back to article Translating Facebook's latest 'Hard Questions' PR spin – The Reg edit

Stop us if you've heard this one before: Facebook is trying to 'set the record straight' after it was once again caught flogging the ability to violate the privacy of its users. The social network wheeled out its VP of Ads to try and explain away the more disturbing details to emerge in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica …

Anonymous Coward

More Creepy Facebook:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-43869911

The firm considered scoring how emotionally stable its users were to help it target ads at them. Facebook explored unpicking personalities to target ads. Facebook has considered profiling its users' personalities and using the information to target adverts. A patent filed by the social network describes how personality characteristics, including emotional stability, could be determined from people's messages and status updates.

'Status updates' The BBC has seen emails from Mr Eckles and other Facebook staff to University of Cambridge psychologists in which they discuss analysis of data to infer personality traits, and talk of using such research to improve the product for users and advertisers. It says the personality characteristics could then be stored in a user's profile and used "to select news stories, advertisements, or recommendations of actions presented to the user".

He acknowledged that "psychographic [advertising] targeting raises some distinctive ethical concerns" but said he was doubtful it would ever have been effective. The Cambridge Psychometrics Centre has been banned from the platform while Facebook investigates allegations that it misused data. The centre denies the allegation that it handed data gathered from a personality quiz for academic research to the commercial company Cubeyou.

We have had several conversations and meetings with Facebook researchers going back as far as 2011," said a spokesman for the Psychometrics Centre. "However, Facebook has chosen not to publish its research, and therefore users will be unaware how their data may be being used."

During congressional hearings earlier this month, Facebook's chief executive Mark Zuckerberg appeared to link the two cases, saying "we do need to know whether there was something bad going on at Cambridge University overall".

Academics at the Cambridge Psychometrics Centre published an influential paper in 2013 about predicting personality from Facebook likes, the result of research which had been under way for some years. The BBC has seen a 2011 email from Prof Eckles, then a researcher at Facebook, to the Cambridge academics expressing interest in their work. He describes undertaking similar research. "We have been using analysis of linguistic data to infer personality traits,"

Two years later in 2013, another Facebook employee wrote to the Cambridge academics, apparently unaware of the previous contact. Srikant Ayyar wrote that he had read their recent paper with interest and continued: "Our group does similar work with the goal of improving our product for people who use it and advertisers. …..we are growing to keep pace with Facebook growth and growth in the data we collect."

8
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: More Creepy Facebook:

Considered? I saw that on the BBC and thought wait a minute are you telling me Facebook didn't use emotions to place ads but were happy to try and alter them?

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jun/29/facebook-users-emotions-news-feeds (I know there's a reg article just can't find it right now)

Pull the other on (it's got bells on).

4
1
Silver badge

Re: More Creepy Facebook:

Well, but see http://www.newscientist.com/article/2166331-dont-blame-academics-like-me-for-facebooks-privacy-crisis/ (via Comp.Risks)

1
1
Silver badge
FAIL

Facebook = Surveillance Capitalism. Nothing more.

Surveillance capitalism is a term first introduced by John Bellamy Foster and Robert McChesney in Monthly Review in 2014 and later popularized by academic Shoshana Zuboff that denotes a new genus of capitalism that monetizes data acquired through surveillance.

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

1
0

I'd pay...

I'd even pay a premium over their ARPU for my country, which would be very easy money - they would have to _not_ do stuff in order to take my money. Not feed it into their big data stuff, not sell it - directly or indirectly - to advertisers, etcetera. I still don't understand why that is not an option - after all, they know how to collect money from their current customers, why not from me?

3
2

Re: I'd pay...

Because that's not how you grow ARPU..

4
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: I'd pay...

I think the point is, Zuk doesn't want YOUR MONEY. He likes his Mass-Surveillance-Monster just how it is! He's got far more devious plans beyond what we've seen so far. If he didn't have something more planned for this 'baby', he'd probably retire with the 60-bill and let all his minions deal with the fallout.

After all, even if Facebook escapes sanction, they won't escape scrutiny - not any more. Eventually all that bad press will start to affect the lives of his family and children too etc. So why risk it? Well its only worth it, if this is just the beginning and what you really want is to conduct the largest behavioral experiment on humans ever - available for hire - to anyone with enough $$$.

You can imagine, how Facebook would be a particularly handy WEAPON should Zuk ever run for President etc. But I suspect Zuk's ego is larger than that. He wants to influence and control the entire world - nothing less! Zuk desires a Facebook meets Palantir meets Cambridge Analytica machine - 'Data is Destiny':

https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2018-palantir-peter-thiel/

10
2
Anonymous Coward

'conduct the largest behavioral experiment on humans ever'

No doubt about it, the 'little' Facebook psychological experiments we've seen are a trial run for much larger ones. After all facebook was never really all that innovative, it was never about the tech, it was always about building up sufficient numbers to be able to play out these kinds of large-scale information war-games etc.

8
1
Silver badge

Re: I'd pay...

How would you know if they did_not_do_stuff? Sure, you may not see ads from them but what about other sites which they could be selling the info to? Personal info is a commodity like it or not.

And while were at it... various sources indicate that Zuck has given serious thought to running for political office... the big white one. Do you think if that's true that he'd give all that data that could be used in a campaign?

5
1

This post has been deleted by its author

Targeted ads

I don't get targeted advertising. It seems to be braindead.

I just bought a new car. I used the web to look at pricing and read reviews. I am now constantly seeing ads for this car.

I was already interested in the vehicle beforehand so the ads were pointless then. Since I have bought the vehicle the ads are even more pointless now. Do they think I need another one and have completely forgotten about the product since I bought it last time?

22
2
Silver badge

Re: Targeted ads

Presumably it costs so little for them to keep hounding you, on the off-chance that if you haven't bought it they can convince you to do so, that it's worthwhile taking that risk...

I find ads that follow me around the internet to be incredibly creepy.

9
1
LDS
Silver badge
Joke

Re: Targeted ads

Did you brag about the new car on Facebook? If you don't tell them you bought it, how could they stop? How could they switch to send ads for insurances and car deodorants?

5
1
Silver badge

Re: Targeted ads

@ScottK: I don't get targeted advertising. It seems to be braindead.

Probably no more braindead than the email spam of old that was deliberately sprinkled with bad grammar and misspellings and looked ridiculous in general. The target audience was never you or me, but the much more gullible part of the population. Someone who does not question bad grammar will not ask too many questions further along the way, either. The Dilbert Principle of Market Segmentation at work: first you sell to rich idiots, then you use the proceeds to ramp up the production to sell to poor idiots where the real volume is.

Facebook just facilitates identifying those rich (and poor) idiots. That makes spam much more "targeted", from the spammers' point of view, than collecting zillions of email addresses at random and sending those reasonably priced anatomy augmentation offers to everybody. How much better to advertise breast and penis enlargement to punters of the appropriate sex - must be worth paying Facebook a few pennies to classify them, eh?

An additional technology angle is that while email is based on open protocols that allow effective filtering on both metadata and contents, from procmail to Bayes to whatever, and thus old school email spam is effectively swallowed by webmail giants (who do not get paid) and/or client-side add-ons, today's walled silos of proprietary messaging, apps, and "feeds" are not filtered either on the platform end (because the platforms get paid) or on the client end (because the protocols are not open - on the web you can still adblock with some degree of efficiency, but with apps you are basically helpless).

Braindead? No, more sophisticated, I'd say.

2
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: hounding you, on the off-chance that if you haven't bought it

I recall reading somewhere that a large proportion (most, IIRC) online shopping attempts are abandoned just before or purchase/completion. On that basis, without specific "STHIAT really did buy one" data being retained and/or shared, it is quite understandable that they then assume you didn't buy one - because you were statistically likely to have not done so.

Not that this helps make the ads any less annoying/creepy/whatever.

2
1
Devil

Re: Targeted ads

> I just bought a new car. I used the web to look at pricing and read reviews. I am now constantly seeing ads for this car.

Obviously the answer here is to open up all of your purchasing information to the advertisers so that they don't pester you with these ads, they love you and want to keep you happy, you make their life complete and this will make you completely happy and it's all for you own good and if you don't comply they will bombard you with popups that even a text terminal would struggle to block.

Of course they could just use the data they skimmed off those credit card detail and purchase confirmation pages where they have ads and trackers...

1
1
Silver badge

Re: Targeted ads

The Dilbert Principle of Market Segmentation at work: first you sell to rich idiots, then you use the proceeds to ramp up the production to sell to poor idiots where the real volume is.

Dilbert may have codified the practise, but Sir Clive Sinclair pioneered it.

The time he failed was when he aimed for the low end at the start. The C5. Nobody rich would want one. Nobody poor would want one. Only the truly clueless would want one.

Fun coincidence: the C5 appeared not long after "Care in the Community" legislation when many clueless people were turned out onto the streets.

1
1
Silver badge

Re: Targeted ads

"Presumably it costs so little for them to keep hounding you, on the off-chance that if you haven't bought it"

That doesn't explain car dealers from whom you've just bought a car keeping spamming texts etc. The people who place these adverts don't seem to be thinking at all, they're just addicted to advertising.

2
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: Targeted ads

"Do they think I need another one and have completely forgotten about the product since I bought it last time"

Refer the exasperated tweet by a university student who bought a toilet seat, out of necessity, and now receives endless targetted advertising about toilet seats...

2
0
Bronze badge

Re: Targeted ads

"How much better to advertise breast and penis enlargement to punters of the appropriate sex - must be worth paying Facebook a few pennies to classify them, eh?"

Isn't FB big on blurring the gender line? Might not be good for business after all!

2
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Targeted ads

It would make more sense to me if the ads were for a similar product to the one I had already looked at. Advertisers saying "have you considered this as an alternative?" instead of "Here is another ad for that thing you obviously already know about".

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Think about Facebook's original design - Its almost as if

It was created by a failed state despot that asked: "how can I get all these fools to sign-up to a pretend 'cool new tech'.... When all it ever really was about, was a way to change-minds / control-thinking / influence-behavior!

5
0
Silver badge

Re: Think about Facebook's original design - Its almost as if

Considering the inroads FB is making everywhere in the world, there might be some plan developing. Something way beyond "let's start a webpage that brings friends together"... I don't think it's "created by a failed state despot " but now that he sees the power he and FB have, he could be a wanna-be despot.

4
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: Think about Facebook's original design - Its almost as if

Wasn't the original design to track down the hot chick from the frat party last night?

2
0
Anonymous Coward

Zuck-aid

Glad I never drank it.

13
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: Zuck-aid

What we don't realise is that your drink was spiked if any of your friends have it.

6
2
Anonymous Coward

Re: Zuck-aid

I laugh in your general direction

I have NO FRIENDS

LolLlllLlLLllllLllllll

7
1
Silver badge
Happy

Re: Zuck-aid

"I laugh in your general direction

I have NO FRIENDS"

You are Zuckerberg and I claim my £5!

5
1
Anonymous Coward

Is this a case of...

getting at least some of the bad news out of the way before their quarterly results are announced?

After Google dramatically increased its profits (from ADVERTISING and to quote Zuck, 'you dumb F***ks') FB will be under the Wall St microscope very shortly.

I block ALL Ads on the internet apart from a few select sites but I have never clicked on one in my life and don't intend to click on one in the future. I don't use google except through an anonyimiser and I'm not on any of the social media sites and never will be. You can reduce your web presence if you think about it a bit but for many people it is probably too late.

4
1
LDS
Silver badge

A simpler translation....

We sell ads because that makes us rich. 'Connecting people' is the best way to gather all those data that makes targeting ads very effective, you easily get groups, weaknesses, etc. TV, radio and press can't compete with us because of that. But we'll try to deceive you into thinking we're a charity with a dream working for you, just with this little ads side business, or you'll stop sending all those data in, and we won't be rich anymore.

9
1
Gold badge
Gimp

Anyone asking "How did they get all my personal data and profile me like this"

Should look in a mirror.

Accepting you've be played like (for example) "A banjo at an Ozark hoedown" is the first step of doing something about it.

But you're going to have to get legal to actually get a byte of your profile data deleted by them.

6
2
Silver badge

Re: Anyone asking "How did they get all my personal data and profile me like this"

"Should look in a mirror."

That assumes the "anyone" has an account. What about those who don't but still have had a profile built by their family and friends' contacts etc being slurped?

3
1
Silver badge

If ya don't do Facebook

This is useful:

https://github.com/jmdugan/blocklists/tree/master/corporations/facebook

2
1
Silver badge

The Bigger Beta APT Picture Show

Do the money manipulation and stock exchanging markets need the likes of a Facebook to keep their Ponzis churning and capturing unaware suckers/ignorant clients?

An Advanced Persistent Threat masquerading as a Benign Useful Treat? Wanna bet that they don't and that losing your stake is ok?

Or would that be foolish and the ACT of a Buffoon and AIMoron?

1
2
Silver badge
Coat

> The social network wheeled out its VP of Ads to try and explain away the more disturbing details to emerge in the wake of the Cambridge Anal. scandal.

It's all Greek to me.

2
1
Anonymous Coward

We don’t sell your information.

cause it's OUR information. You gave it away for FREE, remember?!

7
1
Anonymous Coward

Don't like it? Leave

Exactly. They hastily bent over (etc, etc.), and now they're surprised that, on top of a FREE experience, something's itchy down there?! Oh, their partner didn't wear rubber, OMG, how outrageous, why was I NOT INFORMED?!

That said, clearly, majority don't mind, I didn't hear about huge numbers of users leaving FB recently. The storm will pass.

But politicians, always on the lookout, have scored something for themselves out of this. After all, they didn't speak out at length about their FB-related outrage for no reason, eh?

1
4
Silver badge

ha

"So, it's going to come down to a simple choice: is the service worth the cost?"

At least the end of the article hits the nail on the head.

"It’s the same with a free search engine, website or newspaper. The core product is reading the news or finding information – and the ads exist to fund that experience"

Do people really struggle to understand this concept? How do these people think the 'free' service is paid for? FB is a commercial product, it is an advertising platform with the attempt to be more accurate in targeting the ads (feel free to point out it isnt very good at it). You people voluntarily give it data. Data you are happy to give them by your very own choice.

1
4
Coat

Zuck-aid. It's made of people.

4
1

I don't particularly mind targeted ads, if they are targeted by FB (I did sign up to that bit). If an advertiser gives FB an advert for 40-50 year olds who like eating out, and FB puts it on appropriate time lines, then that is ok with me. What I really don't like is other companies being given data about me to effectively do what they like with (I didn't realise that I had signed up to that bit). That is the main reason I am trying to wean myself off FB.

3
1
Bronze badge
Mushroom

FB = all your Face are Belong to us

"Is the service worth the cost?"

Was it ever? I've been a proud FB-avoider/denouncer since ... always!

(And they just keep handing me more and more ammunition to use against them.)

4
1
Anonymous Coward

Bond Villains

Zuk+Nix really are Bond villains in this cartoonish-noir world we now live in:

"Cambridge Analytica spokesman said the company was "no Bond villain".

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-43879089

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Bond Villains

Govt: "Facebook has called your company a scam and a fraud. Is it not odd that they employ someone who by their admission has violated the platform's policies?"

Dr Kogan: "I don't believe that they actually believe this. They know that their platform is being mined left and right by thousands of others,"

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Facebook / Google are basically Con-Artists!

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-04-24/make-facebook-and-google-information-fiduciaries

Make Facebook / Google 'Information Fiduciaries'. "What happens to you here is forever," warns O'Brien, an agent of the Thought Police, in "1984." He would've loved the internet. Online, everything is forever. All the sites you visit, articles you like, posts you share: They're in the permanent file.

Facebook Inc.'s most recent scandal -- in which it allowed an outside company to furtively collect its users' data on a huge scale -- caused an uproar in large part because the people affected thought they were taking a harmless and ephemeral quiz; instead, their answers were stored for years and used in ways they never expected.

This kind of thing will keep happening so long as online privacy is governed by the concept of consent. It's true that internet users "consent" to share their data in the abstract -- they accept the privacy policies, click the right boxes, jump through the right hoops to keep on doing what they were doing. But this choice is not informed, and that's so by design.

The last thing companies such as Facebook want is for their users to think about what will be done with their data. Consent of this kind serves a narrow legal purpose, but is otherwise meaningless. One is that the relationship is asymmetrical.

Tech companies know a great deal about their users, and have powerful tools to influence them, but the users are essentially in the dark about how the services work. Such power imbalances are a standing invitation to abuse.

Another fact is that the relationship is based on trust. Although tech companies assert that they'll protect your personal information -- "Privacy is very important to us," Mark Zuckerberg, evidently in earnest -- users have no meaningful way of evaluating such statements. They must either accept the assurances and divulge their data, or forgo use of the service.

"Their central obligation," would be "that they cannot act like con artists -- inducing trust in their end-users to obtain personal information and then betraying end-users or working against their interests."

1
0
Bronze badge
Black Helicopters

If Facebook releases and operating system (filled with bugs).......

Does anyone else think that Mark Zuckerberg reminds you of Elliot Carver?

0
0

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Forums

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2018