Ooff. Another Facebook drama on the wires today. This time, a 2016 memo written by Andrew Bosworth made it way to Buzzfeed. It’s a horrible memo. Boz, as he likes to be called, argues that Facebook’s growth at all costs mentality justifies everything. And by everything, he means everything. Everything Facebook does, the scummy growth tactics, such as the contact importers. But more salaciously, the growth, as defined by connecting more people in more ways, justifies what happens due to the growth. Sorry if you’ve been exposed to bullies, Boz says, or if accidentally facilitated some terrorist plot. Continue reading “Expect more Facebook Drama”
A line of reasoning that I just can’t get behind: Everything tech companies do is downstream user behavior, and they, people who lead them, have real no agency.
It makes some sense; consumers are fickle, culture flips on a dime etc. And definitely talking points are there too. “Competition is a click away”, “Mobile address book means switching costs zero”, “We don’t deserve your data, if we mess it up”. It’s all cute, and it makes some intellectual sense. But only the surface.
This is a post I wrote in January 2018 for an online magazine, that never got published. I finally got the OK to publish it on my blog, in light of the current Facebook and Cambridge Analytica revelations. Previous posts on those are here and here.
It’s getting hard to suppress a sense of an impending doom. With the latest Equifax hack, the question of data stewardship has been propelled to the mainstream again. There are valid calls to reprimand those responsible, and even shut down the company altogether. After all, if a company whose business is safekeeping information can’t keep the information safe, what other option is there?
Yesterday I had a quick interview with BBC Newsnight about the recent Facebook and Cambridge Analytica debate. In one of my answers, I mentioned that I think what Facebook did was probably legal. The text in the tweet is missing the rest of my answer, but I regardless stand by what I said. As a disclaimer, I am not a lawyer.
Imagine a data scientist working at Facebook. Let’s call her Alice. As part of her assignment, Alice collects a couple hundred thousand Facebook users’ profile, stores on her laptop. The data contains not just what users entered into Facebook, but what Facebook gathered and inferred about them. Alice is excited. Users whose data is being used largely trust Facebook to be good custodians of this data.
But Alice’s boyfriend, Bob, has another idea. He knows that the user data Alice has on her laptop can be sold to some data broker. He’s been unhappy where their relationship has been going anyway, his startup going through down rounds while Facebook stock just keeps going up and up.