back to article Ho ho ho! Washington DC sends Zuckerberg a sueball-shaped present

Washington DC has sued Facebook, slamming the biz for lax oversight, misleading privacy settings and taking two years to 'fess up to mass data harvesting. The lawsuit, filed in the US capital, comes just days after a damning report from the New York Times that claimed more than 150 firms had special access to users' data, …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good. Now close FB down

    Send Zuck to jail.

    If ever there was a blot on the life of many of us then it has to be FB.

    1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
      Boffin

      @AC Re: Good. Now close FB down

      Sorry, the real world doesn't work that way.

      Technically Zuck lied to Congress which would lead to jail time.

      But that's a different story.

      Here you don't send him to jail, you sue them, collect millions in the form of a fine, and then they correct the action.

      The worst thing that Congress can do is to remove FB and even Google's qualified immunity because its been found that they are censoring / managing content based on ideas. Not being a neutral platform.

      (Hate speech and illegal speech [e.g. Nazis in Germany] are a different issue)

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: @AC Good. Now close FB down

        "and then they correct the action."

        I'll believe that when I see it. Facebook's history indicates that no correction will happen.

        1. Alistair Silver badge
          Windows

          Re: @AC Good. Now close FB down

          @JohnFen:

          Facebook?

          Tobacco Companies.

          Mining Companies

          Oil Companies

          Telephone Companies.

          Investment Banking Companies.

          History indicates you are correct.

          1. bombastic bob Silver badge
            Meh

            Re: @AC Good. Now close FB down

            well, you DO have to assume that corporations, run by people, will be acting in their own best interests.

            that would be 'human nature' in general. Actually, it's _NATURE_ in general.

            So in addition to "the stick" a carrot may be needed to get Fa[e]ceB[itch,ook] to behave. This would actually be consistent with what Sun Tzu wrote about in 'Art of Warfare'.

            If you want an enemy to attack a specific place, you'll make it attractive to them. Move something they want into that position. Weakly defend it (or give a perception of weakness). In effect you're offering something up that THEY want, while simultaneously controlling the situation. You can use it as a trap, or you can use it to let them take the thing they want which might be valuable if you do NOT want it any more for some reason.

            in any case, using the stick against "the Zuckers" is likely to drive them into being more deceptive, finding new ways to screw their customers over, etc.. But a carrot, one that also protects privacy [maybe a GDPR-like solution] is more likely to work.

            When I go to the grocery store, I use a card that gets me a discount. They now know everything I buy there [which is less and less these days, as Target and Walmart have way lower prices on most things]. I nearly always buy liquor at the grocery store because it's constantly "on sale" [the stuff I want] so they know it's getting me into the store. And they're right.

            So they can see that _I_ buy liquor at their store, nearly every time I'm there. Their algorithms can track that, and that particular liquor has been "on sale" for about 2 years as I recall. Win-win.

            So now here's a carrot for Fa[e]ceB[ook,itch]: What if they can give people an ADVANTAGE for "being tracked", and CONTROL the level of tracking in a GDPR-compliant way? And, maybe they get 'special offers' or discounts for doing so? You know, a win-win.

            Things like this do NOT have to be win-lose, or worse, lose-lose. It does NOT have to be "the exploiter" vs "the masses". It _CAN_ be something people are willing to accept [like the store discount card, dating back over 20 years], even for a privacy-conscious person like me, because you GET something for it.

            1. JohnFen Silver badge

              Re: @AC Good. Now close FB down

              " It _CAN_ be something people are willing to accept [like the store discount card, dating back over 20 years], even for a privacy-conscious person like me"

              Perhaps. But some people, like myself, consider "loyalty cards" to be an unacceptable level of surveillance and so don't use them.

              In my area, they don't even provide a benefit! Stores that use them have hiked their prices so that when the "discount" is applied, the cost is roughly the same as what you'd pay at stores that don't use them (which is why I tend to avoid shopping at stores that have such a program). But even if they did provide a benefit, I don't think that there is one they could offer that would make using such cards OK for me.

              1. dbtx Bronze badge

                You misspelled "loyalty turds". Hell no, I'm not putting that in my pocket... though for a couple years I did use the card from a large grocery chain here in order to get the large-typeface 'benefit' or 'sale' prices on stuff instead of the 'normal' price. Why was that OK? I found it on the ground outside and I have no idea who it belonged to, so presumably I was poisoning the data just a tiny bit. That person probably kept using their other card(s) because they give you at least 2 of the same barcode at a time -- one that fits on a keyring and one credit-card sized which I got. And if that person got a new barcode for their account, then who cares. The store doesn't know me; I used cash for everything back then.

                1. dbtx Bronze badge

                  Shit, I had a debit card too. Until Paypal overdrafted from that account and Chase cheerfully gave them the missing dollar or two (at their discretion) so they could smack me with double-digit fees over it. So yeah I would rather forget, and I did.

            2. Public Citizen
              Facepalm

              Re: @AC Good. Now close FB down

              If you think that liquor has been "on sale" for most of the time you've been buying it then you missed the point of Sun Tsu.

              It's a Loss Leader designed to bait you into coming into their store, sold at cost or maybe slightly above, and evidently it's working as intended.

        2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: @AC Good. Now close FB down

          If they don't then they get fined again and in some cases they have to pay for a watchdog to live on site.

          IIRC, this happened to Apple.

          I don't know why I got down voted.

          Sure I'd love to see the Feds go after FB but lets be realistic... the Govt can only do what the law allows them. But yelling... 'off with their heads!' isn't going to solve the problem.

          The other problem is a lack of informed consent. If you were dumb enough to set up a FB account, then its partially your own fault.

          I only had an active account for 3 months. All employees and contractors have to have a FB account and I went there against my will. I took one for the team.

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: @AC Good. Now close FB down

            "I don't know why I got down voted."

            I don't either, but I am exceeding skeptical that companies like Facebook, etc., would actually stop engaging in the behavior that made them so rich and powerful unless there is a realistic threat of severe consequences. Fines and even having someone on site aren't likely to be severe enough to force them to change behavior that is so fundamental to their business activities.

            "All employees and contractors have to have a FB account and I went there against my will."

            What kind of insane company requires that?? Not one that I'd be working at, for certain.

            1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

              Re: @AC Good. Now close FB down

              What kind of insane company requires that??

              One with a techno-utopian CEO and a head of marketing who's permitted too much latitude, presumably.

              We used to have a Social Media Marketing person who'd send out frequent encouragements to employees to create accounts on various platforms and paste-post / endorse various messages from Marketing. Fortunately, it was never more than encouraged, and only from that direction - there was no additional pressure from elsewhere in the firm.

              Some people, particularly those who spend a lot of time working directly with customers (consultants and the like), thought it worthwhile to have corporate accounts on some of the platforms. That's their decision. I never warmed to the idea myself, even though back in the day I was active on a number of Usenet groups under a corporate account. (And, of course, any reader of my Reg comments who cares can easily identify my employer, whom I've mentioned in a number of posts.)

              1. JohnFen Silver badge

                Re: @AC Good. Now close FB down

                "We used to have a Social Media Marketing person who'd send out frequent encouragements to employees to create accounts on various platforms and paste-post / endorse various messages from Marketing."

                So your marketing person was encouraging people to be sock puppets? That's very scummy.

                I expect marketing people to want companies to be active on social media, but in my view, if a company wants its employees to be their mouthpieces on social media, it's up to the company to provide the accounts to do that in.

      2. DougS Silver badge

        Re: @AC Good. Now close FB down

        Technically Zuck lied to Congress which would lead to jail time

        Lying to congress is almost never prosecuted on its own, only when it is part of a coverup for larger crimes. As a director of a publicly traded corporation, Zuck wouldn't be personally liable for Facebook's bad actions so his lies weren't to cover to crimes he's personally guilty of.

      3. Someone Else Silver badge

        @Ian Michael Gumby -- Re: @AC Good. Now close FB down

        Here you don't send him to jail, you sue them, attempt to collect millions in the form of a fine, settle for collecting what amounts to a mere slap on the wrist, and then they correct the action carry on as if nothing has happened.

        There, FTFY.

        Really, Ian, what Pollyanna world do you live in?

        1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

          @ Someone else... Re: @Ian Michael Gumby -- @AC Good. Now close FB down

          If they don't correct their actions, more fines and more penalties.

          IIRC Apple had a guy placed on site.

          1. Someone Else Silver badge

            Re: @ Someone else... @Ian Michael Gumby -- @AC Good. Now close FB down

            /me is not holding my breath!

      4. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Megaphone

        Re: @AC Good. Now close FB down

        "(Hate speech and illegal speech [e.g. Nazis in Germany] are a different issue)"

        No, they're NOT different than any OTHER 'free speech' issue. Aside from inciting riots (or inciting other crimes), libel, slander, threats, false accusations, false police reports, lying under oath, and other similar 'illegal speech' (which our courts have upheld as NOT being covered by the 1st Ammendment), pretty much ANYTHING ELSE is 'free speech', *ESPECIALLY* speech that people DISAGREE with [or feelings hurt, wah wah baby's feewings werwe huwt, awwww, poor baby...].

        And that's the point. If you go back to the 1950's in 'The South' in America, you find cases where businesses were regularly discriminating on the basis of RACE, and justifying by saying things like "we retain the right to refuse to do business with" etc.. OK, but if you refuse to do business with black people, we NOW consider that "illegal" under Civil Rights legislation. Actual discrimination is NOT "free speech" or anything similar. It's illegal, and upheld by decades of precedent.

        THE SAME PRINCIPLE exists when it comes to the 1st Ammendment, in the USA anyway. So when there is WIDESPREAD "DISCRIMINATION" against SPEECH, it's really a CIVIL RIGHTS issue, and should be TREATED as such by the law!

        If additional laws that specify this MUST be legislated before they can be ENFORCED, then I guess Con-Grab (and other legislative bodies) need to get their collective ASSES in gear and GET TO IT.

        1. Waseem Alkurdi

          Re: @AC Good. Now close FB down

          - So, free speech is only discrimination if it stops being speech?

          - You contradicted yourself:

          Aside from inciting riots (or inciting other crimes), libel, slander, threats, false accusations, false police reports, lying under oath, and other similar 'illegal speech' (which our courts have upheld as NOT being covered by the 1st Ammendment), pretty much ANYTHING ELSE is 'free speech', *ESPECIALLY* speech that people DISAGREE with [or feelings hurt, wah wah baby's feewings werwe huwt, awwww, poor baby...].

          So it's fine if it causes "wah wah baby" but not okay if it causes the abovementioned illegal action?

          What is there to prevent Mr. Wah Wah from expressing their anger ... and not necessarily peacefully? The law? What if they just ignore the law?

          That's why hate speech that hurts feelings is as illegal as hate speech inciting violence.

          The line is simply too thin.

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: @AC Good. Now close FB down

            So it's fine if it causes "wah wah baby" but not okay if it causes the abovementioned illegal action?

            I'm not aware of any jurisdiction in which the law recognizes "fine" and "not okay" as legal status, but in the US, laws prohibiting speech on the grounds of offense are for the most part struck down as violating the 1st Amendment.

            The legal prohibitions on speech that results in illegal action must satisfy fairly strict tests, such as creating "a clear and present danger". The Federal law against inciting a riot (18 USC 2101), for example, requires that the offender specifically urge multiple people to riot, with that intent, and not simply express ideas that may be inflammatory. It also has an exception for labor organizing.

            That's why hate speech that hurts feelings is as illegal as hate speech inciting violence.

            Not in the US.

            The line is simply too thin.

            Whereas the line between "speech that should be prohibited" and "speech that should be allowed" is nice and broad, eh? We can trust governments to draw that in a way that preserves political freedom of marginalized groups?

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: Good. Now close FB down

      "Send Zuck to jail."

      well, aside from the OBVIOUS 'lynch mob' tactic, this ain't gonna happen. You know, "Due Process" and all of that. It's something that mob mentalities often forget [or disregard].

      Now, wouldn't it be nice if the TWO TIERED justice system in the USA (you know, one for 'US', and the other for those who are 'NOT US', from the perspective of the elitist "ruling class" ) were applied CONSISTENTLY?

      (what a Christmas present *THAT* would make!!!)

    3. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Good. Now close FB down

      Just wait for the GDPR violation suit to come through. That will cost FB a few milliard dollars.

  2. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

    Now EU use GDPR

    A fine 10% of FB global revenue (note revenue NOT profits) would be a good extra to add to FB woes.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Now EU use GDPR

      The max fine is 4% only...

      1. A.P. Veening

        Re: Now EU use GDPR

        "The max fine is 4% only.."

        That 4% of revenue will seriously cut into the profits.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Megaphone

      Re: Now EU use GDPR

      Well, hitting the stockholders and the board of directors is likely to have a bigger impact, yes. The question is whether or not it would be ENOUGH.

      in the late 19th and early 20th century, there were major trusts that had to be 'busted' (Teddy Roosevelt was 'big stick' on this) including Standard Oil and U.S. Steel and J.P. Morgan's banking empire and a few other things.

      In the 21st century you have Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and to some extent, Apple, each with their own monopolistic 'trust'. Similar action will be necessary to protect the consumer, because they're pretty much doing what the late 19th century trusts were doing.

      1. Control a huge percentage of the market;

      2. Setting terms and prices (or in this case for FB, user privacy as a 'price')

      3. Owning/controlling enough of the supply chain as to shut out competition

      4. Predatory practices (literally ATTACKING competitors or PREVENTING competition from surviving)

      A good example of '3' is when an oil company (for a geographical area, let's say) owns the majority of the oil wells, refineries, AND gasoline stations. By fixing prices at the wholesale level, then can keep the profits to themselves and make it impossible for independent gasoline stations to compete by having the profit margin at the RETAIL level be SO impractical as to drive them out of business.

      So Google [their search engine is 'free'] and Microsoft [their OS comes bundled with EVERY new computer] and Facebook [there aren't any real alternatives that "all of your friends" are on] present their 'products', it's perceptively "no other choice" besides *THEM*. And _THAT_ is when it becomes A MONOPOLY.

      Queue the usual behavior, like exploitation and poor quality product/support, bloated bureaucracy inside the company when you want resolution, and so on.

      Bust the TRUSTS!

      1. Public Citizen

        Re: Now EU use GDPR

        And it's even worse than the 19th Century Trusts because Internet Monopolies like FB pry into your private business on the internet even when ~you~ aren't a user, and have taken measures to keep them from "tracking" you.

        It would be the equivalent of Standard Oil driving a pipe into your house and then turning on the tap and billing you for the "service" they've provided, when you don't own an automobile and your entire consumption of petroleum products amounts to a gallon of kerosene every year for your oil lamps, purchased from a non-Standard Oil supplier.

  3. Chris G Silver badge

    Take him down!

    Guilty as charged.

    As Zuckerdroid is a hands on boss, it should be him personally who should pay the penalty .

  4. Alister Silver badge

    Facebook, Facebook?

    Oh yes, I remember them, they went bust after being sued into oblivion...

    1. Someone Else Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Facebook, Facebook?

      Oh yes, I remember them, they went bust after being sued into oblivion...

      /me is not holding my breath. This is an American Corporation fer chrissakes; do you actually believe that the USC of A (United States Corporation of America, Inc.) would allow an(other) American Corporation to be "sued into oblivion"? It won't be allowed to be sued for an amount greater than or equal to 1 hour's worth of profits!

  5. DJV Silver badge

    Shit... meet fan

    Excellent news for popcorn makers!

    1. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble? Silver badge

      Re: Shit... meet fan

      Shit... meet fan

      Excellent news for popcorn makers!

      I worry about how you make popcorn...

      However I totally agree with the spirit of your post!

    2. MiguelC Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Shit... meet fan

      (although not for popcorn eaters or anyone else standing in front of said fan)

  6. naive

    There is morality and there are laws

    It is the task of the government to connect these two, and they often fail, or lag decades behind the facts.

    If somebody installs facebook on their phone, switches "location services" off, it just means "switch off location tracking using GPS signal".

    Is it a violation of the law if the app uses wifi information from neighboring modems, matches these against a database to determine the location without GPS ?.

    Google still uses wifi modem info to determine where the phone is, regardless of "Location Services".

    Governments should get to work, and define a framework of legislation under which providers of services are obliged to operate.

    But governments can never replace brain cells, "free" services need to earn money to pay for their operating costs, the currency is information about the user of those "free" services. So go figure.

    1. Cereberus

      Re: There is morality and there are laws

      I think there are 2 main problems.

      1 - If you sign up to Facebook, it is pretty much understood that they will take every last bit of information they can to sell on - that is after all how they make their money. Yes it could be perhaps clearer and yes you should expect that if you want everything kept private it should be private but only to a point. I think it would be reasonable for Facebook to say 'Here is a free account but you are limited on what you can keep private from us. You do have an option to pay a nominal amount to use the service at which point private is truly private and we won't collect information because you are paying for a service.'

      2 - Collecting 3rd party data should just be banned. I haven't given permission for data to be collected on me by accessing John Smith's account which is free, especially if I don't have a Facebook account.

      I do have a Facebook account which I use only for a small fishing syndicate. I have never posted anything, or read any feeds, beyond relating to this syndicate. I don't use Facebook to log into other things so they will have 'relatively' little information about me and I accept that what they get they will use.

      Part of the problem is people expect 'free' to mean free and these companies should provide a totally free service for their use. I use free programs on the PC in a lot of cases because they do what I need but I also pay for the 'enhanced' program in other cases because I use the extra capability. That it how the business model works. If 10% of people pay for the fully working product the company is making money and can carry those who use the free version. I wouldn't complain that I can't use a particular function that is available in the paid for version when I am using the free one if I choose not to pay for the full version. If the software is good and does what I want I have no problem paying for it, if it isn't I don't. But I have full control over what I decide to do. With Facebook that seems not to be the case and someone who doesn't want their service should not have their information taken without their express permission.

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: There is morality and there are laws

      If somebody installs facebook on their phone, switches "location services" off, it just means "switch off location tracking using GPS signal".

      Why would you think that? If I switch off "location services" I would expect it to switch off all services which determine location. If I just wanted to switch off GPS I would just disable the GPS service.

      1. Richocet

        Re: There is morality and there are laws

        I agree. Readers of the Reg have above average understanding of technology.

        The average person who wants to stop having their location tracked would expect that "location services" = off will do that for them.

        Then there are people on the other side of average. Those unfamiliar with technology, people in the early stages of dementia, people with learning disabilities. How is it OK to mislead and deceive them?

        Does the digital industry have a broader cultural problem where they are seen as fair game?

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: There is morality and there are laws

      "It is the perceived task of the government to connect these two, and they often nearly always fail, or lag decades behind the facts."

      (fixed it. you're welcome)

      Since when have 'morality' and 'law' had any kind of CONNECTION?

      There's also the likelihood that ANY law that is 'moral' will come with HOWLS of "legislating morality" and things of THAT nature.

      Gummint does NOT define morality, either. Society itself does, and to some extent, religions, philosophies, etc.. And the law is regularly polluted with loopholes that "l[aw]yer buddies" can exploit for the purposes of running up astronomical legal fees for themselves. In short, the best you can hope for is a corrupt partial-"solution" that creates more problems than it solves...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Grinch, meet arsebook.

    Arsebook, meet Grinch.

  8. LDS Silver badge
    Devil

    Facebook lawyers opening expensive champagne bottles earlier!

    They'll be thanking Santa Claus for the new yacht!

    1. el kabong

      New yacht, new private jet, new girlfriends, you name it.

      2019 will be a great year for those guys, absolutely!

  9. alain williams Silver badge

    The trouble with convicting dishonest CEOs ...

    is that shortly after people will wonder if they should also convict dishonest politicians. Thus politicians will ensure that no real penalty will be paid by Zuck & top brass in other companies. :-(

    1. cd

      Re: The trouble with convicting dishonest CEOs ...

      That's why the Republican enthusiasm for prison reform recently, they wonder if they might be headed there themselves.

  10. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Well, well, well

    Seems like we are going to be able to look forward to a new era in CEO life : governments actually holding them accountable, via court if they have to. Who'd've thought ?

    That being said : Hey Zuck ! I wish you a very Happy New Year paying all those fines coming your way !

  11. Not Enough Coffee

    "cash for consumers"

    Yeah right.

    1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

      Re: "cash for consumers"

      Cash for commodities. FTFY but still not right

  12. Public Citizen
    Mushroom

    How about compensation for those of us who have tried to shut Fakebook out of our lives and away from our internet usage?

    Zburgs aggressive attempts to snare everybody in his web of deceit amount to the internet equivalent of mugging at a minimum and go all the way up to forcible rape.

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