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Facebook, CIA & Peter Thiel: With friends like these...

 
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Aaron Joseph
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 02, 2012 11:52 pm    Post subject: Facebook, CIA & Peter Thiel: With friends like these... Reply with quote

I despise Facebook. This enormously successful American business describes itself as "a social utility that connects you with the people around you". But hang on. Why on God's earth would I need a computer to connect with the people around me? Why should my relationships be mediated through the imagination of a bunch of supergeeks in California? What was wrong with the pub?
And does Facebook really connect people? Doesn't it rather disconnect us, since instead of doing something enjoyable such as talking and eating and dancing and drinking with my friends, I am merely sending them little ungrammatical notes and amusing photos in cyberspace, while chained to my desk? A friend of mine recently told me that he had spent a Saturday night at home alone on Facebook, drinking at his desk. What a gloomy image. Far from connecting us, Facebook actually isolates us at our workstations.
Facebook appeals to a kind of vanity and self-importance in us, too. If I put up a flattering picture of myself with a list of my favourite things, I can construct an artificial representation of who I am in order to get sex or approval. ("I like Facebook," said another friend. "I got a shag out of it.") It also encourages a disturbing competitivness around friendship: it seems that with friends today, quality counts for nothing and quantity is king. The more friends you have, the better you are. You are "popular", in the sense much loved in American high schools. Witness the cover line on Dennis Publishing's new Facebook magazine: "How To Double Your Friends List."
It seems, though, that I am very much alone in my hostility. At the time of writing Facebook claims 59 million active users, including 7 million in the UK, Facebook's third-biggest customer after the US and Canada. That's 59 million suckers, all of whom have volunteered their ID card information and consumer preferences to an American business they know nothing about. Right now, 2 million new people join each week. At the present rate of growth, Facebook will have more than 200 million active users by this time next year. And I would predict that, if anything, its rate of growth will accelerate over the coming months. As its spokesman Chris Hughes says: "It's embedded itself to an extent where it's hard to get rid of."
All of the above would have been enough to make me reject Facebook for ever. But there are more reasons to hate it. Many more.

Facebook is a well-funded project, and the people behind the funding, a group of Silicon Valley venture capitalists, have a clearly thought out ideology that they are hoping to spread around the world. Facebook is one manifestation of this ideology. Like PayPal before it, it is a social experiment, an expression of a particular kind of neoconservative libertarianism. On Facebook, you can be free to be who you want to be, as long as you don't mind being bombarded by adverts for the world's biggest brands. As with PayPal, national boundaries are a thing of the past.
Although the project was initially conceived by media cover star Mark Zuckerberg, the real face behind Facebook is the 40-year-old Silicon Valley venture capitalist and futurist philosopher Peter Thiel. There are only three board members on Facebook, and they are Thiel, Zuckerberg and a third investor called Jim Breyer from a venture capital firm called Accel Partners (more on him later). Thiel invested $500,000 in Facebook when Harvard students Zuckerberg, Chris Hughes and Dustin Moskowitz went to meet him in San Francisco in June 2004, soon after they had launched the site. Thiel now reportedly owns 7% of Facebook, which, at Facebook's current valuation of $15bn, would be worth more than $1bn. There is much debate on who exactly were the original co-founders of Facebook, but whoever they were, Zuckerberg is the only one left on the board, although Hughes and Moskowitz still work for the company.
Thiel is widely regarded in Silicon Valley and in the US venture capital scene as a libertarian genius. He is the co-founder and CEO of the virtual banking system PayPal, which he sold to Ebay for $1.5bn, taking $55m for himself. He also runs a £3bn hedge fund called Clarium Capital Management and a venture capital fund called Founders Fund. Bloomberg Markets magazine recently called him "one of the most successful hedge fund managers in the country". He has made money by betting on rising oil prices and by correctly predicting that the dollar would weaken. He and his absurdly wealthy Silicon Valley mates have recently been labelled "The PayPal Mafia" by Fortune magazine, whose reporter also observed that Thiel has a uniformed butler and a $500,000 McLaren supercar. Thiel is also a chess master and intensely competitive. He has been known to sweep the chessmen off the table in a fury when losing. And he does not apologise for this hyper-competitveness, saying: "Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser."

But Thiel is more than just a clever and avaricious capitalist. He is a futurist philosopher and neocon activist. A philosophy graduate from Stanford, in 1998 he co-wrote a book called The Diversity Myth, which is a detailed attack on liberalism and the multiculturalist ideology that dominated Stanford. He claimed that the "multiculture" led to a lessening of individual freedoms. While a student at Stanford, Thiel founded a rightwing journal, still up and running, called The Stanford Review - motto: Fiat Lux ("Let there be light"). Thiel is a member of TheVanguard.Org, an internet-based neoconservative pressure group that was set up to attack MoveOn.org, a liberal pressure group that works on the web. Thiel calls himself "way libertarian".
TheVanguard is run by one Rod D Martin, a philosopher-capitalist whom Thiel greatly admires. On the site, Thiel says: "Rod is one of our nation's leading minds in the creation of new and needed ideas for public policy. He possesses a more complete understanding of America than most executives have of their own businesses."
This little taster from their website will give you an idea of their vision for the world: "TheVanguard.Org is an online community of Americans who believe in conservative values, the free market and limited government as the best means to bring hope and ever-increasing opportunity to everyone, especially the poorest among us." Their aim is to promote policies that will "reshape America and the globe". TheVanguard describes its politics as "Reaganite/Thatcherite". The chairman's message says: "Today we'll teach MoveOn [the liberal website], Hillary and the leftwing media some lessons they never imagined."
So, Thiel's politics are not in doubt. What about his philosophy? I listened to a podcast of an address Thiel gave about his ideas for the future. His philosophy, briefly, is this: since the 17th century, certain enlightened thinkers have been taking the world away from the old-fashioned nature-bound life, and here he quotes Thomas Hobbes' famous characterisation of life as "nasty, brutish and short", and towards a new virtual world where we have conquered nature. Value now exists in imaginary things. Thiel says that PayPal was motivated by this belief: that you can find value not in real manufactured objects, but in the relations between human beings. PayPal was a way of moving money around the world with no restriction. Bloomberg Markets puts it like this: "For Thiel, PayPal was all about freedom: it would enable people to skirt currency controls and move money around the globe."
Clearly, Facebook is another uber-capitalist experiment: can you make money out of friendship? Can you create communities free of national boundaries - and then sell Coca-Cola to them? Facebook is profoundly uncreative. It makes nothing at all. It simply mediates in relationships that were happening anyway.

Photo: Tim Boyle/Getty
Thiel's philosophical mentor is one René Girard of Stanford University, proponent of a theory of human behaviour called mimetic desire. Girard reckons that people are essentially sheep-like and will copy one another without much reflection. The theory would also seem to be proved correct in the case of Thiel's virtual worlds: the desired object is irrelevant; all you need to know is that human beings will tend to move in flocks. Hence financial bubbles. Hence the enormous popularity of Facebook. Girard is a regular at Thiel's intellectual soirees. What you don't hear about in Thiel's philosophy, by the way, are old-fashioned real-world concepts such as art, beauty, love, pleasure and truth.
The internet is immensely appealing to neocons such as Thiel because it promises a certain sort of freedom in human relations and in business, freedom from pesky national laws, national boundaries and suchlike. The internet opens up a world of free trade and laissez-faire expansion. Thiel also seems to approve of offshore tax havens, and claims that 40% of the world's wealth resides in places such as Vanuatu, the Cayman Islands, Monaco and Barbados. I think it's fair to say that Thiel, like Rupert Murdoch, is against tax. He also likes the globalisation of digital culture because it makes the banking overlords hard to attack: "You can't have a workers' revolution to take over a bank if the bank is in Vanuatu," he says.
If life in the past was nasty, brutish and short, then in the future Thiel wants to make it much longer, and to this end he has also invested in a firm that is exploring life-extension technologies. He has pledged £3.5m to a Cambridge-based gerontologist called Aubrey de Grey, who is searching for the key to immortality. Thiel is also on the board of advisers of something called the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence. From its fantastical website, the following: "The Singularity is the technological creation of smarter-than-human intelligence. There are several technologies ... heading in this direction ... Artificial Intelligence ... direct brain-computer interfaces ... genetic engineering ... different technologies which, if they reached a threshold level of sophistication, would enable the creation of smarter-than-human intelligence."
So by his own admission, Thiel is trying to destroy the real world, which he also calls "nature", and install a virtual world in its place, and it is in this context that we must view the rise of Facebook. Facebook is a deliberate experiment in global manipulation, and Thiel is a bright young thing in the neoconservative pantheon, with a penchant for far-out techno-utopian fantasies. Not someone I want to help get any richer.
The third board member of Facebook is Jim Breyer. He is a partner in the venture capital firm Accel Partners, who put $12.7m into Facebook in April 2005. On the board of such US giants as Wal-Mart and Marvel Entertainment, he is also a former chairman of the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA). Now these are the people who are really making things happen in America, because they invest in the new young talent, the Zuckerbergs and the like. Facebook's most recent round of funding was led by a company called Greylock Venture Capital, who put in the sum of $27.5m. One of Greylock's senior partners is called Howard Cox, another former chairman of the NVCA, who is also on the board of In-Q-Tel. What's In-Q-Tel? Well, believe it or not (and check out their website), this is the venture-capital wing of the CIA. After 9/11, the US intelligence community became so excited by the possibilities of new technology and the innovations being made in the private sector, that in 1999 they set up their own venture capital fund, In-Q-Tel, which "identifies and partners with companies developing cutting-edge technologies to help deliver these solutions to the Central Intelligence Agency and the broader US Intelligence Community (IC) to further their missions".
The US defence department and the CIA love technology because it makes spying easier. "We need to find new ways to deter new adversaries," defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in 2003. "We need to make the leap into the information age, which is the critical foundation of our transformation efforts." In-Q-Tel's first chairman was Gilman Louie, who served on the board of the NVCA with Breyer. Another key figure in the In-Q-Tel team is Anita K Jones, former director of defence research and engineering for the US department of defence, and - with Breyer - board member of BBN Technologies. When she left the US department of defence, Senator Chuck Robb paid her the following tribute: "She brought the technology and operational military communities together to design detailed plans to sustain US dominance on the battlefield into the next century."

Now even if you don't buy the idea that Facebook is some kind of extension of the American imperialist programme crossed with a massive information-gathering tool, there is no way of denying that as a business, it is pure mega-genius. Some net nerds have suggsted that its $15bn valuation is excessive, but I would argue that if anything that is too modest. Its scale really is dizzying, and the potential for growth is virtually limitless. "We want everyone to be able to use Facebook," says the impersonal voice of Big Brother on the website. I'll bet they do. It is Facebook's enormous potential that led Microsoft to buy 1.6% for $240m. A recent rumour says that Asian investor Lee Ka-Shing, said to be the ninth richest man in the world, has bought 0.4% of Facebook for $60m.
The creators of the site need do very little bar fiddle with the programme. In the main, they simply sit back and watch as millions of Facebook addicts voluntarily upload their ID details, photographs and lists of their favourite consumer objects. Once in receipt of this vast database of human beings, Facebook then simply has to sell the information back to advertisers, or, as Zuckerberg puts it in a recent blog post, "to try to help people share information with their friends about things they do on the web". And indeed, this is precisely what's happening. On November 6 last year, Facebook announced that 12 global brands had climbed on board. They included Coca-Cola, Blockbuster, Verizon, Sony Pictures and Condé Nast. All trained in marketing bs of the highest order, their representatives made excited comments along the following lines:
"With Facebook Ads, our brands can become a part of the way users communicate and interact on Facebook," said Carol Kruse, vice president, global interactive marketing, the Coca-Cola Company.
"We view this as an innovative way to cultivate relationships with millions of Facebook users by enabling them to interact with Blockbuster in convenient, relevant and entertaining ways," said Jim Keyes, Blockbuster chairman and CEO. "This is beyond creating advertising impressions. This is about Blockbuster participating in the community of the consumer so that, in return, consumers feel motivated to share the benefits of our brand with their friends."
"Share" is Facebookspeak for "advertise". Sign up to Facebook and you become a free walking, talking advert for Blockbuster or Coke, extolling the virtues of these brands to your friends. We are seeing the commodification of human relationships, the extraction of capitalistic value from friendships.
Now, by comparision with Facebook, newspapers, for example, begin to look hopelessly outdated as a business model. A newspaper sells advertising space to businesses looking to sell stuff to their readers. But the system is far less sophisticated than Facebook for two reasons. One is that newspapers have to put up with the irksome expense of paying journalists to provide the content. Facebook gets its content for free. The other is that Facebook can target advertising with far greater precision than a newspaper. Admit on Facebook that your favourite film is This Is Spinal Tap, and when a Spinal Tap-esque movie comes out, you can be sure that they'll be sending ads your way.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (Photo: Paul Sakuma/AP)
It's true that Facebook recently got into hot water with its Beacon advertising programme. Users were notified that one of their friends had made a purchase at certain online shops; 46,000 users felt that this level of advertising was intrusive, and signed a petition called "Facebook! Stop invading my privacy!" to say so. Zuckerberg apologised on his company blog. He has written that they have now changed the system from "opt-out" to "opt-in". But I suspect that this little rebellion about being so ruthlessly commodified will soon be forgotten: after all, there was a national outcry by the civil liberties movement when the idea of a police force was mooted in the UK in the mid 19th century.
Futhermore, have you Facebook users ever actually read the privacy policy? It tells you that you don't have much privacy. Facebook pretends to be about freedom, but isn't it really more like an ideologically motivated virtual totalitarian regime with a population that will very soon exceed the UK's? Thiel and the rest have created their own country, a country of consumers.
Now, you may, like Thiel and the other new masters of the cyberverse, find this social experiment tremendously exciting. Here at last is the Enlightenment state longed for since the Puritans of the 17th century sailed away to North America, a world where everyone is free to express themselves as they please, according to who is watching. National boundaries are a thing of the past and everyone cavorts together in freewheeling virtual space. Nature has been conquered through man's boundless ingenuity. Yes, and you may decide to send genius investor Thiel all your money, and certainly you'll be waiting impatiently for the public flotation of the unstoppable Facebook.
Or you might reflect that you don't really want to be part of this heavily-funded programme to create an arid global virtual republic, where your own self and your relationships with your friends are converted into commodites on sale to giant global brands. You may decide that you don't want to be part of this takeover bid for the world.
For my own part, I am going to retreat from the whole thing, remain as unplugged as possible, and spend the time I save by not going on Facebook doing something useful, such as reading books. Why would I want to waste my time on Facebook when I still haven't read Keats' Endymion? And when there are seeds to be sown in my own back yard? I don't want to retreat from nature, I want to reconnect with it. Damn air-conditioning! And if I want to connect with the people around me, I will revert to an old piece of technology. It's free, it's easy and it delivers a uniquely individual experience in sharing information: it's called talking.
Facebook's privacy policy
Just for fun, try substituting the words 'Big Brother' whenever you read the word 'Facebook'
1 We will advertise at you
"When you use Facebook, you may set up your personal profile, form relationships, send messages, perform searches and queries, form groups, set up events, add applications, and transmit information through various channels. We collect this information so that we can provide you the service and offer personalised features."
2 You can't delete anything
"When you update information, we usually keep a backup copy of the prior version for a reasonable period of time to enable reversion to the prior version of that information."
3 Anyone can glance at your intimate confessions
"... we cannot and do not guarantee that user content you post on the site will not be viewed by unauthorised persons. We are not responsible for circumvention of any privacy settings or security measures contained on the site. You understand and acknowledge that, even after removal, copies of user content may remain viewable in cached and archived pages or if other users have copied or stored your user content."
4 Our marketing profile of you will be unbeatable
"Facebook may also collect information about you from other sources, such as newspapers, blogs, instant messaging services, and other users of the Facebook service through the operation of the service (eg, photo tags) in order to provide you with more useful information and a more personalised experience."
5 Opting out doesn't mean opting out
"Facebook reserves the right to send you notices about your account even if you opt out of all voluntary email notifications."
6 The CIA may look at the stuff when they feel like it
"By using Facebook, you are consenting to have your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States ... We may be required to disclose user information pursuant to lawful requests, such as subpoenas or court orders, or in compliance with applicable laws. We do not reveal information until we have a good faith belief that an information request by law enforcement or private litigants meets applicable legal standards. Additionally, we may share account or other information when we believe it is necessary to comply with law, to protect our interests or property, to prevent fraud or other illegal activity perpetrated through the Facebook service or using the Facebook name, or to prevent imminent bodily harm. This may include sharing information with other companies, lawyers, agents or government agencies."


• Tom Hodgkinson
• The Guardian, Monday 14 January 2008
• Article history
The following correction was printed in the Guardian's Corrections and clarifications column, Wednesday January 16 2008
The US intelligence community's enthusiasm for hi-tech innovation after 9/11 and the creation of In-Q-Tel, its venture capital fund, in 1999 were anachronistically linked in the article below. Since 9/11 happened in 2001 it could not have led to the setting up of In-Q-Tel two years earlier.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 26, 2014 1:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

How Facebook Killed the Internet
http://www.globalresearch.ca/how-facebook-killed-the-internet/5421474
By David Rovics
Global Research, December 25, 2014
Counter Punch
Theme: Culture, Society & History
Facebook killed the internet, and I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of people didn’t even notice.

I can see the look on many of your faces, and hear the thoughts. Someone’s complaining about Facebook again. Yes, I know it’s a massive corporation, but it’s the platform we’re all using. It’s like complaining about Starbucks. After all the independent cafes have been driven out of town and you’re an espresso addict, what to do? What do you mean “killed”? What was killed?

I’ll try to explain. I’ll start by saying that I don’t know what the solution is. But I think any solution has to start with solidly identifying the nature of the problem.

First of all, Facebook killed the internet, but if it wasn’t Facebook, it would have been something else. The evolution of social media was probably as inevitable as the development of cell phones that could surf the internet. It was the natural direction for the internet to go in.

Which is why it’s so especially disturbing. Because the solution is not Znet or Ello. The solution is not better social media, better algorithms, or social media run by a nonprofit rather than a multibillion-dollar corporation. Just as the solution to the social alienation caused by everybody having their own private car is not more electric vehicles. Just as the solution to the social alienation caused by everyone having their own cell phone to stare at is not a collectively-owned phone company.

Many people from the grassroots to the elites are thrilled about the social media phenomenon. Surely some of the few people who will read this are among them. We throw around phrases like “Facebook revolution” and we hail these new internet platforms that are bringing people together all over the world. And I’m not suggesting they don’t have their various bright sides. Nor am I suggesting you should stop using social media platforms, including Facebook. That would be like telling someone in Texas they should bike to work, when the whole infrastructure of every city in the state is built for sports utility vehicles.

But we should understand the nature of what is happening to us.

From the time that newspapers became commonplace up until the early 1990’s, for the overwhelming majority of the planet’s population, the closest we came to writing in a public forum were the very few of us who ever bothered to write a letter to the editor. A tiny, tiny fraction of the population were authors or journalists who had a public forum that way on an occasional or a regular basis, depending. Some people wrote up the pre-internet equivalent of an annual Christmas-time blog post which they photocopied and sent around to a few dozen friends and relatives.

In the 1960s there was a massive flowering of independent, “underground” press in towns and cities across the US and other countries. There was a vastly increased diversity of views and information that could be easily accessed by anyone who lived near a university and could walk to a news stand and had an extra few cents to spend.

In the 1990s, with the development of the internet – websites, email lists – there was an explosion of communication that made the underground press of the 60’s pale in comparison. Most people in places like the US virtually stopped using phones (to actually talk on), from my experience. Many people who never wrote letters or much of anything else started using computers and writing emails to each other, and even to multiple people at once.

Those very few of us who were in the habit in the pre-internet era of sending around regular newsletters featuring our writing, our thoughts, our list of upcoming gigs, products or services we were trying to sell, etc., were thrilled with the advent of email, and the ability to send our newsletters out so easily, without spending a fortune on postage stamps, without spending so much time stuffing envelopes. For a brief period of time, we had access to the same audience, the same readers we had before, but now we could communicate with them virtually for free.

This, for many of us, was the internet’s golden age – 1995-2005 or so. There was the increasing problem of spam of various sorts. Like junk mail, only more of it. Spam filters started getting better, and largely eliminated that problem for most of us.

The listservs that most of us bothered to read were moderated announcements lists. The websites we used the most were interactive, but moderated, such as Indymedia. In cities throughout the world, big and small, there were local Indymedia collectives. Anyone could post stuff, but there were actual people deciding whether it should get published, and if so, where. As with any collective decision-making process, this was challenging, but many of us felt it was a challenge that was worth the effort. As a result of these moderated listservs and moderated Indymedia sites, we all had an unprecedented ability to find out about and discuss ideas and events that were taking place in our cities, our countries, our world.

Then came blogging, and social media. Every individual with a blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, etc., became their own individual broadcaster. It’s intoxicating, isn’t it? Knowing that you have a global audience of dozens or hundreds, maybe thousands of people (if you’re famous to begin with, or something goes viral) every time you post something. Being able to have conversations in the comments sections with people from around the world who will never physically meet each other. Amazing, really.

But then most people stopped listening. Most people stopped visiting Indymedia. Indymedia died, globally, for the most part. Newspapers – right, left and center – closed, and are closing, whether offline or online ones. Listservs stopped existing. Algorithms replaced moderators. People generally began to think of librarians as an antiquated phenomenon.

Now, in Portland, Oregon, one of the most politically plugged-in cities in the US, there is no listserv or website you can go to that will tell you what is happening in the city in any kind of readable, understandable format. There are different groups with different websites, Facebook pages, listservs, etc., but nothing for the progressive community as a whole. Nothing functional, anyway. Nothing that approaches the functionality of the announcements lists that existed in cities and states throughout the country 15 years ago.

Because of the technical limitations of the internet for a brief period of time, there was for a few years a happy medium found between a small elite providing most of the written content that most people in the world read, and the situation we now find ourselves in, drowning in Too Much Information, most of it meaningless drivel, white noise, fog that prevents you from seeing anywhere further than the low beams can illuminate at a given time.

It was a golden age, but for the most part an accidental one, and a very brief one. As it became easy for people to start up a website, a blog, a Myspace or Facebook page, to post updates, etc., the new age of noise began, inevitably, the natural evolution of the technology.

And most people didn’t notice that it happened.

Why do I say that? First of all, I didn’t just come up with this *. I’ve been talking to a lot of people for many years, and a lot of people think social media is the best thing since sliced bread. And why shouldn’t they?

The bottom line is, there’s no reason most people would have had occasion to notice that the internet died, because they weren’t content providers (as we call authors, artists, musicians, journalists, organizers, public speakers, teachers, etc. these days) in the pre-internet age or during the first decade or so of the internet as a popular phenomenon. And if you weren’t a content provider back then, why would you know that anything changed?

I and others like me know – because the people who used to read and respond to stuff I sent out on my email list aren’t there anymore. They don’t open the emails anymore, and if they do, they don’t read them. And it doesn’t matter what medium I use – blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Of course some people do, but most people are now doing other things.

What are they doing? I spent most of last week in Tokyo, going all over town, spending hours each day on the trains. Most people sitting in the trains back during my first visit to Japan in 2007 were sleeping, as they are now. But those who weren’t sleeping, seven years ago, were almost all reading books. Now, there’s hardly a book to be seen. Most people are looking at their phones. And they’re not reading books on their phones. (Yes, I peeked. A lot.) They’re playing games or, more often, looking at their Facebook “news feeds.” And it’s the same in the US and everywhere else that I have occasion to travel to.

Is it worth it to replace moderators with algorithms? Editors with white noise? Investigative journalists with pictures of your cat? Independent record labels and community radio stations with a multitude of badly-recorded podcasts? Independent Media Center collectives with a million Facebook updates and Twitter feeds?

I think not. But that’s where we’re at. How do we get out of this situation, and clear the fog, and use our brains again? I wish I knew.

David Rovics is a singer/songwriter based in Portland, Oregon.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 07, 2015 6:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Man who helped craft "Joe Lieberman’s security legislation” now Facebook privacy official

HE WON SURVIVOR. CAN HE BEAT THIS?
The guy standing between Facebook and its next privacy disaster
http://fusion.net/story/41870/facebook-privacy-yul-kwon/
by Kashmir Hill | February 4, 2015
Photo Illustration by Elena Scotti/Fusion
It’s a Wednesday morning on the Facebook campus. In Building 18, a pretty, dark-haired woman wearing thick-framed glasses is led into a “user experience observation room” by Paul André, a Carnegie Mellon-trained researcher who wants to find out how a normal person will react to a prompt in the Facebook mobile app to review her privacy settings. In the room are comfy chairs, a pink orchid, and two misty photos of beaches. André and the woman, who started working at Facebook a week earlier, sit down at a wooden table facing a wall-to-wall mirror.

“This isn’t a test. We want to see how you use the product so we can improve it,” says André, revealing a British accent. “There might be some people behind the mirror. We don’t want them in here disturbing us.”

She glances at the mirror. “That’s always the awkward moment,” says one of the seven people sitting at two rows of desks in a darkened room watching her. A screen hung from the ceiling in the room has close-up views of the woman’s face and the iPhone she’ll use to check the Facebook app. The group observing her includes a lawyer, a privacy engineer, a privacy product manager, and two privacy designers. “Privacy” is now a product at Facebook like Newsfeed or Photos, and has a dedicated team tasked with creating tools to make it simpler for people to protect their party photos and political musings from unwanted observers. They hold these sessions weekly with a non-technical Facebook employee or paid member of the public, and are currently assessing an unreleased mobile “Privacy Check-up.” André warms up the current subject by asking her, “What does privacy mean to you?”

She says it means that non-Facebook friends won’t be able to see the things she posts, and adds that she doesn’t want anything she shares on Facebook to be public, not even her face.

Once she starts the “Privacy Check-up” — which will prompt mobile users to take a look at who they’re sharing information with — she’s surprised to find that some of her photos are public, including profile selfies and ones of her in a smiling state of coupledom. She’s dismayed to discover that her profile photo and cover photo have to be public per Facebook’s rules. André points her to an explanation why — so that people searching for her will know it’s her. She doesn’t like it but says she wouldn’t delete her Facebook account over it. After going through the “privacy health” of her apps, posts and bio information, she rates it helpful and says she would encourage her mom to use the tool. Her major complaint is that it should be easier to change the privacy settings on her photos en masse. The team in the darkened room is pleased.

paddy-U3
Facebook’s Privacy product team (PHOTO CREDIT: Christophe Wu/Facebook)

Facebook privacy is an oxymoron to many. Facebook’s privacy record after all has many blemishes: The ire-inspiring introduction of Newsfeed in 2006. The ill-fated purchase-broadcasting program Beacon in 2007. The infamous 2009 privacy settings change that exposed even Mark Zuckerberg’s private photos. The 2010 revelation that Facebook apps were leaking users’ private information to advertising and Internet trackers. In 2012, the Federal Trade Commission brought the hammer down on Facebook for repeatedly deceiving users about who was going to be able to get access to information they put on the site. As part of its settlement, Facebook promised to create a “comprehensive privacy program” and agreed to pay fines if it screwed up. (It hasn’t screwed up yet, at least not according to the terms of the settlement.) This observation session is one of the reasons why Facebook is no longer a reliable source of privacy scandals. Shamed by past mistakes and weary of angry regulators, the social networking giant has transformed the way it makes new products and privacy controls, making all of the information we pour into the site on a daily basis far less likely to be used against us.

The face of the new, privacy-conscious Facebook is Yul Kwon, a Yale Law grad who heads the team responsible for ensuring that every new product, feature, proposed study and code change gets scrutinized for privacy problems. His job is to try to make sure that Facebook’s 9,199 employees and the people they partner with don’t set off any privacy dynamite. Facebook employees refer to his group as the XFN team, which stands for “cross-functional,” because its job is to ensure that anyone at Facebook who might spot a problem with a new app — from the PR team to the lawyers to the security guys — has a chance to raise their concerns before that app gets on your phone. “We refer to ourselves as the privacy sherpas,” says Kwon. Instead of helping Facebook employees scale Everest safely, Kwon’s team tries to guide them safely past the potential peril of pissing off users.

“We refer to ourselves as the privacy sherpas.”
Yul Kwon, head of Facebook's privacy program
Yul Kwon, head of Facebook’s privacy program (PHOTO CREDIT: Christophe Wu/Facebook)

Kwon, 39, has a million-dollar testament to his ability to orchestrate group dynamics. He was the winner of the 13th season of Survivor, the season in which the CBS reality show controversially divided contestants by race (Kwon is of South Korean descent). His competitors said his gift of diplomacy helped him win — though some called him a “puppetmaster.” “I learned how to navigate difficult environments,” Kwon now says.

Kwon has been bouncing back and forth between Silicon Valley and D.C. for most of his career, with a few stops in front of T.V. cameras. His roller coaster of a resume includes business consulting at Google, crafting Joe Lieberman’s security legislation (in the emotionally-charged but bipartisan period after September 11th), working on net neutrality at the FCC (the first time it came around), acting as a TV host for CNN and PBS (for shows on Asian-American issues and American infrastructure), and making People Magazine’s Sexiest Men Alive and Hottest Bachelors lists (he’s married with kids now).

Kwon was drawn to Facebook after visiting the company for the PBS show, “America Revealed.” The social network, with its 1.39 billion members, seemed like it had more power than the American government to change the world. “Government work was like rolling a big boulder up a large hill. In this political environment it’s very difficult to make meaningful legislation,” said Kwon. “What other organization exists besides Facebook that has a global footprint, affects millions or billions of lives, and moves this quickly?”

Every product manager at Facebook now goes through a boot camp session with Kwon’s XFN team, and has one of the 8 privacy managers on the team assigned to him or her. In a cramped conference room during a boot camp session for 5 newly-hired product managers working on ads, Instagram, and location products, a lawyer on the XFN team named Mark Pike explained that his job is to make sure that the things they’re working on “not show up on the front page of the New York Times” because of a privacy blow-up.

During the boot camp session, Kwon lounged in a chair at the side of the room in a dark blue polo shirt, dark jeans and black leather loafers (instead of sneakers, which is a giveaway he’s spent a lot of time in D.C.). He doesn’t want people groomed on the long-time Facebook tenet to “move fast and break things” to see the privacy team as onerous. “This process is not designed to slow you down,” he chimes in. “It’s the opposite. If we’re engaged early on, we can help you avoid thorny issues later.”

This is where new product managers learn about the “Privatron,” Kwon’s tool for keeping track of everything that’s happening at Facebook in order to avoid surprises. There are currently over a thousand Facebook projects in the tool, which is essentially a spreadsheet with columns for keeping track of who’s seen what, which problems were raised, and how they were resolved. As was demonstrated during Google’s infamous ‘Wi-Spy’ debacle — when its Street View cars sucked up passwords, emails and credit cards from the unprotected Wi-Fi networks they drove by — privacy blow-ups can happen if just one engineer decides to tinker. In that case, a Google engineer thought it would be cool if the cars mapped Wi-Fi networks while mapping streets, and so threw it into the code late in the process. “Everything needs to go into the Privatron, even tiny changes,” says Pike. Kwon adds, “Maybe not when you’re changing the color of a button from dark red to light red, but we are trying to be involved with every change to code.”

The privacy sherpas seem to be effective. James Grimmelmann, a University of Maryland professor with a long history of analyzing Facebook’s privacy mistakes, says the company has turned a new page. “Facebook is not my go-to suspect when I open up the news and look for privacy problems. In 2008 and 2009, they did something wrong like clockwork every few months. It was a nasty cycle,” he says. “Facebook moves carefully now. It doesn’t want to move fast and break things anymore.”

“Facebook moves carefully now. It doesn’t want to move fast and break things anymore.”
Fusion_FB-Privacy-Story_1b
A timeline of Facebook privacy stumbles

Kwon says the Federal Trade Commission’s crackdown was a turning point for the company: “The FTC consent order made it a priority for us.” The agency has made a concerted push toward regulating privacy, even though it’s not explicitly part of its mission to stop “unfair and deceptive trade practices.” The FTC has entered into consent orders that require privacy programs and biannual privacy audits by tech companies with some of our most sensitive data, including Facebook, Google, Twitter and Snapchat. (PricewaterhouseCoopers, which conducted Facebook’s first audit in 2013, said the company’s “privacy controls were operating with sufficient effectiveness.”) When it comes to cracking the whip on companies for poor privacy practices, the FTC is the only American agency with handle in hand. “FTC consent decrees are wonderful things, aren’t they?” says Grimmelman. “They force companies to slow down and actually plan their privacy protections using a rational process.”

The biggest blow-up for Facebook last year predated the creation of the XFN team: the “emotion contagion study” which manipulated the emotional tenor of users’ Newsfeeds to see if it would elate or depress them. “Back then, a small group of people could move something forward without review from other departments. That doesn’t happen anymore,” says Kwon. “We would have prevented that.”

On the Facebook emotion manipulation study, Kwon says: “We would have prevented that.”
Other products caught flack in the press—Facebook helping advertisers track offline purchases and the release of Facebook Messenger —but not the attention of privacy regulators.

One narrowly averted disaster was Nearby Friends, an app you can use to see where your Facebook friends are. It was the first big product Kwon worked on when he arrived at Facebook in February 2013, three days before his second daughter was born. He was working with a tall Italian named Andrea Vaccari, whose passive location sharing app Glancee was acquired by Facebook in 2012. “I saw Andrea more than my wife that year,” says Kwon. “At one point, I felt like I needed to reassure her that Andrea was a man.”

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 2016 11:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Facebook and Israel to work to monitor posts that incite violence
Facebook delegation is in Israel as the government pushes legislative steps to force social networks to rein in content that officials say incites violence
Facebook Israel
Monday 12 September 2016 16.11 BST Last modified on Monday 12 September 2016 16.17 BST
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/sep/12/facebook-israel-mon itor-posts-incite-violence-social-media

The Israeli government and Facebook have agreed to work together to determine how to tackle incitement on the social media network, a senior Israeli cabinet minister said on Monday.

The announcement came after two government ministers met top Facebook officials to discuss the matter. The Facebook delegation is in Israel as the government pushes ahead with legislative steps meant to force social networks to rein in content that Israel says incites violence.

Israel has argued that a wave of violence with the Palestinians over the past year has been fueled by incitement, much of it spread on social media sites. It has repeatedly said that Facebook should do more to monitor and control the content, raising a host of legal and ethical issues over whether the company is responsible for material posted by its users.

Both the interior minister, Gilad Erdan, and justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, two key figures in Israel’s battle against the alleged online provocations, participated in Monday’s meeting.

The interior minister’s office said they agreed with Facebook representatives to create teams that would figure out how best to monitor and remove inflammatory content, but did not elaborate further.

Erdan and Shaked have proposed legislation that seeks to force social networks to remove content that Israel considers to be incitement. An opposition lawmaker has also proposed a bill seeking to force social networks to self-monitor or face a fine. It was not clear whether Monday’s agreement would lead the lawmakers to shelve their bills.

In a statement, Facebook said “online extremism can only be tackled with a strong partnership between policymakers, civil society, academia and companies, and this is true in Israel and around the world”.

The social media company also said its community standards “make it clear there is no place for terrorists or content that promotes terrorism on Facebook”. It called the meeting “constructive”, but offered no details about its conclusions.

Israeli security authorities currently monitor for incitement, and then complain to Facebook. The company then determines whether the material in question violates its community standards, removing some items but allowing others to stay.

Shaked said on Monday that over the past four months Israel submitted 158 requests to Facebook to remove inciting content and another 13 requests to YouTube. She said Facebook granted some 95% of the requests and YouTube granted 80%.

“We know that the amount of inciting online is even greater so we have to continue and increase our efforts, and we will,” she said at a security conference. “An inciting page is a perpetual growth engine for terror if it is not removed.”

The Palestinians dismiss the Israeli allegations that the violence is caused by incitement. They say it is the result of nearly 50 years of Israeli military occupation and a lack of hope for gaining independence.

Digital rights groups have charged that such legislation is unlikely to be enforceable and say the laws are used as a pressure tactic to prompt Facebook to monitor users’ content. The groups warn of a slippery slope to censorship.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2016 1:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is better
https://vk.com/id390410822

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2016 6:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"The monetization of surveillence".

https://ethicsitpros.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/areviewofronaldreadsd eletemeanargumentagainstfacebook.pdf

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=wQkMBgAAQBAJ&pg=PA218&lpg=PA218&dq =does+facebook+run+palantir&source=bl&ots=Uhlj248P2O&sig=FrRWOHQgfi5XM ksggBCc1a2vQ7c&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiO9pWyqPrPAhXCfxoKHYefAr4Q6AEIQjA I#v=onepage&q=does%20facebook%20run%20palantir&f=false
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2016 9:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Eyes
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2016 11:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Facebook crack down on truth
Facebook Will Roll Out New Tools To Tackle Fake News
December 15, 2016 7:03 pm / 6 Comments / Elections, Media, Reuters, Top News, US
Facebook Will Roll Out New Tools To Tackle Fake News
http://www.nationalmemo.com/facebook-tackle-fake-news/

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Facebook Inc said on Thursday it will introduce tools to prevent fake news stories from spreading on its platform, an about-face in response to rising criticism that it did not do enough to combat the problem during the U.S. presidential campaign.

The social network company stressed that the new features are part of an ongoing process to refine and test how it deals with fake news. It has faced complaints this year involving how it monitors and polices content produced by its 1.8 billion users.

Facebook said users will find it easier to flag fake articles on their News Feed as a hoax, and it will work with organizations such as fact-checking website Snopes, ABC News and the Associated Press to check the authenticity of stories.

If such organizations identify a story as fake, Facebook said, it will get flagged as “disputed” and be linked to the corresponding article explaining why.

The company said disputed stories may appear lower in its news feed, adding that once a story is flagged, it cannot be promoted.

A few weeks ago, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said it was a “crazy idea” that fake or misleading news on Facebook helped swing the election in favor of Republican Donald Trump. But criticism persisted amid reports that people in the United States and other countries have fabricated sensational hoaxes meant to appeal to conservatives.

Critics said fake news often was more widely read than news reported by major media organizations.

Ahead of the Nov. 8 election, Facebook users saw fake news reports saying Pope Francis endorsed Trump and that a federal agent who had been investigating Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was found dead.

The effort by Facebook is intended to focus on the “worst of the worst” of clear hoaxes created by “spammers for their own gain,” Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s vice president in charge of its News Feed, said in a blog post.

Some far-right conservative writers quickly pounced on the announcement, decrying it as a covert attempt to muzzle their legitimate content.

“Translation: A group of incredibly biased left-wing fake news outlets will bury dissenting opinions,” Paul Joseph Watson, editor-at-large of the far-right website Infowars, which routinely peddles unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, said on Twitter.

Facebook has struggled throughout the year to mollify conservatives who fear the company may be censoring them. The company fired contractors who managed the site’s trending news sidebar after a report by Gizmodo in May quoted an anonymous employee claiming the site routinely suppressed conservative news.

On Thursday, Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s vice president for U.S. public policy, met with President-elect Trump at his Manhattan tower.

(Additonal reporting by Narottam Medhora and Anya George Tharakan in Bengaluru; editing by Shounak Dasgupta, Steve Orlofsky and David Gregorio)

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PostPosted: Sat May 06, 2017 2:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oct 19, 2016
Peter Thiel is to Trump What Henry Ford was to Hitler
The similarities between their relationships are striking
https://medium.com/@omosanzalettere/peter-thiel-is-to-trump-what-henry -ford-was-to-hitler-2f8b88425cea

A visionary technology entrepreneur that changed the world, who started a newspaper to push his world view, backs a dangerous demagogue. I could be talking about Peter Thiel, ‘The Stanford Review’ and Trump or Henry Ford, ‘The Dearborn Independent’ and Hitler.
A few days ago the New York Times reported that Thiel was to donate $1.25 million to Trump, 94 years earlier the same paper reported that Ford was financially backing Adolph Hitler. At the time many people didn’t take Hitler seriously, much in the same way Trump was perceived early on.

New York Times, December 20, 1922

Ford and Thomas Edison
Like Thiel, Ford was a famous, iconic technologist who associated with other big technologists of that era. It was a disturbing, unsettling move by someone who was seen as representing the future and American entrepreneurial zeal.
Ford’s Hitler support seemed contradictory as did Thiel’s of Trump, both stated they did not like totalitarian governments, but backed a political figure who was clearly totalitarian. Ford was rewarded by the Nazi party for his loyalty and support, in 1938 he was given the ‘Grand Cross of the German Eagle’ (below), the highest Nazi honour for an individual.

Henry Ford received the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, a Nazi decoration for distinguished foreigners
Similarly Thiel was given a coveted speaking spot at the RNC, a spot on Trump’s transition team and was even rumored to be possibly in line for a supreme court nomination (denied by campaign.)
Ford saw Hitler as a way to further his world view, as a noted anti-semite he saw Hitler as an ally against an imaginary cabal of jewish bankers. Thiel stated in a New York Times op-ed that he sees Trump as a way to challenge the political establishment he openly despises saying he is “exactly what we need to move the party — and the country — in a new direction.”
Trump rails against ‘political correctness’ as a corroding force, which is a main tenet of his campaign. So does Peter Thiel, who co-authored a book about that very thing, titled the ‘The Diversity Myth’ and in an interview with Glenn Beck said “I think the biggest political problem we have is the problem of political correctness.” Ford and Hitler shared the view that there was a jewish conspiracy of bankers controlling the world, Ford published a book about it that Hitler openly cited as a great inspiration. Hitler quoted it heavily it in ‘Mein Kampf.’ Interestingly some have accused a recent Trump speech of copying notions from the pages of aforementioned anti-semitic propaganda.
Ford financially backed Hitler in a number of ways, his first contribution helped fund Hitler’s Bavarian rebellion. In 1939 the German Ford Motor company sent Hitler money on his birthday and it has been claimed Ford helped finance Hitler with money from sales of automobiles and trucks that he shipped to Germany. Not only has Thiel sat on Trump’s campaign finance team, he just donated $1.25 million to Trump. Like Thiel, Ford also used his wealth and the courts to crack down on reporting about him.

Perhaps Thiel will sue me for this, which would only strengthen my analogy. Shortly before Ford’s funding of Hitler came to light, a Jewish lawyer named Samuel Untermyer was quoted in the New York Times calling Ford a ‘mad hatter’ for his anti-semitic crusade. Untermyer said that Ford thought:
“because he can make cheap automobiles he alone possesses the statesmanship and financial genius to rule the world”
and later continued
“Why can’t the people realize that a cheap, petty, ignorant man who has grown rich can get just as crazy as any poor devil of an inmate of a lunatic asylum? The only difference is that is that one is locked up for the public safety while the other is permitted to roam at large to the great peril of the public.”
We would all do well to keep Untermyer’s points in mind when reassessing our views of Peter Thiel in light of his recent actions.
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