back to article Signal app guru Moxie: Facebook is like Exxon. Everyone needs it, everyone despises it

Speaking at the 2018 RSA conference, a board of some of the most respected names in security spoke on Tuesday and were scathing about Facebook – and the industry's response to the Spectre processor bug. The Cryptographers' Panel, an annual tradition at the event, this year included Ronald Rivest of MIT and Adi Shamir of the …

  1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    In many ways Facebook is [...] this indispensable tool ...

    Bollocks.

    1. Grikath

      Maybe for the average commentard here it is, as you say, bollocks.

      However, Facebook has become the de-facto reality when it comes to "communication" to the Outside World for a shedload or two of small/one-man firms, clubs, hobbyists, and so on. For most of those there is no economically viable alternative to present whatever they want. It *is* indispensible to them.

      And honestly, even if you could fund an alternative that *doesn't* use the Facebook model of datamining, and get enough traction to make it viable, and avoid getting BORG'ed... You'd still have to charge people *somewhere*. And the bulk of people/businesses would still opt for the "free" option, especially since the actual cost of the "free" Facebook model is too ephemeral to them. It does not impact daily life/operation, and probably never will, so the true cost gets ignored.

      1. find users who cut cat tail

        Grikath: That's not what indispensable means. Facebook does not bring anything unique -- it just has lots of users. However, ‘lots of users’ is something that can and will change over time. The only question is how long it will take.

        But most importantly: Stating that it is indispensable and discouraging from looking for alternatives is a self-fulfilling prophecy -- and exactly what Facebook wants you to do. So stop saying that for start.

        1. Chronos Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          But most importantly: Stating that it is indispensable and discouraging from looking for alternatives is a self-fulfilling prophecy -- and exactly what Facebook wants you to do. So stop saying that for start.

          Hear bleedin' hear! I need Facebook like I need an infected testicle. I've managed pretty well without ever going near it since its inception, along with all of its work-alikes.

          Anyone relying on Facebook for their business isn't going to get my custom and that attitude is going to grow exponentially now we have something more than Zuck's "They trust me? Stupid fuckers" to tell people about.

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        Nah.

        Not indispensable at all, there is always a better way of doing anything that Faecebook can do.

        The problem is that people are lazy.

        My hope is that it will be gone into obscurity like myspace and hangouts within 4-5 years as most of the smart people have already dumped it, and the thickos that are still sustaining it will eventually follow.

      3. Charlie Clark Silver badge
        FAIL

        For most of those there is no economically viable alternative to present whatever they want. It *is* indispensible to them.

        Bullshit, not least for conflating businesses with hobbyists. Loads of ways to get a cheap website. For most small businesses the biggest cost associated with advertisting is the time they themselves have to invest.

        1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          Getting a cheap website does not get you known. Plus you have the hassle of needing to manage said website, overhaul it every now and then, keep it fresh. Not many people have the knowledge, or the time, to do that. Then there's the fact that nobody can Like your website. You have to fight PageRank to get yourself up in the search engines and become visible. That's hard work, without any guarantee of success.

          FaceBook is practical, free and easy. There is literally no other platform that can get you known faster, and getting Likes is easy-peasy.

          I hate FaceBook, I hate Zuckerberg, but I am not blinded by that hate. I acknowledge that FaceBook is here to stay, much as I would prefer it to die, and it is useful to a great many people in more ways than one.

          Indispensable ? Probably not, but in the current lazy state of our society, it is pretty much the easiest option, so it wins. Every time.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            "FaceBook is practical, free and easy. There is literally no other platform that can get you known faster, and getting Likes is easy-peasy."

            It's also stigmatised and associated with the gutter end of media, and its users are associated with Jeremy Kyle guests, chav scum and Audi drivers.

            I don't think I'd want to be smeared with that kind of image.

          2. rg287 Bronze badge

            Plus you have the hassle of needing to manage said website, overhaul it every now and then, keep it fresh.

            Also, it's not just websites. If we're providing a FB alternative, that means running forums, image sharing, etc. That needs to be secure.

            If a relatively read-only informational site gets hacked, then that's bad but in principle you can level it and restore from backup.

            If a forum/database gets hacked then that's worse. People are very happy to offload those functions to Facebook right now.

          3. LDS Silver badge

            "Getting a cheap website does not get you known"

            Frankly, I've seen almost no company, even small ones, which have only a Facebook page as their internet presence - and in that case I would discard them. Probably, you can sell more using Amazon marketplace than using Facebook. Or more specialized sites like Etsy, depending on your business.

            There are other systems that offers simple pre-built and easy customizable web sites, if you don't want to sustain the effort to create your own. Sure, they may not be free and require a small fee - that's part of running a business.

            Likes: who trusts them? Who see them outside Facebook?

            PageRank: does Facebook increase it? What about the thousands of similar business on it - do you believe your little business will get a special treatment for free just because?

            You get better chances of appearing in a Google search if your register for Google My Business - which of course puts you in the hands of the other big data hoarder and privacy crusher...

            1. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

              Re: "Getting a cheap website does not get you known"

              Frankly, I've seen almost no company, even small ones, which have only a Facebook page as their internet presence - and in that case I would discard them.

              I have, plenty. Mostly it has been cafés and I've been looking for their opening times to plan stops on long bike rides. Some faecbook only sites manage to make the info available to non users but it's rarely easy to find. Others may as well not exist. If I can't get the times I'll go somewhere else. Even if I can get them if there's an alternative I'll use that. Any I do visit that are faecbook only I'll mention they need a real web presence if they want more customers.

          4. Charlie Clark Silver badge

            Getting a cheap website does not get you known.

            I never said it did.

            There is literally no other platform that can get you known faster, and getting Likes is easy-peasy.

            I'm not sure what likes have to do with it but getting known sounds incredibly vague. Whatever, Facebook expects you to pay to advertise just like everyone else.

            As I said, don't conflate businesses with hobbyists. Lots of businesses use services like E-Bay to sell stuff: minimal knowledge required, looks shit but works, at least according to my local computer shop.

            For hobbies I know quite a few people that use Wordpress and seem pretty happy with it. Again far from perfect but often good enough.

      4. rg287 Bronze badge

        However, Facebook has become the de-facto reality when it comes to "communication" to the Outside World for a shedload or two of small/one-man firms, clubs, hobbyists, and so on. For most of those there is no economically viable alternative to present whatever they want. It *is* indispensible to them.

        Sadly this.

        I would happily bin off Facebook - and have done so for 99% of things. Unfortunately it is heavily used in organising certain local sports groups and unless an equivalent platform emerges that allows people to do similar things with similar ease, it's unlikely people will move away wholesale. I can't delete FB because I need it to access those groups where FB has become a de facto standard.

        It's perhaps not indispensable, but short of taking the time to personally get elected onto the relevant bodies, manoeuvring into a position to dictate technology choices, setting up equivalent web platform and forums myself, it's not something I can easily influence as a participant. I have suggested the above directly (along with the offer of services, but then offering free/low-cost tech support is a dangerous game to play), but of course am not in a position to enforce it.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      "this indispensable tool ..."

      I'd say it's more like tobacco - not indispensable but it could be difficult for many to stop using it once you get addicted, everybody around you smoke and offer you a cigarette, you need one to look "cool", and you don't know how to "relax" in a different way.

      So, comparing it to oil and its derivatives is misleading - some sort of help.

      1. boltar

        Re: "this indispensable tool ..."

        " you need one to look "cool", and you don't know how to "relax" in a different way."

        Smoking might have looked cool back in the 60s, it just looks sad and needy now and there's nothing remotely cool about hanging around at the exit of a stairwell in the pissing rain sucking on a burning paper stick.

        Ditto facebook - it might have been the koolkids hangout 10 years ago but those days are long gone , they've moved on and facebook is now the place of wannabes and where all the billy no mates with no real life to speak of hang out, constantly "liking" each other because thats the extent of their social interaction.

  2. malle-herbert Silver badge
    Facepalm

    This indispensable tool ...

    Is :

    A) - NOT indispensable AT ALL...

    We used to be able to keep in touch with each other perfectly fine before FaceFark was even invented...

    B) - The only real tool here is Mark Zuckerberg...

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: This indispensable tool ...

      We used to be able to keep in touch with each other before the telephone was invented, too.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: This indispensable tool ...

        We used to get around without cars, either. Do we want to go back to the days of not wandering further afield than seven miles, though?

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: This indispensable tool ...

          Would be good for air quality.

          But that's a straw man, there are plenty of much better alternatives to Faecebook for the unlazy.

      2. boltar

        Re: This indispensable tool ...

        "We used to be able to keep in touch with each other before the telephone was invented, too."

        The telephone was a considerable improvement on writing a letter to someone , not just in speed of communication but in the ability to hear the other persons voice. How is *writing* to someone an improvement on the phone? Email was useful for sending documents, images and other materials you couldn't dictate , facebook is useful for ..... nope, drawing a blank.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: This indispensable tool ...

          facebook is useful for ..... nope, drawing a blank

          It's useful for getting news about family, friends, and colleagues who insist on using it.

          I haven't posted anything to Facebook in many years (since not long after I got an account, and my account dates from before it was open to the general public). I don't look at it often - usually only when I'm waiting in a queue that's not likely to take long enough to be worth opening a book.

          But when I do browse it,1 I find out quite a bit about what's happening with people who are not in my immediate daily circle but whom I have some connection with. Before social media, I would have learned some of these things, eventually, on the rare occasions I saw those people, or second-hand from someone closer.

          And I get additional snippets even from folks I am close to, like my kid and grandchildren, because even though we do talk and visit quite a bit, everyone's busy and things happen quickly.

          Is any of that indispensable to me? No, and clearly it's not valuable enough to get me to look at Facebook more often. But it's worth something.

          1Using the FB mobile website, through Firefox or Pale Moon, with various privacy and script-blocking add-ons. Still far from perfect, but a damned sight better than using their app.

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: This indispensable tool ...

      There's plenty of sites that require a facebook id to login, so FB is indispensable for those. I think I'm right in say that you need a facebook profile to use Tinder for example.

      I've also had friends organise events solely through facebook, so the only way I found out about them was by being told by someone else, although that seems to happen less often these days.

      So using the word "indispensable" is stretching it a bit, but not completely wrong.

  3. Mark Jan

    The only real tool here is Mark Zuckerberg...

    The only real tool here is Mark Zuckerberg...

    I disagree. Mark Z isn't the tool, the users of facebook are. Each and everyone of you / them.

    Water you can't live without, oxygen similarly, facebook you can

    For years and years, friends have told me I must have facebook otherwise I wouldn't know what was going on. And despite being told I'd be a social outcast for not having a facebook account, I wasn't one and I did know what was going on - my friends simply let me know in other ways - usually by picking up the phone or dropping me an email.

    I simply couldn't see much of a point in facebook, unless perhaps facebook paid me. But even then, I'm not sure I'd sell all my private data, yet here are millions of people simply giving it all up for free.

    1. Fungus Bob Silver badge

      Re: The only real tool here is Mark Zuckerberg...

      "I disagree. Mark Z isn't the tool, the users of facebook are. Each and everyone of you / them."

      Gotta disagree here, the following definition of tool certainly fits the Zuckerborg:

      https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Tool

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: The only real tool here is Mark Zuckerberg...

      "For years and years, friends have told me I must have facebook otherwise I wouldn't know what was going on. And despite being told I'd be a social outcast for not having a facebook account, I wasn't one and I did know what was going on - my friends simply let me know in other ways - usually by picking up the phone or dropping me an email."

      But there are those where phone calls, letters, even e-mail cost real live money while Facebook is Free. Trying to get around that would be like trying to live without petrol engines. Back to the little villages and not going further afield than seven miles. Do we REALLY want to go back?

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: The only real tool here is Mark Zuckerberg...

        Faecebook is not free, faecebook is costing society dearly.

      2. Chronos Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: The only real tool here is Mark Zuckerberg...

        Facebook is Free.

        Jesus jumping shitballs, man, how can you be so blind? Facebook is only free if your privacy has no value. This is exactly what I take exception to, people quite literally maxing out their privacy credit account without any clear indication of what the credit limit is until the bill drops on the doormat, metaphorically speaking. You're already a suspect if you can't provide a Facebook screen name to the apes on US border control as a direct result of this sort of thinking.

        Let's take it one step further, shall we? How about this scenario: People like you start spouting off that Facebook or some other corporate entity is indispensable. Eventually, other companies take that idea and run with it. Now your life insurance premium is based not on medical data but how many times you've posted the minutiae of your last hospital visit on Facebook. No profile? They assume the worst. Now Facebook has cost you physical money.

        If you think I have a twisted mind it's exactly because of shit like this that I've learned to think like the opposition. I'd really rather not have to but it has become a necessity.

    4. Detective Emil

      "[M]y friends simply let me know … by … dropping me an email"

      Often using Gmail. Gthanks. That means Google gets to scrape information about me, even though I do not use its mail service. They said that they would stop dong this before the end of last year, but the current terms of service (from last October) say that they're still at it.

  4. JohnFen Silver badge

    No, it's not

    "it is this indispensable tool"

    It is in no way an indispensable tool. Facebook does nothing for its users that they can't do with other, much less intrusive and data-hungry, services.

    Facebook is not only optional, it causes far more harm than good for everybody involved.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: No, it's not

      Wanna bet? Calls, texts, letters, and e-mail all cost money, but Facebook is Free.

      1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

        Re: No, it's not

        Calls, texts, letters, and e-mail all cost money, but Facebook is Free.

        - Most mobile & landline contracts now have bundled local calls. And for non-local calls, people are using Skype, Facetime, etc.

        - Most mobile tariffs have "unlimited*" texts

        - Email via GMaill, etc. is free. The only cost is the data that you already use to connect to Facebook.

        - I'll give you that letters cost. But how many people actually send hand written letters any more when more instant communication is now available?

        *We're all friends here, so we know what this really means.

        1. LDS Silver badge
          Facepalm

          "Email via GMaill, etc. is free. "

          Ehm, Google is not better than Facebook....

        2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          Re: "Most mobile & landline contracts now have bundled local calls"

          You're still paying for them.

          1. LDS Silver badge
            Facepalm

            "You're still paying for them."

            You'll have to pay them anyway if you want to connect to Facebook...

        3. rg287 Bronze badge

          Re: No, it's not

          - Email via GMaill, etc. is free. The only cost is the data that you already use to connect to Facebook.

          If you're using gmail, you might as well use Facebook for all the privacy you are afforded.

          - I'll give you that letters cost. But how many people actually send hand written letters any more when more instant communication is now available?

          The same people who are still using paper cheques. There are quite a lot of us.

        4. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: No, it's not

          Where I'VE been, most cell phone plans are PREPAID with little bundled in unless you pay extra, which automatically means you're RICH. If you're using a postpaid plan, you're RICH. Otherwise, you're paying the equivalent of 16c/min IN-network, 24c/min to landlines or to other networks, and 10c/text.

          Meanwhile, lots of things people buy everyday like soap and powdered milk come with Free Facebook for a day coupons. Load certain codes or during promotional periods, you get Free Facebook for a day. Hell, it's SO prevalent it's even in the DUMBphones.

          Let's just say, this is a country where keeping in touch is VERY important, and there really is no practical alternative to Facebook in that department. Anything else, you might as well be walking on the sun. They remember the past, and they don't wanna go back.

      2. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: No, it's not

        Facebook is not free. Facebook is very, very expensive.

      3. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: No, it's not

        There are many free alternatives to Facebook, but they aren't all-in-one solutions like Facebook is. The only thing Facebook is offering is convenience.

        However, my problem isn't really that people are duped into thinking Facebook is essential. My problem is that those of use who want nothing to do with such a corrupt and harmful company can't avoid being entangled with it -- directly because of the actions of those people who use Facebook.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: No, it's not

          And yet put a lot of value in convenience. Otherwise, big-boxers would be eating the convenience stores for lunch.

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: No, it's not

            They do indeed. But valuing something for its convenience doesn't make it essential.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: No, it's not

              Essential is relative. Ask all the people who insist on detouring to the 7-Eleven because they have no time to make their own coffee (they're practically never home) but need to stay awake in front of the boss man. And if you tell them they have bigger problems, they'll just reply, "Yeah. They're called rent and bills."

  5. Nate Amsden

    everyone dispises?

    Really? I think that is overstating things by quite a bit. There is a newish growing vocal minority who despise facebook, just like I am in a minority who despise Amazon(~8 years running now, if only their recruiters would stop contacting me).

    But I'd wager the vast vast majority of people who use it do not despise it. I bet the majority of those people who have also embraced Instagram don't realize and/or don't care that Facebook owns that as well.

    At least 3 others in my family use facebook quite a bit and I haven't heard any of them say a peep about this whole thing, they just don't care, I don't think it has changed their usage of the system at all.

    I bet the majority of those same people don't blink an eye when they install apps on their mobile devices that want to harvest your data. It's pretty sad, but even more sad, not surprising.

    The only social media account I have is linkedin, though I am very careful to give as little behavioral information to them as possible(as in I do not comment on posts, I do not "like" anything), and pretty much all info they have on me is publicly available anyway. Add to that I do massive amounts of cookie blocking (over 10,000 sites in the past ~14 years), not perfect but it does a good enough job for me.

    Also am obviously careful about what gets installed on my main phone. I have two other phones with pretty much no personal information on which I use to install apps that are of more dubious quality (though my standards even there are very high), so they really get no data, and no mobile devices are not allowed on my internal home network either(wifi is "DMZ" only hanging off the 3rd port of my yes -- OpenBSD firewall).

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: everyone dispises?

      "they just don't care, I don't think it has changed their usage of the system at all."

      Which is fine, that's their right. However, I think that those of us who do despise it (and other such surveillance companies) need to start calling those people out as assholes when they share any data about people who aren't on Facebook and who haven't given them permission to share.

      This not only includes the obvious (name-checking in posts, photos, etc.), but the things that are often overlooked (sharing phone contact lists, and so forth).

      If people want to use these services, I see no reason to stop them. But they absolutely have to stop throwing everyone else under the bus when they do.

      1. Steve K Silver badge

        Re: everyone dispises?

        I completely agree with your sentiment on shadow profiles, but I don't think that your suggestion is workable. I speak as a non-Facebook user also.

        How are you (as a non-Facebook user) going to know if anything is shared on Facebook about you?

        It is unrealistic to expect that any Facebook user will have a means to filter their non-Faceboook contact when uploading them and also that they will use a codeword (e.g. notJohnFen) when mentioning you in their posts.

        I think that the only way to do this is at a back-end level by Facebook where they match mobile numbers/emails with user profiles and anything not corresponding to a user is blocked from collection (not perfect as people change mobiles/emails etc.), and purged. I suspect that this won't happen without court sanction....

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: everyone dispises?

          My friends and family know me well enough to know that I don't want to be mentioned or have data about me included in Facebook. When I discover someone has made a mistake (usually because someone tells me), I scold them to remind them.

          It's certainly not a solution to everything, but it does at least help.

          "It is unrealistic to expect that any Facebook user will have a means to filter their non-Faceboook contact when uploading them"

          True. My hope is that people will either not upload their contact list, or they will remove me from their contact list if they can't help themselves.

          "and also that they will use a codeword (e.g. notJohnFen) when mentioning you in their posts."

          Why would they need a codeword? They can simply not mention me at all.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: everyone dispises?

            "Why would they need a codeword? They can simply not mention me at all."

            Perhaps because they WANT to mention you and don't give a rat's rear end what you think. They're several degrees of separation away from you, so anything you say will likely be replied with a finger and an FU. And it only takes one or two of them to make it open season on you.

            1. JohnFen Silver badge

              Re: everyone dispises?

              "and don't give a rat's rear end what you think."

              People who are so dismissive of others as to think that way are antisocial assholes. That Facebook encourages people to act that way is the biggest problem with Facebook.

              "They're several degrees of separation away from you"

              My friends and family are several degrees of separation from me?

              1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                Re: everyone dispises?

                "People who are so dismissive of others as to think that way are antisocial assholes. That Facebook encourages people to act that way is the biggest problem with Facebook."

                As they say, haters gonna hate. Nothing you or the world can do about them, especially since haters tend towards sociopathy, and you know what they say about politics and sociopathy. Worst part is, there will always be politics. It's practically human condition.

                "My friends and family are several degrees of separation from me?'

                No, think friends OF friends OF friends. Or as put it one way, "a sister of a friend of a friend". That's what I mean by degrees of separation.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: everyone dispises?

      "The only social media account I have is linkedin, though I am very careful to give as little behavioral information to them as possible(as in I do not comment on posts, I do not "like" anything), and pretty much all info they have on me is publicly available anyway. Add to that I do massive amounts of cookie blocking (over 10,000 sites in the past ~14 years), not perfect but it does a good enough job for me."

      I just recevied an unsolicited email from Linkedin inviting me to connect with Nate Amsden

      /sarcasm

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "I just recevied an unsolicited email from Linkedin inviting me to connect"

        I know that many of those invitation came because of colleagues who let LinkedIn slurp their address books...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'Facebook is like Exxon.'

    Watch-out if you're using Facebook's Download-Your-Data feature. Zuck appears to be embedding phone-home links back, despite including photos in the Download-zip anyway. The links work like 'Pixel Beacons' and take the following form below. Facebook were not doing this a year ago AFAIK:

    https://scontent.fbog2-1.fna.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-0/p600x600/[VERY-LONG-SERIAL-NUMBER].jpg?_nc_cat=0&_nc_ad=z-m&_nc_cid=0&oh=[LONG-SERIAL-NUMBER]

  7. frank ly Silver badge

    "We need ethicists and people thinking what to do in those situations."

    What the heck is an 'ethicist' and how do you get to be one?

    What we need is people to be aware of what is happening and for politicians (there are some decent ones) and lawmakers to do their jobs, which is to represent the people who voted for them (fat chance).

    1. Detective Emil

      What the heck is an 'ethicist'

      I'm bound to inform you that I am not qualified to answer that question, but monster.com (for example) has 40 pages of open positions for them (including at the IMF).

  8. muddysteve

    People don't care

    The basic problem with the surveillance society is that people don't care that they are being watched. "If you are doing nothing wrong, then you have nothing to worry about" is the quote I usually hear when discussing it. "Who is going to be interested in what we say?" was the reply when I discussed Alexa with someone. When all that most people see is a few targeted adverts, they will live with that if it means they can share photos, news and memes. I am seriously considering coming off Facebook, but I will then lose touch with many people that I do not communicate with in other ways.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: People don't care

      The next time they give you the "nothing to hide" bit, why not counter with Cardinal Richlieu's "give me six lines" quote?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Signal

    The way it's going, Signal could easily be the Facebook of the 2020s.

    Contact list slurping, emojis, Giphy search, massive VC funding, doubling down on centralized infrastructure & metadata..... this is not the decentralized secure messenger everyone needs.

  10. Mage Silver badge

    Everyone needs it

    Really?

    no-one needs it except Zuckerberg.

  11. ecofeco Silver badge

    NO ONE NEEDS Facbook

    Needs Facebook?

    How can one be so stupid and yet considered an expert on anything?

  12. ade328

    Nothing is indispensable, especially so, those who believe they are!

    I do not believe the view "it is this indispensable tool" I am pretty sure alternatives for every Faceboook feature exist! The one thing Facebook has been successful at, tapping into the human 'Tribal' nature that drives us to herd and want to fit in! - it is preferable to be at the table than on the menu!

    But, indispensable, No!

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