back to article An easy-breezy attitude to sharing personal data is the only thing keeping the app economy alive

Since the number of users slurped by third-party data harvesters only seems to rise, the ugly truth for Facebook may be that its growth-at-all-costs culture has led to a dramatic loss in personal privacy. But the even uglier truth is that such data-sharing practices may be the only way the mobile app economy can sustain itself …

  1. malle-herbert Silver badge
    Big Brother

    And that's exactly why...

    I don't do Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Snapchat and App bullcrap !

    It's all about slurping people's data...

    Sorry, but my privacy is worth a lot more to me than that !

    1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

      Re: And that's exactly why...

      Fine... and I applaud your restraint. For reference, neither do I.

      I bet they still have quite a lot of data on us though. And that, my Reg reading friend is the problem in a nutshell.

      1. EddieD

        Re: And that's exactly why...

        Just having a mobile with us takes away privacy, the base stations, wifi, whatever track us, and that data alone can reveal more than we realise.

        I don't do social media, other than a few sites like El Reg, and I try and keep details of me on the web to a minimum, but like it or loathe it human data is probably the fastest growing, and given the market caps, most profitable, commodity on the planet.

        I'm waiting till the Googles and Facebooks try and market the intrusion as motivational and supportive "here at global spycorp we're interested in _you_ and we'll keep an eye out for you all the time", but hopefully as more folk learn just what is being done with the story of their lives, they'll realise it has value and guard it more safely.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: And that's exactly why...

          Try reading Qualityland from Uwe Kling.

      2. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

        Re: And that's exactly why...

        I don't use them either. But I do add another feature to the mix - I lie whenever possible, leave my phone in odd locations and turn it off frequently.

        So they probabbly HAVE data about me, but that data is likely to be of very poor quality....

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: And that's exactly why...

          "So they probabbly HAVE data about me, but that data is likely to be of very poor quality."

          Never mind the quality, feel the width. As nobody has any alternative data about you to judge the quality of what's collected the customers will believe what they've got and pay for it so the phone companies or whoever collects the data in the first place get paid. At some point, however, the customers might finally realise that what they're getting is worth less than they're paying for it. It's a bubble that's due to burst some time.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: And that's exactly why...

            "As nobody has any alternative data about you to judge the quality of what's collected the customers will believe what they've got and pay for it so the phone companies or whoever collects the data in the first place get paid. At some point, however, the customers might finally realise that what they're getting is worth less than they're paying for it."

            The thing is, we the consumers are the ultimate "customers" in that we pay for that supposed $1.2Trn. The apps might be "free" at point of purchase, but FB take the data, collate and package then sell it. Who to? Well, ultimately, mainly to advertisers who get paid by the manufacturers to create and place the adverts. And that budget comes from the profit made selling the goods to us.

        2. vtcodger Silver badge

          Re: And that's exactly why...

          Of course the data is poor quality. Even if it were good quality, it probably wouldn't actually be of much real use or value. My guess is that the "information age" will go down in the annals of human lunacy along with Dutch tulips, the South Seas Company, cryptocurrencies, the late 20th century Japanese stock/real estate markets and the CDO craze. On the bright side.-- Facebook and Google et. al. don't own or operate guillotines.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Aristotles and so on - Re: And that's exactly why...

        I know Google and Facebook and Amazon have my data but I'm sure they must be frustrated because they can't reach me. I don't do Internet on my phone, no Google credentials stored, I don't stay signed-in more than it is strictly necessary, I rarely buy over the Internet and only from a desktop PC using private browsing mode and so on. I religiously click on "skip add" buttons, refresh page or scroll beyond adds and if they pester me I'll never get back to that site. What good for Google to detect my presence close to a restaurant since there's no app to alert me about an offer I shouldn't resist.

        I'd love to see an intrepid developer who could come up with a script/app to inject bogus data into the streams slurped by those apps. Something like showing your location in two different places at once, sending Google search strings for any random combination of terms or URL (yep, like a dictionary attack). I guess that if we pollute that big data then slurping it might cause some nasty bellyache to those slurpers.

        I don't know how efficient it is but at least I'm trying.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: @Aristotles and so on - And that's exactly why...

          "sending Google search strings for any random combination of terms or URL"

          ISTR that when Phorm were threatening to infest our ISPs that someone did write a firefox add-on to do exactly that.

    2. adnim Silver badge

      Re: And that's exactly why...

      I don't use these services either.

      It's not so much to protect my privacy, lying and never telling the truth on a webform does for me in those situations where I have to share some information.

      It's more about not giving a shit what a bunch of strangers say, think or do.

      I do not need nor feel the need to tell the world and it's dog what I had for breakfast, where I had breakfast, provide an image of that breakfast and a map to the location of the eatery in which I ate breakfast to prove it either.

      1. smudge Silver badge

        Re: And that's exactly why...

        I do not need nor feel the need to tell the world and it's dog what I had for breakfast, where I had breakfast, provide an image of that breakfast and a map to the location of the eatery in which I ate breakfast to prove it either.

        But you have just told world + dog that you do eat breakfast, and that you go out to eat it. More than enough for them to get started on you :)

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: And that's exactly why...

          "But you have just told world + dog that you do eat breakfast, and that you go out to eat it."

          You believed all that did you? That's the trouble with the data fetishists who pay for that stuff., they can't distinguish between data and fact, let alone information. Intelligence and wisdom are entirely beyond their reach.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And that's exactly why...

      That sounds great, if you're not very bright.

      The more perspicacious will have twigged - pretty quickly - that as more people signed up to Facebook, there was less and less value in "not being on Facebook".

      .

      Assuming you have friends, the moment they started signing up, then Facebook started becoming aware of your existence. It had several users signed up, all of whom had an individual (by email address) that it didn't know about.

      However, by looking at the data of the people that had signed up (and of course the data of their friends &c) Facebook can have a pretty good guess at:

      your age,

      your location,

      your sex,

      your tastes,

      all of which (along with your email address and name your friends had you stored as) is monetisable.

      Just remember - you don't do Facebook. But Facebook definitely does you.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: And that's exactly why...

        "all of which ... is monetisable."

        The most valuable thing for advertisers to know about me is that advertising at me is counter-productive. It's not a thing they want to hear, of course, wants and needs being two different things. Would they pay good money to discover that?

    4. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: And that's exactly why...

      I don't do Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Snapchat and App bullcrap !

      It's all about slurping people's data...

      Sorry, but my privacy is worth a lot more to me than that !

      Mine too, but the problem is ots and lots of people know things about me that they store in the contacts section of their phone, which they then allow all and sundry to slurp data from. I have no control.

      My plan to fight back is to wait for the GDPR and then write to the largest slurpers insisting that they delete everything they know about me, whoever they obtained the data from. They'll argue against it, which will make an interesting test case, which I expect them to lose.

      What we really need is an amendment to the GDPR such that they can only obtain data from a user about that user - no more grabbing their contacts.

      1. Pseu Donyme

        Re: And that's exactly why...

        > ... an amendment to the GDPR such that ...

        I don't think an amendment is needed, except maybe for extra clarity. With GDPR and even with the old EU data protection regime consent is required to process an individual's data, which there can't be if the data is purloined from friends' address books and such or, in general, not from the individual him/herself.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And that's exactly why...

          Consent is just one of a number of valid reasons for processing personal information. It is not required if one of the other reasons is met.

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: And that's exactly why...

            Legally, sure. But ethically? Not so much.

    5. Smartypantz

      Re: And that's exactly why...

      Neither do i (to great extend ;-) ). And i would like to question if the value of this data is really worth the 1000's of billions these companies trade for? Especially now that people are more and more aware of the nature of the STASI economy (their data is to a greater degree poisoned by awareness resulting in "good old" garbage in, garbage out)..... I smell a gargantuan bubble!

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: And that's exactly why...

        "And i would like to question if the value of this data is really worth the 1000's of billions these companies trade for?"

        Not even close. The likes of Google and Facebook have almost nothing to back them other than data. If they ceased business tomorrow because the data becomes worthless, there would be almost no value in the asset sale. As someone mentioned, it's very much a South Sea bubble or Dutch Tulip situation. Marketers and advertisers currently see value in the data but that's not guaranteed to last.

      2. EBG

        Re: And that's exactly why...

        "i would like to question if the value of this data is really worth the 1000's of billions these companies trade for"

        The danger is that they will change the "business model" andextract this value by virtual compulsion.

    6. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: And that's exactly why...

      Sorry, but my privacy is worth a lot more to me than that !

      Which is the basic reason I carry a "dumb" phone. No apps... no problems. Ok.. maybe there's a few but nothing like those with smartphones.

      1. Muscleguy Silver badge

        Re: And that's exactly why...

        You obviously do not have family spread over the world in different time zones and all on WhatsApp. I can talk to my youngest in NZ for nothing even if I'm walking to the shops.

        My wife has been in China behind the Great Firewall. For unclear reasons I couldn't (phew!) get WeChat to work on my phone. So Skype on my laptop was the only sane way to communicate. But that tied me to the laptop. She's out of it but still away so we're back on WA and it works.

        I had a dumb phone for a while too. But being tied to a desktop meant I couldn't get other stuff done when the youngest called on Skype which was a pain (the laptop is a hand me down from the youngest since then).

        I'm in more contact with my sisters in NZ than for years by email or snail mail or expensive toll calls internationally.

    7. JohnMurray

      Re: And that's exactly why...

      Not so much Facebook, but everything...cleaner-apps...navigation-apps...find-the-wifi-apps...every single app for every single thing contains a long list of permissions attached...

  2. Detective Emil

    And the alternative?

    From time to time, I've suggested that, if El Reg were to ask me for money, I'd cough up. But the option's not on offer. Instead, as I write this, I get to see an ad for the Barbie collection * from £10 *. Still, at least this gives me a warm feeling that I'm being mistargeted.

    (What? No Richie Rich icon?)

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: And the alternative?

      "Instead, as I write this, I get to see an ad for the Barbie collection * from £10"

      Is that the next stage? I've had the boyfriends, the pregnancy testing kits and I'm now on the nursery schools.

      1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

        Re: And the alternative?

        Try changing your gender. I understand that it's now very easy to do...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Changing your Gender

          Yep, been there, done that, had the ops BUT

          There are some organisations out there that refuse to accept this and still send me snail mail addressed to

          Mr [insert old names here]

          Rather than

          Ms [insert new names here]

          It is getting better but there is still a long way to go. Ironically, the UK Government stuff what just about the easiest to deal with.

    2. SuccessCase

      Re: And the alternative?

      @Detective Emil. But how do we know you haven't secretly been buying stockings and suspenders?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Less stupid apps and more useful ones, less data slurp? It's a win-win situation (for citizens).

    First, apps, even on mobile, existed well before Facebook and data-slurping systems. Sure, they become more attractive to lame developers when you could earn a lot with stupid ones showing ads, using in-app purchases, and sell user data. If they disappear, I'm just happy. I've bough apps that are not cheap at all, but are very useful for my work. I have just a few apps on my phone, I never felt the need to feel the screen with candy icons.

    Sure, some people won't be able any longer to deliver plenty of crappy apps in hope to make some dollars from them, and will have to find a real job. Just like youtubers which can't live out of bad video (and shouldn't kill people for it). Yes, Google, Facebook and others had sold the idea you could make millions from apps while funneling user data to the motherships. Sorry, it was a flawed business model since the beginning, like selling slaves. No surprise it's going to be forbidden.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Less stupid apps and more useful ones, less data slurp? It's a win-win situation (for citizens).

      If you can remember Symbian, BlackBerry, or even the original Windows Phone (shudder) apps, they were useful and paid-for. It's only been like this since the Silly Valley got in on the game with their attitude to people's data.

      So when the article says "but the even uglier truth is that such data-sharing practices may be the only way the mobile app economy can sustain itself", the author forgot how things were 10 years ago.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Less stupid apps and more useful ones, less data slurp? It's a win-win situation (for citizens).

        You forgot PalmOS, which had app stores well before others. I did buy the applications I needed.

        The actual app market looks more like when a lot of people sold ringtones through dodgy sites and SMS, when they deceived and locked you into contracts which got monthly payments from you, or dialers before to make you call premium numbers. Really, I don't miss such people.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Less stupid apps and more useful ones, less data slurp? It's a win-win situation (for citizens).

          Apple.

          It was Apple who destroyed the income for app sellers by making them 99p. Before the iPhone software cost money, even if it was just £30 but still.

          Apple started the race to the bottom and undercut app developers with free apps, then Google did it too...soon the ONLY income from apps was free with in app purchases, adverts and data selling.

          Apple did this to sell us iPhones.

          1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

            Re: Less stupid apps and more useful ones, less data slurp? It's a win-win situation (for citizens).

            Apple made developers only charge 99p? Doubt that.

            1. DougS Silver badge

              Re: Less stupid apps and more useful ones, less data slurp? It's a win-win situation (for citizens).

              From the beginning of the App Store Apple allowed devs to charge up to $999.99. The developers made the conscious decision to charge much less. Heck, Apple would have been fine with it if there were a lot of expensive apps, since they'd get a 30% cut of more money.

              The developers who populated the App Store in the early days were not the same developers who were developing and selling packaged software in stores for $30, $100 or $300. They were the same type of person who developed shareware back in the day and hoped that one out of 10 people would be nice enough to cough up the recommended $10 or $25. They developed apps because the loved the platform, or because it was a greenfield where they could do anything and be the first to do it, or because they just liked making software that others found useful - that they could get paid for it was a side benefit but for many of them not the main reason.

              Sure the "real" developers followed them after they'd blazed the trail and proved the App Store, and the iPhone itself, was not just some fad or niche product but was here to stay, and those "real" developers opened up shop at the Play Store once it became clear that Android would eventually become the dominant mass market mobile platform. Now they (and I guess from your sour grapes you are one of them?) are trying to blame Apple for the situation.

              Most of the apps on my phone (there are too many) were free, or cost a couple bucks, but I also bought an app that cost $50 (iRule) because what it did was very useful to me. Unfortunately they got bought out and development has ceased....should I blame Apple for that? Should I blame others who bought it and made the product attractive/popular enough that a bigger company wanted to buy it out and turn it into a high priced commercial offering? Or maybe I should blame you and other developers, using the same tortured logic you use to blame Apple for 99 cents being a popular price for non-free apps?

          2. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: Less stupid apps and more useful ones, less data slurp? It's a win-win situation (for citizens).

            ".soon the ONLY income from apps was free with in app purchases, adverts and data selling."

            And yet, I have multiple apps that I've paid over $20US for...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The timing on all this is a bit convenient. The way I see it from May (GDPR) both Google and Facebook and any other social media for that matter must get users to opt-in to specific uses of data, no generalisations and they can't deny a user access if they opt-out. Therefore with all this fresh in the minds of Europeans I really can't see many people opting in when given the choice so where will this leave these companies? They could flout it but is it worth the risk with the fines? Interesting times ahead though I'm sure these companies have already been working hard to get round it.

  5. Andy 73

    Better alternative

    I remain unconvinced by the idea that regulation will save us. It's like the idea that a sugar tax will make us stop buying sugary drinks - if only nanny were more strict with me I wouldn't be such a terrible person.

    As for the people who smugly declare they don't do social media - hiding in a cave doesn't make you somehow more relevant just because the non-cave dwellers are unhappy with their lot. The answer to much of this will only come when 'we' (the techies) come up with a better solution that is relevant and valuable to the masses. That doesn't involve insisting everyone else should live in a cave.

    What that 'better' looks like is the stuff of crystal ball gazing, but in part should be unlocked by democratising payment systems and federating identity - so that the great unwashed masses can move seamlessly between pools of content, entertainment and retail without having to rely on a handful of gatekeepers that 'permit' them access.

    Google already knows that 'pay per view' or 'pay per play' could increase content provider's incomes by at least an order of magnitude whilst only asking for pennies from app users or content browsers. However, they are actively ignoring such possibilities as it would unlock value that other platforms could easily grow from. Patreon and other services show exactly where we could go, but also break the data stranglehold that the big four have on users.

    1. israel_hands

      Re: Better alternative

      I remain unconvinced by the idea that regulation will save us. It's like the idea that a sugar tax will make us stop buying sugary drinks - if only nanny were more strict with me I wouldn't be such a terrible person.

      But what is has done is caused a load of companies to voluntarily reduce the sugar content in their drinks in order to reduce them below the levels where the tax cuts in. Which has a net benefit and doesn't cost consumers anything. Turns out if you threaten a company's profits they're perfectly capable of taking responsible action. Who knew?

      GDPR is a similar idea. Facebook is, by rights, going to have to ask every single European user for permission to store/share their data, explain clearly why, how and what will be used for, and explicitly and specifically state who it will be shared with. And it can't be opt-out. Knowing the apathy of most people, they'll get confronted with a wall of text and hundreds of options regarding privacy-invading data slurps and walls of text explaining each one and they'll simply click OK and close the window. Leaving all those options un-ticked and Faecebook shit out of luck (and data).

      I'm not sure about the comments in the article that's it too difficult to cut off Facebook. I've never used it and never will and have found it very easy to avoid doing so. When people ask why I don't use it I explain it's shit and invasive and I've already got phone, e-mail and even a functioning mouth for archaic low-bandwidth vocal comms.

      1. Andy 73

        Re: Better alternative

        @israel_hands If you really believe Facebook will present the GDPR options in a way that doesn't guide the user to a 'successful outcome', I have a bridge to sell you.

        Even if faced with a stark "Agree to let us slurp your data or you don't get access" warning, most Facebook users will happily tick the box and go on their merry way. To the average person on the street, this is abstract, undefined stuff - "I don't read the ads anyway, so it doesn't apply to me".

        Anyone thinking GDPR and similar legislation is going to pull the plug from Facebook is in for a surprise.

        1. israel_hands

          Re: Better alternative

          @andy_73 Even if faced with a stark "Agree to let us slurp your data or you don't get access" warning, most Facebook users will happily tick the box and go on their merry way. To the average person on the street, this is abstract, undefined stuff - "I don't read the ads anyway, so it doesn't apply to me".

          No, most users will completely ignore the box, not bother reading the blurb, click OK and happily go on their way. That's the response of about 90% of users to anything like that. Which means Facebook don't get the slurp. Read the GDPR regs, they specifically ban any form of automatic opt-in, pre-ticked boxes or anything like that. Which means they're rather cunningly leveraging user apathy to provide default slurp-protection to the majority of people.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Better alternative

            "No, most users will completely ignore the box, not bother reading the blurb, click OK and happily go on their way. That's the response of about 90% of users to anything like that. Which means Facebook don't get the slurp. Read the GDPR regs, they specifically ban any form of automatic opt-in, pre-ticked boxes or anything like that. Which means they're rather cunningly leveraging user apathy to provide default slurp-protection to the majority of people."

            I've seen T&Cs where the OK button doesn't become active until you've scrolled the text box all the way to the bottom. I think that's what will have to become the default. I don't see how it's possible to actually enforce the reading and understanding of the T&Cs in any truly meaningful way. At best, the installer might enforce a slow scroll of the T&Cs until the bottom is reached and the OK button become s active but that would probably be seen as onerous by many users and probably beyond what the GDPR requires.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Better alternative

          Even if faced with a stark "Agree to let us slurp your data or you don't get access" warning, most Facebook users will happily tick the box and go on their merry way.

          I think Facebook is too smart (i.e. employ enough lawyers) to realise that that just lines them up for maximum fines rather than being told not to be naughty. The authors of GDPR saw the possibilities of that one and dealt with it

      2. Updraft102 Silver badge

        Re: Better alternative

        When people ask why I don't use it I explain it's shit and invasive and I've already got phone, e-mail and even a functioning mouth for archaic low-bandwidth vocal comms.

        I've been waiting to have that conversation with someone, but so far it has never happened. Turns out that I don't actually know anyone who uses Facebook... they're all like me.

      3. MonkeyCee Silver badge

        Re: Better alternative

        "Which has a net benefit and doesn't cost consumers anything. "

        Reducing costs (sugar costs more than sweeteners) and keeping the prices the same does in fact cost you more....

        Companies know, from experience, research, and the general condition of human nature, how people consume their goods. If you reduce the active ingredient(s), then people consume more. So low tar/nicotine cigarettes don't result in people cutting down, it results in them smoking more. Making a choccy bar 20% smaller results in people buying 20% more of them. I expect they will get much the same results for fizzy drinks.

        "Turns out if you threaten a company's profits they're perfectly capable of taking responsible action."

        Eh, you've really bought the company line here. It's much more a case allowing the company to do something profitable and unpopular (cut sugar, reduce portion size etc) whilst being able to blame someone else.

        Next thing will be the "deposit" scheme for plastic bottles. That's the one where the companies will change *nothing* and make an extra 2-3% profit, and we can all feel better about failing to recycle stuff.

    2. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

      Re: Better alternative

      ...It's like the idea that a sugar tax will make us stop buying sugary drinks...

      Actually, it does. Have you tried to buy a sugary drink recently? They are no longer available. You do not have the option to buy anything apart from Asparteme or Sucralose.

      Means that if you hate the taste of Asparteme or Sucralose (as I do) you are stuffed. The Govenrment is effectively forcing you to drink liquids you don't want to or like...

      1. Andy 73

        Re: Better alternative

        @Dodgy_Geezer But is hasn't changed the majority of people's behaviour, has it - they're still buying coca-cola - just the one with plastic sugar in it. Imposing regulation on Facebook will not make people jump ship to 'Not-Facebook' because there isn't a 'Not-Facebook' option out there (and genuinely, if you use Facebook to keep in contact with family, friends, clients and customers, just switching it off is not an option that stacks up).

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Better alternative

          " if you use Facebook to keep in contact with family, friends, clients and customers, just switching it off is not an option that stacks up"

          I'm sure there were people who said much the same about MySpace.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          " Imposing regulation on Facebook will not make people jump ship"

          Nor this is the aim of any regulation. Unless you demonstrate that Facebook is so toxic it has to be forbidden (maybe easier than many think).

          But that doesn't mean Facebook can't be regulated, and it can hoard and use user data as it likes.

          Thanks to any divinity no supplier or customer of mine thinks Facebook is a way to keep B2B contacts... friends know how to contact me without using FB, so, yes, there are no-Facebook options, dear Zuck....

      2. Updraft102 Silver badge

        Re: Better alternative

        I don't know where you live, but where I go, every place that has drinks with aspartame or sucralose has the sugary ones at the same price, and in far greater quantities. Often the zero cal ones are sold out and the sugary ones (which consume 3/4 the shelf space) are all that is left.

        1. flokie
          Pint

          Re: Better alternative

          @Updraft102

          Must be the UK. The majority of sugary soft drinks now contain a mix of sugar and sweeteners. You can still buy diet/light drinks with zero calories, sweeteners only. But the non-diet versions now also include sweeteners. And that's the case with most of the major brands' soft drinks. The two main exceptions are Coke and Pepsi which have not changed recipes, and then there are the San Pellegrino fruity drinks, anything else will be from small brands with patch distribution.

          Beer icon as that's still safe from sweetners, for now at least.

        2. MonkeyCee Silver badge

          Re: Better alternative

          "Often the zero cal ones are sold out and the sugary ones (which consume 3/4 the shelf space) are all that is left."

          Round these parts it's the opposite. If I want to buy fizzy in the most environmentally friendly container* then the local supermarket buys pallets of 50/50 diet and sugar versions. Which end up being half a stack of diet versions, and having to buy fizzy in plastic bottles.

          The whole "one dietary cause of obesity" shit is annoying me no end. They fucked around with fat, to finally conclude that the replacement good fats (trans fat) may in fact be worse for you than saturated fat (we've been eating saturated fats since before we where sapians...), so fat was "bad" and got replaced by sugar. Now sugar is "bad" so we're going to replace it with sweeteners.... can't see any problems there.

          * a can. 99% recycling rate with no deposit, no sorting pre-bin.

          1. ips138

            Re: Better alternative

            Precisely! Fat got vilified, then carbs, and now sugar. We're left with food items with lab chemicals devoid of any real flavour and in some cases abominable.

            I see them all the time, going in this months' diet of fashion but then start opening packets next minute because their body is hungry. Then stating its not working for them. Or worse, they starve themselves 2 or 3 sizes down, then go back to their old ways (the ones that got them fat in the first place) and guess what happens next?!!

            People haven't realised the fact that if you overdo you'll, well, get fat! Just drink and eat sensibly, do a little exercise and for the vast majority of people, that'll be just fine.

            I'd rather fat, carbs and sugar any day. All in good measure. At home we're well fed and none of us is anywhere near overweight. Maybe cooking from scratch may require some effort but it does have its magic!

        3. ips138

          Re: Better alternative

          Are zero cal ones better alternatives? Not for me for sure.

          Water is my drink usually, the 0-alternatives make me want to re-decorate the road. Different tastes for different people perhaps, or maybe advertising demonising sugar when its the overloaded consumption that will get you! But of course companies will want to sell you something don't they, anything but tell you to consume less!

          I prefer full flavour it there is one to consume. Have one drink a week and its negligible in your health, drink 2 a days everyday, its a risk. Same with crisps or cakes, its the abuse of it.

          In the end, government will end up stepping in to reduce portions and calories per pack/meal, driving the kill on flavour and wallet.

          Its a simple recipe to avoid grease every day of the week and drink and eat sensibly.

    3. Wade Burchette

      Re: Better alternative

      "I remain unconvinced by the idea that regulation will save us."

      I have learned through the years that any fix by politicians only makes the problem worse. First, they don't know anything about the problems they need to fix and they won't let someone who is qualified to write the laws. Second, to get a law passed requires so much pork and other unrelated garbage just to get the majority of the corrupt politicians to agree. Third, today if a Democrat proposes the fix than the Republicans will blindly oppose it no matter what and vice-versa. The hyper-partisan politics of today disgust me.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Better alternative

        "Third, today if a Democrat proposes the fix than the Republicans will blindly oppose it no matter what and vice-versa."

        Other countries with other parties are available.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Better alternative

        "Second, to get a law passed requires so much pork and other unrelated garbage just to get the majority of the corrupt politicians to agree."

        Fortunately for us here in the UK, the "rider" system as used in the US is not really a thing. an Act of Parliament is usually on a topic and non-topic riders rarely if ever appear.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "It's like the idea that a sugar tax will make us stop buying sugary drinks"

      Regulations may take different form - yes, taxing Facebook to use personal data would be stupid.

      Requiring limited data request and use, opt-in, data deleting on user request, etc. etc. is much more effective - together hefty fines if you don't comply.

      A lot of regulations are effective, from safety to pollution ones, even if companies try in many ways to dodge them, and sure, no regulation is perfect. Just, it's better than without, because most companies don't care to kill or injure people as long as profits offset it. They won't invest in technical solutions - if they exist - until forced to do so, because they have a cost.

      It has also been show most people prefer flat rates than "paying per" - because the latter makes difficult to control expenses, and compels the creation of specific ways to stimulate people to become addicted and pay more. But it could be possible to build platforms that for a flat subscription give access to a bouquet of contents.

      And from my point of view, it's Facebook users living in a cave built for them by Zuckerberg. A cave I have no interest to enter, no matter how large and deep it could be - still something built to lure people in and in the darkness bind them.

    5. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

      Re: Better alternative

      "I remain unconvinced by the idea that regulation will save us."

      We regulate banking, medicines, transportation, electricity, water supply, sewage, garbage disposal, ownership, physical privacy, and so on. What makes you think we can't regulate intrusive data collection?

    6. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Better alternative

      "The answer to much of this will only come when 'we' (the techies) come up with a better solution that is relevant and valuable to the masses."

      We did, decades ago. Those solutions are still viable.

      The problem isn't the tech -- the problem is unrestrained greed.

  6. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    I also don't use FaceBook

    I never have and never will. Unfortunately I have family that do, so I'm certain there is a lot of data about me that's been stored.

    The best I can do is not look to see, as this would just add another layer of confirmation.

    1. Joe Drunk
      Facepalm

      Re: I also don't use FaceBook

      I never have and never will. Unfortunately I have family that do, so I'm certain there is a lot of data about me that's been stored.

      Therein lies the heart of the problem. Sure there's plenty of people that don't use Facebook, Twitter, Et al, lie on websites that ask for personal info, myself included. We are a very tiny minority. The rest of the planet would gladly surrender privacy for popularity.

  7. strum Silver badge

    You mean - someone is interested in little me?

    Let's face it - a huge proportion of this 'social' activity is a response to individuals' lack of self-worth - a way of blaring 'Here I am' to the world (without having to raise one's voice - which would be scary).

    The notion that such an individual's data has a value may be afirming to them, rather than frightening.

  8. J4

    But the data, by itself, has no value. It is only worth collecting because it can be sold on. Who is buying it ? Advertisers. Why ? So they can place targeted ads. So the sensible response is clear. Don't spend huge amounts of time trying to block every leak of your data. You can't control it all, and in particular you can't control less aware third parties or bad actors stealing bulk datasets.

    Take reasonable precautions to limit your source. But, above all else, kill the money chain. Kill the ads. Kill the value of the data to advertisers. Block, block, and block again. Block them on the beaches, in the fields, and on the high seas. Block them in the morning, at lunchtime, and block again in the evening. Never surrender.

    1. JimC Silver badge

      kill the money chain

      Well that's fine, but the subsidy the net gets from the advertising industry will have to come from somewhere else. And I fear that ship has already sailed. Too many people expect everything on the net to be "free" for alternative payment to work.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: kill the money chain

        the subsidy the net gets from the advertising industry will have to come from somewhere else

        The net existed without it and many feel that those were better times.

        Too many people expect everything on the net to be "free" for alternative payment to work

        I'm quite happy for them to be disappointed.

      2. LDS Silver badge

        Re: kill the money chain

        The advertisement industry can work as it did before it could collect and process huge amount of personal data, and maybe learning about being less intrusive, aggressive and annoying. Maybe it has to get back to be more creative in capturing people attention, and pay more to have its ads displayed.

        It has been instead a race to the bottom that could only end badly.

      3. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: kill the money chain

        " the subsidy the net gets from the advertising industry will have to come from somewhere else"

        No, it doesn't.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: kill the money chain

          Yes it does. It's a MACROeconomic effect, which has a tendency to go one way. Once prices go down, people tend to want them to stay down, regardless of the consequences. Unless you can show a successful large-scale reverse of this, which I doubt exists.

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: kill the money chain

            I think you miss my point.

            What I mean is that if, for some reason, it became impossible for web sites to make money, it wouldn't be a huge disaster. The widespread "monetization" of the web has had a large number of very negative effects, and those effects would end. In effect, the web would run like it used to run before advertising became a thing.

    2. GIRZiM

      Re: Kill the value of the data to advertisers

      For a start stop using Chrome.

      Install adNauseum - you block the ads with uBlock Origin whilst autoclicking all the ads in the background, thereby ensuring that:

      1. your cloud of data is valueless except insofar as it identifies you as one of the people who clicks every single ad - but if we all start doing that then we blend into the amorphous blob of everyone;

      2. the site provider still gets their revenue from the advertisers, so you haven't deprived them of their income whilst still getting their efforts for free;

      3. you don't see any ads.

      It even has the option to let non-tracking ads through - which might encourage the industry.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'odds are good that it won't be able to continue to sell our identities to the highest bidder, '

    As long as Investors keep funding this Sociopathic 'Shadow Profile' economy, little will change. Laws will be written for sure... But the slurp will continue, albeit more opaque... More dodgy data brokers, and murky backroom deals like Google-Deepmind-NHS or Facebook-Patient-Hospital-Data Slurp. It will just go further underground, become more subtle and opaque and darker - a real dark web:

    https://www.rte.ie/news/business/2018/0406/952544-facebook-shares-rise-as-zuckerberg-soothes-investors/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 'odds are good that it won't be able to continue to sell our identities to the highest bidder, '

      Facebook has nothing to do all day except figure out new ways to get at people's personal info. It can move 'fast and break things', because the laws can't keep up. That's why regulation will fail. Did it fix banking? Ask Mortgage holders in Ireland! By the time laws are passed, data is already slurped, processed and exposed, so the damage is already done.

      I don't think the 'Ugly Truth' memo was a discussion point, I think it was a bible, their 'religion'. Facebook & Google are just filled with sociopaths working against everybody worldwide. Whether they really believe in Ad-Slurping to 'connect-the-world', or they're just after lucrative bonuses, who cares... They are Banksters 2.0 and we are the MARK!

  10. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Hobson Choice

    Given the psychopathic antics of FraudBook and other slimes self-regulation is highly unlikely to work. But government regulation is not a panacea either given that many politicians and bureaucrats are greedy for personal power and not the good of the society. So, unless a competent third is available, we are faced with choosing which set of liars we distrust less.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Hobson Choice

      That's not Hobson's Choice ("Take It or Leave It"), that's Morton's Fork ("All Roads Lead to Hell").

  11. iron Silver badge

    It has become so intertwined with how the world works

    Not my world.

    I don't have a Facebook account (or Twitter, Instagram, WhatSnap, etc) and have no compulsion to get one. Unfortunately the FB app has been factory installed on many of my smartphones but I always lock it behind a PIN so I can't accidentally open it and have blocked it from all persmissions so it can't send anything back to Zuckerborg HQ.

    As for apps collecting data, that isn't required either. None of the Android apps I've written collect any data and I've avoided things like Application Insights because they have always sounded far too intrusive to me.

    So it is entirely possible not to suck on Satan's cock, you just have to make the right choice.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: It has become so intertwined with how the world works

      Until you're forced to interact with people for which Facebook is their ONLY means of contact. Pretty soon, perhaps your only alternative will be Stop The World, I Want To Get Off. Believe me, it's getting harder by the day, especially in certain parts of the world.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: It has become so intertwined with how the world works

        "Until you're forced to interact with people for which Facebook is their ONLY means of contact."

        Fortunately, that hasn't happened to me yet. Most people at least have telephones these days, and those still work. If anyone actually has Facebook as their only means of contact, then I won't be contacting them. They're making the choice to be inaccessible.

        Fortunately, Facebook's popularity has been declining (slowly) for a couple of years now, and we've reached the point where people that I encounter have generally stopped assuming that everyone has a Facebook account.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: It has become so intertwined with how the world works

      "So it is entirely possible not to suck on Satan's cock, you just have to make the right choice."

      A website listing the decent, non-intrusive apps and the worst offenders would be nice. If it doesn't exist, it should. My wife installed a few apps for some of the local shops. Aldis app was ok but Lidl wanted camera access for some reason I couldn't fathom. There's no part of the app used to take images or scan barcodes/QR codes, so why did it ask for it? No doubt Lidl would say it for a future feature, but if that's so, why not ask for the additional permission at the point of upgrading to the version that use it?

      The Lidl app got deleted. I have no reason to suspect them of anything untoward, but asking for permissions for no obvious reason sets my alarm bells off. It's what scammers do.

      I used the in-app anonymous feedback form to explain the above and to point out that when I did a search for coffee, the only result was beef steak!

  12. Maty
    Devil

    Devil's advocate

    Okay, just wondering - why are targeted ads worse than untargeted ones? I pay for my TV programmes by sitting through irrelevant advertisements for stuff I'll never buy - vaginal washes, child-safe products and mildly insulting crap which suggests that any middle-aged white man is a bumbling moron.

    By and large online ads show stuff I might actually be interested in - upgrades for my Jeep, outdoor hiking kit and new computer products. Yes, they often get it wrong, and if I buy something online, I don't need twenty more of the damn things. OTOH Amazon's alogs have got it pretty much right, and thanks to their recommendations I've found and enjoyed several new authors.

    My local grocer (I live in a small town) often recommends products that he knows I will like, and when our cat died the local SPCA sent us pics of a little feline orphan who is now on the chair next to me as I write. I never feel the need to slap either for' violating my privacy'.

    In other words, insensitive and intrusive advertising is unarguably a bad thing. But if people know what you like and use that information sensibly and politely, what's the problem? Seriously, do explain and don't just downvote.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Devil's advocate

      I get your point, but I don't really want the required data to be known by the advertisers. By extension, I am willing to accept that the ads will primarily be pointless to me. Since I haven't had many useful ads show up, that's not super new.

      For example, I am willing to accept amazon's suggestions. I mostly ignore them, but I'm willing for that targeting to happen because:

      a. The data is data I knowingly gave them. It's based on things I bought from them and nothing else. If I wanted, I could not buy some things from them to mess up the data, or even just buy them from a local establishment. I chose amazon, so they have the right in my mind to remember what I bought from them and suggest things to me. Equally, I have the right to ignore them, which I do most of the time. The same is true of your local grocer--they may remember what you like or what you've talked about, but if they tracked you to your holiday destination, watched you enjoy some fresh fruit, then used that knowledge to tell you about the fruit they had available, you'd find that creepy even if you did want to buy that fruit.

      b. They don't track me around. Even if I'm signed in to my amazon account, they don't have sneaky little code pieces running all over the place to see what I'm doing outside their system (as far as I know). I'm relatively confident that, by signing out and clearing data, that anything sneaky they do is going to fail. I'm also trusting them not to be buying information on me that other companies stole.

      c. The advertisements aren't intrusive; they're on amazon and nowhere else. If I go to a different page, they don't follow me (ads from other things will follow me from my amazon page, but that's because google/facebook ad networks tracked me there, not because of amazon).

      d. To the best of my knowledge, they aren't packaging up that data and selling it to other people. I assume they aren't doing this because it seems to me that that might hurt their business (if I'm buying from someone else, I'm not buying from amazon).

      I'm sure amazon does lots of evil things, and I limit their entrance as much as I can. However, none of those points apply to other sites. Google and facebook do significantly more creepy things to get my data, like attempting to track my browsing, buying information on me as I don't have an account for facebook, and copying information others who know me can provide. I have little control on what they do, any control I do have requires me to change things I do often (for example, not using google search), and I have no clue how much info they have, nor what info that is, nor what they are doing with it.

      I hope this is helpful in understanding how I think about this.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Devil's advocate

      * Facebook

      * Google

      ° Amazon

      ° Microsoft

      * My local grocer

      * My local SPCA

      Can you spot the difference? Of course my friends, colleagues and acquaintances know something about me, and what I like, because of simple, normal interactions, and the grocer knows what grocery you buy and like, and nothing more. He doesn't try to lure you into disclosing your sexual preferences, medical records, he doesn't get your phone and records all the calls and SMSes, while processing your photos tagging everyone within.

      They don't - I hope - sell those data to the highest bidder for money. The grocer is interested in ensuring you keep on buying from him, and maybe buy something more - not to sell you to someone else. It's a very big difference.

      1. ips138

        Re: Devil's advocate

        When I was growing up, it was customary to go with my mum to the supermarket. She'd end up talking to the people working there, as others did, and I kid you not,they would be discussing everybody's lives.. in detail!

        Maybe it doesn't apply to everyone. Still consider again about your private preferences and medical stuff being public. Maybe they are via the old route: word of mouth, from friends, work colleagues and partner :)

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: Devil's advocate

          You really don't see a difference between real human communication amongst neighbors (even if it is gossip -- something that everyone has always objected to when they are the subject of it) and the hoovering of data by companies?

    3. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Devil's advocate

      "why are targeted ads worse than untargeted ones?"

      They aren't, if the targeting is done without spying on people (that's entirely doable). It's the spying and accumulation of massive databases of the results of that spying that are the problem.

      "My local grocer (I live in a small town) often recommends products that he knows I will like"

      Which is an entirely different thing. Your grocery is not spying on you to gain a marketing advantage. You have a personal, human relationship with him that is mutually beneficial. If your grocer were collecting data on your every move and correlating it with other data, then he would be just as evil as modern marketers are.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Devil's advocate

      "In other words, insensitive and intrusive advertising is unarguably a bad thing. But if people know what you like and use that information sensibly and politely, what's the problem?

      That last sentence is the problem. Impolite and intrusive adverts. Why should I have to install a 3rd party add-on adblocker to make web pages appear at least mildly sane again? Why should I have to wait and wait and wait for a page to load external scripts, ads and trackers from 3rd, 4th and even 5th party domains when I have a 100Mb/s BB connection capable of loading the data in a fraction of second, delayed only by 30+ DNS look-ups to what sometimes seems like congested script/ad/tracker hosts? And don't even get me started on pop-ups, pop-unders, auto-play video ads, sound effects and music etc. :-)

  13. Speltier

    You Can Run but You Can't Hide

    Your Facebook friends will (attempt to) friend you, and then it is game over.

    Chances are you like things similar to your friends (research says so!), etc., so now you are profiled and targeted for any kind of ads political and otherwise. Once a critical mass of humans is on the platform, there is precious little place to hide short of becoming a Tomten hermit.

    (and for security reasons you need at least a nominal presence on Facebook, otherwise someone else can impersonate you. You know, spewing terrorist claptrap, pimping for despots, advocating eugenics... so the plods will keep a steely eye out, next plane trip its into the other room for a cavity search...)

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Look in the mirror

    El Reg neglected to mention the biggest culprit, users, especially millennials, who expect everything digital to be free. The first and best example is music. Ever since Microsoft allowed digital songs to be traded without restriction, users have expected everything to be free. It took a psychology major to realize that this behavior could have harvested and the industry never looked back.

  15. Teiwaz Silver badge

    Maximum capacity.

    Connecting People

    Seemingly at gunpoint sometimes.

    Not a day goes by, FB or LumpedIn barrage me with 'peope I might know' merely on one link (and I bet that one link barely knows them and is only being polite).

    Argh, they're crawling under the carpets again...get out the broom.

    It's a plague of frogs I tell you.

  16. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    Apple doesn't sell your data, and it's doing pretty OK. And Apple apps sell OK too.

    Windows applications sell well, and never used to rely on selling your data. MS seem hell bent on getting in on the data selling act, so we'll see what happens there.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You just need more protection!

    There are several Antivirus, Anti-hacking, Cleaner apps on the Play Store to protect your from "bad actors" trying to steal your data.

    Oh, wait...

  18. JohnFen Silver badge

    In that case...

    In that case, the "app economy" deserves to die.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: In that case...

      Trouble is, what if it's become a headless, UNDEAD economy?

  19. mansley

    Personal data charge

    I recently wrote a piece about this, with a proposal for at least part of the solution: https://pauseforthought901351067.wordpress.com/2018/03/26/personal-data-protection/

  20. Deckard_C

    I'm not sure Facebook the site and App will still be big in a few years. It seems while today's youth (of working age) do have a facebook accounts they don't use it. And have moved on to other alternatives because they find them better.

    Facebook the company will still be around as they are buying up the alternatives,

    They also don't see the point of twitter, at which point I bore them explaining why there is a 140 char limit. and if they are still listening and understand how much a MB I might tell them how much could be stored on a floppy. This is my revenge for them saying "I wasn't even born then" to me.

    By the way I don't much see the point in using Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram etc.

  21. herman Silver badge

    Personal data is toxic. It should not be stored. It should be deleted as soon as it was used for a purchase or service. Companies should figure out how to make money from real trade, not the spy trade.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      But you know what they say; there's no business like repeat business. That alone will probably make it worth the toxicity.

  22. GIRZiM
    Big Brother

    One day, you won’t log in to this site or that email account at all, let alone with different credentials.

    You’ll have a single ID. Like OpenID, but it won’t be optional — in fact, very soon now, opening a Facebook account will be mandatory and if you don’t do it voluntarily, you will have to make do with your court appointed account.

    You’ll log in to that ID and every service you are subscribed to in any way (FaceBook, Twitter, What’sApp, email, Amazon, PayPal, the restaurant you booked a table at, the pizza delivery firm you ordered from, the taxi firm you booked a cab from, the airline you booked a flight with, etc., etc., etc.) will be simultaneously active and sharing information between them.

    You won’t be able to separate them out nor will you be able to log in to them in any other way.

    In the meantime, however, I notice with increasing frequency that even Amazon makes a note of my IP (or some unique identifier of some kind) because, even though I haven't logged into Amazon even once in the last five years at all, or on this computer ever, it is now showing me what 'other people who viewed this item' also looked at and, it's something I looked at yesterday and a variety of alternative items of exactly the same type; so unique that, as I am probably the only person to have ever looked at both, the most likely explanation is, as I suggested, that I don't need an Amazon account, or even cookies, for them to uniquely identify me and my interests.

    And they aren't the only ones to do it - other sites that I frequently view but don't even have an account with, never mind log into, recognise me when I return - they're not good at disguising that fact at all.

    But, hey, Facebook Knows How to Track You Using the Dust on Your Camera Lens, so I'm not surprised really.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      "And they aren't the only ones to do it - other sites that I frequently view but don't even have an account with, never mind log into, recognise me when I return - they're not good at disguising that fact at all."

      What they're afraid of is that someone logging in from some weird IP nowhere near your last one isn't really you but someone who managed to steal your identity and is trying to exploit/extort you. Google does this, too, and blocked a login I was making while on vacation because the login was made a long way from my last one, and I couldn't use an Authenticator because I was registering a replacement phone that I got because the one I normally used (that would've contained the Authenticator) died of an eMMC failure.

      1. GIRZiM

        @ Charles 9

        > What they're afraid of is that someone logging in from some weird IP nowhere near your last one isn't really you but someone who managed to steal your identity and is trying to exploit/extort you.

        Except, remember, that I don't even *have* an account with them, so there's nothing *to* exploit.

        I appreciate the protection afforded to me by the kind of thing you're talking about but that's what my login credentials are for and if they want to offer more secure option then thy can offer (not insist upon, it's *my* choice) 2FA.

        What I object to is being tracked by sites and organisations with which I have absolutely no relationship to the extent that they don't simply note my IP address when I try to log in but start recording my activity whilst I'm there. Like I said, I've not logged into Amazon anywhere at all for the last five years and have never logged in from this IP address even once before - what business do they have recording my IP and activity if I don't attempt to log in?

  23. ips138

    Gaming hook and achievement

    Computer gaming hook is the game itself and sense of achievement. Well before Internet of connected things and even lan games, if you liked a game, you'd play it till 'the paint rub off'. Profiling gamers for future development, that could well be confined in market research!

    In days of old, surveys and informal conversations with gamers to improve the experience have always taken place and gamers were more than willing participants. Of course, as they want better engaging experiences! Nothing too different there.

    The question is how far do they take profiling, and what else do they do with the data acquired! Do they sell it and share it with other companies?!..

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