Facebook Says Cambridge Analytica Harvested Data of Up to 87 Million Users [telecom]

Facebook Says Cambridge Analytica Harvested Data of Up to 87 Million Users

Mr. Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive, will appear before multiple congressional committees next week. It is part of the company's efforts to be more open about its work.

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***** Moderator's Note *****

It is not part of "the company's efforts to be more open": far from it. Is is Facebooks professionally managed and cynical effort to drown the facts of its income in a swimming pool filled with the primordial ooze that covers every seat that every Senator and Congressman is trying to keep. I've written about this subject for years, and I find it hard to believe that Facebook's users aren't aware of the immense amount of data they have given away for free.

Traffic intelligence - the facts of who I send email to or get information from, separate from the content of the associated communications - is both essential to, and the curse of, modern life -

  • The phone company needs to know who is calling whom, so as to predict when and where new trunks must be installed, or unused ones reallocated. It is no longer adequate to have teams cutting out ads for new condos are developments from the newspapers: laying more cable is no longer possible, and fiber-optic systems require planning for power, for space, for environmental equipment such as air conditioners, for easements, and for time to educate the technicians who will keep them running (1).

  • Internet backbone providers have to keep close watch on traffic patterns, since the net is now a major carrier of "real time" traffic, e.g. VoIP and streaming video. The problem is now so immediate - and solutions so few - that major universities have already installed "Internet Two" backbones that bypass the routes which ordinary users are stuck with.

  • Cellular companies, who work in a politically charged environment where the very idea of a new tower or another antenna can delay needed reallignment of cells by years, must plan accordingly, and must have accurate predictions of future traffic patterns.

Those are the things that we /must/ tolerate, simply because systems break fast and hard if providers can't get that information. The flip side of that coin is all the ways that knowledge can be used in new and discomfiting ways -

  • The combined spending power of generations X, Y, and Z exceeds the wealth of crassus in both actual and metaphorical terms, and the new kids on the economic block are starting to go on the biggest spending spree of their lives: their first wife, their first new car, their first mortgage, their first lawn-care contract, their first life-insurance policy, their first crib and their first pediatrician and their first child-safe car seat and their first divorce lawyer. Salesdroids all over the world are drooling at the thought that they can now invade the last bastion of privacy in the next-gen's "always on" world: our children have given to total strangers a list of the names of their friends.

Boilerrooms across the world are filled with ambitious glad-handers, whom are hawking over lists from data brokers, ready to pounce on the one "gotcha" come-on that will make a sale. Like it or not, we are all human, and our human nature will compel us to give a cold-caller that all-important minute he needs to set his hook - when he mentions the name of a friend (2).

  • Merchandisers, faced with competition from Amazon and ever- increasing demands to cut costs and maximize impulse sales, crave information about who is walking by their brick-and-mortar storefronts. They drool over the bits that indicate who they can entice to dig out a debit card.

Those, sad to say, are the secrets locked up in the "back office" operations of places like Facebook and AIM and Skype and Youtube - and Mother Bell's bastard children, and the one thing that Mark Zucherberg and his contemporaries are deathly afraid of is that the source of their wealth will decide to turn off the tap.

It is trivially easy to throw a monkey wrench into their machinery: as Mario Puzo so prophetically foretold in "The Godfather": "Only one link in the chain [has] to disappear." Until the day I retired, I used a pseudonym to communictate with my siblings and Vietnam buddies who use Facebook, and to this day I have a false date of birth in their system, and a phone number supplied by Google, and an IP address cloaked either via VPN or via TOR. If I do say so myself, I saw this coming.

Bill Horne Moderator

  1. I once had the priviledge of using an ISDN line at my home, while I was recovering from a serious accident, and the vocal clarity and Internet access speed (a mind-blowing 128 Kbps during a time when V.22 modems were the norm) left me astonished that NYNEX would not aggressively promote the product. A Vice-President explained to me that there were many other factors involved, not the least of which was the fact that the company had millions invested in "7-bit" T-carrier channel units that couldn't be used for ISDN lines if customers demanded their full capability, and the fact that if too many customers adopted a technology which could not be used for 911 calls when the power failed, their home insurance providers were afraid of a conflagration that might ruin even a major carrier.

  1. You need not take my word on this, but simply recall the last time some charity asked you to mail out solicitaitons on their behalf. They usually offer to pay the postage, since it's so small a cost compared to the immense value of your good name, which they are arrogating use of without your knowledge.

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Monty Solomon
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