Even as it issues full-page apologies in print newspapers promising ritualistically “to do better,” Facebook and its allies have minimized the importance of the seismic revelation that the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, which worked on behalf of the Trump campaign in 2016, had gained access to the private information of about 50 million Facebook users.
Some executives have pointed out that the mechanism that until a few years ago allowed a researcher with 270,000 app downloads to have access to 50 million profiles wasn’t exactly a secret, and, besides, Facebook users nominally agreed to the sharing of these profiles so that apps would perform better. The company’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, took to Twitter to complain that Facebook and other “platforms” were being held to a double standard concerning the profiles, since they may well “have been criticized as monopolists for locking them down.”
Others poured cold water on the idea that Cambridge Analytica was able to use these profiles as grist for its research on swaying voters by cracking the code of human intention. Marc Andreessen, the venture capitalist and a Facebook board member, doesn’t tweet anymore, but he “likes” hundreds of tweets a week, a group that recently included a string that mocked the public’s fear that new media forms can be turned into “weapons of total mind control.”
Perhaps these are the wrong reasons for outrage, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be outraged. What Facebook is selling to political campaigns is the same thing Uber is selling to its drivers and customers and what YouTube is selling to advertisers who hope to reach an audience of children — namely, the right to bypass longstanding rules and regulations in order to act with impunity.
David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | Pending Approval at NYT Comments.
Angry is too soft a word for how I feel about Facebook. I don’t plan to quit it, because it is a useful communication device, but since we don’t expect the GOP to regulate this rogue capitalist monster, it becomes another log on the fire, for the great resistance of the mid-term election this November. It is time to bring honest, science based, pro democracy, citizen regulators back to all levels of government. Yesterday, I finally visited my apps department in Facebook. There are 16 apps on my account, and I only recognized, and was possibly responsible for three of them. What is the Bing App? Google won’t say in the first pages, and Facebook says it doesn’t understand the question. Let’s get to work, and take over Facebook, and make it absolutely transparent. None of this bullshit, Oh, we can’t tell you what the disappearing ads in the election were.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com