I'm sure they're sorry again and will continue to do better
December 19, 2018 8:32 AM   Subscribe

 
The thing about how amazon used this info to delete book reviews bc the writers were "friends" with the author on other social media is pretty creepy.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:37 AM on December 19, 2018 [23 favorites]


I'm at Facebook delenda est these days. There needs to be reforms at every level, and we need to kill the "regulation bad" ethos in Silicon Valley dead.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:38 AM on December 19, 2018 [40 favorites]


At what point do we simply jail Zuck and Co. just because?
posted by Thorzdad at 9:02 AM on December 19, 2018 [15 favorites]


A few years ago now, when the vagaries of employment in the non-profit world meant that I had taken on responsibility for the tech side of things alongside my regular role, I had a conversation with one of the techs from the IT company we contracted with. I had had the realization that our tech group had all kinds of access to sensitive data about not only our clients, but also our business, and all of the employees, and they could basically be doing anything with it. He agreed, and we both acknowledged that the utter lack of regulation around this for the IT world was a problem. I pointed out that my profession had a great deal of regulation that discussed what I could collect about people, how to store that data, how long to retain it, and under what circumstances I could share it and suggested that maybe his profession should figure out some of those issues before something was imposed on them, and he agreed, but we were two guys just shooting the shit. The guys making the billions are the ones making the decisions, and pesky questions around ethics and safeguards and responsibility are not part of their worldview.
posted by nubs at 9:09 AM on December 19, 2018 [7 favorites]


I started using Facebook either at the end of or just after college, so either 2004 or 2005. I used it to keep up with friends and colleagues, share pictures of my kids with far-flung family members, remember birthdays, organize events and hangouts, write short-form comic memoirs, and tell abysmal jokes. For a solid 10 year stretch I was probably on the site (or later the mobile app) 20 times a week on average.

And then, either late last year or earlier this year, as we were beginning to learn just how exceptionally shitty that company is, in a fit of political rage I made what felt at the time like the extremely radical and rash decision to nuke my profile and never visit that site again. And I haven't, and it's been amazing, and easy, and with no appreciable downside. It's like I'd been living for years with a staticky radio quietly hissing in my house and car and office and all of a sudden it's gone, and a part of my brain that had been devoted to trying to catalog and decode that hissing is now free to think about anything else it wants to.

If you've been thinking about doing it but you're worried (as I was) that it's somehow going to be like ripping off a psychic band-aid or it's going to hobble you socially or you're going to be giving up some aspect of your public self that you've been cultivating for years or anything like that, I'm here to tell you that it's not nearly as bad as you think it's going to be. If you're anything like me, you'll feel better, your life will be better, and the leap to that better place won't even be hard or tricky.

They don't deserve you. Walk away.
posted by saladin at 9:10 AM on December 19, 2018 [71 favorites]


Personal action is all fine and good, but it doesn't mean jack. You not driving your car to work isn't going to stop global warming, and you deleting your Facebook isn't going to stop this crap. The answer is regulation, and regulation with teeth. Companies need to demonstrate that every shred of info they have and keep about customers is strictly necessary to providing the service in the first place. Hacking and data loss should be a strict liability issue with fines and jail time for responsible executives. Pierce the corporate veil.

Otherwise, you can feel really good about yourself, but unless we regulate and do so seriously, problems will continue to not get solved.
posted by tclark at 9:17 AM on December 19, 2018 [72 favorites]


(Ok, but for real, delete your Facebook...I did, and my experience has been the same. Mine isn't officially deleted until Xmas Eve, because they take a month to delete your account, bu it feels like a gift)
posted by agregoli at 9:22 AM on December 19, 2018 [9 favorites]


The whole Facebook business model depends upon sharing your personal information. The only real asset they have is the commoditized data of its users, and the ways they slice, dice, and sell it.

These “privacy breaches” are baked into the system; they’re not an aberration.
posted by darkstar at 9:25 AM on December 19, 2018 [11 favorites]


does deleting your account also get all the past data they have on you deleted as well? or is that theirs forever to do with as they wish?
posted by poffin boffin at 9:25 AM on December 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


Framing advocacy of buttoning your FB as empty grandstanding seems needlessly hostile--nobody is claiming that walking away from it will effect structural justice of some kind. They're claiming that it reduces the static in their lives.
posted by salt grass at 9:27 AM on December 19, 2018 [45 favorites]


Deleting your account doesn't delete your data internally. And it doesn't address the shadow profiles facebook keeps of people who have never been members of facebook but are referenced by members.
posted by Mitheral at 9:29 AM on December 19, 2018 [17 favorites]


Google claims: "Facebook says it keeps "backup copies for a reasonable period of time" after a deletion, and it says that can be as long as three months. ... "Keep in mind that information that others have shared about you is not part of your account and will not be deleted when you delete your account," Facebook says in its data policy. Mar 23, 2018"
posted by agregoli at 9:30 AM on December 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


does deleting your account also get all the past data they have on you deleted as well? or is that theirs forever to do with as they wish?

I think it's worse and they keep collecting data on you. Unless the shit I keep hearing about "shadow" or "dark" profiles is bunk. But I'm inclined to believe everything I hear and more about their data collection/privacy invasion practices.
posted by ODiV at 9:31 AM on December 19, 2018 [4 favorites]



These “privacy breaches” are baked into the system; they’re not an aberration.


Exactly. When I signed up, it seemed that was the business model, and looking over the TOS, confirmed. We all signed up anyway.

Crazy thing is, if the interface wasn't so utterly shitty, I might still be a user, instead of more or less abandoning it years ago.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:31 AM on December 19, 2018 [7 favorites]


does deleting your account also get all the past data they have on you deleted as well? or is that theirs forever to do with as they wish?

HAHAHAHAHAHOHOHEEHEEHEE
posted by Melismata at 9:31 AM on December 19, 2018 [13 favorites]


The answer is regulation, and regulation with teeth.

As someone who has spent his entire professional life in healthcare IT, this is why I routinely say that HIPAA is the bane of my existence, it makes my life harder - and I wouldn't have it any other way. For me, HIPAA is the model we should be using for personal data of any kind.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:33 AM on December 19, 2018 [71 favorites]


you deleting your Facebook isn't going to stop this crap. The answer is regulation

I'm all for lots more regulation of what is clearly a platform where the risk is public and the gain is private, but I don't at all see why we cannot ALSO continue to share stories about leaving FB in the hopes of convincing other users to do the same. Grassroots campaigns, free market, etc. I certainly don't see any benefit to telling anyone who shares those stories that they aren't having any impact. Companies adapt or fail when their market shifts, why would we want to discourage that movement?

I could have basically authored saladin's comment. It has been fantastic, I do more crosswords, I talk to people on the phone and in person about real shared things in our lives instead of liking or frowny face-ing their political commentary. And another I do with that free time, I also call and write my legislators more, about issues including the regulation of data-hoarding online platforms like FB.

I dunno, I'm not saying don't do more, but maybe don't tell other people they aren't doing enough. Unless they are your congressperson or senator, but I'm assuming that's not the relationship you have with the person you were responding to (how rad would that be though??).
posted by solotoro at 9:34 AM on December 19, 2018 [18 favorites]


It would be cool if every time somebody said, "This shit is toxic, cut it out of your life as much as you can, I did and I'm happier now" they weren't immediately answered with this kind of "WOW, virtue signal much???" nonsense.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:40 AM on December 19, 2018 [69 favorites]


Otherwise, you can feel really good about yourself, but unless we regulate and do so seriously, problems will continue to not get solved.

In the absence of meaningful regulation, people can & should still take steps to protect themselves and to indicate that they find this conduct unacceptable. Starving the beast is a fine action to take, alongside encouraging the development of regulation and enforcement of the same. In the case of Facebook, we are the product being sold, and I see nothing wrong with encouraging people to think carefully about being a commodity, period.

The challenge that I find in the conversations I have had with people is that they don't see this as a big deal because they never put anything on Facebook that they worry about others seeing; which is fine, but to me it reflects a limited understanding of the data Facebook is selling. It isn't just about what you post, but about everything you interact with (or don't) on their site, your demographics, your connections with others, and then it follows you to other websites to get more data. It's the scope of what gets collected that eludes us, I think.
posted by nubs at 9:42 AM on December 19, 2018 [7 favorites]


There is nothing FB does that I can't replace with something else -- except for the event system, which is critical for my social circle. Until there's a viable alternative to that, that people are okay with switching to, I'm going to have to keep my account.

But ask me how many thousands of pages I've blocked.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:46 AM on December 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


Otherwise, you can feel really good about yourself, but unless we regulate and do so seriously, problems will continue to not get solved.

If enough people delete their accounts or move to similar-but-more-respectful services (which may or may not exist yet), then maybe some of these bad acting companies will disappear and others will learn. Which is only to say that the problem can be worked at from below and above.
posted by kokaku at 9:54 AM on December 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


It isn't just about what you post, but about everything you interact with (or don't) on their site, your demographics, your connections with others, and then it follows you to other websites to get more data. It's the scope of what gets collected that eludes us, I think.

I would wager that the FB Shadow Profile is far, far more complete than the info they get from what the vast majority of people have put onto Facebook. Every website with a "share" bug, every canvas fingerprint, those are far more revealing. The website is the window-dressing and their ad platform. The information they have about us is monumental whether you're a user or not. A more effective way to starve the beast is to make all their web-wide tracking of you either so noisy as to be useless, or so patchy that the shadow profile has far fewer hooks into a "real" person than is algorithmically useful.

Block third-party cookies. Block canvas fingerprinting. Block javascript by default. On every website. Operate as a matter of course with whitelists, not blacklists.

I honestly believe that those things are actually MORE effective against Facebook than deleting your account. By all means delete Facebook if you find it makes your life easier, but my point is don't pretend that it will do more than fractional good toward Facebook not knowing everything about you.
posted by tclark at 9:54 AM on December 19, 2018 [10 favorites]


I know this is a fairly knowledgeable group, but just a reminder for folks who don't spend the energy to keep up with these things: Facebook shadiness affects you even if you never used Facebook or have deleted your account.

First and most obviously, FB owns Instagram and WhatsApp. All data on there, including stuff that you think is private like messages, is being analyzed and sold to an unknown list of "partners".

Second, even if you stay off of social media entirely, Facebook uses trackers on most websites to monitor your web activity no matter who you are. You have to use special software to keep this from happening.

Third, personal information is being collected about you even if you were to stay off of the internet entirely. They build "shadow profiles" on everyone even tangentially mentioned on the internet by ANYONE, especially if you are mentioned on a social media platform. Are you in a family photo uploaded to one of these outlets? Well your facial data is now completely analyzed and available for purchase. Is your name on your company's "about us" page or in the staff directory? Guess what, your employment info now goes with that picture.

This is a huge problem for you personally no matter how little you think you are affected.
posted by FakeFreyja at 9:54 AM on December 19, 2018 [36 favorites]


It would be cool if every time somebody said, "This shit is toxic, cut it out of your life as much as you can, I did and I'm happier now" they weren't immediately answered with this kind of "WOW, virtue signal much???" nonsense.

The argument wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for the fact that it's used to fuel a rather pernicious myth about the internet - that bad actors can be solved easily, because everyone can easily leave or switch. It's a myth that's been used routinely to argue that online services should not be regulated, because they have to maintain their user share.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:56 AM on December 19, 2018 [12 favorites]


This is exactly what Facebook was designed for. The fact that your friends and family can see your post on what you ate last night is a side effect of Facebook's main purpose, which is to sell the fact that you eat out 2.4 times a week to their customers. You are not their customer and that data you supplied is in no way private.

I wrote this years ago to try to explain to my friends the true nature of their relationship with social media. The only thing that has changed is that Facebook is even greedier than I had assumed.

The only real cure for this is regulation. If Facebook was forced to post "Your demographic data was shared with these 267 organizations during the last 24 hours" on each page then people might think twice or at least accept the tradeoff in an informed manner.
posted by AndrewStephens at 9:58 AM on December 19, 2018 [6 favorites]


They can use the CFR sections relating to GLP as a template.

Something like each process hook into user data requires a Data Manager (defined by CFR) who is The Person the relevant fed agency can ask to see, no stipulations. Processes cannot have more than one DM, multiple processes cannot be grouped but can be overseen by a single DM, etc etc.

FDA gets to say, "we think your reports are unreliable" as the kiss-of-death in disqualification letters to labs. The relevant agency would probably need some similarly (and immediately public) toxic verbiage. Like, "we believe you have not met your data responsibilities" which would signal to everyone else that you are actively a legal liability. With gradations betweem like warning letters and 483's.

As an aside, I LOVE the way the FDA handles disqualification letters. It's not a formal, "we order you to close" thing, just an immediately available to the public notice of "your data is garbage and we will be highly dubious (read: not accepting) of it" which signals EVERYONE who had or is doing work there to repeat that work elsewhere or risk delays/denials of applications. It's instant (ish) and not including of a formal action, so it really feels like the disqualified company can't drag it out through the courts forever. They're just overnight toxic to a Big Pharma BLA attempt.
posted by Slackermagee at 9:59 AM on December 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


I am ashamed to admit that I've fallen into nihilism on this one. I use Facebook and Facebook gets everything in return. OK. I understand the bargain and accept it.

I am part of the problem.
posted by East14thTaco at 10:05 AM on December 19, 2018 [14 favorites]


If enough people delete their accounts or move to similar-but-more-respectful services (which may or may not exist yet), then maybe some of these bad acting companies will disappear and others will learn. Which is only to say that the problem can be worked at from below and above.

I have little faith in regulation, much more in users acting on their values and pressuring companies like Facebook to behave.

Regulation and litigation take forever in tech years - by the time, for example, Microsoft got its wrist slapped for its bad behavior, the damage was done and we were already onto new battles. Microsoft is a "kinder gentler" company today because it's been beaten up in the market, the market has changed dramatically so that its strongholds (desktop, office suite, etc.) are no longer as advantageous, and it lost a lot of hearts and minds w/r/t developers.

Regulation and government enforcement did damn little to curb Microsoft. And by the time they catch up with the crap Facebook, Google, and Apple are doing it's going to be too late and too little as well. Not to mention all the difficulty in actually passing legislation that would affect what they're doing when they can shower legislators with money to gum up meaningful legislation or derail it entirely.

Vote with your feet. It works. Convince your friends to vote with theirs too. Stop dissing people who take action, even if it's not singularly effective. You have a greater chance of changing Facebook's behavior by abandoning the platform (at least in the U.S.) than by hoping to convince Congress to craft legislation that will curb them and tame them into a service you can trust.
posted by jzb at 10:07 AM on December 19, 2018 [7 favorites]


"The guys making the billions are the ones making the decisions, and pesky questions around ethics and safeguards and responsibility are not part of their worldview."

"The answer is regulation, and regulation with teeth."

This is exactly what the GDPR is. It forces people dealing with people's private information to deal with ethics, disclosure, safeguards etc.

Was this extra data sharing not in the privacy policy & not communicated to/consented to by users & did it occur after the GDPR came into force? Then there will be €€€€€€ fines.
posted by ianso at 10:09 AM on December 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


The argument wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for the fact that it's used to fuel a rather pernicious myth about the internet - that bad actors can be solved easily, because everyone can easily leave or switch. It's a myth that's been used routinely to argue that online services should not be regulated, because they have to maintain their user share.

This isn't just a myth about the internet: it is the frontier myth and it is also baked into our dialog about capitalism. There are no bad actors because if there were, nobody would tolerate them because everybody would switch to a better actor. There are no problems with monopolists because if a firm tried to abuse its position, everybody would stop using their product/service. There are no problems with discrimination because if a school/town/state is treating you wrong, you can go to a different place and make your own school or town or state.
posted by gauche at 10:13 AM on December 19, 2018 [15 favorites]


Guardian trolls FB (twitter)
Lol Mark, remember Cambridge Analytica and when 2 million people who left Facebook.
What a year it's been.
posted by adamvasco at 10:14 AM on December 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


Guardian trolls FB (VIA TWITTER?!?) MAJOR FAIL.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:22 AM on December 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


If Facebook is brought to heel, couldn't they just move the company to some other country that's more lenient?
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:34 AM on December 19, 2018


If Facebook is brought to heel, couldn't they just move the company to some other country that's more lenient?

They are already in a very lenient company. That is the problem.
posted by COD at 10:37 AM on December 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


In a 1st world problem style solution one could drop the coin on a tablet.
Then go get a list of people who are large political donors plus the people on the boards of local non profits. Place that contact info into the tablet as YOUR contacts.
Consider only connecting the tablet via a VPN or at open hot spots.
Load the facebook app AND messenger and let Facebook do the work of having these people become your friend.

Properly subversive - its fodder for a DefCON talk. Or makes you a "thought leader" for electronic gurellia advertising.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:38 AM on December 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


I have little faith in regulation, much more in users acting on their values and pressuring companies like Facebook to behave.

This argument is nonsensical, given that one of the most powerful tools that we collectively have to make companies like Facebook behave is...regulation. Regulation is literally us gathering together and saying "this is how companies will behave."

Second, the "tech moves too fast for the law" argument is bullshit, for two reasons. One, it is an argument that nobody would find acceptable in other settings, but somehow its become an article of faith among the tech set. If a company wants to play fast and loose with the law, that's a risk with the price that fucking up means the hammer comes down harder. The fact that Zuckerberg was routinely sheltered from actual consequences all the way back to Harvard is one of the reasons why we're at this point. Two, the problem with Facebook and the other companies is not something novel or new - it's the same sort of issue that caused HIPAA to be created, and that law is old enough to drink now. The issue isn't that we're dealing with new problems - just that we're dealing with people who have all sorts of excuses for why the rules shouldn't apply to them.

And finally, no, walking away doesn't work, because too often, there are people who cant walk away, for a number of reasons - and abandoning them is morally wrong. As was pointed out above, "walking away" is the frontier myth, and it's exactly that - a myth, and a self serving one at that.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:38 AM on December 19, 2018 [15 favorites]


Personal note: I deleted everything I had on Facebook YEARS ago as well as 2 of 3 identities I had on Twitter (the 3rd with minimum identifying info, just so I could still access some stuff there). Then, yesterday, the day after The Great Tumblr Pron Purge, I got emails from Tumblr 'celebrating' the 6th anniversary of two blogs I set up there and forgot. Sigh.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:38 AM on December 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


there are people who cant walk away, for a number of reasons - and abandoning them is morally wrong

I dunno, wouldn't this also imply that serious regulation (ie., massive financial penalties) is also morally wrong insofar as it can threaten the survival of the company? I kinda want the corporate death penalty to be a thing that happens...
posted by aramaic at 10:45 AM on December 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


If you really wanna fuck up facebook you need to organize an armed guerrilla war against their data: datacenters, cold standby facilities, 3rd party backup facilities, etc.. Think luke skywalker vs. the deathstar. Sure those contractors got nuked too but everyone still loves Luke!
posted by some loser at 10:47 AM on December 19, 2018


I think NoxAeternum hit on the right idea: just like 'Medicare for All,' we need 'HIPAA for Everything.'
posted by PhineasGage at 10:47 AM on December 19, 2018 [10 favorites]


I dunno, wouldn't this also imply that serious regulation (ie., massive financial penalties) is also morally wrong insofar as it can threaten the survival of the company?

Only in the most twisted, Friedmanesque reading. Good regulation is designed to protect the weak.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:49 AM on December 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


Regulation is NOT the answer.

How can anybody even think this in an era when a Trump is appointing the regulators AND the judges who will ultimately enforce those regulations?

Regulation is the bedtime story which induces the sleep of reason that leads to monsters. We can longer afford that kind of childishness.
posted by jamjam at 10:51 AM on December 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


"Just delete it if you don't like it" doesn't work, because marginalized or small communities are more reliant on social media. "Delete Facebook" is a privileged position.

I'm a white cis guy, and I was on the verge of deleting my Facebook a number of times, but I'm still there. It's where I keep up with (and meet new) queer friends. It's where people post invitations for parties where it's not a tight friend group, but "feel free to invite others" is important.

Remember how we argued about what "friendsgiving" was, a month ago? Friendsgiving plans for me happened on Facebook, and when I arrived to the Friendsgiving, a friend was showing off their top surgery. Facebook or the like is necessary for folks like us to get together and invite others who might otherwise be alone.

Yeah, we're not happy about Facebook, but we're there because there aren't great alternatives. If anyone ever gets big enough to compete, it'll probably become as awful as Facebook. Regulation is the ONLY way.
posted by explosion at 10:56 AM on December 19, 2018 [8 favorites]


Regulation is NOT the answer.

How can anybody even think this in an era when a Trump is appointing the regulators AND the judges who will ultimately enforce those regulations?


Because I don't think that the existence of bad regulations and bad regulators invalidates the concept of regulation as a whole, and I have the historical record to back my position up.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:58 AM on December 19, 2018 [15 favorites]


[Couple comments deleted; let's do this without the needless "you personally are the problem" stuff.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:58 AM on December 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


How can anybody even think this in an era when a Trump is appointing the regulators AND the judges who will ultimately enforce those regulations?

We don't all live in America?
posted by Dysk at 10:59 AM on December 19, 2018 [26 favorites]


It's where I keep up with (and meet new) queer friends. It's where people post invitations for parties where it's not a tight friend group, but "feel free to invite others" is important.

I'm not saying that tech doesn't make some things easier, but you can still do these things in real life. I'm starting to realize more and more how tech/sites like Facebook hobble me from making connections I used to make on my own in the world, without a digital interface. I think it's important to remind people that they can still exist (and happily!) in the meatspace without most of the digital stuff.
posted by agregoli at 11:01 AM on December 19, 2018 [6 favorites]


I think it's important to remind people that they can still exist (and happily!) in the meatspace without most of the digital stuff.

This is a rather privileged position, though. If you are a member of a marginalized group, live in an isolated area, are disabled, or in a number of other rather common situations, then no, losing "the digital stuff" means a degradation of one's quality of life - and in many cases, a significant degradation. Just because you, in your specific circumstances can walk away doesn't mean others can without real and genuine sacrifice.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:08 AM on December 19, 2018 [13 favorites]


I said this when the Cambridge Analytica issue came to light - leading to (currently) zero rammifications for Facebook nor for the ceo Zuck:

Mark Zuckerberg could personally punt an adotable puppy directly into the Sun, and Facebook would still be a blooming viable business.

Its all so depressing.
posted by Faintdreams at 11:11 AM on December 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


I have a dim view that our current Congress has any idea about regulating tech companies. The Google hearings were a complete joke, and showed that Congress has moved very little from their "Internet is a series of tubes".

When Iowa Rep. Steve King demanded to know why a nasty image of the Congressman would appear on his granddaughter’s phone while she was playing a game, Pichai had to point out that Google doesn’t make the iPhone.
posted by zabuni at 11:13 AM on December 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


Slate had an excellent rebuttal to that argument:
While Poe’s question was poorly framed, the reality is that Google probably is tracking the movements of many iPhone users, and a lot of them probably have no better understanding of how that works than Poe does. To the tech-savvy, the ignorance built into Poe’s line of attack came across as underscoring the lawmaker’s ability to intelligently regulate a company such as Google. But any of Poe’s fellow Luddites who happened to catch the exchange probably came away thinking it was Pichai who had been cornered and exposed.

Poe was a stand-in for probably the majority of Americans: They sense that the big internet companies are doing nefarious things with their data, but they can’t articulate just what those things are. Also firmly in this camp was Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen, a Democrat, who informed Pichai, “I use your apparatus often,” before asking why Google doesn’t have some kind of “online school” where “you could log in and, kind of, ask questions” of individual Google reps.

Tempting as it is to mock members of Congress whose questions evinced confusion (Poe was not the last to mistake the iPhone for a Google product), the lesson here is not just that our lawmakers are old and out-of-touch. That neither Poe nor most Americans understand how Google’s vast digital surveillance network operates is not an indictment of them; it’s an indictment of Google.
When techies start pointing to lawmakers fumbling on minutiae about tech and trying to use it as an argument for why lawmakers "just don't understand", it makes me want to scream "this is not debate club, you don't win points on catching people out on little details while missing the massive fucking issues in front of you."
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:21 AM on December 19, 2018 [5 favorites]


Uh yeah, that's why I said "most of" the digital stuff. And I'm not telling anyone to disconnect themselves from everything, I'm stating what's helpful for me. So no need to try to shame me for being privileged enough to ditch one website from my life.
posted by agregoli at 11:23 AM on December 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


(Also, I read that Mashable piece, and was struck at how little the author understood modern American politics. When GOP representatives complain about bias in media, they are executing a longstanding strategy of theirs - working the ref. The fact that many of the tech writers that covered the hearing didn't understand what was going on shows a lack of knowledge - on their part.)
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:44 AM on December 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


For extra creepiness, Facebook has acquired no less than SEVEN companies specializing in photo/video/audio datamining and biometrics. They had your facial and voice biometrics down to the point where users can be identified and logged if they appear even partially in a picture or video by 2012. Their latest acquisition focused on analyzing emotional state in pictures and video - as well as in real time while using the app on your phone.
posted by FakeFreyja at 11:47 AM on December 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


Beyond people just individually not using Facebook, I wish organizations and other general-audience groups would stop using fb instead of setting up actual sites where people not on any particular social network can find relevant information. And that people on Facebook who have friends not on it would do things like also send party invitations by email or chat or whatever. I know all this takes more time and effort and it's hard when you're stretched thin. Still, I think even if you can't personally leave Facebook (or don't want to) there's a lot to be said for doing what you can to make leaving more viable for others.
posted by trig at 11:55 AM on December 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


Fb groups and events is how I’ve met nearly everyone I meet traveling or living in foreign countries. Meetup.com is barely active most places.

And you can’t have a Spotify account without fb. And it allows SSO for a gazillion other services.

I know they own me and that a squintillionth percent of us deleting our profiles isn’t gonna do shit.

The only alternative I see is that they make it a public service. I’d hate to see it become a paid service because it does connect people who might not be able to afford paying.

Unless there are viable, widely accessible, easily usable alternatives, fb will never go away. Nor twitter.

They are the Baby Bells and Blue Cross/Blue Sheilds of the modern age.

Behemoths. Megaliths. Juggernauts.

All we can ask is that they roll over us less harshly. Deleting your profile isn’t gonna do shit. We’re living in a PKD future and they will find a way to sell you on the delights of the Off World colonies whether you have a profile or implant or not.
posted by sio42 at 11:55 AM on December 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


This argument is nonsensical, given that one of the most powerful tools that we collectively have to make companies like Facebook behave is...regulation. Regulation is literally us gathering together and saying "this is how companies will behave."

And that's working out how well in the U.S. currently? (Not at all.)

A large consumer boycott happens much more quickly than regulation, and it isn't something that companies can lobby away.

Second, the "tech moves too fast for the law" argument is bullshit, for two reasons.

Feel free to try to push legislation that deals with the Facebook problem. If, and it's a big if, it is passed and makes it into law in a form that actually 1) has teeth, 2) applies to the problem, 3) is enforced, it will still leave a lot of areas in tech completely open to abuse for years before we realize the extent of the problem and mobilize to try to solve them.

The laws we had to protect people from monopoly powers were either insufficient to rein in Microsoft or not vigorously applied enough to keep the company from steamrolling OEMs and users, and it's not the anti-trust action by the government that fixed the problem either. I'm all for strong privacy laws, but I'm not exactly optimistic they'll be enacted in the U.S. or be sufficient to keep Facebook from preying on people - at least until that model is outdated and then people are being preyed on in a new way.

The real problem with Facebook that you suggest legislating away is with the company's business model in the first place - its users aren't its customers. Facebook will always be beholden to its advertisers and not its users. Users want Facebook to behave like they're its customers, but without actually paying to keep its lights on. I find legislation to be a shitty answer to that problem. Turning Facebook into a walled commons and entrusting it with our data is a problem even if the company isn't blatantly abusing our privacy more than it tells us.

And finally, no, walking away doesn't work, because too often, there are people who cant walk away, for a number of reasons - and abandoning them is morally wrong. As was pointed out above, "walking away" is the frontier myth, and it's exactly that - a myth, and a self serving one at that.

Not buying this even a bit, and again - you're wanting to make Facebook a commons that serves you free of charge by regulating it, but still giving it huge power.

People managed to communicate online without Facebook, and they can do so after leaving if they so choose. Would it require money or effort, sure, but somebody has to pay for the platform.
posted by jzb at 11:59 AM on December 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


Beyond people just individually not using Facebook, I wish organizations and other general-audience groups would stop using fb instead of setting up actual sites where people not on any particular social network can find relevant information.

You mean like web sites, and blogs? They tried that. They led to Facebook.
posted by Melismata at 11:59 AM on December 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


And you can’t have a Spotify account without fb.

They don't make it easy to find, but you can. I do.
posted by jzb at 12:01 PM on December 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


If you have previously used fb for Spotify, you can’t go back to a regular login. You must create a new account. I know this from personal experience. I would lose years of playlists and data.

I won’t go further w this but I think it is important to show how entwined it’s gotten.

Fb made things easy for everyone with events and sso and all of that. I don’t believe Zuck started out wanting to be where he is now. But he does need to take responsibility for this and understand the impact. From what I’ve seen/read he’s in the clouds about the reality of it. Or else it’s a very good act. His advisors are not helping, I’m sure.
posted by sio42 at 12:06 PM on December 19, 2018


How can anybody even think this in an era when a Trump is appointing the regulators AND the judges who will ultimately enforce those regulations?

We don't all live in America?


You're comfortable with the ability of regulation to control Modi, Orban, Bolsonaro, Morawiecki, Duterte, Erdogan, May, Xi, and Putin, then?
posted by jamjam at 12:06 PM on December 19, 2018


The argument wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for the fact that it's used to fuel a rather pernicious myth about the internet

Ah, thanks, that does explain the strong pushback against the idea that I didn't understand - and then your point has been amply demonstrated in the thread since then. I still think bottom-up and top-down are both eminently possible and necessary, but I sure now see why when you see anyone arguing for the one, it's easy to assume they're arguing against the other.

A large consumer boycott happens much more quickly than regulation

The time between when Rando User #1324598 is made aware of it and it goes into effect? Sure, maybe. Actual organization time from soup to nuts for a large-scale successful boycott? I'm skeptical. Sure, government is hard and slow, but so is mass action.

TL;DR: whynotboth.gif
posted by solotoro at 12:28 PM on December 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


The real problem with Facebook that you suggest legislating away is with the company's business model in the first place - its users aren't its customers.

And?

Neither the people nor the government exist to ensure that Facebook turns a profit, and if Facebook cannot create a working business model when regulated, it's not the people's fault. Also, let's not forget that it's not just that Facebook's users aren't its customers, but that Facebook does not want its users as customers, because of the obligations that would incur.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:45 PM on December 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


And you can’t have a Spotify account without fb.

You can (I have two, because of errors setting up the first one); it just has more limited features: no profile image and your account name is your email address, for starters.

A large consumer boycott happens much more quickly than regulation, and it isn't something that companies can lobby away.

Has there ever been an effective large consumer boycott, that wasn't centered on a specific physical location?
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:46 PM on December 19, 2018


You're comfortable with the ability of regulation to control Modi, Orban, Bolsonaro, Morawiecki, Duterte, Erdogan, May, Xi, and Putin, then?

Again, the existence of bad regulations and bad regulators does not invalidate the principle of regulation. This argument is a libertarian bad penny that really needs to be stomped out.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:47 PM on December 19, 2018 [14 favorites]


So part of the answer is:

You're reading this thread. Have you written to your legislators (including at the state level) asking for strong, HIPAA/GDPR-like legislation governing all social media services?

This week?

If not, please see if you can make the time to do so. Today.
posted by kristi at 12:56 PM on December 19, 2018 [5 favorites]


You're comfortable with the ability of regulation to control Modi, Orban, Bolsonaro, Morawiecki, Duterte, Erdogan, May, Xi, and Putin, then?

Again, the existence of bad regulations and bad regulators does not invalidate the principle of regulation. This argument is a libertarian bad penny that really needs to be stomped out.


I am radically opposed to all things Libertarian, but refusal to face the truth absolutely guarantees failure to solve the problem: regulation has not, will not, and cannot stem the tide of populism.
posted by jamjam at 1:04 PM on December 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


I am radically opposed to all things Libertarian, but refusal to face the truth absolutely guarantees failure to solve the problem: regulation has not, will not, and cannot stem the tide of populism.

This is weirdly ideological take about what is, ultimately, a practical problem. Regulation stopped rivers from catching fire and burning although industrialists didn't want to be regulated. Regulation made cars significantly safer. Regulation has all but gotten rid of smog in the U.S. Are there still bad actors and edge cases? Yes. Is this a problem with different contours? Yes.

But the question, "what should silicon valley be able to do, lawfully, with your information?" is ultimately one that I think many Americans could come to some basic agreement on, and then the state just has the power to levy fees and fines on companies that violate the agreement. It won't be perfect, but the perfect is the enemy of the good in a lot of ways that I think are more evident than the assertion that "regulation cannot stem the tide of populism," whatever that might mean.
posted by gauche at 1:19 PM on December 19, 2018 [16 favorites]


Regulate their business model into nonexistence and sue the absolute shit out of them for every fucking thing they’ve done. My anger at the tech giants + Reddit is in the same ballpark as my anger at Republicans; that is to say, incandescent, and possibly able to power a civilization all on its own.

I am, honestly, past the point of giving a shit about legal precedent, and much more concerned with political will. And if the political will is there we can burn them to the motherfucking ground.

Which is my preference, for choice.
posted by schadenfrau at 1:26 PM on December 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


Today happens to be 12th Facebook anniversary. I shared the stupid video I was presented with, and included in my post a snarky comment about how Tom from Myspace never had to testify before Congress. Tom Anderson sold Myspace for $580 million and is now retired. Tom was smart.

I think my Rep is the public face of the regulate Facebook movement, so I'll tell him to keep up the good work.
posted by Ruki at 1:42 PM on December 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


One of my favorite writers, Matt Levine, in his Money Stuff column at Bloomberg:
This all sounds kind of bad, until you remember that if you use Facebook then Facebook definitely gets to see all of that private data. Who do you trust less? Facebook is a company started by a teen in his dorm room to rank the hotness of Harvard students that has today grown into the market leader in the field of apologizing for privacy violations. Royal Bank of Canada is a bank, in Canada.

... Anyway the other question we always ask around here is “is this securities fraud,” and the answer is always the same. Say it with me: Everything! Is! Securities! Fraud! I never mean that, by the way, as legal analysis; it is always just a description of how the world works. ... With Facebook these days it is less a question of “will people sue for securities fraud?” They already have— ... —and it’s just a matter of adding a paragraph to the complaint to summarize the latest story.
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:12 PM on December 19, 2018


1. Write a Facebook client that accurately mimics the web interface. Have it fetch and store your friends list et. al. to a federated service.
2. The client begins to like and follow at random as well as tagging you in every picture it can find. Since it knows your real lists, it can filter out the resulting garbage.
3. When someone on your friends list also uses the client, they start passing messages via the federated service instead of Facebook. In addition, they begin sending each other machine-generated text "conversations" through Facebook itself but filtering them out at the interface level.
4. Ditto for your wall when nobody who doesn't use the service is left in your real friends list.
5. Eventually, the federated service takes over from Facebook, whose dataset is now too poisoned to be useful
6. Complete lack of profit!!!!!

(Hey, I can dream, right?)
posted by suetanvil at 2:57 PM on December 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


I am radically opposed to all things Libertarian, but refusal to face the truth absolutely guarantees failure to solve the problem: regulation has not, will not, and cannot stem the tide of populism.

We don't have one problem here. Facebook is fuelling populism and also Facebook is corralling massive amounts of private data to know when you're most vulnerable to the kind of suggestion that people will pay for.

This second one can be solved with regulation because there's more to regulation than the American-style 'ban the specific behaviour' approach which, I agree, doesn't work. Thankfully, many other democracies have found that you can enact much more broad regulation and couple it with a regulatory body whose job it is to interpret that regulation in order to fulfil your policy goals.
posted by Merus at 4:30 PM on December 19, 2018


You're comfortable with the ability of regulation to control Modi, Orban, Bolsonaro, Morawiecki, Duterte, Erdogan, May, Xi, and Putin, then?

I'm pretty comfortable with the EU's ability to introduce sensible regulation. That's where I live (for now - the UK has bigger fucking problems than Google or Facebook). And no, regulation is not going to control those people. But it's not really supposed to. It's a complete non-sequitur. Whether it bit regulation keeps May in check is irrelevant. That's a job for constituional law and procedure. And even if their ascendancy were an indication of the weakness of regulation (which again, it isn't) it would have no bearing on whether or not regulation would be effective at controlling private companies, specifically Facebook.

I might as well ask you if you're comfortable with voting's ability to control international currency markets and responses to SETI. No? Well why are you suggesting that voting is helpful for government at all then?? Complete nonsense.
posted by Dysk at 4:43 PM on December 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


Many claim that leaving FB had no negative impact on their social lives, but what if those you need to keep in contact with continue to insist on using it exclusively?

Until FB came along, our extended in-law family kept in good touch with us per life events etc, but once they embraced it there was no turning back. E-mail, even phones as means of contact were dropped completely.

I tried being on FB for a short time and quickly realized that I just couldn’t, and let everyone know along with requests that we still be kept in the news loop. I never specified why I chose to leave. I have continued to send e-mails (though most go unanswered) if we have any news. Frustratingly, the family have continued to rely principally on FB for information sharing and are almost spiteful toward us—i.e. “oh, you’d’ve known about (insert illness/birth/death/party announcement here) if you had just been on Facebook.” It’s infuriating, and has had a very negative impact on our relationship with the group as a whole.
posted by kinnakeet at 5:26 PM on December 19, 2018 [9 favorites]


Deleting your account doesn't delete your data internally.

I've talked about this before, but I've had an ongoing nightmare trying to delete Facebook accounts that are not mine associated with my email address that somehow bypass normal authorization, likely by someone accidentally or intentionally misusing my email address - even though I have never, ever personally used or signed up for Facebook.

I kept making a lot of noise about this and having to go de-link my email address from these accounts every time this happened, and then finally I begged, cajoled and screamed enough to get them to do (half) of what I wanted them to do, which was just permanently block my email address, forever and ever so no one could ever sign up using it and that that email address would just be megabanned from Facebook.

Well, they kind of blocked that email address, yet the signups (and presumably data collection) kept coming, and now when I try to hit the "not your account?" link in sign ups it won't let me unlink them at all, it just throws a message saying "This email has been blocked by an administrator." or something like that.

And this? This is why I block all of Facebook's known domains, widget servers and everything I can quantify in my hosts file. When I transit the web I effectively am unable to interact with any Facebook product, including instagram. Facebook social media buttons don't show up at all on any of my pages, and at best throw a broken link to a FB favicon graphic.

That company and Mark Zuckerberg are so completely fucked. It needs to end. It's fucking up our geopolitical situation. It's not going to matter if activists or non-profits use it if the political scenario from facebook kills all of those non-profits.

Please, please try to delete Facebook. There's a lot of us on the outside waiting for the walls to come down.
posted by loquacious at 5:45 PM on December 19, 2018 [3 favorites]




I think it's not practical for many people to stop using Facebook, either personally or professionally. It's kind of like having a car: for some people it's a necessity; for some people it's a cool toy; for some people it's not worth it at all.

There's a lot of information that is only published on Facebook. I met a friend for dinner tonight because a restaurant we both love advertised 25 cent oysters (they're usually $1+) on Facebook. Some music venues near me only post listings there.

Some of my friends post pictures of their babies there and nowhere else. Some use Facebook to announce when they'll be "in town" for the holidays and see who's around.

I've easily done tens of thousands of dollars in freelance work that was posted on Facebook, plus paid trips to events that have led to more work. I've been paid to write about events I found advertised on Facebook. Friends have found housing that way.

It's funny how different media and tech matter to different people at different times, but it's absolutely the case. I'd probably lose more by deleting Facebook than by incinerating all my postal mail unread. Twitter and Tumblr I could take or leave.
posted by smelendez at 6:33 PM on December 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


I appreciate that for some eople deleting your account has been a godsend. More power to you.

For me I’m more convinced by the regulation argument. Not because I doubt the individual accounts of people who have benefited from closing their accounts. But the arguments they tend to make aren’t applicable to me personally.

I don’t have a problem with Facebook - by that I mean I don’t obsessively check it, I don’t feel the need to post perfomative stuff about my life, I don’t feel like I have to curate myself. I’m meh on Facebook generally. Facebook and I have an indifferent and tepid relationship with each other.

My problem is that almost my entire social, professional, and activist life-stuff exclusively use Facebook to coordinate and organize things. I wish that wasnt true. I’m old enough that email seems adequate to me. But it’s not to everyone else. If I stopped using it I would be completely cut off from 99% of the ordering of my social life. That sucks! I wish 99% of my social life were not ordered via Facebook! But it is. And I’m not going to convince all of these people and groups to all stop using Facebook and move to another platform. So I’m stuck. Regulating the shit out of it is my best hope I’m afraid.
posted by supercrayon at 6:53 PM on December 19, 2018 [8 favorites]


There's enough people in the world that you will lose if you are not on FB. Period. Unfortunately. I've been forced to use it Or Else in certain circumstances. It's as mandatory as a phone, computer, car, etc. You can try to go without one, but your life will be about this hampered, at least for some people.

"Facebook shadiness affects you even if you never used Facebook or have deleted your account."

I'm well aware. But there is not a goddamned thing I can do about it, or anything else in the world that bothers me. All you can do on your part is quit (if you can) and that's still not enough.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:53 PM on December 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


5. Eventually, the federated service takes over from Facebook, whose dataset is now too poisoned to be useful

I strongly support regulation (actually, public takeover), but as you may know, in the meantime there is a growing federated service of increasingly inter-operable open social media protocols. These can't replace Facebook yet for many of the reasons cited above, but I've been gearing up to shift portions of my local Facebook network over to one, eg for sharing family and friend photographs. Network effects are strong and it's hard to get people to abandon a network for another, but enough of our friends and family are wary of Facebook now that with a little guilt-tripping we may be able to get even the grandparents over to Hubzilla for simple viewing of family photos across the family network. Anyway, everyone knows transitions are hard, but there are lot of alternatives to giving up social media entirely, including partial departures for aspects that are not currently irreplaceable.

(And hopefully a few years after that, we can shift the overton window enough that we'll be debating regulation vs a "public option" vs a complete government takeover of social media hosting as a matter of human rights.)
posted by chortly at 8:53 PM on December 19, 2018




At what point do we simply jail Zuck and Co. just because?

Dear Mr Zuckerberg,

Your freedom has been suspended due to our system repeatedly flagging your activities as being in violation of the law. To understand your rights and responsibilities, or submit feedback, please click this link.

This is a system-generated message. Please do not reply.

Yours sincerely,

Society
posted by um at 10:31 PM on December 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


"Regulation!" means nothing until you specify exactly what you intend to regulate, how you intend to regulate, and why. "Just because there are bad actors..." and now you're starting to sound religious. Government public takeover of all social media? Hmmm...

Not only does FB exist because you can't get away from it, it exists mostly because tons of folks like it. Don't care about the privacy issues. Probably because they don't see the problem. The cost of being on FB isn't felt. What they do feel is the value it adds to their lives. As I see it, you have some folks going on about "Facebook is evil, and you should care!". Once it gets to the point of explaining why, most people simply shrug. I'm willing to bet most people would look at this thread, scratch their heads and wonder what the fuck we're even arguing about.

As someone who has spent his entire professional life in healthcare IT, this is why I routinely say that HIPAA is the bane of my existence, it makes my life harder - and I wouldn't have it any other way.

This is such a MetaFilter thing to say. "Make my life harder!" is, shall we say, a difficult sell to the regulars who populate the world. HIPAA is an interesting comparison, but I think a harder one to detail. The industry and culture is just too different.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:38 AM on December 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


If Facebook really is as integral to modern life as many people suggest, then it should be regulated as a public utility.
posted by Automocar at 7:04 AM on December 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


Re: Facebook + Spotify, sitting in a tree, k. i. s. s. i. n. g....

I've been doing a lot more streaming public radio lately (KEXP is a gem) out of the realization that Spotify wants to be as bad as Facebook in terms of unleashing graphics cards on my music history to make nosy predictions about my personal life. And I'm starting to discover there's value in having good DJs who will not only give me what I like, but also confront me with interesting stuff I don't like at least once a day. (As opposed to commercial FM that dishes up badness churned up by a different set of lazy marketing algorithms.)

But damn Spotify is convenient for previewing albums before purchase.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 7:05 AM on December 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


If Facebook really is as integral to modern life as many people suggest...

It's not. I refuse to give any credence to the "but I need it for my special reasons" din about Facebook. It is a slight convenience and nothing else. Unfortunately some people refuse to make even the tiniest concession in their lives for any reason and act like Gandhi leading the salt march if someone suggests they do so.
posted by FakeFreyja at 7:34 AM on December 20, 2018


> If you are a member of a marginalized group, live in an isolated area, are disabled, or in a number of other rather common situations, then no, losing "the digital stuff" means a degradation of one's quality of life - and in many cases, a significant degradation.

@Kirstie_Schultz: "Gentle reminder that for many disabled and chronically ill people, our communities only exist accessibly on social media...."
posted by homunculus at 7:41 AM on December 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


"Make my life harder!" is, shall we say, a difficult sell to the regulars who populate the world.

The analogous thing isn't "make your/my/our life harder!" when we're talking bout regular people - it's "make Facebook's life harder!". Much like regular people don't have to deal with HIPAA in any direct or conscious way, so they wouldn't with any privacy regulation on Facebook.
posted by Dysk at 7:44 AM on December 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


I refuse to give any credence to the "but I need it for my special reasons" din about Facebook. It is a slight convenience and nothing else.

This is an incredibly privileged position, for reasons that have been elaborated on in the thread. It may just be "a slight convenience" for you, but for many people it is a vital social channel - and your refusal to even consider that is the height of arrogance.

Not only does FB exist because you can't get away from it, it exists mostly because tons of folks like it. Don't care about the privacy issues. Probably because they don't see the problem. The cost of being on FB isn't felt. What they do feel is the value it adds to their lives. As I see it, you have some folks going on about "Facebook is evil, and you should care!". Once it gets to the point of explaining why, most people simply shrug. I'm willing to bet most people would look at this thread, scratch their heads and wonder what the fuck we're even arguing about.

From what I've seen, people actually are quite aware of the need for privacy for themselves, but just aren't aware of what's going on with these tech companies - and when they are made aware, the reaction tends to be not dismissal, but anger. Or to point out the obvious: if people really don't care, then why do Facebook, Alphabet, et al. conceal and obfuscate how they sell off personal data?

The analogous thing isn't "make your/my/our life harder!" when we're talking bout regular people - it's "make Facebook's life harder!". Much like regular people don't have to deal with HIPAA in any direct or conscious way, so they wouldn't with any privacy regulation on Facebook.

Pretty much the only thing that most people ever see with regards to HIPAA are disclosure release forms. The vast majority of the mechanisms are purely targeted at the healthcare industry.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:49 AM on December 20, 2018 [5 favorites]




A well regulated panopticon is still a panopticon: a giant, cross-referenced database of every detail of everyone's personal lives is a privacy nightmare by simply existing. So if by 'regulation' we mean 'smash monopolies and prevent the formation of giant centralized databases', then I'm on board, but I think it's wishful thinking to imagine that regulation can somehow preserve what are seen as the benefits of Facebook (a single unified social network to which virtually everyone belongs) while getting rid of the costs (a single unified database of everyone's personal information).
posted by Pyry at 8:26 AM on December 20, 2018


...Spotify wants to be as bad as Facebook in terms of unleashing graphics cards on my music history to make nosy predictions about my personal life.

My suggestion is that you screw up their data mining by devoting your streaming downtime to playing the most recent release by Korean boy band BTS over and over on a spare computer with the volume turned off.

(Nobody in my household is a hardcore BTS fan bent on pumping their US numbers and if there were such a person, they certainly wouldn't stoop to posting stuff as me on Metafilter.)
posted by suetanvil at 8:41 AM on December 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


Someone asked up thread for personal experiences with deleting Facebook, and I am posting because in the months leading up to my decision, I was looking for those, too. I joined Facebook in 2004, and I finally deleted my Facebook account last month. It has been bittersweet. I had ruthlessly culled my news feed and group memberships over the years, and one of the reasons why I left Facebook (in addition to the political/privacy fuck-ups) was because they kept fucking with my news feed. I don’t miss seeing annoying content bust through my feed settings yet again. I don’t miss rolling my eyes at the increasingly stupid posts of my senior citizen relatives (no wonder kids these days don’t even bother with Facebook).

There are some Facebook groups that I found very valuable over the years (especially one related to my kid’s rare medical issue, and another about eyeglasses for little kids), but as we have gotten older and our lives have luckily stabilized, those groups became less useful and left a niggling sense of anxiety in the back of my mind. My kid is on his own unique path, and reading about other paths (like medical crises, organ transplant, or developmental delays) made me keep wondering when the other shoe would drop for us. Also, there was a lot of annoyingly inaccurate info being posted by idiots, and I had a feeling that big pharma was secretly lurking and gathering info. I manually deleted all of my posts before hitting the delete account button so that at least they aren’t searchable by random users anymore.

One of the loveliest and most useful things about Facebook was seeing posts from friends saying, “I’ll be in City X next week, is anyone nearby?” and being able to post similar messages of my own. I had some really great friend reunions that way. But those posts have decreased as we’ve gotten older and more settled, plus due to algorithm fuckery there’s no guarantee that they would even appear on my news feed, so now we email and make plans in advance.

Because I’m a hypocrite who loves seeing kid, pet, and travel photos, I have transitioned to Instagram. Elsewhere on the web, I finally got through my multi-year backlog of bookmarks on Feedly, and I’m reading more books now. My Metafilter activity has increased (yay?). I refuse to use Twitter (why won’t it die? I thought it would be so dead by now). I feel less “connected,” but being connected meant maintaining a certain anxiety level, and right now I feel pleasantly cocooned. My husband ditched his Facebook account when he was done with college, so I don’t even get peripheral social media updates from him. It’s kind of nice right now, even though I miss seeing updates from my old network of exchange student friends around the world who I will likely never see again. Bittersweet.
posted by Maarika at 8:45 AM on December 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


I think it's wishful thinking to imagine that regulation can somehow preserve what are seen as the benefits of Facebook (a single unified social network to which virtually everyone belongs) while getting rid of the costs (a single unified database of everyone's personal information).

I don't think the mere existence of the database is a problem. It's the ways it might be used. Which regulation can absolutely be deployed to combat and prevent.
posted by Dysk at 8:45 AM on December 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


but I think it's wishful thinking to imagine that regulation can somehow preserve what are seen as the benefits of Facebook (a single unified social network to which virtually everyone belongs) while getting rid of the costs (a single unified database of everyone's personal information).

I would recommend that you read up on HIPAA and how it changed healthcare. Adding actual liability to owning this data forced the industry to reconsider what data they were keeping, and for how long. A lot of the issues with Facebook come back to a single source - lack of accountability.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:45 AM on December 20, 2018 [7 favorites]


The 21 (and Counting) Biggest Facebook Scandals of 2018 (Issie Lapowsky for Wired, Dec. 20, 2018)
  1. February 2018: Special counsel Robert Mueller's indictment of Russian trolls reveals the role Facebook played in Russia's plot—and so much more.
  2. March 2018: The United Nations cites Facebook's role in the slaughter of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar
  3. March 2018: Cambridge Analytica story makes front page news
  4. April 2018: Zuckerberg testifies before Congress
  5. May 2018: House Democrats release thousands of Russian troll ads, leading to new revelations
  6. May 2018: Facebook's political ad archive launches—with complications
  7. June 2018: Facebook's data deals with device manufacturers emerge
  8. July 2018: Facebook tells Congress it had special data arrangements with dozens of companies, including a Russian internet giant
  9. July 2018: Facebook finds more fake accounts likely linked to Russians
  10. July 2018: Facebook stock plummets after earnings report
  11. August 2018: Facebook finally bans Alex Jones
  12. August 2018: Facebook shuts down network of Iranian troll accounts and pages
  13. August 2018: Facebook's internal "political diversity" debate heats up
  14. September 2018: The ACLU says Facebook ads let employers favor men over women
  15. September 2018: Instagram founders quit
  16. September 2018: Facebook gets hacked big time
  17. October 2018: Facebook faces lawsuit over inflated video view metric
  18. November 2018: A New York Times investigation alleges Facebook covered up the Russia scandal and ordered opposition research on George Soros
  19. December 2018: Facebook's internal communications go public through a lawsuit over a defunct bikini app
  20. December 2018: Facebook bug exposes 6.8 million users' photos to third-party developers
  21. December 2018: Another Times investigation finds Facebook shared lots of personal user data with large companies
The article includes brief summaries and links to longer stories for each of the 21 items.


Facebook “partner” arrangements: Are they as bad as they look? -- New York Times report may have misinterpreted what “access” means. (Sean Gallagher for Ars Technica, Dec. 19, 2018)
A report by The New York Times on Tuesday evening laid out a series of apparently scandalous revelations about how Facebook gave other technology companies access to users’ private information, including friends lists and private messages. The report, however, may have exaggerated the scope of Facebook partners’ access to that data, which in many cases was limited to application integration.

Still, while Facebook executives have responded to the report by claiming that all access to user data was given with explicit permission from the users, the report does raise concerns that Facebook was not entirely transparent about how far those permissions went. For just one example, look at how Facebook harvested phone call records and SMS data on Android devices through Facebook applications.

In a statement issued Tuesday night, Facebook's director of developer platforms, Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, wrote of the integration features offered to Facebook partners:
To put it simply, this work was about helping people do two things. First, people could access their Facebook accounts or specific Facebook features on devices and platforms built by other companies like Apple, Amazon, Blackberry and Yahoo. These are known as integration partners. Second, people could have more social experiences—like seeing recommendations from their Facebook friends—on other popular apps and websites, like Netflix, The New York Times, Pandora and Spotify.
Papamiltiadis asserted that none of these integration points violated Facebook’s 2012 settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, because users gave permission for applications and websites to access their Facebook data. These included mobile and browser integration points (with Windows Phone and Apple’s Safari browser, for example), integration with Web mail clients to help find Facebook friends by mining contact lists, and integration with Facebook messaging to share things like Spotify song recommendations.

Access to many of these features required connecting users’ Facebook accounts with the applications and Web services. Most of these integration points, including one with Microsoft’s Bing search engine to allow sharing of searches with friends, were ostensibly shut down by Facebook in 2014, Papamiltiadis claimed.

But while the direct integration points were ended, the interfaces for a feature called “instant personalization” were left in place in Facebook’s platform. Instant personalization sent profile data automatically to some websites (including Bing), including the user’s name, friends list, and email address. Papamiltiadis said that instant personalization “only involved public information, and we have no evidence that data was used or misused after the program was shut down.” But the director did note that Facebook should not have left the application interfaces in place after the program was ended.
...
Facebook is still allowing a number of companies to tie into Facebook data: Amazon and Apple retain integration with Facebook user profile data, for example, and Facebook allows integration for notifications with the Mozilla, Opera, and Alibaba Web browsers. Papamiltiadis also noted that Facebook was providing such data hooks for the eye-tracking and assistive technology company Tobii in order to help people with ALS access Facebook.

Stamos noted that part of the problem with Facebook’s response to the report—and the company’s privacy posture in general—is that Facebook executives have failed to be transparent about what has and has not been shut down in Facebook’s application interfaces. “They need to list out all of these integrations, what was available, the user experience, and if and when it was shut down,” he said. “That is the right thing for users but also the best way for the company to respond to press and government questions.”

Why Should Anyone Believe Facebook Anymore? (Fred Vogelstein for Wired, Dec. 19, 2018)
Facebook gave the world a great new tool for staying connected. Zuckerberg even pitched it as a better internet—a safe space away from the anonymous trolls lurking everywhere else online. But it’s now rather debatable whether Facebook is really a better internet that is making the world a better place, or just another big powerful corporation out to make as much money as possible. Perhaps the world would be happier with Zuckerberg and Facebook, and the rest of their Silicon Valley brethren, if they stopped pretending to be people and businesses they are not.
My short reply: we shouldn't trust Facebook, and because of its sheer scale and amount of personal data, we should regulate it.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:57 AM on December 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


That Ars piece is demonstrative of another problem at the root of all this as well - that the tech press is way too cozy with the tech industry, which leads them to cover up more often than not.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:04 AM on December 20, 2018 [2 favorites]




Relevant post: Internet-enabled authoritarianism
posted by homunculus at 7:19 PM on December 20, 2018


Facebook Workers Are the Only Ones Who Can Hold Facebook Accountable: The scandal-ridden social network is unanswerable to regulators, users, and investors. For now, only its talent has the power to force change.

@libshipwreck: "It’s important to support the tech company employees fighting to change their companies from within. But these folks spend their days building surveillance tech for these companies, & we haven’t learned about these scandals from internal whistleblowers."
posted by homunculus at 12:43 PM on December 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


Anand Giridharadas: "Quitting Facebook is often an act of the privileged."
Given the market power our society has allowed Facebook to accumulate, leaving it to individual users to stay or go is like telling people to get a car if they don't like public transport delays.
posted by adamvasco at 8:27 AM on December 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


Which is a good point, but the rest of the Jarvis article he links to is hot bullshit. I'm sorry, but if people don't understand how APIs work, the problem isn't their lack of knowledge, but your failure in educating them. The fact that the Times story had people angry should have had the tech industry realizing that they needed to be more forthright, but instead it's the usual blaming the masses for not understanding that seems to be the default position for many techies.

Even worse is Dave Winer's "answer" of having journalists "work" with the tech industry to "figure out how this stuff should be covered." The reality is that tech "journalism" is a joke, in large part because of how it is too closely invested in its ostensible subjects, and how too often it winds up playing lapdog. This is harmful for two reasons:

* One, because of this close relationship, the tech press serves more as press flack than journalism, covering up the industry's fuckups.
* Two, it's given the tech industry a false model of what actual press coverage looks like - and causes the industry to view actual investigative journalism as being attacked unfairly. (See also: Musk, Elon.)

The Times article and response should have been a wakeup call. But instead, techies are once again going to blame people for "not understanding", failing to acknowledge that lack of understanding is a failure on their part.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:10 AM on December 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


A friend who works at FB just posted that he is cancelling his NYT subscription, in part because of his outrage about its recent FB coverage. I just giggled.
posted by PhineasGage at 9:24 AM on December 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


So Facebook more or less just declared open war on the New York Times, which is just fine. This is fine.
posted by Yowser at 12:23 PM on January 4


So Facebook more or less just declared open war on the New York Times, which is just fine. This is fine.

I'm not doubting this, but do you have a link for more info?
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:29 PM on January 4


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