Zeynep Tufekci on Facebook and Cambridge Analytica

Zeynep Tufekci is particularly cogent about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.

Several news outlets asked me to write about this issue. I didn't, because 1) my book manuscript is due on Monday (finally!), and 2) I knew Zeynep would say what I would say, only better.

Posted on March 23, 2018 at 2:21 PM • 57 Comments

Comments

echoMarch 23, 2018 2:42 PM

Oh, Bruce! That was a cheap shot. Her article may have been light on technical issues but her commentary was otherwise very sound.

Reading this article I note Cambridge Analytica being involved with voter profiling. In the UK there has been talk of outlawing this kind of useage but political parties are seeking to build themselves a loophole similar to the electoral roll (voter registration data) where they are granted access. I'm not persuaded this loophole should be allowed through on the nod and use of electoral data must be reviewed too. The reason why I question this kind of access is because political parties have targetted voters to the point where it is argued in marginal consituencies that a few tens of thousands of people determine the outcome of an election.

Another niggle with data is local councils still flout the law and default to requiring the citizen to opt out of data sharing election data with third parties.

Within UK healthcare while not necessarily a blanket problem there are questions about the lack of informed consent for medical issues, and data sharing. While these are largely a 'medical practice' and 'custodian' question they are currently subject to degrees of legal action and political action.

I agree wholeheartedly with Zeynep Tufekci's concluding observation that the issues of accountability need answering.

EvilKiruMarch 23, 2018 2:50 PM

@Ludwig Weinzierl: To correct the link, remove the spurious e that shows up after the .html part at the end.

@echo: What part of Bruce's post are you misreading such that you see a cheap shot in it?

Jimmy DeanMarch 23, 2018 2:50 PM

I have a moral problem with this Facebook bashing and I am no friend of Facebook; I have never had a Facebook account. And thats the rub. Even if Facebook is a bad actor what responsibility does the user have to protect his or her own best interests? No one forces anyone to use Facebook. As to the "shadow profiles" this makes it sound so nefarious. Yet the common-place credit report is nothing more or less than a "shadow profile". Equifax collects voluminous data on me without any consent at all, let alone informed consent. If it is wrong for FB to do is then it is wrong for all those other actors to do it as well.

I don't like Facebook, I don't use it. But I don't see the health in bashing on the company. The problem is far broader than FB.

I'd like to think that this is the focus that @Bruce would take. If so, then linking to Zeynep Tufekci doesn't serve his agenda well. After reading her hit job I wound up feeling a little /sorry/ for Zuckerberg and that alone should tell everyone she has gone too far.

MissialtoeMarch 23, 2018 4:14 PM

@Jimmy

Eric Goldman of the Technology and Marketing Law blog has this interesting comment recently in his year end review.

https://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2018/03/top-internet-law-developments-of-2017-very-late.htm

"Some of the plaintiffs hold odious beliefs, especially to “liberals.” The plaintiffs might be characterized as racist, white supremacists, and trolls. Yet, many “liberal” academics and policy-makers also hate the Internet giants, and they favor the exact same principles the odious plaintiffs are litigating. This has created an unholy pro-censorship consensus across all parts of the political spectrum." (emphasis added)

IMO it is driven by old fashioned envy. I don't think it coincidental that this type of commentary appeared in the NYT. The NYT feels threatened by the Internet giants because companies like Facebook diminish the newspaper's ability to shape cultural mores. I suspect there is also some old fashioned east coast, west coast rivalry in play as well.

echoMarch 23, 2018 4:17 PM

@EvilKiru

Bruce is a very capable and decent person and by and large very skilled in his commentaries on security issues. I felt he had a rush of testosterone to the brain and was boasting. I don't want to turn this into a gender or any other form of war but the fact Zeynep Tufekci is a woman and wiring for a different audience who themselves are not technically proficient in the security domain (at least in the way the more technically orientated cohort are concerned) is meritorious enough especially after backslapping Dan Geer's eyeball twisting essay.

I believe a lot of the security lessons illuminated by this blog can be reporposed to address the more political-social security issues affecting implementation of goods and services within an egalitarian and human rights based framework. Bruce's blog remains a a good and welcoming entry point for this which, rivalry aside, his blog and his noting this NYT article continues to develop so please excuse my hysterical nitpick.

A Nonny BunnyMarch 23, 2018 4:21 PM

@Jimmy Dean

No one forces anyone to use Facebook.
That's only literally true. In the same way that nobody forces you to use a bank or electronic payments, or to use public roads, or to breath polluted air, etc.
My mother laments that she can't find information about local events anymore, because it all on facebook these day, and she has no facebook-account (and emphatically does not want it). So yeah, she's not forced to use facebook. She's forced to make a choice, either use facebook or go without knowing what happens anywhere.
There is a lot of pressure on people to use facebook, for many reasons. It's not impossible to resist, but I think it fairly qualifies as "being forced".

echoMarch 23, 2018 4:59 PM

@A Nonny Bunny

In the UK healthcare staff were sarcastic about Facebook (and by implication Facebook users) yet forced patients to use Facebook as an online support group. I raised ownership and security questions such as a "private group" was only "private" in name only as Facebook had access to legally protected information about a patients status which could still be used behind the scenes or sold on and I met with blank faces. We had similar discussions about clinic website hosting (which also involves standards of care and a legal context) and also met with a brick wall.

UK healthcare also pay no regard is paid to email security or processing of data to the point where it is often outsourced beyond the legal protections of the Eurozone.

I have to put up with healthcare staff acting outside their competence within their own specialist domains (which is well documented in guidelines and offical external and internal published reports) yet healthcare staff act dumb when a patient with expertise is sitting in front of them.

EvilKiruMarch 23, 2018 5:00 PM

@echo: I just don't see it. Bruce wrote that Zeynep writes in a clear, logical, and convincing manner (except he used the word cogent to say those 3 things) and that she wrote about the subject better than he would have. Looks to me like praise for her writing.

echoMarch 23, 2018 5:18 PM

@EvilKiru

Oh, sorry. Total misinterpretation. Sorry Bruce!

Rather than risk hijacking the new squid topic I'm adding these links here as this is more appropriate.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/mar/23/former-cambridge-analytica-executive-brittany-kaiser-wants-to-stop-lies
Asked why she has decided to speak out, Kaiser flares: “Why should we make excuses for these people? Why? I’m so tired of making excuses for old white men. Fucking hell.”

http://www.osnews.com/thread?654724
"They came to office in the days following election recruiting & were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side."

The angle I believe both illuminate behind the personal emotional responses is to criticise arbitrary power whether it is used for good or bad reasons (which may be perceived differently depending on your personal perspective and frame of mind). Within the UK in political terms this is usually manifested as "sovereign decision making" which however it is dressed amounts to the same thing.

I was advised a few years ago by a high level corporate manager who said he liked and respected me enough he didn't want to hurt me emotionally just to prusue his own sexual reasons that they will "use" or "abuse" me if they could. This is very sobering and sad and cynical advise but I perceieve the truth in it. Brittany Kaiser alludes to very similar things in her concluding statements:

“Corporations like Google, Facebook, Amazon, all of these large companies, are making tens or hundreds of billions of dollars off of monetising people’s data,” Kaiser says. “I’ve been telling companies and governments for years that data is probably your most valuable asset. Individuals should be able to monetise their own data – that’s their own human value – not to be exploited.”

I also agree with her final statement:

“To be honest, I regret not spending all those years only working for causes I believed in, and instead just learning about how to achieve an end – how to get a result. I really know how to get a result now – and I can do it for anybody.”

RatioMarch 23, 2018 5:30 PM

Oh, just an innocent misunderstanding. Probably happens to everybody all the time.

Sancho_PMarch 23, 2018 5:36 PM

Facebook, CA, SCL Group -
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Russians were behind the strategy.
@Bruce?

On the other hand, isn’t it a chance to claim the Trump election and Brexit invalid then?
Just a couple of $$$ and we could turn back the clock? Hillary? UK in EU?
Thanks to Putin?

State sponsored propaganda isn’t new, though (the link title is unfortunate):
https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-03-20/facebook-not-cambridge-analytica-is-the-source-of-the-problem

Sancho_PMarch 23, 2018 5:38 PM

To be serious, when crying facecrook, I’m afraid the real data collecting giant and it’s business goes unmentioned.
Is it accidentally on purpose?

echoMarch 23, 2018 6:49 PM

@Sancho_P

Both UK and US governments use private companies and individuals within the security aparatus although in different ways. I hope this exposure of Camridge Analytica (including it being put on the "X" list for enabling accessing of confidential MOD documents) helps flesh out issues of governance and human rights which may help in turn future inquiry.

FredricMarch 23, 2018 6:59 PM

Zeynep makes a mistake here: "Should we all just leave Facebook? That may sound attractive but it is not a viable solution. In many countries, Facebook and its products simply are the internet. Some employers and landlords demand to see Facebook profiles, and there are increasingly vast swaths of public and civic life — from volunteer groups to political campaigns to marches and protests — that are accessible or organized only via Facebook."

The author asks one question, "should we all leave?"; and answers another, "should a small number of us leave".

We should not shy away from regulation, but nor should we shy away from exercising the power we directly control. The network effects of Facebook can work in reverse too. By joining or remaining a member, you're making Facebook accounts more valuable and signalling that you consider their behavior OK, or mostly OK. By leaving, you'll make Facebook accounts less valuable. Hell, if there are enough of us, we can attach a negative stigma to Facebook like we did with Myspace.

And all these things where people are "required" to have Facebook accounts? Those only work because it's rare for people not to have them. If 10-30% of people aren't hearing about local events, the people advertising those events will have to reconsider. If a landlord throws away a significant number of applications for reasons that don't correlate with tenant quality, they'll be throwing money away. You routinely see great resumes... but oh, there's no Facebook link, toss it into the shredder, and why has this position remained unfilled for two months? (I've been on the other side of this and know it can be difficult to find people. As such, I have a low tolerance for bullshit when applying for jobs. If I can't apply via email, I probably won't.)

echoMarch 23, 2018 7:17 PM

@Fredric

Recruitment and funding has dropped off for NSN following Toby Young's resignation for comments about women and eugenics and his history of media comment. When people in power control the direction of information and information gathering this helps them remain in power. A backlash can have a limited effect and any success may be frustrating if the abuser of power is free to move on because they know the problem isn't an individual but an ecosystem and the Alt-Right and Facebook are an ecosystem. Nonethless this removes one platform Toby Young can use to award himself authority and manage his reputation through.

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2018/mar/23/toby-young-quits-new-schools-network-citing-media-pressure
"Meanwhile, the drive for local groups has faltered, with some at the DfE blaming Young and his predecessor, Nick Timothy, who was a former aide to Theresa May, for failing to appeal to parents eager to open free schools.
"

A Very Nice Human BeingMarch 23, 2018 8:37 PM

in all the commentary surrounding this issue I have so far not seen an acknowledgment that The Facebook was funded by the US Government and given every possible support to achieve its aims of profiling, Stasi style. I recall reading reports, of individuals close to the deep state being offered the opportunity to purchase shares in Facebook before it was even a public platform, as it was 'known' it would be eventually be worth absolute gold-there is no accident in its success.

on the other end of the spectrum I have seen no acknowledgment, not really, that people are choosing to play with fire by choosing to interact with Facebook. Point taken, @A Nonny Bunny - we have far less choice than it may seem. But just as Bruce says, we don't need better technology we need better users - for the wellbeing of humanity there needs to be more awareness that,FB is not your friend! Don't (family blog) tell it personal stuff! The entire transaction is tainted and users must act accordingly.
okay FB acts nefariously but people are not absolute victims here. There is a degree of personal responsibility. It's like organising to do a deal with the Mafia. When the inevitable happens you can't pretend you didn't really know.
Reminds me of the story of the snake that asked to be carried across the river, and absolutely swore not to bite. Once across, it bit the person. As the person lay dying it asked 'why did you bite me? I carried you' The response:
'What did you expect - I'm a snake'

gordoMarch 23, 2018 10:05 PM

Mr. Zuckerberg's mea culpae are serial evasions from responsibility. The phenomenon, otherwise known as willful blindness, is not unique to Mr. Zuckerberg or Facebook.

Willful blindness: When a leader turns a blind eye
by: Margaret Heffernan
Issues: May / June 2012.

The legal concept of willful blindness originated in the nineteenth century. The judge in Regina v Sleep ruled that an accused could not be convicted for possession of government property unless the jury found that he either knew the goods came from government stores or had “willfully shut his eyes to the fact.” Nowadays, the law is most commonly applied in money laundering and drug trafficking cases – but the behaviour it describes is all around us: in banks, the Catholic Church, at BP, in Abu Ghraib, in most industrial accidents. These narratives always follow the same trajectory: years of abuse involving a large number of participants, plenty of warning signs and, when the problem finally explodes, howls of pain: How could we have been so blind?

https://iveybusinessjournal.com/publication/willful-blindness-when-a-leader-turns-a-blind-eye/

HmmMarch 24, 2018 1:17 AM

"Some employers and landlords demand to see Facebook profiles, and there are increasingly vast swaths of public and civic life — from volunteer groups to political campaigns to marches and protests — that are accessible or organized only via Facebook."

So if you don't have a FB profile, so much the easier.

If a landlord won't rent to you on that basis, you have successfully avoided a moron landlord who is clueless, a blessing. True of any employer too. The same goes for any political group that has nothing going on beyond a FB landing page - You won't miss it, because it basically doesn't exist outside of a heavy surveilled bubble environment anyway.

FB is an unregulated bad actor first, a necessity never, and a lazy person's excuse for enabling and opting into creeping surveillance ongoing. You can do better, and you really owe it to yourself and your family to do so. All interactions are analyzed, mined and sold.

No more excuses. Delete FB or get better excuses for marching into bondage willingly.

Clive RobinsonMarch 24, 2018 2:19 AM

@ All,

Whilst this might be news to some, it's realy quite old news. Neither The New York Times or The Observer of London were first with this story by a very very wide margin.

The Dirty tricks of,

1, Peter Thiel (Plantair etc),
2, SCL,
3, Cambridge Anylitica
4, CA's supposed Canadian subsidiary.
5, Illegal campaign funding in the UK

And quite a bit else has been in various smaller UK MSM for well over a year (see past "Private Eye" editions)

As for Facebook, the man that owns it has some quite extream personality disorders that have often involved humiliating and exploiting people via Internet technology. He apparently has no morals or ethics, we've known this since his early days as a student and in some ways he appears to proudly regard it as a mark of distinction.

Behind SCL are a decidedly unpleasent group of individuals with much the same if not worse personality traits than Facebooks founder.

http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2018/03/20/scl-a-very-british-coup/

I've been dropping direct hints on this blog that people in the US need to look at them for ariund a year now. As SCL/CA were proudly boasting of having manipulated both the US Presidential election and the UK Brexit referendum, and there was a definate paper trail. In the case of the latter much of the evidence of their illegal financial behaviour is in place, but the UK electoral commission has effectively sat on it's thumbs rather than act, which unfortunatly says volumes about SCL/CA.

That said amoungst other things judges have finally got around to issuing search warrants of CA's UK locations. However SCL and CA have had so much warning that it's highly likely that much of the evidence has walked out the door "with the trash as it were" or is "with a host of golden daffodils, in some "lonely cloud" in some "corner of a foreign field" and a good "spring clean" has wiped much of the traces it might have left behind in the UK...

However it can be shown that those in SCL have left behind a few "scapegoats" to take the fall for them. So the chances are with their very strong connections with the current "week" political encumbrants in the UK the principles will walk away and start again.

Oh and it appears they may have a tie back or three with such US "luminaries" as the Koch Brothers. Who with their extensive criminal past,

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2011-10-02/koch-brothers-flout-law-getting-richer-with-secret-iran-sales

Now want to control the Criminal Justice debate. Unfortunatly to many --as in the past-- what the Koch's are pushing sounds good...

However lift the curtain a little and some real nasties start to be revealed,

https://www.prwatch.org/news/2015/12/13002/koch-criminal-justice-reform-trojan-horse

They are past masters at this sort of manipulation and the US citizen is usually the worse for it.

So keep your Eyes and Ears open folks lest you get smothered by corporate wool over the former and cottonwool pushed in the latter.

Most importantly stop dancing to a certain political mantra, behave rationaly, as worse much worse is going on behind that convenient thus much hyped excuse. Which some are pushing fanatically so that they "and their friends" can use it to provide cover for their reprehensible and illegal activities.

Oh and be cautious of what you read in "Time" from now onwards it appears the Kock Brothers are going to be taking it over in part. From a recent Time artical,

    Time Inc., TIME’s parent company, has agreed to be acquired by Meredith Corp. in a deal partially financed by Koch Equity Development, a subsidiary of Koch Industries Inc.

echoMarch 24, 2018 10:12 AM

@clive

Bell-Pottinger show up in the history of SCL.

The Barclay brothers (who own the Telegraph) are a very odd pair too.

bttbMarch 24, 2018 11:51 AM

From "Meet the American Professor Suing Cambridge Analytica for His Psychographic Profile", March 23, 2018
https://www.democracynow.org/2018/3/23/meet_the_american_professor_suing_cambridge

"AMY GOODMAN: Explain Cambridge Analytica, to people who are sitting here and saying, “What is this company? Is it based here? Is it based in Britain?” and why you chose to file in Britain.

DAVID CARROLL: So, we don’t know exactly what this company is. It’s quite ambiguous. But what we know for sure is, when I requested my data from the company in January of 2017, it arrived from SCL Group, a military contractor. And that was very unsettling. So, it’s been a process of sharing the data so that I could get advice, and when I learned that the data was probably not complete and probably not compliant to U.K. law, that’s when I got myself a lawyer, Ravi Naik."
[snip]
"STEPHEN BANNON: The point is, that is Facebook’s business. In 2008, it was Google and Facebook that went to Barack Obama and met him in San Francisco airport and told him all about the power of this personal data. In 2012, when we have the—we have the woman who headed up data integrity, said, “Hey, Facebook gave us the information, because they were, quote-unquote, 'on our side.'” So, the great opposition party—media—never went after the Obama campaign, never went after the progressive left, that has been doing this for years.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that is President Trump’s former chief strategist, of Breitbart News, Cambridge Analytica. Respond to what he just said.

DAVID CARROLL: Well, he’s leaving out an important fact, that Facebook did not activate the feature called Custom Audiences, which allows campaigns to upload voter data right into Facebook to target people individually by name, until October 23rd, 2013, well after Obama’s second campaign. So the Facebook tools to target people were simply not available during those campaigns."
[snip]
"AMY GOODMAN: So that was Carol Davidsen, Obama campaign’s director of integration and media analytics during the 2012 campaign, speaking in 2015. Well, on Sunday, she wrote on Twitter, quote, “Facebook was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn’t stop us once they realized that was what we were doing. They came to office in the days following election recruiting & were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side.” Professor Carroll?

DAVID CARROLL: Well, I mean, I think this is a wake-up call for everyone about the data that we’ve been leaking all over the place ever since the internet became a commercial aspect of our lives. So, it’s one thing to collect data, and it’s another thing to be able to target people and target people individually. So, there’s a lot of complicated issues here. But I think this whole Cambridge Analytica crisis has created a potential tipping point, where we’re going to have new attitudes about letting our data leak all over the place, and try to recapture control of it."
[snip]
"DAVID CARROLL: Like why did they work side by side with Cambridge Analytica at Parscale’s company in San Antonio at the peak of the summer of 2016, and allowed Cambridge Analytica to upload voter data into Facebook, when they knew, years prior, that this was a company that they had to revoke access to for violating their terms of service? So, why did they work with a company so intimately and share data across the firms, when they knew they were dealing with a potentially bad actor?

AMY GOODMAN: Well, David Carroll, are you still on Facebook? We have to go.

DAVID CARROLL: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: David Carroll, associate professor at Parsons School of Design."

D-503March 24, 2018 12:54 PM

The discussion whether having a facebook profile is voluntary or compulsory reminds me of a phrase that Russians coined almost a hundred years ago:

Initially they were indeed [voluntary], but gradually de facto obligatory upon announcement, as people quipped, "in a voluntary-compulsive way" (в добровольно-принудительном порядке).

I'm a 100% for civil disobedience, and I get praise from my friends for opting out of “social” media, but I'm crazier than most people. We're getting close to a tipping point where most employers will not even consider hiring someone who doesn't have a “social media” profile. So someone who opts out will either have the best employers, or be chronically unemployed, depending on their luck. People with families to support often find they have no choice.
Soon, it'll become a lot more difficult to travel internationally without a Facebook profile, as an increasing number of countries have started to use “social media” to screen travellers. Even the US, in defiance of their own constitution.

Security SamMarch 24, 2018 1:18 PM

Cambridge Analytica advance
State of the art expensive toys
Using artificial intelligence
As the Morlocks on the Elois.

echoMarch 24, 2018 1:35 PM

@D-503

Many social media profiles are "curated" at a personal level or sometimes professionally managed so not really the "test" or "indicator" employers perceive. Beyond this they become simply a "wealth test" or play into stereotypes. There is a lot of science and law within this broad domain.

Many business directors or managers I have discussed recruitment with openly admit the interview process is a lottery. There are candidates who will obviously not fit for a lot of reasons. Beyond this nobody can tell whether an employee will be an ideal hire for an average of six months.

I believe a lot of errors are made because of mistaken beliefs and secrecy which feeds into confirmation bias and what effectively become lies even if this is not intended.

This is only compounded by coverup...

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/mar/24/brexit-whistleblower-cambridge-analytica-beleave-vote-leave-shahmir-sanni
Brexit insider claims Vote Leave team may have breached spending limits.
Whistleblower alleges that electoral spending rules could have been manipulated over controversial donation and that Vote Leave ‘tried to delete key evidence’
The Observer view: democracy dies without transparency and fairness

Gerard van VoorenMarch 24, 2018 2:20 PM

Always, keep in mind:

Zuck: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard
Zuck: Just ask
Zuck: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS
[Redacted Friend's Name]: What? How'd you manage that one?
Zuck: People just submitted it.
Zuck: I don't know why.
Zuck: They "trust me"
Zuck: Dumb fucks

gordoMarch 25, 2018 2:45 PM

Regarding SCL/CA, Koch Bro's., etc.

Welcome to Oligarchs United
American democracy is trapped in a sealed box built by the Supreme Court, and as the Court’s recent decision demonstrates, five justices are slowly but surely pumping the air out of the box.
Burt Neuborne | The Brennan Center for Justice | April 3, 2014

There is no ignoring the fact that American democracy is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Oligarchs, Inc.

https://www.brennancenter.org/blog/symposium-welcome-oligarchs-united

If new laws require political ads placed on social media in the US market to identify their funding source, let's hope that means naming the complete funding tree, not just the fig leafs.

This botnet paid for by ...

tfbMarch 26, 2018 6:08 AM

One of the interesting things in the whole Facebook / Cambridge Analytica saga is the claim that people consented: by having a Facebook account, or by using some app, you are assumed to have read and consented to the ways they say they will use the data you provide to them.

Firstly, how many people read the terms and conditions to which they are assumed to have consented? I'm pretty sure almost no-one does that. I'm also pretty sure that that's not Facebook's fault: if you sign a document you have not read you're a fool (and almost all of us, therefore, are fools).

But there's a more interesting question: what proportion of people who agree to Facebook's terms and conditions understand them? I think that proportion is approximately zero, for two reasons:

  1. the terms and conditions are no doubt a complicated mass of legalese which is extremely hard for anyone not familiar with reading such documents to understand, and may even be hard to understand for anyone not familiar with the specific jurisdiction they are written in;
  2. Facebook feed their users' data to complicated and opaque algorithms, probably including neural networks -- it's not not clear that *anyone*, including the people who designed these systems, understands how they work and therefore what is done with their users' data.

So I think the question to ask is this:

can you consent to something you don't understand, or to something that may not be comprehensible by any human?

There is lots of precedent for considering people not competent to consent to various things: ten-year-olds are not competent to consent to have sex for instance. So the idea that a person may not be able to consent to something is uncontroversial.

On the other hand people regularly do consent to things they do not understand, such as medical procedures: lots of people consent to be treated with drugs the action of which they do not understand and in many cases nobody fully understands. But there are usually extensive safeguards in cases like this: medical ethics means that doctors (should / try to) behave in their patients' best interests, for instance.

So I think the answer is that yes, people can consent to things they do not understand, and even to things that no-one really understands such as the actions of drugs, but they can only do so when there is some kind of enforced ethical code in place which should ensure that what happens is in their best interest as far as that is understood. I think it's really clear that this is not true in the case of Facebook and many similar organisations: there's no ethical code in place and Facebook don't act in their users' best interests. This means that no, people did not, in fact, consent, because they could not do so.

echoMarch 26, 2018 9:14 AM

@tfb

Under the EU Goods and Services Directive and UK consumer law it is not possible to consent to an overcomplicated and obscure and long winded contract. Additionally, a EULA cannot erase a consumers rights in law. None of this can be ducked and to a large degree is self-evident so why are we even needing to have this conversation?

PeterMarch 26, 2018 9:33 AM

Bruce, how on Earth did CA trick facebook into giving all the data to Putin so he could steal the election from H Clinton ?
Or was the election stolen by CA AND Putin ?? Or is the reality that the "Russia stole my presidency" narrative is just BS from a bad looser who lost because she is an incredibly stupid campaigner ?

Anyway, hearing politicians here in Denmark be outraged is quite funny, they are themselves preparing a new law allowing The State (REG,TM) to merge and use all the various databases they have built, virtually without oversight - and most of them have NO problems with staging a "Facebook-revolution" against elected governments, fex in Ukraine, where they would rather see a bunch of un-elected neo-fascist power-grabbers in government than the candidates elected in reasonably free and fair elections by the voters .

So, facebook is good, as long as the manipulation is to their advantage - But if it benefits someone else ? All Hell is loose and there is no end to the creative ideas they come up with to regain control of the propaganda .
Vestager is seriously talking about splitting up Google into several smaller companies - I guess she stops that talk once someone tells her who really owns Alphabet, that's what happened when Danish politicians talked about banning The Onion Router - For about half a day ..

MailmanMarch 26, 2018 10:21 AM

The NY Times article is a good piece. The one comment that I disagree with is this one:

"In many countries, Facebook and its products simply are the internet. Some employers and landlords demand to see Facebook profiles, and there are increasingly vast swaths of public and civic life — from volunteer groups to political campaigns to marches and protests — that are accessible or organized only via Facebook."

Facebook is only ubiquitous because people have made it so. If people abandon it, then it will de facto stop being a standard for online presence. Other major sites have fallen in the past because people moved elsewhere. Facebook is not magically immune to this.

tfbMarch 26, 2018 3:27 PM

@echo

My point (so far as I had one) was really about the incomprehensibleness: the contract might be very simple: 'you consent to us feeding your anonymised data to this NN we have built', but because no-one understands (and possibly no-one could understand) what the NN is capable of, I think consent in that case is not possible without some kind of ethical code.

vas pupMarch 26, 2018 4:05 PM

@all:
Good book on how FB and other social media make you addicted/hooked: 'Irresistible' by
Adam Alter.

echoMarch 26, 2018 5:48 PM

@tfb

I understand now, thanks. Yes, I kind of know what you mean.

I've been wondering about the role of capability bits and whitelisting data/functionality. Taking your idea of codes of ethics (and guidelines etcetera) things like the Creative Commons licence can be pick and mix I wondered if this might add to a discussion of a suitable mechanism to implement what you suggest.

I note other domains have similar issues, such as medicene and the law, sometimes deliberately so because they are not especially good but a political compromise in reality hiding a big mess of conflicting opinions and varying expertise and differing budget priorities and fixes and so on. You might also add make up and food products because cruelty free and organic are important issues to some people and some manufacturers don't make things especially clear or try to conceal issues products which are behind.

VinnyGMarch 27, 2018 7:25 AM

@Hmmm re demand to see FB profiles. Mostly agree that those would be landlords and employers to avoid (unless your goal was to somehow take advantage of their stupidity.) OTOH, if you perceived some pressing need to deal with someone in that category, how long does it take to set up a basic FB account that contains only your basic info, and not allow any apps or options? I suppose in that case info such as address, etc. would need to be accurate, although (for example) it might be possible to palm off a plausible, but incorrect, location as a previous address. The person checking off the questionnaire box for "FB account? Y/N" will most likely be a landlord's realtor's office clerk or a corporate HR Dept flunky, i.e., not likely to be a genius. I do maintain a FB profile, but a carefully curated one: the personal info is all plausible and either incorrect or unhelpfully nonspecific, I have zero phone access, have enabled no apps, and have security settings as locked down as those can possibly be. Even so, my use is minimal, based on need more than convenience, and I remain vigilant about any potential screw-ups on FB's part. It's an acknowledged risk, but (imo) a reasonably well-managed one...

11th Arrondissement, ParisMarch 28, 2018 3:34 AM

"Should we all just leave Facebook? That may sound attractive but it is not a viable solution. In many countries, Facebook and its products simply are the internet. Some employers and landlords demand to see Facebook profiles, and there are increasingly vast swaths of public and civic life — from volunteer groups to political campaigns to marches and protests — that are accessible or organized only via Facebook."

Then maybe a final solution is required. Otherwise, how many more times FB will bend you over again? Dozens, hundreds.

Screw (and I'm only refraining from the f-word because of respect to our host) Facebook. They passed their moral event horizon long ago, if they ever had one.

One should not strike deals with terrorists.

Gerard van VoorenMarch 28, 2018 3:52 AM

@ 11th Arrondissement, Paris,

The question is how?

How do you do this? On a technical way or in a juridical way? The latter will always, thanks to lobbying, be altered. Which is left is a technical way. But how to do that?

Maybe the answer is the way that Facebook itself worked, that is working slowly with Universities. If you can make a way to "make it work" on Uni then the world can change, but IMO it has to be done at the Uni.

Then there are a couple of questions to be asked, such as how to find a global namespace, if you want a completely decentralized method.

But I agree, we should not let these vultures be in your way.

vas pupMarch 28, 2018 8:21 AM

On privacy and police:
Police 'should need warrant' to download phone data:
http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-43507661
“The technology allows officers to extract location data, conversations on encrypted apps, call logs, emails, text messages, passwords, internet searches and more. It can be used on suspects, victims and witnesses. It also downloads deleted data, including messages sent to the phone by other people. It has been trialled in Scotland. It is not being used in Northern Ireland”.

My take: I guess such intrusion technology is available for LEAs in other countries as well regardless of their level of democracy (declared or real)or its absence at all. Orwell predicted this in '1984'. If technology is available to LEAs, then it'll be available to crooks as well (sooner or later). I did not get out of the article: technology is working remotely OR LEO need psychical access to the phone.

JimMarch 28, 2018 11:13 AM

I'm not sure why everyone is so concerned about "Cambridge Analytica". Facebook's entire business model is based on mining as much user data as possible, then packaging and selling that data. So why are they going after only Cambridge Analytica?

This absolutely does not pass the smell test. There is some other reason they are going after Cambridge Analytica; it has nothing to do with the fact that user data was mined, but rather who mined the data.

Clive RobinsonMarch 28, 2018 9:35 PM

@ Jim,

There is some other reason they are going after Cambridge Analytica; it has nothing to do with the fact that user data was mined, but rather who mined the data.

You missed out the more likely "what they did with the data".

The US has been making one heck of a lot of noise about certain people "stealing the election" with actually not much evidence they had any effect.

Now however despite warnings that have gone back well over a year now, the guy in charge of CA flaps his gums freely about winning a couple of elections for the rank outsiders in the US Presidential election and the UK Brexit election. He also admits[1] criminal activities including bribery, blackmail, corruption and other crimes some of which involve using data from Facebook.

As Facebook has been named frequently for other "Fake News", "echo chambering" and other acticities that are "propaganda" again involving the US Presidential and UK Brexit elections and had supplied CA with the data they used... Is it unsuprising the lightning forked and crahed down on Facebook?

Especially when the original Russian enquiry is going as expected nowhere, and making the US look impotent in the process...

If it was not for the fact there is real evidence that is not just clear but actionable against those behind CA and it's parent and sister companies, then people would be screaming "it's a Russian False Flag" operation or some such.

The real upset is that it's been shown that not only is there a lot of dirty money in politics but that even democratic elections are just a sham. Thus people want blood sacrifices not for having been gulled, but for being shown what contempt certain people have for them the ordinary voter...

RatioMarch 28, 2018 10:00 PM

the original Russian enquiry is going as expected nowhere

Impressive prognosis, if true.

vas pupMarch 29, 2018 2:33 PM

@Clive and @ratio:
SC Muller and Deputy AG Rosenstein both declared - no collision with Trump team and Russia.
13 persons and company with Russian roots were accused of interfering in US Presidential election.
Could you explain me why mission of Special Counsel and his team is still is progress? If there are any other criminal activities of persons involved in election NOT related to declared mission of SC (aka collision), then I guess DoJ and FBI have enough resources to conduct any further investigation within scope of their authority.

Clive RobinsonMarch 29, 2018 5:28 PM

@ Vas Pup,

SC Muller and Deputy AG Rosenstein both declared - no collision with Trump team and Russia.

It may be true it may not, proving it either way is not going to be popular with a large number of US citizens. But there is the question of if it can actually be proved beyond reasonable doubt, the noises made so far say no.

13 persons and company with Russian roots were accused of interfering in US Presidential election.

They were "found guilty by press" of such behaviour by a couple of newspapers a year or so befor the US election. So if there was a real threat from them something could easily have been done about it, but nothing was, what does that say?

As for SC Muller he's just "reboiling the cabage" and there is the usuall stench you would expect from that activity arising. But is anything actually going to happen?

History says the US is unsuprisingly getting laughed at by other nations over such indictments and we know that jokes are doing the rounds over it. Even people in the US are asking "where's the meat in the sandwich"...

Again because it's a question of proving collusion with either Putin and his team or Trump and his team. Without access to people in Russia and the ability to use the thumb screws of plea bargaining SC Muller, thus the US realy has nothing.

As for other evidence, so far nothing very much has come to light that's realy of relevance. Those that have been fingered are in the main for either historic behaviour long before they had dealings with Trump or they have fallen foul of archaic laws that have been dusted off to use as thumb screws.

Realistically though it's now got to late to do anything before the run up to the mid terms without people screaming it's political bias etc. Which was the problem with the behaviour of the FBI's Comey which kicked off much of this current nonsense... And as we saw Comey suffered the fate of most regicides.

Unfortunatly there are a lot of people going around screaming "Treason" when under US law it is nothing of the sort... Which should give you an idea of the rationality behind the arguments. Taking those to one side and actually looking what has Trump done for Putin and the other way around... The usuall "look what Trump has said" argument shows not a lot of anything.

All that said as far as I'm aware the only people that can do anything about a sitting President is Congress and currently they appear to be dominated by the GOP and those that hold allegiance to the Republicans. Which have been so fractured over the past decade or so that they are unlikely to push what would lead to further internal fractions.

But then there was the Koch sponsored tea baggers and others spouting crud from a book that they very probably had never read (much like it was once "cool" to spout things from Chairman Moa's ghost written little red book). So you never know what is going to crawl out of the wood work for it's five minutes of fame / infamy.

But think on a bit of what getting rid of Trump would actually do, there are a lot around who would not want the current VP in power, as he's being seen as a "kiss of death" by a number of Republican factions.

So yes theres lots of noise much beating of chests, renting of hair and cries of deeds most foul... But such behaviour does not a court case make nore conviction bring, unless justice is thrown asside for vigilanty "mob rule"...

As for anything substantive, I've not yet seen anything factual that suggests an impeachment will happen let alone succeed.

Oh and remember the last time the Republican's went for an impeachment it was not the Star turn they were hopping for. Not only did they fail, they ended up being laughed at and worse still they ended up actually making the then sitting President more popular with the US citizens...

As for SC Muller, there are plenty of "Ham Sandwich" jokes being told about him and his team yet little has actually happened so far. But you have to remember they have futures to think of. History shows that those who bring down even tyrants rarely fair well in the aftermath, as nobody certainly the new leader wants a "regicide" hanging around. Thus the job is a bit of a career killer / poisoned chalice.

Now I'm sure others will argue otherwise, but remember to look past the noise and claims of treason and reach for the evidence that has actually surfaced and what it actually tells you...

So far I've not seen anything presented that would actually go the distance, and people have been digging for a year... Who knows they might turn up something, but on current performance I'd advise against holding your breath, unless you think blue is a fashionable colour for your face to be.

HmmMarch 30, 2018 11:03 AM

Clive, will all due respect, you're full of it on this issue.

They have found evidence of collusion. That's what the guilty pleas relate to:

Guilt. Actual, real, admitted and provable, guilt. No BS, no twisting out of it.

They haven't been convicted in the media, the media is reporting the guilty pleas and indictments.

You don't want to believe Russia hacks or attacks ex-spies, fine.

You don't want to believe attacks against diplomats happened, fine.

You won't be able to deny this happened, when it's all laid out.

Not even you.

Clive RobinsonMarch 30, 2018 1:38 PM

@ Hmm,

You won't be able to deny this happened, when it's all laid out.

The point is you keep making these claims including that of "treason" yet... It's not been "laid out" let alone to a standard that would get it into court, let alone get a conviction.

But as I've pointed out a couple of times it's not a court that has to be convinced in the case of a sitting President an impeachment has to happen.

Which I've also indicated that,

    Currently impeachnent does not look likely.

As I keep saying "IF and when real evidence is formally presented" then you might get what you want. But till then whether you like it or not the US President like any other US Citizen is entitled to the presumption of innocence.

Thus what ever my personal opinion might be I avoid vigilantes and their behaviours as it is has so often been wrong in the past and great injustices have as a result happened.

So formaly present real evidence that congress will act upon... Untill it is formally presented SC Muller's enquiry is at best marking time, and certainly in the case of the indictment of the 13 Russian's going nowhere slowly. Likewise there is nothing to "deny" or "believe" either it's all just so much invention or speculation that might or might not be investigated and might or might not be true etc.

And that's my point,

    without formally presented evidence that will gain an impeachment people are just bloviating, and demonstrating they do not actually belive in the US judicial process.

HmmMarch 30, 2018 8:49 PM

Wrong.

4 have been convicted already. Because they plead guilty, including high-up campaign staffers.

They are testifying now against Trump, because they have plea deals to do so.

You don't know what you're talking semantically about in denial of the fact.

There are established guilty parties in the Trump administration ALREADY.

HmmMarch 30, 2018 8:53 PM

"Thus what ever my personal opinion might be I avoid vigilantes and their behaviours"

When vigilantism is compared to multiple swamp-creatures pleading guilty and testifying against the sitting traitor president, who by any account is a traitor despite the caveat that formally war has not been declared, (none too late either), words and concepts have apparently lost all comparative meaning to you.

You will wait and see that I am correct on every single point. Deny them meanwhile, but I intend to call you out on it each and every time you gloss over the facts in a dismissive and provably incorrect manner. Nothing personal Clive, again, truly it isn't - but the factual record does exist, and multiple people have already plead guilty.

There is a Russian intelligence operative 1 handshake away from the sitting TRAITOR (Yep) President.

Fact.

bttbMarch 31, 2018 10:15 AM

@vas pup, Clive Robinson, Hmm, echo & Ratio

One problem is what media to trust to present facts on their non-editorial pages or time. For example, Noam Chomsky used to, afaik, prefer the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times. Unfortunately, afaik, these newspapers are behind paywalls, and many libraries in the USA don't carry the Financial Times. Regarding the WSJ, however:

"To demonstrate, HuffPost writes about a senior editor at the WSJ, who apparently tried to pull a graphic from a story, then the story, because he found it “not politically palatable.”"
https://www.emptywheel.net/2018/03/28/mueller-prepares-to-reveal-the-first-cards-in-the-hack-and-leak-conspiracy/#comment-731565

From: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/wall-street-journal-censorship-letter_us_5abd2570e4b03e2a5c7a735f

"The project, which had been in the works for months, was originally published on Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. Eastern, according to a timestamp. Soon after, some senior editors decided the story was not complete enough and subsequently tried to see if the project could be pulled from the site, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

After that “failed,” according to the employees’ letter, the senior editor had the graphic removed from “as many places as possible.”

On Thursday, ProPublica reporter and former Wall Street Journal columnist Jesse Eisinger tweeted that he’d heard the senior editor in question was none other than Gerard Baker, the editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal. Eisinger has subsequently tweeted that Baker is demanding the piece be “redone” because it focused too much on “social/political” issues.

When reached for comment, Steve Severinghaus, senior communications director for Dow Jones, the Journal’s parent company, wouldn’t discuss Baker’s level of involvement. He confirmed that the “team will be adding additional reporting and analysis on the crisis and its aftermath,” but noted the project was never taken down.

Baker and his newsroom have appeared at odds since the election of President Donald Trump. Last August, Politico published a transcript of an interview Baker did with Trump that appeared unnecessarily cozy. Later that month, Baker reportedly sent an email to reporters and editors working on an article about a Trump rally that said, “Sorry. This is commentary dressed up as news reporting.”

He reportedly added, “Could we please just stick to reporting what he said rather than packaging it in exegesis and selective criticism?”

Vanity Fair reported a few months later that many people at The Wall Street Journal are privately hoping Baker’s exit will be sooner rather than later. ..."

From the HuffPost article, this link:
https://graphics.wsj.com/how-the-world-has-changed-since-2008-financial-crisis/

More on the 'Mueller Investigation'
https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/from-mueller-to-stormy-to-emoluments-trumps-business-is-under-siege/2018/03/30/1d128526-337b-11e8-8abc-22a366b72f2d_story.html

More on Information vs. Disinformation stuff
https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2018/03/fake-news-offers-latin-american-consolidated-powers-opportunity-censor-opponents
"Today’s headlines are dominated by the role of misinformation campaigns or “fake news” in undermining democracy in the West. From ongoing accusations of Russian meddling in Trump’s election to Russian efforts to sway the Brexit and French Presidential election votes, these countries are confronting “fake news” as an ongoing and urgent threat to democracy. Yet in Latin America, where misinformation campaigns have prevailed throughout the twentieth century, concerns over “fake news” are hardly new. Latin American media concentration, disinformation campaigns, and biased coverage have long undermined informed civic discourse.

“Fake News” as a pretext for curbing free expression in Latin America

In 2018, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia and Costa Rica, among others, will undergo electoral processes involving their respective presidencies. These governments are beginning to exploit concerns over “fake news,” as though it were a novel phenomenon, in order to adopt proposals to increase state control over online communications and expand censorship and Internet surveillance. Such rhetoric glosses over the fact that propaganda from traditional Latin American media monopolies has long been the norm in the region, and that Internet companies have played a critical role in counterbalancing this power dynamic. Frank La Rue, the former UN Special Rapporteur on Free Expression, remarked at the 2017 Internet Governance Forum on the inherent risks of importing the term “fake news” to Latin America:

'I don’t like the term “fake news” because I think there is a bit of a trap in it. We are confronting campaigns of misinformation. So we should talk about information and disinformation.'

La Rue believes that when distinctions between fake and real news are drawn, they are done ultimately to dissuade the public from reading news or thinking independently. He argues that “the problem again is that fake news becomes a perfect excuse to just silence or shut down any alternative or any dissident voice.” To respond to this threat, EFF co-signed an open letter along with other 34 Latin American NGOs at the end of last year."

And two more links from EFF
https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2018/03/beyond-implementation-policy-considerations-secure-messengers
https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2018/03/secure-messaging-more-secure-mess

HmmMarch 31, 2018 2:08 PM

It seems to me there are two things being discussed there : reporting of news, and editorials.

They're very different. News can be reported more or less attempting objectivity.
It's a journal of the factual record of cited, referenced sources. Of course there
is wiggle room IE reporting on some details vs not others, but that's always present.
But the underlying objective is vetted info minimizing the baked-in opine.

An editorial however is an extrapolated opine by an individual, and you are taking the individual's credibility and narrative directly into the mix. If this person has history
of being factual, logical, reasonable as born out by factual reporting, they get a
reputation as such and their editorials resonate and inform people.

However if your editorials are all non-factual rants on unreasonably unsupported positions, say like Sean Hannity, that earns a different sort of reputation as well.
When you go a step further and blur the line between reporting the factual, vetted news,
and inject these unreasonable editorialisms directly into that IE making "fake news",
you cross a line between news and editorial into propaganda.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hoDM7TbNm48 - Carl Bernstein

https://newrepublic.com/article/144592/trump-creating-propaganda-state

http://gawker.com/5814150/roger-ailes-secret-nixon-era-blueprint-for-fox-news

http://money.cnn.com/2018/03/20/media/fox-news-ralph-peters-propaganda-machine/index.html

http://theweek.com/articles/483558/did-fox-news-originate-nixon-white-house

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/01/02/john-dean-nixon-might-have-survived-if-thered-been-a-fox-news-216207

gordoMarch 31, 2018 3:31 PM

Facebook was informed privacy breach app might sell user data
Aliya Ram and Hannah Kuchler
Published 4:10 PM ET Thu, 29 March 2018
Financial Times [FT]

Facebook was informed that the app at the center of a massive data leak could sell user data to third parties, according to documents seen by the Financial Times, raising fresh questions about how the company protects its users' data.


The social network was sent terms and conditions for the second version of the survey app, which pulled user data that was then leaked to Cambridge Analytica, the data analytics firm. These contradicted Facebook's own platform policies, according to Chris Wylie, the former Cambridge Analytica employee turned whistleblower.

But the social network relied on an automated process to accept updates, so no employee at Facebook may have seen the app's new policy, which disclosed that it could sell and transfer the data.

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/29/facebook-was-informed-privacy-breach-app-might-sell-user-data.html

---

FT In depth Facebook privacy breach
Facebook was told privacy breach app might sell data
Cambridge Analytica whistleblower accuses social network of not enforcing its own rules
https://www.ft.com/

---

RE: Federal Trade Commission and Facebook:

https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/blogs/business-blog/2011/11/ftcs-settlement-facebook-where-facebook-went-wrong

https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/cases-proceedings/092-3184/facebook-inc

https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2016/06/ftc-raises-civil-penalty-maximums-adjust-inflation

https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2018/03/statement-acting-director-ftcs-bureau-consumer-protection

---

How the FTC Could Have Prevented the Facebook Mess
By Marc Rotenberg | March 22, 2018

Here comes an understatement: Facebook’s failure to protect user data was well known before the company suspended dealings with Cambridge Analytica last week. What is not well known is that the transfer of 50 million user records to the controversial data mining and political consulting firm could have been avoided if the Federal Trade Commission had done its job. The FTC issued a 2011 consent order against Facebook to protect the privacy of user data. If it had been enforced, there would be no story. Facebook bears responsibility too, because it actively worked to avoid compliance.

https://techonomy.com/2018/03/how-the-ftc-could-have-avoided-the-facebook-mess/

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