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We Can't Trust Facebook To Regulate Itself, Says Former Operations Manager (nytimes.com) 105

schwit1 shares an op-ed on the New York Times by Sandy Parakilas, a former operations manager on the platform team at Facebook: Sandy Parakilas led Facebook's efforts to fix privacy problems on its developer platform in advance of its 2012 initial public offering. What I saw from the inside was a company that prioritized data collection from its users over protecting them from abuse. As the world contemplates what to do about Facebook in the wake of its role in Russia's election meddling, it must consider this history. Lawmakers shouldn't allow Facebook to regulate itself. Because it won't (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). Facebook knows what you look like, your location, who your friends are, your interests, if you're in a relationship or not, and what other pages you look at on the web. This data allows advertisers to target the more than one billion Facebook visitors a day. It's no wonder the company has ballooned in size to a $500 billion behemoth in the five years since its I.P.O. The more data it has on offer, the more value it creates for advertisers. That means it has no incentive to police the collection or use of that data -- except when negative press or regulators are involved. Facebook is free to do almost whatever it wants with your personal information, and has no reason to put safeguards in place. The company just wanted negative stories to stop. It didn't really care how the data was used. Facebook took the same approach to this investigation as the one I observed during my tenure: react only when the press or regulators make something an issue, and avoid any changes that would hurt the business of collecting and selling data. This makes for a dangerous mix: a company that reaches most of the country every day and has the most detailed set of personal data ever assembled, but has no incentive to prevent abuse. Facebook needs to be regulated more tightly, or broken up so that no single entity controls all of its data. The company won't protect us by itself, and nothing less than our democracy is at stake.
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We Can't Trust Facebook To Regulate Itself, Says Former Operations Manager

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  • New Headline.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sqorbit ( 3387991 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @10:46AM (#55586733)
    We Can't Trust Facebook. You could have just stopped there.
  • by invalid_user ( 253723 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @10:56AM (#55586815)

    In a neutral sense, this is fine. Everybody likes to be like.

    It is the approaches which companies like Google and Facebook take to stop negative stories (censorship, demonizing dissenting voices, commissioning hit pieces, play along with the MSM's agendas) that scare me.

  • Breaking news! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by thomn8r ( 635504 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @11:00AM (#55586847)
    Water is wet!
  • To quote Homer (Simpson)

    D'oh!

    Anybody who thinks Facebook doesn't have the opportunity and means to abuse this data is either a fool or willfully ignorant (otherwise known as your congress critter).

  • Shut down Facebook (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WCMI92 ( 592436 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @11:06AM (#55586881) Homepage

    Facebook can be trusted with information like teenagers can be trusted with car keys and alcohol.

    Lock Zuckerberg up.

    • Nice to not be the first person for once to say this in a conversation. Facebook is toxic and cancerous with regards to humanity and I agree, it -- and most other so-called 'social media' -- should go away.
  • by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @11:08AM (#55586891)

    Take a moment, if you will, to compare the two:

    Facebook knows what you look like
    Facebook knows your location
    Facebook knows who your friends are
    Facebook knows your interests
    Facebook knows if you're in a relationship or not

    He sees you when you're sleeping
    He knows when you're awake
    He knows if you've been bad or good

    There is but one inescapable conclusion: Mark Zuckerberg is Santa Claus .

    • by WCMI92 ( 592436 )

      Facebook knows nothing about me. I don't use it. I've never used it. I'm not a brainless millennial who has to have socialist media.

      • Re:Oh. My. God. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @11:25AM (#55587029)

        Facebook knows a lot about you even if you never visited their website, because people all around you use it.

        • Facebook knows a lot about you even if you never visited their website, because people all around you use it.

          Fortunately, most all of the folks I know and interact with don't use FB either.

          The few that do, respect my wishes about not mentioning me and not posting any pictures with me in them.

          Every little bit helps.

          • So the facebook app steals the info instead for your shadow profile. The fact that you're hiding is part of your FB psych profile. Creeper stalkers gonna stalk.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          indeed people forget about shadow profiles,
          its not about if you use socialmedia but anybody you know who has your phone number(s) in their cellphone does, thanks to the apps trick of uploading the entire contact list Facebook now has your number and name/address, ahhh but you use a pseudonym 5/10 of your buddies put GoochPants as your name and not Jack Smith, no problem, Facebook can infer that GoochPants with the same phone number/address as you is really Jack Smith and voila, they know, and if you signup

    • Take a moment, if you will, to compare the two:

      Facebook knows what you look like Facebook knows your location Facebook knows who your friends are Facebook knows your interests Facebook knows if you're in a relationship or not

      He sees you when you're sleeping He knows when you're awake He knows if you've been bad or good

      There is but one inescapable conclusion: Mark Zuckerberg is Santa Claus .

      Definitely not. It has been thoroughly established that Zuckerberg has no concept of "good" or "bad" (i.e. morality).

      Also, no presents.

  • by JoeyRox ( 2711699 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @11:10AM (#55586907)
    Facebook's entire business model is to sell targeted advertising. That requires huge amounts of data to be collected on its users. Asking Facebook to "regulate" itself by limiting the information it collects is akin to asking it to limit how much profit they make. It ain't going to happen.
    • Asking Facebook to "regulate" itself by limiting the information it collects is akin to asking it to limit how much profit they make. It ain't going to happen.

      Oh, see I read that and I thought about how we limited how much profit companies made making planes in WWII. The government just told them their max profit margins. Similarly, the government could just tell Facebook how creepy they were allowed to be.

    • Facebook's entire business model is to sell targeted advertising. That requires huge amounts of data to be collected on its users. Asking Facebook to "regulate" itself by limiting the information it collects is akin to asking it to limit how much profit they make. It ain't going to happen.

      Neither Facebook or the regulators can be counted on to do it, so I elected to take matters in my own hands. Since Facebook's profit model depends on targeted advertising using data collected from its users, I refused to

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @11:12AM (#55586929)
    When someone uses that phrase, they are implicitly suggesting that you agree that X needs to be regulated.

    >> That means it has no incentive to police the collection or use of that data -- except when negative press or regulators are involved

    I think you forgot about legal recourse. A couple of civil class action lawsuits could also alter behavior. There's also the possibility that people will leave Facebook en masse (and it may already be happening for anyone under 30 - I know my kid's Facebook accounts are not where they are on social media), leaving Facebook with a lock on GenX/Boomers only.

    >> Facebook needs to be regulated more tightly, or broken up so that no single entity controls all of its data.

    I hope you realize that your two suggestions are at odds: one would keep all your browsing in one AlGore-quality lock-box, regulated by a government privacy agency (heh), while the other would scatter copies of all your browsing to many entities who would each develop their own slightly-imperfect picture of you. Also, I hope you understand that the real situation is really pretty close to #2 today.

    Personally, I'd rather keep regulators OUT of the picture and let Facebook live or die organically; otherwise, I could see a system where regulators keep Facebook propped up twenty years from now because they are the officially-approved gold-star social media provider.
    • by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @11:30AM (#55587053)

      And of course they make no mention of option 3, which avoids both problems and actually protects user privacy: banning the collection of large amounts of data about large numbers of users in the first place.

      Of course that would mean eliminating an extremely profitable and increasingly popular business model - but it's not at all clear that the existence of such businesses offers any benefit to society to justify the many risks they inherently create.

      • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @11:37AM (#55587121) Homepage Journal

        And of course they make no mention of option 3, which avoids both problems and actually protects user privacy: banning the collection of large amounts of data about large numbers of users in the first place.

        At the very least....there should be regulation against companies like Facebook acquiring information on people that ARE NOT registered members of their site/product.

        If you haven't signed up, then they should not collect information about you.

        I've read about the "shadow" accounts FB tries to put together on folks that are not on FB...that should be banned and that information immediately and permanently purged from their systems.

      • by swb ( 14022 )

        but it's not at all clear that the existence of such businesses offers any benefit to society to justify the many risks they inherently create

        I'm not defending Facebook, but I think economists would argue that advertising and marketing are major business inefficiencies -- you can spend a lot less and be a lot more effective if you have a better idea who should see your ad. I'd imagine the theory goes that consumers get ads more tailored to what they actually are interested in (no more Tampax ads for me) and businesses waste less money on ineffective marketing tasks.

        That being said, I think economists are quick to support so-called solutions whic

      • And of course they make no mention of option 3, which avoids both problems and actually protects user privacy: banning the collection of large amounts of data about large numbers of users in the first place.

        The problem with that rule is it would effectively outlaw credit reporting agencies. Without those, it would be much harder for banks to offer loans and the effect on the economy of banks tightening up would be devastating, and it would make it virtually impossible for people to get mortgages. Only people rich enough to pay cash for a house would be able to afford one; everyone else would be paying rent to someone else. This would further increase the divide between the very rich, and everyone else.

      • by pots ( 5047349 )
        Banning the collection of large amounts of data and users is also regulation and therefore, according to the grandparent, keeps all your browsing in one AlGore-quality lock-box (whatever that is).

        You're arguing with someone who is obviously opposed to "regulations" in their entirety, seemingly without knowing what regulations are. I doubt that this is going to get you anywhere.
    • On what grounds would you sue? Facebook's collection of data isn't illegal. As far as anyone has said, no laws were broken during the election. Being a platform that allows one person to digitally stalk another person is protected by law -- it's the stalker to blame, not the platform. Overall, I'm not sure that there's any lawsuit that could be used to limit Facebook's activities. Regulations are often what provide civil suits with a basis to proceed. At the moment, we don't have any of those.
  • by DidgetMaster ( 2739009 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @11:12AM (#55586931) Homepage
    This is how cloud works. You turn over all your data to some centralized entity so that you can access it conveniently from all your mobile devices. What many do not realize, is that by doing that you have turned over all control over your data as well. The cloud decides who, when, where, and how the data can be accessed. The current IoT architecture (which is completely wrong in my opinion) does the exact same thing. It shovels all the details of your private life to the real owners of the data (the company who sold you the device) and holds it hostage. Hackers now have one target for a treasure trove of information. Subscriptions and other fees can be tacked on at a whim. But most importantly, all your data is now available to the highest bidder. It is time for the pendulum to start swinging the other way back to a decentralized web where not only computing but storage happens at the edge.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The number of Russian shitposters on this and other tech sites aren't going down either. How about Slashdot starts looking into these VPNed users from Macedonia and Russia who can't stop spamming RT/Sputnik talking points?

    Maybe one will show up in this very thread to incoherently ramble about the DNC in poorly translated English?

  • by I75BJC ( 4590021 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @11:19AM (#55586977)
    Of course, a mega-business such as Facebook can be trusted to self-regulate. That's just common sense. Why look at the sterling examples of self-regulating mega-businesses that provide a 100% consumer friendly and beneficial experience: Exxon, Monsanto, Microsoft, Philip-Morris, BP, EpiPen, VW, Ford, General Motors, et al. For sterling examples within the USA Federal Government, just look at the wonderful self-governing agencies and bureaus: IRS, NSA, FBI, DOJ, DOS, DOD, Congress (the best example of enlightened self-regulation), FCC, the Judicial System, et al. We have lots of examples to assure every user and citizen that Facebook is eminently able to provide self-regulation that will suit and benefit the Public 100% /sarc
  • by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @11:36AM (#55587117) Journal
    Lawmakers shouldn't allow Facebook to regulate itself. Because it won't.

    Just like Wall Street and the banks back in 2007 who repeatedly told us they knew what they were doing and that any additional regulations would stifle their competitiveness on the world. Don't regulate me bro!

    We saw how "self-regulation" worked out for them.
  • by FudRucker ( 866063 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @12:03PM (#55587339)
    shut down facebook, close their offices, and fire all the employees, confiscate all their computers and pull and shred all the harddrives, put up a server with the facebook domain with a page that says "facebook is closed, now go outside and get some fresh air and exercise"
  • We Can't Trust Facebook To Regulate Itself

    Just who is this omniscient and benevolent "We" here? Why TF is this blatant power-grab of other people's property not flamed to death by the outraged Slashdotters? Where are the supposed "anti-Fascists", when Fascism is marching on in the guise of "sensible regulations" [townhall.com]?

    Facebook is not a government agency to merit the concern of taxpayers — it is a business. They are neither vitally important for human survival (like food or medicine), nor are they poisoning

  • by Etcetera ( 14711 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @03:13PM (#55589003) Homepage

    Why is Apple slightly less on the privacy-sucking radar (for most folks) -- battles with the FBI over the Secure Enclave notwithstanding? Because they aren't an advertising company and don't have a vested interest in prioritizing data collection on users over all else. (FWIW, neither is Microsoft, which makes the outcry over low-level telemetry stuff in Windows 10 here seem way over-blown.)

    Facebook and, probably more importantly, Google, control 90% of all advertising on the web. With the crater-like decline in print advertising, and the in-progress collapse in traditional OTA and cable non-Tivo'd television (meaning broadcast, non-microtargeted) viewership, this is a HUGE chunk of National revenue combined with a HUGE chunk of data on nearly every internet-using person out there.

    Breaking off data collection and advertising from the technology sides of the companies are the only way to ensure privacy practices are respected. Yes, that means disruption. Too bad. The alternative is looking more and more like the type of Dystopian, corporate-led Orwellian state that most of us believed was confined to bad science-fiction.

    It's not the late-90s any more, despite the prevalence of Clinton sex scandals in the news. Time to revisit the regulations we passed for the internet back then and update them for the modern technology and consumer landscape.

    • Because they aren't an advertising company and don't have a vested interest in prioritizing data collection on users over all else.

      Then why do they try so hard to collect your data, and make it difficult if not impossible for you to refuse? They wouldn't go through so much trouble if it weren't profitable.

      People need to stop falling into this trap that data collection is okay as long as they promise not to actually use your data for anything. They shouldn't be collecting anything you don't want to share, especially if they already make plenty of profit on hardware or whatever else beside big data. Every little bit helps, and every c

  • water is wet.

  • Listen, Facebook is full of crap as is the entirety of social media. Where is the surprise there? These things don't exist free of charge because Zuckerberg and the like are still in their dorm rooms trying to get dates. They exist because they are trying to be advertisers' Holy Grail. It's been that way since we started writing on papyrus. Big deal the Russian bought some ads on Facebook and followed them up with posts, etc. You don't think big (and even little) business does that every day? And come on. W
  • absolutely nobody. Correction...anyone that has been paying attention to Facebook and their wanton disregard for the data security of their users. Several years ago I recall reading several articles about how FB has changed their application to set certain items enabled where they should be disabled. Data security items. And they make it intentionally difficult for the average user to find those settings and to change them easily. So predictably, the settings go unchanged for many people.

    They also make it r

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