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Posts Tagged ‘Mark Zuckerberg’

Where Was the Board? Facebook’s “Pinto Memo” Says Volumes About Them

April 2, 2018 Comments off

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Everything is not awesome at 1 Hacker Way.  No, the House of Zuck is in serious trouble over many aspects of the business model that Sheryl Sandberg perfected for Facebook. However, Facebook has been very good at keeping attention focused on what third parties have done with Facebook’s data, whether that use violated the Facebook terms of service, all the usual overly legalistic twisting and turning to avoid legal liability that we are so familiar with.

The real question, of course, is not so much what some app developers did with “Facebook’s data” but rather what was Facebook doing with your data and how does Facebook profit from creating an addictive product.  It was only a matter of time before this came up and it’s unfortunate that it came up as Facebook tries to get the “royalty deadbeat” monkey of off their back and onto Twitter’s–more on that later.

But as the Guardian reports, it was Sheryl Sandberg–nowhere to be seen in the current crisis–who developed Facebook’s stalker-esque business model that made Bentham’s panopticon look like a high school lark.

Under Sandberg’s leadership, an ad model that took advantage of Facebook’s social graph emerged, starting with “engagement ads” that invited users to “like” the page of an advertiser and interact with the brand. Later, Facebook developed “custom audiences”, allowing external advertisers to merge the data they had about individuals with Facebook’s data.

This meant companies could micro-target their existing customers on the platform, layering their own customer data with Facebook’s invaluable information about likes, friends and biographical material.

It is this exploitation of your Facebook addiction that makes them rich–just ask Sean Parker.  (“‘God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains,’ Parker said.”)

But it also meant that Facebook’s “product” was you.  And it meant that they needed you good and hooked, “addicted” as Sean Parker has said, to all those likes and comments and comments on comments to keep you working for them for free in the great tradition of drug fueled manipulators as Professor Alter demonstrates in his very important book Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked.

Spotify also has had recent problems with manipulating users privacy.  They came up with the usual excuse: It’s all for your benefit.  It’s not that we want to sell your data out the back door, it’s that we want to give you a better user experience.

No one believes this, of course.  Although often maligned for using music as a loss leader for other high margin products, at least Apple has a product that is quite distinct from the music they sell and a brand that has always had extremely high integrity.  Apple has no nonprosecution agreements for violating the Controlled Substances Act like Google–that directly implicated Sheryl Sandberg during her Google days.

In an upcoming interview with MSNBC, Apple CEO Tim Cook makes the key point, the major difference between data scrapers and people who actually have a product:

“If our customer was our product, we could make a ton of money. We’ve elected not to do that….We don’t subscribe to the view that you have to let everybody in who wants to or if you don’t you don’t believe in free speech….Because we’re like the guy in the corner store.  What you sell in that store says something about you.”

But to focus solely on what Cambridge Analytica did with Facebook’s data is to accept the premise that Facebook wants you to accept.  The real question is what is Facebook doing with your data?  Because it is your data.  Facebook may be able to flash its terms of service in your face, but prosecutors are going to look at that TOS with a jaundiced eye once the nasty stuff starts to come out.

For example, Buzzfeed reports on a memo written by Facebook senior manager Andrew Bosworth:

“We connect people. Period. That’s why all the work we do in growth is justified. All the questionable contact importing practices. All the subtle language that helps people stay searchable by friends. All of the work we do to bring more communication in. The work we will likely have to do in China some day. All of it,” VP Andrew “Boz” Bosworth wrote.

“So we connect more people,” he wrote in another section of the memo. “That can be bad if they make it negative. Maybe it costs someone a life by exposing someone to bullies.

“Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools.”

I’ve always said that there is a “Pinto memo” out there somewhere at Facebook and Google and that Big Tech is going to get taken down by a Jeffrey Wigand-style whistleblower.  (See Grimshaw v. Ford Motor Co., 119 Cal.App.3d 757 (1981) and the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (1998).) The downfall will be over the addiction issue which is, of course, directly tied to the data issue which is tied to the indifference issue.  The amoral indifference to “maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools.”

I often get criticized for saying that these are bad people.  Actually, it can’t be said enough.  And they’re not that different from other bad people we’ve dealt with over the years.

Wyden Tobacco

What also can’t be said enough:  Where was the board?

When Zucky Met Bobby

April 1, 2018 Comments off

Remember when Mark Zuckerberg was Time “Person of the Year” in 2010?  Here’s a strange anecdote from the story in Time that accompanied their fawning over Zuck:

On the afternoon of Nov. 16, 2010, Mark Zuckerberg was leading a meeting in the Aquarium, one of Facebook’s conference rooms, so named because it’s in the middle of a huge work space and has glass walls on three sides so everybody can see in. Conference rooms are a big deal at Facebook because they’re the only places anybody has any privacy at all, even the bare minimum of privacy the Aquarium gets you. Otherwise the space is open plan: no cubicles, no offices, no walls, just a rolling tundra of office furniture. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, who used to be Lawrence Summers’ chief of staff at the Treasury Department, doesn’t have an office. Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO and co-founder and presiding visionary, doesn’t have an office.

The team was going over the launch of Facebook’s revamped Messages service, which had happened the day before and gone off without a hitch or rather without more than the usual number of hitches. Zuckerberg kept the meeting on track, pushing briskly through his points — no notes or whiteboard, just talking with his hands — but the tone was relaxed. Much has been made of Zuckerberg’s legendarily awkward social manner, but in a room like this, he’s the Silicon Valley equivalent of George Plimpton. He bantered with Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, a director of engineering who ran the project. (Boz was Zuckerberg’s instructor in a course on artificial intelligence when they were at Harvard. He says his future boss didn’t do very well. Though, in fairness, Zuckerberg did invent Facebook that semester.) Apart from a journalist sitting in the corner, no one in the room looked over 30, and apart from the journalist’s public relations escort, it was boys only.

The door opened, and a distinguished-looking gray-haired man burst in — it’s the only way to describe his entrance — trailed by a couple of deputies. He was both the oldest person in the room by 20 years and the only one wearing a suit. He was in the building, he explained with the delighted air of a man about to secure ironclad bragging rights forever, and he just had to stop in and introduce himself to Zuckerberg: Robert Mueller, director of the FBI, pleased to meet you.

They shook hands and chatted about nothing for a couple of minutes, and then Mueller left. There was a giddy silence while everybody just looked at one another as if to say, What the hell just happened?

Good question.  Founder hounder?  But then Zuck has many friends to whom he might turn in his hour of need.

 

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Smile, imperialist hyena

 

Mark Zuckerberg’s Kremlin “Investors” — Artist Rights Watch

November 7, 2017 Comments off

The “Paradise Papers” reveal that Facebook took approximately $200 million of cash investment from the Kremlin. This huge chunk of cash came from the Kremlin’s VTD Bank was “funneled through DST Global”, an investment vehicle owned by oligarch Yuri Millner (known as “космонавт” loosely translated as “the spaceman”). The papers also show that Gazprom (the controversial Kremin-owned energy company) heavily funded an offshore company that partnered with DST Global in a large investment in Facebook and the notorious pirate site Vkontakte.

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via Mark Zuckerberg’s Kremlin “Investors” — Artist Rights Watch

@maureendowd: Will Mark Zuckerberg ‘Like’ This Column?

September 24, 2017 Comments off
Emporer zuck

“It’s great when the emperor is Marcus Aurelius. It’s not so great when the emperor is Caligula.”

WASHINGTON — The idea of Mark Zuckerberg running for president was always sort of scary.

But now it’s really scary, given what we’ve discovered about the power of his little invention to warp democracy.

All these years, the 33-year-old founder of Facebook has been dismissive of the idea that social media and A.I. could be used for global domination — or even that they should be regulated.

Days after Donald Trump pulled out his disorienting win, Zuckerberg told a tech conference that the contention that fake news had influenced the election was “a pretty crazy idea,” showing a “profound lack of empathy” toward Trump voters.

But all the while, the company was piling up the rubles and turning a blind eye as the Kremlin’s cyber hit men weaponized anti-Hillary bots on Facebook to sway the U.S. election. Russian agents also used Facebook and Twitter trolls, less successfully, to try to upend the French election.

Read the post on The New York Times

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