March 18, 2018

"The information that Facebook holds on its users (at least 98 data points per user) is deeply revealing – including of their tastes, preferences, habits, sexuality, politics, hopes and fears."

"For political campaigners, this is the purest gold dust, because it enables messages to be precisely calibrated, and for this to be done at a scale that was unimaginable in the pre-internet era. In a breathtaking piece of corporate casuistry, Facebook claims that this data harvest was not really a data breach at all, because the researcher who opened the floodgates did so 'in a legitimate way and through the proper channels.' The problem, they say, was that the individual in question didn’t abide by the company’s rules because he passed the information on to third parties. A senior Facebook executive told MPs that while the non-breach might have garnered lots of data, 'it is not data that we have provided.'"

What a narrow, legalistic argument Facebook is making for itself! That's not going to work. We didn't give it to X. We gave it to Y who gave it to X. It's a laundering argument.

Facebook must have a substantive argument that they're choosing to hold in reserve: It's good to use this data to facilitate communication, especially on topics of great public concern.

The quote is from "The Observer view on how Facebook’s destructive ethos imperils democracy/Our revelations about the harvesting of users’ data show that Mark Zuckerberg’s all-powerful company has little sense of responsibility," an editorial in The Guardian that follows on a long piece of investigative journalism linked in the previous post. The editors express fear of the monsters of Silicon Valley, "where the mantra of 'creative destruction' has the status of religious dogma."
[Mark Zuckerberg] has been obliged to follow in the footsteps of the hero of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein – gradually forced to come to terms with the implications of the monster that he and his employees have created....

Shortly after Facebook became a public company, its founder famously exhorted his employees to “move fast and break things”. It was, of course, a hacker’s trope and, as such, touchingly innocent. What perhaps never occurred to Zuckerberg is that liberal democracy might be one of the things they break.
Can anyone explain why there is so much fear of targeted political advertising? If it's as dangerous as they act like they think then people are so weak-minded that democracy should be broken and we might as well let the machines take over.

73 comments:

Kevin said...

including of their tastes, preferences, habits, sexuality, politics, hopes and fears

I'm sure they're already putting together the national database of gun owners.

Kevin said...

That's not going to work. We didn't give it to X. We gave it to Y who gave it to X. It's a laundering argument.

Isn't that what the press used against John Kelly yesterday?

So he has a meeting to try get his spin on things, he tells the Tillerson story because this gives him currency with them and they now know the hottest gossip, and the meeting breaks up and these reporters, being reporters, just have to gossip. And Jonathan Swan decided that if he wasn’t good enough to be invited to the off-the-record then he was under no obligation to keep its confidences.

Who do you think is teaching morals in this country if not those who tell us through our newspapers and televisions what is and is not acceptable behavior?

Kevin said...

Can anyone explain why there is so much fear of targeted political advertising?

Because the Russians got Trump elected using $100,000 of it?

/snark

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

Yes. One obvious point is that Facebook wasn't frightening to progressives when Obama was using it so cleverly; it became frightening when Trump used it successfully. One strange twist is that at one time, progressives were automatically suspicious of the national security state; now they welcome and flatter it, in the hope that it will hurt Trump or bring him down.

dda6ga dda6ga said...

Besides thinking the 98% are deplorable and how ever Hillary described us last week they think we are all stupid and easily led. See LLR rants here.

Jeff Brokaw said...

Targeted political advertising is only a bad thing when Republicans do it. Just like everything else.

Cooke said...

The main problem with targeted ads as I see it is what I DON'T get to see when a group is NOT targeting me.

Psota said...

My memory is that, back in 2012, Democrats were high-fiving over the Obama campaign's mastery of data mining Facebook/Google...and those companies happily gave the Dems plenty of access to user data.

But "Trump did it," so now it's bad.

Fernandistein said...

"The personal information and data trails left by its 2 billion users to construct detailed profiles allows advertisers to send precisely calibrated advertisements to people who are likely to be susceptible to, or persuaded by, them."

Oh, the horror of getting one type of advertisement instead of another.

I bet some of those advertisements are so powerful that they can make people do anything!

"The revelations in our lead story today are shocking"

They're not shocking, they're barely interesting. And they're not revelations, they're fake news.

EDH said...

"We didn't give it to X. We gave it to Y who gave it to X."

Kinda like Perkins Coie and the Clinton/DNC payment for the Trump dossier?

Beloved Commenter AReasonableMan said...

Althouse said ... What a narrow, legalistic argument Facebook is making for itself! That's not going to work. We didn't give it to X. We gave it to Y who gave it to X. It's a laundering argument.

My understanding is the company in question used Facebook as a platform to gather data on their own initiative, which somewhat different to the nefarious 'laundering' described here.

rhhardin said...

Try Eliza. Somebody has put it up.

http://www.manifestation.com/neurotoys/eliza.php3

It's a program from the mid 60s, takes a bit of your problem and echoes it as a question. Rogarian psychotherapist.

Women liked it at the time; men thought it was funny.

Jeff Brokaw said...

EVERYTHING is hyper-partisan now.

And it is SO f*cking annoying.

John Lynch said...

It's BORING. When you know what people will say, before they say it, what's the point of listening to their crap?

rhhardin said...

Stuff isn't hyperpartisan but PC-is-shit vs PC-is-good.

tim in vermont said...

Can anyone explain why there is so much fear of targeted political advertising?

Because Republicans might use it? Nobody gave a flying fuck the effort Google put into electing Obama. Google, the number one controller of information the world has ever seen.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Democrats are terrified of the people of the United States. They believe that people need to have the information that they receive carefully vetted, because they cannot think for themselves.

Fernandistein said...

Facebook clearly tells people that they use the collected personal data for nefarious mind control, er, I mean advertising:

https://www.facebook.com/about/privacy

That's why these hysterical articles are fake news.

Etienne said...

When the peasants are upset enough to attack monuments and create violent demonstrations to back their cause, then democracy fails.

When police take a knee, when mayors welcome non-citizens, the peasants are empowered.

Social media is the new printing press, the new radio, the new Mercury Theater On The Air, the new Alien Invasion.

The Hondurans have landed!

EDH said...

Can anyone explain why there is so much fear of targeted political advertising?

Perhaps the greatest risk is that under the standard economic model the monopolist has an incentive to restrict supply.

As a result, not all people are likely to be given equal access to the data. In some cases it'd be conceivable the one campaign might not only pay for access to the data, but the denial of the data to others.

Since the stakes involve who controls the government, there's an even greater incentive for the monopolist to restrict that supply of data to one party over another, above and beyond the mere commercial incentive to garner so-called "monopoly rents".

tim in vermont said...

My understanding is the company in question used Facebook as a platform to gather data on their own initiative, which somewhat different to the nefarious ‘laundering' described here.

Explain it for us Beloved, or is this another one of your conclusions from people you choose to trust that you are so fond of posting here? Here is your chance to show up Althouse!

tim in vermont said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Beloved Commenter AReasonableMan said...

Facebook has a communist equivalent WeChat, which is even more all-encompassing in terms of capabilities and potential database comprehensiveness, something like combining Amazon and Facebook.

EDH said...

Heh, "garner".

Jeff Brokaw said...

Re: "hijacked their profiles"

The article I read about this last night said Cambridge Analytica used standard methods to do it's data mining - build a survey, get people to take it, and guess what, lots of those who took it had privacy settings that permitted Cambridge to look at all their Facebook contacts and grab all of that data.

That's how social media advertising works, geniuses. It relies on sheeple users who either do not understand, or don't care, how they AND all their contacts, including family and friends, are being manipulated and used to serve the needs of advertisers.

rhhardin said...

Serving the needs of advertisers is good. You get all sorts of recommendations for stuff you'd actually like.

Since it's priced to work in the open market, probably it's priced much less than you'd be otherwise paying, since you're a targeted consumer for it. So you come out way ahead.

Has anybody noticed how much stuff they like they get from Amazon? Vs. the old days shopping in malls, where everything is a just barely want to buy item.

rhhardin said...

As for political advertising, people duped by it should be ridiculed into not voting or into thinking like men on political topics.

rhhardin said...

Steal a math site's profiles and you can find out the sex of all the users.

Beloved Commenter AReasonableMan said...

Jeff Brokaw said...
Cambridge Analytica used standard methods to do it's data mining - build a survey, get people to take it, and guess what, lots of those who took it had privacy settings that permitted Cambridge to look at all their Facebook contacts and grab all of that data.
That's how social media advertising works, geniuses.


This is my understanding.

buwaya said...

Targeting advertising is one thing. The only concern regarding its use for political purposes is that it must be available to all who would use it for politics, else it is an effective monopoly putting its thumb on the political scales.

Worse is the filtering of speech. Facebook, Twitter and Google are already using their monopoly/cartel positions to put their thumbs on the scale in this respect. They have political preferences and are actively using their platforms to suppress their opponents speech.

Much worse is the already ongoing use of this sort of profile for sanctions agains political undesirables. China is beginning to implement this, and what Facebook and Google has can easily be turned to that purpose. And it obviously will be.

EDH said...

Think of Zuckerberg and Facebook as Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross.

And think of the e FB user data as "the leads".

And think of how Kevin Spacey eventually collected a bribe from a groveling Jack Lemon, the break-in with Ed Harris, and the general dysfunction with Al Pacino and Alan Arkin.

"I need those leads, I need them now or I'm out".

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=u9R34QNUy1g

Phil 3:14 said...

I didn't get any of this targeted advertising in 2016, and I should be a good target: older, white male. What gives?!

My wife got the Trump ads and she voted for him, so may be they work.

Though according the Hillary she voted for DT because I told her to.

(Odd, since I didn't vote for him. Its all so complicated.)

Matthew Sablan said...

"Facebook must have a substantive argument that they're choosing to hold in reserve: It's good to use this data to facilitate communication, especially on topics of great public concern."

-- That's the argument I've heard from techies who don't mind sharing their information. That the cost (advertisements and spam mails) is worth the benefit (seeing things they want more often).

But, when it comes to politics, I just don't trust large organizations not to use their power to shame and ruin me like they do with anyone who steps out of bounds. I don't mind that Facebook knows I like Magic the Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons and am currently reading a bunch of non-fiction books interspersed with Phillip K. Dick and other science fiction.

I *do* care that they might think they know how I voted *and are willing to tell people what they think.* Remember the Althouse post where someone sent a "here's how your neighborhood voted" get out the vote mail?

Yeah. I just don't trust people not to want to de-platform people, by which they mean hit them with bicycle locks and destroy their property, of people who the Internet tells them may have voted the wrong way.

Matthew Sablan said...

"I didn't get any of this targeted advertising in 2016, and I should be a good target: older, white male. What gives?!"

-- The answer to this is actually simple. If you don't have any odd interests/hobbies, you're most likely in the default advertising group. But, if you are public about specific hobbies, say running, you might get something more tailored.

Jeff Brokaw said...

Serving the needs of advertisers is okay if you understand, as a social media user, that's what you're doing and either find some value in it, or don't care one way or the other.

Most people think they are customers, instead of the end product for advertisers. And most people literally have NO idea how complete a picture of you these advertisers and data-mining types can build of you, your kids, your wife, etc.

Seems like a pretty un-transparent situation from the end user's perspective.

EDH said...

"I need those leads, I need them now or I'm out".

Could that become the mantra of the entire political class?

buwaya said...

Facebook doesnt have anything on me, but Google does, and they have gotten very good at targeting ads at me.
Currently they are showing me stockbrokers.

Jeff Brokaw said...

Like buwaya and others above note, the bigger and more important issue for me is political advertising and how data mining feeds that already ugly, corrupt practice.

It gets worse every year, even on TV, much more of a mass media platform. The commercials here in Illinois these last few weeks have been unbelievable - complete lies and utter bullshit, especially from Rauner.

"I try to be more and more cynical every day, but lately I just can't keep up" - Somebody, somewhere

PJ said...

Althouse provides a valuable public service by exposing to scrutiny some of the targeted political communications she receives. The vast majority of the targeted have neither the inclination nor the platform to do that.

Unknown said...

This smells like a set up to charge trump with conspiracy to defraud the United states

Sebastian said...

"Can anyone explain why there is so much fear of targeted political advertising?"

"There is so much fear" only of targeted advertising helping the opposition--particularly the opposition relying on gullible deplorables.

Biff said...

I remember when Obama was being lauded for using Facebook, twitter, and targeted political advertising in 2008 and again in 2012. Supposedly, it was one of the proofs of how he, and Democrats in general, were so much smarter than Republicans.

Lyle Smith said...

Lots of progressives think their utopia would come into being, if only people received "all the right information". They love to think it's not certain peoples' fault they're in whatever predicament they are in... like "poverty". If you control the words, you can get the outcome you want, so they think.

Omaha1 said...

I used to be on Match.com and a person I had been conversing with suddenly appeared on my list of potential Facebook friends. I didn't even know his real name but I recognized his profile picture. This kind of freaked me out. He is a nice guy but the reason I was on Match in the first place was to remain semi-anonymous until I felt comfortable enough with someone to meet them in person. So there is lots of personal data sharing going on between companies. My first name is "unique" (appears first in Google searches for my city) so I always used a shortened version of it on Match.

Omaha1 said...

As a single woman I found the idea of my personal data being shared (whichever direction the sharing went) extremely creepy. Whether or not it was used for political purposes.

traditionalguy said...

The complaint is that the old Media owned by the government has a competitor. Wycliffe and Tyndale canard the same consternation in 1500 using the printed translations that once were under lock and keys encoded in Latin.

Darrell said...

Facebook is as timeless and powerful as the NYT.
See you in five years, Boys.

Paco Wové said...

"...I had been conversing with suddenly appeared on my list of potential Facebook friends."

Another data point: I once bought a used car from a woman in a city a few hundred miles away. I found the car (and we first communicated) via craigslist. After that it was all telephone and text messages. Once the transaction was complete, we had no further contact. A few months later she began showing up in Facebook friend recommendations.

Kevin said...

When I look at the details of what Facebook thinks it knows about me in my profile, I'm not worried. It knows I'm in a family-based household and thinks I'm liberal, of all things, and that I own an iPhone 6. The first is because you define a family in your settings (ooh, spooky insight!) and the last is a standard handshake ANY site does with any client (what is the browser/app and what OS?). So the one thing that requires any sort of even moderately subtle AI discrimination they got 100% dead wrong.

Unless what they tell you they know about you is all a misdirection.

rhhardin said...

I wonder if google knows I have a really, really old computer.

Charlie Currie said...

It's the old guard upset with the new guard for doing what the old guard has always done, except doing it better.

EDH said...

Buwaya said...
Facebook doesnt have anything on me, but Google does, and they have gotten very good at targeting ads at me.
Currently they are showing me stockbrokers.


As I've recommended before, just start continuously clicking women's lingerie and swimwear ads.

Those ads now surround my Althouse page view.

Inga said...

“Can anyone explain why there is so much fear of targeted political advertising? If it's as dangerous as they act like they think then people are so weak-minded that democracy should be broken and we might as well let the machines take over.”

There are Trumpists that are weak-minded, enough of them that we should all be very concerned for democracy in the era of Trumpism.

bgates said...

There are Trumpists that are weak-minded

"Shoot up baseball practice" weak-minded, or just "felony assault on neighboring legislator" weak-minded?

rhhardin said...

There are Trumpists that are weak-minded, enough of them that we should all be very concerned for democracy in the era of Trumpism.

I can't offhand think of any weak-minded people at all, on any side.

Strength directions tend to vary with gender, however.

rhhardin said...

We need different pronouns for strong and weak minded people.

I suggest he and she.

rhhardin said...

Nobody does contravariant argument anymore.

elkh1 said...

It's bad because the wrong person won.

Hillary's campaign used the same thing but her top down bureaucracy had no imagination, their underlings were too afraid to rock the boat. They expected to cruise to victory.

Trump who "had no chance to win", had nothing to lose. They could tried new things, new ideas, new experiments. The rest is history.

If Hillary had done what Trump did and won, she would become the poster girl for Facebook. Fake Media and liberals would celebrate the brilliance of Facebook.

khematite said...

Just how long has this been going on? Over half a century, it seems. Facebook just makes it somewhat easier.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_480

"The 480 in the title denotes the number of groups (by party affiliation, socioeconomic status, location, origin, etc.) that the computer simulation uses to classify the American electorate. The full list of these is reproduced in the Appendix, claimed by the author to be the true list used by the Simulmatics Corporation (real name) in Senator John F. Kennedy's Presidential campaign in 1960. The cover features an IBM 5081 punched card."

The Cracker Emcee Classic said...

“Blogger rhhardin said...
We need different pronouns for strong and weak minded people.

I suggest he and she.”

Nice to see that there are still some Romans in the world.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

It's dangerous when people know the truth about the corruptocrat party, and the leaders of the D-party, the Clinton Crime Family.

funsize said...

For those of you who mentioned you like targeted ads showing you more of the things you want to buy, can you elaborate on why that is preferred/important? I generally know what I want to buy and can search those terms easily. It seems less useful to me, but admittedly I hate nearlt all advertising.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

When Soros tries to buy the election, it's all good.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

When Stier tries to buy the election, it's all good.

Earnest Prole said...

Everyone is fine when user data is used to sell orange juice, but we're supposed to shit our pants when it's used to sell a man with orange skin?

Darkisland said...

Ever read the terms of service for Facebook?

They own all rights to everything you have evet posted publicly or privately.

At one time, 7-8 years ago they even owned everything they found on your hard drive even if it had never been posted or sent anywhere in cyber space. They claimed it was a mistake and changed it. But you agree to the tos merely by using the service and the tos changes weekl or so.

I not only do not use Facebook, I will not allow anyone to use Facebook on any device I own or my network.

Even my kids who have guest accounts. If I ever catch them I will terminate their access in a hearybeat.

OF COURSE I'm paranoid. I doubt I am paranoid enough. I do try, though.

John Henry

Darkisland said...

You know those pics of your kids that you shared with grandma privately?

Yeah, Facebook owns them. If they decide to sell them to Procter and gamble for an ad campaign, you won't even get a taste of the price.

They don't but they can. You are relying on their better nature. As Robert Heinlein pointed out years ago, only a fool relies on his fellow man's better nature. They mau not have one.

And it is nobodys fault but your own.

Not Facebook

Not the government

Nobody else's fault.

YOU are the one that gave them pernission to sell ypur kids photos. YOU are the one who voluntarily gave up all your rights

John Henry

Darkisland said...

It probably bears repeating on an hourly basis:

You are not Facebook's customer, you are their product.

Ditto google, Gmail hotmail Twitter and all these other "free" services

John Henry

Ray said...

Facebook has a lot of offline data about you. Income, where you live, etc. plus all the stuff the mine out of your social interactions and groups you belong too.

jimbino said...

It's good to use this data

It continues to be painful to hear or read "this data," "this media." "this strata," "this errata," "this agenda" and the like. Same with "amount of data," etc. Blogs are ruining English.

Earnest Prole said...

It continues to be painful to hear or read "this data," "this media." "this strata," "this errata," "this agenda" and the like. Same with "amount of data," etc.

It's especially painful to those with a stick up their arse.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Why are you kvetching about the stick up jimbino's ass? Either pull it out or let it alone.

Kirk Parker said...

Cracker MC,

And even more Romans, now that jimbino has shown up.

(Hint to the clueless one: we're writing English here, not Latin.

Putz.

That's not Latin, either.)