Facebook discovers Washington, DC – not the other way round


Feliciotti

From Om Malik’s April 28th weekly newsletter

❝ Bloomberg Technology host Emily Chang asked me where I think Facebook will be in a year. My answer: Pretty much where it is now. It will be unchanged or even emboldened, thanks in part to its new strategy of buying protection in Washington. Like many other industries — for example, tobacco and oil — Facebook has figured out that it can help write regulations that will allow it to exist blissfully and put its competitors at a disadvantage.

To tame Washington, you must have the right people. So, the company has begun hiring individuals that will help achieve this goal. These are seemingly innocuous moves in what is a long game…

❝ Neither advertisers nor Wall Street — the two constituents that matter more to the company than the people — don’t seem to care about the regulations and the stream of outrage news. Macquarie Research analyst Ben Schachter put it best when, in a note to his clients he pointed out that, if you “take away all the headlines, the controversies, the regulations, and what you are left with” is a company with lots of users on its platforms that “advertisers will pay to reach.”

The operative verb being “PAY”. Advertisers paying Facebook. Facebook paying lobbyists. Facebook paying new hires with experience at balancing the whole quasi-payola mechanism.

Facebook busted for bigoted adverts

❝ The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said it’s charging Facebook Inc. with allegedly violating the Fair Housing Act by restricting who can view housing-related ads.

❝ “Facebook is discriminating against people based upon who they are and where they live,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said. “Using a computer to limit a person’s housing choices can be just as discriminatory as slamming a door in someone’s face.”

The social network allowed those advertising housing to exclude people it classified as parents; non-American-born; non-Christian; interested in accessibility and Hispanic culture; as well as other group’s deemed protected classes, according to HUD.

Facebook responded by saying, “Gee-whiz. We’re trying to reduce the bigotry in our ads. We’re just too busy counting our money to catch up with stuff like that.”

OK. That really isn’t what they said; but, it might as well be. Self-pitying whining about cost and time constraints from a company that rolls in money faster than they can stack it into boxcars ain’t cutting much ice with the few honorable folks remaining in federal government.

You thought FACEBOOK relies on free speech standards based on common law?

❝ Documents obtained by the New York Times show how the social giant’s international content moderation strategy is dictated by thousands of pages of PowerPoint presentations and spreadsheets that “sometimes clumsily” tell thousands of moderators what to allow and what to delete. The revelation raises deep questions about the future of Facebook’s role in international discourse — especially in the wake of damaging revelations about how the platform allowed propaganda during the 2016 U.S. presidential elections…

❝ Facebook moderators who spoke to the Times under condition of anonymity said they felt hamstrung by the extraordinarily complex rule set, which forces them to make rapid decisions, sometimes using Google Translate, about fraught topics including terrorism and sectarian violence…

❝ The result, according to the Times, is that Facebook has become a “far more powerful arbiter of global speech than has been publicly recognized or acknowledged by the company itself.”

RTFA. Ain’t about to make you assured the Honchos are working for the common good or trying to match historical standards. But, then, 19th Century minds rely on 17th Century guidebooks written by a handful of English pimps to a colonial King. Or The Players Edition of the Rules of Golf.

Review everything Facebook knows about you

❝ If you can’t bring yourself to delete your Facebook account entirely, you’re probably thinking about sharing a lot less private information on the site. The company actually makes it pretty easy to find out how much data it’s collected from you, but the results might be a little scary.

❝ When software developer Dylan McKay went and downloaded all of his data from Facebook, he was shocked to find that the social network had timestamps on every phone call and SMS message he made in the past few years, even though he says doesn’t use the app for calls or texts. It even created a log of every call between McKay and his partner’s mom…

❝ To get your own data dump, head to your Facebook Settings and click on “Download a copy of your data” at the bottom of the page. Facebook needs a little time to compile all that information, but it should be ready in about 10 minutes based on my own experience. You’ll receive a notification sending you to a page where you can download the data—after re-entering your account password, of course.

The (likely huge) file downloads onto your computer as a ZIP. Once you extract it, open the new folder and click on the “index.html” to view the data in your browser.

Then, check over here to see if Facebook’s latest bug made all your photos available to the interwebitubes.

Facebook’s email dump in the UK

❝ As expected, the UK Parliament has released a set of internal Facebook emails that were seized as part of its investigation into the company’s data-privacy practices. The 250-page document, which includes conversations between Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other high-level executives, is a window into the social media giant’s ruthless thinking from 2012 to 2015 — a period of time when it was growing (and collecting user data) at an unstoppable rate…

❝ If Facebook was hoping to close the year without any more controversies, these internal documents certainly won’t help. They’re yet another example of the company’s old, ambitious motto to “move fast and break things,” one that it’s desperately trying to get away from.

Some of the folks I respect the most – like Om Malik – have wholly nuked their Facebook presence. The only reason I retain a site there is to maintain minimal contact with old friends and family back in New England and round about this tired planet. Frankly, I’m the worst in the world at actually staying in touch. I never get round to answering “how are you doin'” inquiries from folks I still love as comrades fighting bigotry and war. Hopefully, they remember I was always craptastic at that.

Facebook can’t manage the harm it causes

❝ Never before has one company’s failure had such a devastating impact on the world. Facebook’s presence is truly global, as are the consequences of its failure to anticipate how its platform could be misused and abused. And yet never before has a single company been asked to fix a global problem.

❝ Racists, autocrats, and purveyors of hate and disorder have found Facebook the perfect medium for spewing poison, normalizing it, and gaining adherents. Facebook is a broadcast platform for anyone, including those who would break the rules, fake the news, lie, and mislead the community. Societies around the world are reeling from the consequences. Politics and democracy are under duress. And thus far, Facebook does not have an effective way to fight back. It is only beginning to try…

❝ Facebook received repeated warnings for at least six years from informed observers around the world that things were going wrong. But it appears to have almost entirely disregarded them. Gaining more users in any and all geographies was the company’s overarching priority, and it succeeded. The service was growing at an incredible pace into just about every country on earth. It is now a dominant medium of communications, typically the most dominant, in about 190 countries.

It expanded at full tilt into innumerable geographies where it lacked local expertise. But how could it possibly ensure its rules were being followed when nobody at the company spoke the local language or understood the nuances of the local culture? It couldn’t.

RTFA! David Kirkpatrick continues to provide socially useful analysis and evaluation in the online world we all know and love – and criticize. I certainly take the time to pay him close attention when I catch his appearance online or on the tube (sic).

Facebook PR Campaign says “Your info is safe, now” — WRONG!!

The Cambridge Analytica scandal exposed what wasn’t really a secret, that Facebook is harvesting a lot of user data and that the data is shared with others. The privacy breach revealed that Facebook wasn’t doing enough to protect your privacy and that developers like Cambridge Analytica could take your data and your Facebook friends’ data and use it for whatever they wanted.

Since these revelations, Facebook has been trying to convince everyone that it can be trusted, that it will take measures to stop these practices, that your privacy matters to the company. But while it was performing this massive PR campaign, a different quiz app that had as many as 120 million users left their data exposed for others to see. Facebook was warned about it and needed many weeks to address and fix it properly.

Depending on what quizzes you took, the javascript could leak your Facebook ID, first name, last name, language, gender, date of birth, profile picture, cover photo, currency, devices you use, when your information was last updated, your posts and statuses, your photos and your friends.

RTFA originally published by the hacker who revealed the privacy breach.