Don't just blame Facebook for taking your data - most online publishers are at it too
Posted in: Surveillance & Privacy at 09/04/2018 00:34
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a good metaphor must be worth a million. In an insightful blog post published on 23 March, Doc Searls, one of the elder statesman of the web, managed to get both for the price of one. His post was headed by one of those illustrations of an iceberg showing that only the tip is the visible part, while the great bulk of the object lies underwater. In this case, the tip was adorned with the Facebook logo while the submerged mass represented “Every other website making money from tracking-based advertising”. The moral: “Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica problems are nothing compared to what’s coming for all of online publishing.”
The proximate cause of Searls’s essay was encountering a New York Times op-ed piece entitled Facebook’s Surveillance Machine by Zeynep Tufekci. It wasn’t the (unexceptional) content of the article that interested Searls, however, but what his ad-blocking software told him about the Times page in which the essay appeared. The software had detected no fewer than 13 hidden trackers on the page. (I’ve just checked and my Ghostery plug-in has detected 19.)
How Facebook got into a mess – and why it can’t get out of it
Ponder this … and weep. The United States, theoretically a mature democracy of 327 million souls, is ruled by a 71-year-old unstable narcissist with a serious social media habit. And the lawmakers of this republic have hauled up before them a 34-year-old white male, one Mark Elliot Zuckerberg, the sole and impregnable ruler of a virtual country of about 2.2 billion people who stands accused of unwittingly facilitating the election of said narcissist by allowing Russian agents and other bad actors to exploit the surveillance apparatus of his – Zuckerberg’s – virtual state.
How did we get into this preposterous mess? Answering this question requires an understanding of (among other things) the peculiar nature of digital technology, the ideology of Silicon Valley, the astonishing political naivety of Zuckerberg, the ethical tunnel vision of software engineers and – most important – the business model that has come to be known as “surveillance capitalism”.
EU says Facebook confirmed data of 2.7 million Europeans 'improperly shared'
Facebook has confirmed that the data of 2.7 million EU citizens were among those improperly used by political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, the EU executive said on Friday.