.

    I’m about ready to obtain a private, offshore email account to keep Google’s prying eyes out of my stinking correspondence. Any recos would be welcome.

    Reply
    1. Carolinian

      Google claims they are no longer scanning Gmails to get keywords for targeted ads. I haven’t taken out my magnifying glass to see if their EULA now says they are not reading your mail at all.

      And perhaps one reason Google search has gone downhill is because the company felt threatened by Facebook and decided to flatter by imitating. I believe they used to use targeting only for those “sponsored results” on the right side of their search page.

      Reply
    2. Rates

      What’s truly pathetic of some of these data collection is that in theory with the amount of data Google has collected they should be able to go to their Search Engine Master Interface and ask:
      1. What do women want?
      2. What do men want?
      3. What do babies want?
      4. What do pets want?

      They should then be able to use the answers to come up with at least one blockbuster consumer product every year without fail. But so far, big fat NADA.

      Reply
      1. HotFlash

        The first axiom back when I worked in advertising was that the only thing that advertising has been proven to sell is advertising. The second was like to it: Half of all money spent on advertising is wasted, the problem is that we don’t know which half.

        Personally, I would rate the wasted $$ at closer to 90%.

        Reply
    3. HotFlash

      A tech-savy friend has his email account @Mail.Ru. No idea how/when he got it or if it is still secure, but worth checking out. Killer email addy, if just for the lols.

      Reply
      1. The Rev Kev

        Well, just to take it to the next level, one can always use the Russian Yandex web browser (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0p7SHJdpgxQ) which I have begun experimenting with. On my Samsung tablet, I have searched for a random kitchen object using Google and for weeks after I will see this object displayed time and again. Must try the same experiment with Yandex.

        Reply
  18. Eureka Springs

    When it come to the likes of facebook and google, they are largely useless middlemen. At an extremely high cost for that matter too. In our seemingly endless spiral down the crapification drain they seemed to have hastened things more than the other way around. And yes crapification began long before they were a thing.

    One thing which has always bothered me is the neoliberal cry by some that people should be able to sell their info – that fb etc., should pay us. How would that happen under these models where you weren’t also selling your ‘friends’ privacy/info whether they approved or not?

    Reply
  19. Ape

    MB’s argument seems to descend from Hannah Arendt’s argument about the pentagon papers in https://www.nybooks.com/articles/1971/11/18/lying-in-politics-reflections-on-the-pentagon-pape/

    But I’ve found HA to be very clever but an ideologue who tends to miss the point such as missing the iron law of institutions. There may be more to CA if their funders goal isn’t to get specific wins but to create fasco-genic conditions – and con their friends and enemies out of cash.

    It’s the kind of thing that Obama liberals miss.

    Reply
  20. Donna

    Does anyone have concerns that for example the Bernie movement, the West Virginia teacher’s strike and No-DAPL movement seem to have been dependent on Facebook for organizing? Am I giving Facebook too much credit for helping people organize to fight back against the likes of Facebook? I am not in anyway advocating for Facebook. But, they have built a convenient and extensive system for organizing that is being used every day. How long would it take to develop a similar system that would not exploit our data?

    Reply
    1. HotFlash

      Well, yeah, FB and Twitter have helped organizing. So nice.

      But really, if there were a competing and *private* service, maybe people would prefer that? And why don’t we have the choice? Back in the day… (sorry…) we had the US Mail, we had phone calls, and it was a *FAMILY BLOGGING FEDERAL OFFENCE* to read mail or listen in on phone calls. I was a phone operator way back in the ’60’s, this was drilled into our heads, and when our gradeschool class did a tour ot the Post Office they showed us the slits in the ceiling that inspectors used to watch PO employees to make sure they didn’t peek or steal stuff from parcels. My first introduction to the Panopticon, but really, to ensure *my* privacy and the integrity of the mail. I was cool with that.

      FB, Google, and a bunch of others (Verizon? Skype? Comcast? Rogers? Who knows?) are the other sort of Panopticon. They not only listen in but *record* us, turn over the recordings to the NSA nightly(???!!!?), and of course, still have them for their own purposes. Now that is a huge change in half a century.

      Ahem. Facebook apologist, get thee behind me. Check out Susimail, I2P, PGP andPirate Pad (no links due to Skynet, but a quick DuckDuckGo will find them)

      And no, I really don’t care if anybody knows I had waffles for breakfast.

      Reply
    2. GraffitiGrammarian

      i believe Jeff Sessions and the Justice Dept. successfully claimed it had the right to demand data from a protest group that organized street protests around the Trump inauguration (J20, which stood for Jan. 20th, the inauguration date). It’s not clear what Justice did with this info, but they did demand the IP addresses of more than a million people who visited the J20 group’s website.

      I can imagine they would be delighted to do the same with any Facebook protest group.

      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/14/donald-trump-inauguration-protest-website-search-warrant-dreamhost

      Reply
  21. Plenue

    I don’t even use Facebook, and never have. So the idea that anything involving it influenced my vote is amusing, to say the least.

    To the Democrats, voters are a. mindless idiot sheep, and b. would default to voting for a Democrat. Thus the only possible explanation for Clinton losing is that Democratic voters were deceived by some sort of nefarious siren song, probably Russian.

    That their preferred candidate was utter trash, and that they self-sabotaged by cheating the candidate I actually would have voted for out of the nomination, cannot be allowed to be part of the equation.

    Oh, also, I’m a misogynist deplorable, and I hate Jews, which is why I voted for a Jewish woman instead.

    Reply
  22. moss

    @JimHaygood

    I’m about ready to obtain a private, offshore email account to keep Google’s prying eyes out of my stinking correspondence. Any recos would be welcome.

    Highly recommend Swiss based protonmail.com who offer one account free and various other commercial high security and encryption email services

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I have a ProtonMail account also.

      The free version doesn’t have unlimited storage. But it does have filters, so I can direct mail to folders (essential for me).

      The only reason I don’t use it is switching costs of habit, telling people about it, my archives in Yahoo, etc. But maybe I should.

      Reply
      1. HopeLB

        Thanks as always Lambert, love you and Happy Easter Monday! It is snowing here in Pittsburgh, PA and I am so glad now that I left the big C-9 Christmas lights up outside because I’ll be able to send you a staged picture of a snowy Easter Egg hunt tomorrow.

        Reply
  23. Jim

    Facebook, itself, certainly seems serious about taking potential emotional manipulation of its users as far as possible–with the intelligence psych-ops people potentially drooling at the future possibilities for “creative” applications on the entire national population.

    As the recent complaint filled by the State of Illinois (pp. 14-15) indicates:
    “Facebook employs a “Core Data Sciences” team composed of programmers, statisticians and psychologists to capitalize upon its access to vast amounts of user data. Since as early as 2012, the Core Data Science team have been conducting psychological experiments known as human subject research–actively intervening in people’s (online) environments, measuring the behavioral impact of those interventions and publishing the results in scientific journals.”

    “Though selling ad space has generated enormous profits for Facebook already, Facebook knows that advertisers, political campaigns, and its business partners will pay exponentially more money for the ability to manipulate its users into making decisions they want them to make.”

    “Facebook knows that this capability is especially attractive to political campaigns…even in non-election years. It therefore began developing tools for campaigns that wanted to target certain segments with political ads, including by tracking users to determine their political leanings and tendencies. As proof of concept, Facebook demonstrated through its Voting Manipulation Experiment that it could influence whether its users voted or not.”

    Reply
  24. Nom de Plume

    I’ve deleted FB my account but not because of the data flap. That just served as a way of focusing my attention on how ego-oriented FB is. I decided that I’d rather train mine to be more objective in its view of the world vs reactively spouting its biases and opinions. I have a feeling life without FB will be far more richly textured and autonomous.

    Past this, on the surveillance front, I’m in the process of ditching gmail for protonmail. Am also enjoying the benefits of burner phone numbers. Have wiped almost all of my data from search engines and data collection points like whitepages. And on it goes.

    This is fun :-) Best wishes to all.

    Reply

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