Facebook data scandal

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Facebook actively gives our data away to those they want to (like the Obama campaign in 2008, 2012, or Hillary Campaign in 2016). Then when Cambridge Analytica does some analysis that was in Facebooks guidelines, they change the rules after the fact, then help sensationalize a story about data abuse. Why? Because it might have been used by the Republicans, or [Gasp], Donald Trump's campaign (before the primary). Also, by pretending their data has more value than it does, it might inflate their ad value -- though evidence of successes are greatly exaggerated.

What happened?

The media is acting like there's some big scandal around Facebook data releases, which helped Trump win an election through Cambridge Analytica. It's all garbage.

  1. Obama did worse in 2008, 2012 - the media bragged about how savvy they were
  2. Hillary got far more access in 2016, with Facebook's direct help -- and the media ignored or celebrated it
  3. Cambridge Analytica's claims were overhyped (they wanted to pretend how smart/valuable they were) -- only there's no evidence their research mattered at all in the election
  4. Trump only used them during the primary, and once he got support of RNC's superior analytics, they dumped CA, and stuck with the RNC data -- showing that they didn't think it had nearly the value that CA pretended.

User concerns are about privacy, not technicalities on terms (whether it was for politics or other research). Facebook and others try to change the topic to "OMG, OMG, they took data that we allowed for marketing, and then they marketed politics to them. Which is exactly what Facebook did when they gave the entire social graph (far more information than CA ever had) and gave it to the Hillary Campaign (without assigning a value to the transactions, in violation of campaign law). The problem is, if they assign a low value, then it deflates the value of their ads (as the data isn't that good). But if they raise the value, it shows how much they tried to corrupt an election. The media was of course complicit in the fraud, and never explained what was going on. They wanted an excuse why Hillary lost (other than her criminality, unlikability, or that the public was tired of Obamanomics), so they invented/magnified the whole, "Cambridge Analytica" stole data and manipulated the election story for a while. But it was too nerdy, and the informed knew it was a complete sham, so they lost interest and went back to, "it was the Russians".

Support of Obama/Hillary

There are many articles on Obama doing much worse than Cambridge Analytica did, while the media praised it. Facebook allowed the Obama Campaign to suck down the entire social graph (without the users permission), and FB admitted to letting them. Wired called it "Hipster Tech". Atlantic called it "The nerds go marching in". Telegraph praised Obama for, "realizing “the potential” of social media".

Then Facebook's COO was colluding with Podesta to help get Hillary Clinton elected.

Hunt for complaints in the mainstream media of Obama doing this in 2012, or against Hillary/Facebook colluding, and they are few and far between... while the same sources praising prior abuse of user data and suddenly screaming that Cambridge Analytica might have benefited Trump in the primary, doing something a fraction as bad. Puhlease. Pick any one standard and follow it -- but you don't get two (one for you, and one for the other side). [1]

Data Privacy

This article sums it up: Facebook is interested in the legal minutiae of what permissions it gave to which developers (and whether they went too far). As far as everyone else is concerned, it doesn’t matter whether an app gets the data for research purposes or for straight-up political ones. They either don't want that information out there, or they don't care who has it.

CA’s supposedly sinister skill is that it can use the Facebook profile information to build psychological profiles that reveal a person’s propensity to vote for a certain party or candidate. But of course that's all marketing and hokum. No one with a clue actually believes CA can do what it claims. (No academic work exists to link personality traits, especially those gleaned from the sketchy and often false information on Facebook profiles, definitively to political choices). So the hand waiving about CA, is based on a false assumption that they are better at knowing how voters will vote, than party affiliation or polls that ask those users. I think the correlation between CA belief and low-IQ voters is stronger than any correlations CA claims on voter propensity.

On the other hand, the problem with FB selectively sharing or experimenting on users based on data they have, is what really bugs users. [2]

Conclusion

I think there's a point when your company becomes satire, that you're not executing well. So articles (satire though they may be), like the following Facebook adds evil eye of Sauron over HQ kind of expresses the problem. They didn't give users controls over their own data, they are opaque as to what is going on, customers have noticed and resented FB for the behavior for many years, and the first opportunity to jump on the bandwagon and slam them, will be taken because they've ignored customers concerns for years. The only question is whether they'll learn and do better, or just hunker down and ignore the problem, until the next opportunity to lash back at them arises.

It's hard to tell parody from policy over there. Right before this shit-storm blew up in their face, they were trying to figure out how to work with hospitals to get more access to patient data -- the goal was to crush a competitor Social Network for patients called CaringBridge. Their reputation is that they are not good stewards of our data. And as usual, they did this behind closed doors, instead of open about it. Which makes sense for early discussions, but I don't think many feel like FB would have handled it any better later on. They've earned the public's distrust, and only massive internal reform, years of behaving better (and probably firing Zuck) would be required to get it back. (Someone with a reputation as an arrogant and contemptuous, self-absorbed, privacy violator is at their helm. Whether true or not, that's become his brand).

Facebook
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Facebook is 3 things: bad interface, bad management, and biased policies. I want a social network that gives me control of what I see and share -- both to my friends and to advertisers. I realize they need to make a buck, and my information is their product, but the point is you can still give users the illusions of control. But Zuckerberg seems to have falling into the egocentric pit that many young billionaires do, they think because they timed things well, and worked hard, and got lucky that they're smarter than everyone else. This makes them arrogant, less mature, and slower to grow than the average human: Dunning-Kruger, inflated by being surrounded by yes-men.

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