Facebook Derangement Syndrome: The Company Has Problems, But Must We Read The Worst Into Absolutely Everything?

from the tough-to-take-people-seriously dept

Since the whole Facebook/Cambridge Analytica thing broke, we’ve been pointing out that there are many, many valid concerns about things Facebook has done, but people seem to be freaking out about things it didn’t actually do and that’s bad, because freaking out about the wrong things will make things worse, not better. Indeed, that seems to be the direction things are heading in.

One thing I’ve noticed in having this discussion a few times now both online and off is that there’s appears to be a bit of Facebook derangement syndrome going on. It seems to go something like this: Facebook did some bad things concerning our privacy, and therefore every single possible thing that Facebook does or Mark Zuckerberg says must have some evil intent. This is silly. Not only is it obviously wrong, but (more importantly) it makes it that much more difficult to have a serious discussion on the actual mistakes of Facebook and Zuckerberg, and to find ways to move forward productively.

I’ll give one example of this in practice, because it’s been bugging me. Back in January, in the podcast we had with Nabiha Syed about free speech and the internet, where the question of platform moderation came up, I brought up an idea I’ve discussed a few times before. Noting that one of the real problems with platform moderation is the complete lack of transparency and/or due process, I wondered whether or not there could be an independent judicial-type system that could be set up to determine whether or not an account truly violated a site’s policies. As I noted in the podcast, there could clearly be some problems with this (our own judicial system is costly and inefficient), but I still think there may be something worth exploring there. After all, one reason why so many people get upset about internet companies making these kinds of decisions is that they don’t know why they’re being made, and there’s no real way to appeal. An open judicial system of sorts could solve at least some of those problems, bringing both transparency and due process to the issue.

And while I’ve talked about this idea a few times before, I’ve never seen anyone else appear to take it seriously… until I was surprised to see Zuckerberg suggest something similar in his interview with Ezra Klein at Vox. That interview has been criticized for being full of softball questions, which is pretty fair criticism. But I still found this part interesting:

Here are a few of the principles. One is transparency. Right now, I don?t think we are transparent enough around the prevalence of different issues on the platform. We haven?t done a good job of publishing and being transparent about the prevalence of those kinds of issues, and the work that we?re doing and the trends of how we?re driving those things down over time.

A second is some sort of independent appeal process. Right now, if you post something on Facebook and someone reports it and our community operations and review team looks at it and decides that it needs to get taken down, there?s not really a way to appeal that. I think in any kind of good-functioning democratic system, there needs to be a way to appeal. And I think we can build that internally as a first step.

But over the long term, what I?d really like to get to is an independent appeal. So maybe folks at Facebook make the first decision based on the community standards that are outlined, and then people can get a second opinion. You can imagine some sort of structure, almost like a Supreme Court, that is made up of independent folks who don?t work for Facebook, who ultimately make the final judgment call on what should be acceptable speech in a community that reflects the social norms and values of people all around the world.

Huh. That’s almost exactly what I suggested. Again, I also see some potential problems with this kind of setup and am not 100% convinced it’s the best idea — but it does solve some of the very real existing problems. But, the knee jerk “everything Zuckerber says must be bad” crowd kinda took this statement and ran with it… straight into a wall. Here’s the tweet that Laura Rosenberger, a former high level government staffer, had to say in response to that part of Zuck’s interview:

If you can’t read it, she says:

This is terrifying. Facebook essentially sees itself becoming a system on world governance, complete with its own Supreme Court.

So, first of all, this gets what Zuckerberg said exactly backwards. Indeed, it takes a special kind of “must-hate-on-everything-he-says” attitude to misread a statement about being more transparent and more accountable to an outside set of arbitrators, and turn it into Facebook wants to build its own Supreme Court. I mean, he literally says it should be an outside panel reviewing Facebook’s decisions, and she turns it into “Facebook’s own Supreme Court.”

But, of course, her tweet got tons of retweets, and lots of people agreeing and chipping in comments about how Zuckerberg is a sociopath and dangerous and whatnot. And, hey, he may very well be those things, but not for what he said here. He actually seemed to be recognizing the very real problem of Facebook having too much power to make decisions that have a huge impact, and actually seemed to open up the idea of giving up some of that power to outside arbitrators, and doing so in a much more transparent way. Which is the kind of thing we should be encouraging.

And, instead, he gets attacked for it.

If that’s what happens when he actually makes a potentially good suggestion that results in more transparency and due process, then why should he bother to keep trying? Instead, he can do what people keep demanding he do, and become an even more powerful middleman, with even less transparency and more control over everyone’s data — which he could now do in the name of “protecting your data.”

So can we please get past this Facebook derangement syndrome where people are so quick to read the worst into everything Facebook does or Zuckerberg says that we actively discourage the good ideas and push him towards even worse ideas?

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Companies: cambridge analytica, facebook

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Comments on “Facebook Derangement Syndrome: The Company Has Problems, But Must We Read The Worst Into Absolutely Everything?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

incompetence or evil intentions?

Perhaps the root of the problem is that Facebook has had such a long history of violating people’s trust, little by little, time after time. The latest flap was that Zuckerberg had –and used– the power to delete messages from people’s inboxes.

So of course people tend to think that everything odd or suspicious that happens at Facebook is due to Zuckerberg’s evil intentions, because frankly, he’s earned that reputation many times over.

James T (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 incompetence or evil intentions?

You have to take a step back in time and look at what Facebook was then. It wasn’t anything. That quote was before it was out of a few schools or even maybe just Harvard. What information did it have contact info for people? Yeah sure he could have spammed them and call the hot girls. Typical college guy bullshit talking.

Since then it evolved into an online social media ecosystem. It’s been turned into a legitimate company. Zuckerberg doesn’t need to be calling the hot girls. Somewhere along the lines Facebook turned into a huge social tool. Yes it runs on Ads most of those details are not directly connected to you. The analytics firms and marketing companies do the connections. They run everything in your life from your internet connections via Verizon to the credit card you use at starbucks. They even profile you using cash purchases on a rewards card.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 incompetence or evil intentions?

Self publishing on the Internet via various platforms is still possible without having to get past an external editor. This includes sites like YouTube, Jamendo, blogger, wordpress etc. People can set up Mastodon instances etc. You can even publish Ebooks via amazon. All of which become problematic without section 230.

Anonymous Coward says:

>But Must We Read The Worst Into Absolutely Everything?

Yes, according to every politician and lobbyist with an agenda; and the DOJ when the want to put someone away. Look at what happened to Kim Dotcom, Backpages, and in the push for FESTA/SESTA. With those institutions leading the way, is it any surprise that anybody with an agenda will use the same tactic.

Mark Murphy (profile) says:

Who appoints the arbiters?

Indeed, it takes a special kind of "must-hate-on-everything-he-says" attitude to misread a statement about being more transparent and more accountable to an outside set of arbitrators, and turn it into Facebook wants to build its own Supreme Court.

I think you are both reading your own interpretation into Mr. Zuckerberg’s statement, and that statement is very light on the details.

Here’s the key sentence from the quoted passage:

You can imagine some sort of structure, almost like a Supreme Court, that is made up of independent folks who don’t work for Facebook, who ultimately make the final judgment call on what should be acceptable speech in a community that reflects the social norms and values of people all around the world.

The problem is that this does not say where this group of arbiters is coming from. Roughly speaking, there seem to be three possibilities:

  1. Facebook appoints them. If this is what happens, Ms. Rosenberger’s comment, while a bit hyperbolic, isn’t all that far off. Unless the arbiters are volunteers — which seems unscalable — the arbiters are paid by Facebook and therefore have a built-in bias to make Facebook happy.

  2. Facebook hires an outside firm or organization, which appoints them. This is a somewhat more elaborate version of the arbitration approaches that are "the new black" in all these terms of service. And — as I seem to recall being pointed out on Techdirt in the past — those arbitration firms have a built-in bias to find for Facebook, since Facebook is the client.

  3. Facebook agrees to abide by the decisions of some truly independent board, appointed by some truly independent agency. IOW, it’s turtles all the way down. I haven’t the foggiest notion how this would get set up. But, if neither the arbiters nor those who appoint them have any ties to Facebook, this would fit more with your interpretation.

We won’t know if the glass is half-empty, half-full, or contains a possibly-dead cat until something actually happens.

TKnarr (profile) says:

Re: Who appoints the arbiters?

It’s not so much that the firms have a built-in bias in favor of Facebook as that Facebook’s the only party that can select arbitration panels and it deliberately selects panels that favor Facebook. Basically case 2 quickly and inevitably becomes equivalent to case 1 unless the selection process is designed to prevent any single party from having sole control of the selection of arbitration panel.

Knowing how things have gone in the binding-arbitration area, I’m inclined to believe any businessman’s proposal of another arbitration system will go the same way until I’m presented with evidence to the contrary.

Anonymous Coward says:

Upcoming: Tuesday Senate Hearing

U.S. Senate joint committee hearing upcoming Tuesday, April 10, 2018 at 2:15 pm before the Committee on the Judiciary and Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

Hearing webpage: Facebook, Social Media Privacy, and the Use and Abuse of Data (Commerce Committee)

Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) and Senate Committee on the Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) will convene a hearing titled “Facebook, Social Media Privacy, and the Use and Abuse of Data,” at 2:15 p.m. on April 10, 2018.

Airing LIVE Tuesday, Apr 10 2:15pm EDT on C-SPAN3

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Senate joint committee hearing transcript

Transcript of Mark Zuckerberg’s Senate hearing”, Washington Post, Apr 10, 2018

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg appeared before the Senate’s Commerce and Judiciary committees Tuesday to discuss data privacy and Russian disinformation on his social network. Below is the transcript of the hearing. . . .

(WaPo credit: “Transcript courtesy of Bloomberg Government”.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Upcoming: Wednesday House Hearing

U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce full committee hearing upcoming Wednesday, April 11, 2018, at 10:00 a.m.

Hearing webpage: Facebook: Transparency and Use of Consumer Data (House Commerce Commitee)

WITNESS: Mark Zuckerberg, Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO, Facebook, Inc.

Live streamed on YouTube.

Airing LIVE Wednesday, Apr 11 10:00am EDT on C-SPAN3.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: House Energy and Commerce hearing transcript

Transcript of Zuckerberg’s appearance before House committee”, Washington Post, Apr 11, 2018

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg appeared before the House Energy and Commerce Committee Wednesday for his second day of questioning on the Hill. Below is a partial transcript of the hearing. . . .

(WaPo credit: “Transcript courtesy of Bloomberg Government”.)

Anonymous Coward says:

I'm Amazed Anything About This Is A Surprise

Maybe people are dumb, maybe people are ignorant, maybe people just don’t read the ToS but here are some things to know:

-Facebook sells your data wholesale to the highest bidder.
-Facebook gathers data from every program/app connected to it.
-You are warned about the two above points every time their privacy policy is updated.

But let’s say like 99.9% of people you don’t even skim the text presented to you, how is anyone surprised? The Ads delivered to you are tailored by your Facebook usage habits. You know that, I know that, even Grandma can figure out Ads are made just for her. We then agree Ads use personal data to determine the nature of product to sell. Why couldn’t that same data be sold to an analytics firm, a sports team recruiter, or even a dating site (this last one has an interesting story behind it by the way).

So unless we’ve collectively been LARP’ing as ostriches we already knew Facebook sold our data. All this grandeur over how it is used is really meaningless.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I'm Amazed Anything About This Is A Surprise

No, they don’t.

Not anymore. They say. See the FTC complaint linked below, in which the FTC claimed:

Contrary to the statements set forth in Paragraph 36(a)-(d), in many instances, Facebook has shared information about users with Platform Advertisers by identifying to them the users who clicked on their ads and to whom those ads were targeted. Specifically, from at least September 2008 until May 26, 2010, Facebook designed and operated its web site such that, in many instances, the User ID for a user who clicked on a Platform Ad was shared with the Platform Advertiser.

38. As a result of the conduct described in Paragraph 37, Platform Advertisers potentially could take steps to get detailed information about individual users. For example, a Platform Advertiser could use the User ID to: a. access the user’s profile page on http://www.facebook.com, to obtain his or her real name, and, after December 8, 2009, other PAI which has included a user’s Profile Picture, Gender, Current City, Friend List, Pages, and Networks;
(etc. etc.)

That was 3 years before Facebook gave Cambridge Analytica any information (specifically, pretty much the exact information they’d already gotten in trouble for providing).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I'm Amazed Anything About This Is A Surprise

What are the facts? Wikipedia says they got the data from Facebook: "Aleksandr Kogan, a data scientist at Cambridge University, developed an app called thisisyourdigitallife. He provided the app to Cambridge Analytica. Cambridge Analytica in turn arranged an informed consent process for research in which several hundred thousand Facebook users would agree to complete a survey only for academic use. However, Facebook’s design allowed this app to not only collect the personal information of people who agreed to take the survey, but also the personal information of all the people in those users’ Facebook social network. In this way Cambridge Analytica acquired data for 50 million Facebook users."

As described, some user authorized this app to collect data. The company used this authorization to ask for, and receive, data from Facebook–including data about other people.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 I'm Amazed Anything About This Is A Surprise

Hmm, as far as I know, their main relationship with data vendors is actually connecting their advertisers with external data providers who give them access to non-Facebook marketing data as a way to better identify audiences on Facebook. (Remember that, by at least some metrics, Facebook’s collection and use of data is arguably far milder than other more traditional forms of data gathering and market research).

Then there are the data firms that create apps and such on Facebook to harvest data – not just high-profile and extremely shifty stuff like Cambridge Analytica, but the generic personality quizzes and “fun” stupid little apps that people connect to and give a bunch of data to. And Facebook does genuinely seem to have made progress in curtailing that practice – but I absolutely would like to see them do more, and really get a lot of that shit off the network entirely, for sure. I’m certainly not saying they are 100% blameless or perfect.

But I don’t know of any situation in which Facebook has simply sold user information to data vendors.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: I'm Amazed Anything About This Is A Surprise

Yeah….I don’t feel “sells your data wholesale to the highest bidder” properly desacribes the situation described in allegations of the FTC complaint. Seems more like facebook sold ads at standard rates and shares targeted info of those who clicked on the ads.

Moreover, AS YOU NOTE, Facebook ceased the tactic 3 years before Facebook gave information to a Facebook app, at the Facebook user’s request, without any financial transaction, to a researcher, who lied about what he was doing. Which also is not properly described as “Sell[ing] your data wholesale to the highest bidder”.

Your statement can’t even be classified as hyperbole. Its just wrong, and contributes to the misinformation going around.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I'm Amazed Anything About This Is A Surprise

Moreover, AS YOU NOTE, Facebook ceased the tactic 3 years before

I’m taking their claim with a huge grain of salt. A lot of the other things they promised never to do again sound exactly like the recent breach.

Facebook gave information to a Facebook app, at the Facebook user’s request

To be precise: "a" user’s request, not "the" user’s request. Some users authorized the disclosure of their own data and their friends’ data; most of the friends didn’t authorize it or know about it until this year.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 I'm Amazed Anything About This Is A Surprise

But where is proof they don’t sell your data (or at least misuse it). I know that is trying to prove a negative so there is no chance we can be 100% certain.

Facebook is a company that has shareholders to appease. They will do whatever they need to so that they can make money and keep the investors happy. That doesn’t mean they are selling all your data but the temptation and ability are there. I personally believe that if they haven’t completely exploited all information from their products (remember you are their product) then they probably will sometime in the future. And if facebook doesn’t do it directly someone else will utilize the platform in such a way. Cambridge Analytica already did, but who is the next one to be brought to light.

Is it a surprise user data was harvested for nefarious purposes, no. Will it be harvested for evil intent again, probably.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 I'm Amazed Anything About This Is A Surprise

But where is proof they don’t sell your data (or at least misuse it). I know that is trying to prove a negative so there is no chance we can be 100% certain.

No proof, but is it in their best interest? Like drug dealers, they want their customers to keep coming back for more. If they buy all the data they’d have less need for Facebook. They could start reselling it themselves.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I'm Amazed Anything About This Is A Surprise

Maybe people are dumb, maybe people are ignorant, maybe people just don’t read the ToS

Maybe they thought Facebook would actually comply with their 2011 FTC settlement, in which they agreed to "obtain consumers’ affirmative express consent [N.B., not something hidden in fine print] before enacting changes that override their privacy preferences"?

Highlights of their lies at that time (all quoted from FTC):

  • Facebook represented that third-party apps that users’ installed would have access only to user information that they needed to operate. In fact, the apps could access nearly all of users’ personal data – data the apps didn’t need.
  • Facebook told users they could restrict sharing of data to limited audiences – for example with "Friends Only." In fact, selecting "Friends Only" did not prevent their information from being shared with third-party applications their friends used.
  • Facebook had a "Verified Apps" program & claimed it certified the security of participating apps. It didn’t.
  • Facebook promised users that it would not share their personal information with advertisers. It did.

(For reference: Cambridge Analytica started collecting in 2014.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I'm Amazed Anything About This Is A Surprise

They either sell it or give it away for free. I don’t know Zuckerberg personally but I’d wager "give it away for free" is the less tempting of those options.


Sharing With Third-Party Partners and Customers
We work with third party companies who help us provide and improve our Services or who use advertising or related products, which makes it possible to operate our companies and provide free services to people around the world.
Here are the types of third parties we can share information with about you:

Vendors, service providers and other partners. We transfer information to vendors, service providers, and other partners who globally support our business, such as providing technical infrastructure services, analyzing how our Services are used, measuring the effectiveness of ads and services, providing customer service, facilitating payments, or conducting academic research and surveys. These partners must adhere to strict confidentiality obligations in a way that is consistent with this Data Policy and the agreements we enter into with them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Zuckerberg: 'It was my mistake, and I’m sorry.'

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to Capitol Hill: ‘It was my mistake, and I’m sorry.’ ”, by Craig Timberg and Tony Romm, Washington Post, Apr 9, 2018

The release of the testimony, for Wednesday’s appearance before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is part of a major public relations push by Facebook . . .


Mark Zuckerberg’s prepared testimony (from House Energy and Commerce Committee website).

Binsky (profile) says:


I’m not sure what is more surprising here: The amount of flack Facebook is receiving right now for lax data protection, or the lack of flack that appears to be coming towards the different governments for doing something very similar.

I mean, both have tons of data on us, and both will at times inadvertenly lose track of some of that data.

At least Facebook is being kind of open on the fact that all your actions are logged and sold…

Anonymous Coward says:

You could say the same thing about Trump and his administration.

What has actually happened? Has the EPA rolled back everything? Actually, no, nothing has been rolled back. Is Gitmo closed (oh, sorry, Obama said he was going to do that, but it is still open.) ACA isn’t dead, but only the requirement has changed. Immigration? What has actually happened? Not much.

ECA (profile) says:

Its strange ...

That everyone is poking sticks at 1 source..
Dont blame ALL the sites for doing the SAME THING..or even worse.
Iv been to Adult sites that have LESS CRAP, LESS ADVERTS, LESS TRACKING, LESS everything…then MANY other commercial sites..

TRY getting around this site with an add blocker..
Iv had to allow about 30 External links to use the site..
Iv even sent a letter and declared to them that is NOT GOOD PROGRAMMING..

Yes, FB has had strange things happen..BUT as long as its OPINION, its not a real bad thing.
And it would be NEAT to apply a BS meter to SOME of the crap floating on the surface..almost ALL Politics is BS..and much that has PERCENTAGES with no base numbers(1/2 lies) is REAL BS..
I WOULD LOVE THE JOB…anything sent out Publicly by a NON-PERSON..to be monitored…could/would have a BS meter..And anything pointing FINGERS gets one also, unless they can SHOW a positive proof..(WHICH ISNT EASY MOST TIMES)

I love those that use Percentages to Obfuscate FACTS..
“A 200% increase a killings” is like saying 2 people were killed, or 2 MORE people then last year were killed.
Go look at the number of ‘SAID’ School shooting from last year..300+???? then look at the reports.. Talk about BS..1 broken window is NOT a school shooting..esp out in the RURAL areas, where BB guns are all over the place.. And a kid taking a BB gun to school IS NOT A SCHOOL SHOOTING..

BUT, FB has the same problem WE DO about Politics..Politicians LOVE to pay for things and declare its an ADVERT, NOT POLITICS.. And we have not FORCED ‘truth in adverts’ for along TIME..

Anonymous Coward says:

NYT: 'Intense interest and a media circus.'

Mark Zuckerberg Meets With Top Lawmakers Before Hearings”, by Cecilia Kang and Tiffany Hsu, New York Times, Apr 9, 2018

The prospect of Mr. Zuckerberg, a 33-year-old billionaire, getting taken to task on Capitol Hill has created intense interest and a media circus. On Monday, he was trailed by more than a dozen television cameras and numerous reporters when . . . .

Anonymous Coward says:

Sorry, but I disagree.

You’d have to be a really dumb fuck to take Zuckerberg at his word.

Do you often find yourself having a problem where you fall for the same scam, run by the same scam artist, over and over again because you don’t think it’s right to instantly judge someone for betraying and disregarding your trust over and over again?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

What nuance is there to understand?

Please explain to me why I should once again trust someone who has shown a blatant, repeated and consistent disregard for my privacy along with an incredibly arrogant and dismissive attitude towards the people who he is profiting off.

You sound like someone who believed that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Well, I guess it depends what exactly you are proposing. There are over 2-billion Facebook users in the world. They aren’t all just going to simultaneously quit. And Facebook, let us not forget, is an incredibly useful and beneficial service in many ways – or at least many of its functions are. So, the question becomes:

Do you have any interest in improving this situation? Perhaps that could be done with organized user action, or with well-conceived and executed competition, or with smartly-tailored regulation that doesn’t bite us in the ass in future or end up actually making it harder to compete with Facebook.

All of those things require real, nuanced understanding of how Facebook operates, and the mistakes it has made. None of those things are assisted by hyperbole, inaccuracy, or absolutism.

Alternatively, are you saying there should just be drastic action to eliminate or massively curtail Facebook? Strict, harsh new laws and regulations that make it impossible for it to operate in any way slightly resembling how it does now? Or perhaps an expansive personal lawsuit against Zuck to remove him and hand the company to someone else? Those are all examples of "un-nuanced" approaches.

And they all seem like pretty risky rolls of the dice to me. Regulation drafted hastily and in anger will either fail to accomplish anything, or end up creating procedural hurdles that only a company of Facebook’s scale can manage, and end up making it more deeply entrenched and impossible to compete with. Putting someone else in charge is unlikely to change much except on the surface, because though you may not want to except it, Facebook’s problems probably aren’t solely the result of some demonic evil in Zuck’s heart.

Or… are you just saying that YOU hate Zuck and Facebook, and you don’t really give a fuck about anyone else, and are happy to just mock them for being fools? If so that is certainly your prerogative, but not a particularly useful or admirable perspective.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

What I’m “proposing” is that individual people quit. Of course there’s not going to be a mass exodus movement – too many people rely on the service for one reason or another. They have almost no power in this situation whatsoever.

As for improving this situation, of course I have an interest in doing so – I don’t want to be part of the panopticon either. If I was going to propose a set of legislation to fix some of the problems, it’d probably look something like the following (though much more verbose given the requirements of legal language).

1. It should be forbidden to collect and hold personal information on someone for more than a short period of time (obviously you need to record some information for website functionality) without their express consent.
2. All data-collection services such as Facebook should be independently audited on a regular basis to ensure that they are operating within the confines of the law – “just trust us” is simply not good enough.
3. All information generated about a user from their habits should be accessible by the user at a moment’s notice.
4. At any point, a user should be able to revoke their permission and have all data collected on or about them permanently removed.

Though it’d be hard to find a way to phrase it in a less specific way, I’d also like to make Facebook and Google liable for 200% of all profits gained from somebody’s personal information without their express and aware consent. If Facebook maintained a shadow profile on you and earned revenue on the basis of that information, you should be able to claim twice that amount back from them in damages.

Now, while there’s obviously a substantial risk of damaging the market in this case, I actually don’t care. Tracking and profiling people in this manner is exceedingly dangerous, and all it will take is one or two data breaches for people’s lives to be seriously and negatively impacted. If it turns out that doing this sort of business responsibly is unprofitable and companies like Facebook have to shut down, I don’t see that as a bad thing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

too many people rely on the service for one reason or another. They have almost no power in this situation whatsoever.

Correction: they have all the power, but they probably won’t use that power because it would be inconvenient. Look at what happened with Myspace, Google Plus, etc. to see what people could do.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Thank’s for fleshing it out more.

Based on the law as you’ve written it there, it would also pretty much ban Equifax and all other credit rating companies – or, perhaps more critically, it would ban FICO which tracks and provides the actual data. It would also ban stuff like Nielsen and Axciom. It would ban private anti-fraud identity confirmation services like Intelius and ID Analytics.

And maybe that’s all fine! I wouldn’t mind seeing a lot of those companies scale down or completely change their practices. But unfortunately you don’t get to say that you simply “don’t care” about the impact on the market – you’re talking about a law that would change SO MUCH and destroy many, many businesses. People who say they “don’t care” don’t really get any input into something like that – obviously nobody will ever embrace your proposal if you are uninterested in what its actual impact will be beyond your narrow vision. So yeah, nuance matters.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

But look, I unfairly threw a bunch of examples at you there, so let’s just focus on one: FICO (Fair, Isaac and Company) which is the engine of the entire consumer credit rating system in America. Their only job is gathering extensive personal data on as many individuals as they possibly can, and selling that data to lenders.

Now again, I’m not saying I have no concerns about that – indeed, I have big ones, and I think it’s shocking how little the credit system gets discussed amidst people’s freakouts about social media.

But I also suspect that writing a law that would just instantly upend and sow chaos through the entire credit rating system in all of America would… probably be pretty fucking dangerous. Seems like something you’d want to do with extreme care.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Apologies for the delay in replying – the real world and employment can be complicated.

As for banning credit reporting companies, that’s exactly what I wanted to do. Why on earth should we trust a company like Equifax with that much personal data? I’m fairly certain that recent history has proven that allowing these people to maintain such massive databases of personal information is a terrible idea.

Obviously implementing these changes instantly would cause chaos, but actually implementing these changes would require a period of adjustment – I never claimed that it would happen overnight. But at the same time, the idea that this would destroy the credit system entirely is farcical. It would be entirely possible for a company like Equifax to function in this kind of environment – if you want to get a loan, you should actually have to provide accurate financial information, and there’s nothing wrong with a lender requesting that you consent before they give you money. What it would do, however, is curtail a lot of the many, well-documented abuses of personal information found in those industries.

alternatives() says:

And stuff that gets posted and stays up?

“A second is some sort of independent appeal process.”

I am aware of a case where someone ran a business which stated its goal was manipulation of reviews. Lo and behold this person used edited video and was able to drive down reviews from 4.7 to 2.1 with his video. FaceBook kept the video up but the business closed up the web page and shop after the challenge was made to its veracity in public. FaceBook is sticky – he called for people to do the same review crap on Google/Yelp/elsewhere and while he could get 150+ negative reviews on the ginned up video on FaceBook – 2 Yelp and 1 Google review. Both Yelp and Google removed the reviews.

Suing this “businessman” is an option. But his latest InstaGram post shows the trailer he just bought and how he’s a ‘homeowner’ now and that mean’s this 32 year old is “Adulting”. Not alot of pay-off for a second “Independant review process” via a Court Order.

Perhaps California’s SB 1424 would provide relief?

Anonymous Coward says:

Watch out! Five - make that seven - things

Five things to watch in Zuckerberg’s testimony”, by Ali Breland and Harper Neidig, The Hill, Apr 9, 2018

The hearings are certain to produce a media spectacle, with wall-to-wall coverage expected on cable news. Zuckerberg’s initial trip to Capitol Hill on Monday provided a taste of what’s to come, with a crush of reporters and cameras trailing his every move.

Zuckerberg testifies: Seven things to look out for”, by Dave Lee, BBC, Apr 9, 2018

Expect the more camera-keen representatives to go for this gotcha moment from the word go. They will want to be the soundbite in the evening news, or the clip that’s shared by millions on, ironically enough, Facebook.

David says:

Must we read the worst into absolutely everything?

Regarding what a personal responsibility deflecting hierarchic structure of technocrats will come up with given a target like “make money” or “ensure national security” or “keep our race pure”, the worst assumptions an average human can make fall far short of reality because decision structures don’t think like humans.

A comparatively low quota of complete sociopaths is required for keeping an inhuman program running and in good shape.

This is why Richard Stallman is a paranoid nutcase warning about stuff nobody would do. It’s also why he keeps being right or even conservative about his predictions.

If the worst is profitable for someone, reading the worst into absolutely everything is likely falling short of reality.

Anonymous Coward says:

Facebook DEFENSE Syndrome: Techdirt for Corporate Surveillance.

From reading Masnick, you’d never know that Facebook is a ruthless corporation with “move fast and break stuff” attitude, gets billions for basically nothing it produces, pays almost no taxes on that income, and is a corporate front for the Surveillance State, feeding NSA / CIA.

None of the evil matters to corporatist Masnick, only the money does.

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