Tuesday, March 20, 2018

About Facebook "Friends Data"

While the Usual Suspects (NYSlimes, Gannett, etc.) are trying desperately to make this into a Trump and Bannon scandal, Bloomberg raises some other points.

...Here, in a nutshell, is the CA scandal. In 2014, Aleksandr Kogan, an academic of Russian origin at Cambridge University in the U.K., built a Facebook app that paid hundreds of thousands of users to take a psychological test. Apart from their test results, the users also shared the data of their Facebook friends with the app. Kogan sold the resulting database to CA, which Facebook considers a violation of its policies: The app was not allowed to use the data for commercial purposes. Carol Cadwalladr and Emma Graham-Harrison, writing for the U.K. publication Observer, quoted former CA employee Christopher Wylie as saying the firm "broke Facebook" on behalf of Stephen Bannon, the ideologue and manager behind the Trump campaign.....

Yah, that sounds just awful--except that Bannon & Co. learned that trick from someone else.

...It didn't escape keen observers that if the Trump campaign used Facebook user data harvested through an app, it did no more than Barack Obama's 2012 data-heavy re-election campaign. It's not documented exactly how Obama's team gathered oodles of data on potential supporters, but a deep dive into the tech side of that campaign by Sasha Issenberg mentioned how "'targeted sharing' protocols mined an Obama backer’s Facebook network in search of friends the campaign wanted to register, mobilize, or persuade." To do this, the protocols would need to use the same feature of the Facebook platform for developers, discontinued in 2015, that allowed apps access to a user's friends' profiles -- with the user's consent, as Facebook invariably points out....

Yah, yah, "user's consent," blahblahbullshitblahblah....

But here's why FB shares took a dive yesterday--and it has nothing to do with "breach" or "agreement" or Bannon,

...The relevant question, however, is what a campaign can actually do with the ['psychological profile'] data.  ...no one should take the psychological profile stuff at face value. No academic work exists to link personality traits, especially those gleaned from the sketchy and often false information on Facebook profiles, definitively to political choices...

Hmmmm.  Of course, if these 'profiles' are faulty for politics, maybe they are faulty for OTHER things, like commerce?  And what's that about "...often false information on FB profiles..."???

Note well that Bloomberg mouths FB's company line about its data:

...Some studies have shown that Facebook ads can work quite well for businesses. 

....but then takes another look at "privacy" considerations:

If they also worked for Trump, the CA story is a red herring: It's Facebook's own data collection and the tools it makes available to clients that should be the target of scrutiny and perhaps regulation, both from a privacy perspective and for the sake of political transparency....

"Some studies"???  And now it's time for 'scrutiny and regulation'?

I smell flim-flam with pixels--and so did the market, yesterday.

No comments: