Trump’s people used Facebook as it was designed


From Reuters, March 18, 2018:

“Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg faced calls on Monday from U.S. and European lawmakers to explain how a consultancy that worked on President Donald Trump’s election campaign gained improper access to data on 50 million Facebook users.”

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, the consultancy at issue, are in the crosshairs. But these “shocked” politicians are just scapegoating them for data practices that define all social media.

And some of us have been decrying these practices for years.

People can’t focus
Unfortunately, with social media stoking faux outrages and cheap thrills a minute, most people now have the attention span of murmuring gnats and the short-term memory of mating baboons.

I commented on the faux outrage back then in “Facebook Friends?! Try Facebook Guinea Pigs,” July 8, 2014. I explained the profit motive behind Facebook turning a blind eye to Cambridge’s “improper access.” It also explains why Zuckerberg is banking on another viral scandal diffusing this one without causing his social network too much financial and reputational damage.

Here’s what I wrote then:

Frankly, if you are among the millions of Facebook users who feel betrayed by this revelation, all I can say is, I told you so … repeatedly…You are probably aware that President Obama appointed a commission to recommend cosmetic changes to the National Security Agency programs…the NSA collects metadata for the sole purpose of trying to keep them safe.

By contrast, these outraged nincompoops are showing nary a concern about tech companies tracking every move they make online for the sole purpose of trying to sell them stuff…it speaks volumes about Facebook’s sense of entitlement in this respect that – where Obama took immediate steps to allay public concerns about NSA spying – its COO Sheryl Sandberg insists that public concerns about this psychological study stem from nothing more than a failure to communicate.

In other words, get over yourselves Facebook users!

I don’t blame Facebook for treating its users like mindless guinea pigs. After all, why take seriously the concerns of people who blithely share all manner of personal information about themselves on social networks, but become indignant at the NSA for mining that information – not for profit or experimentation, but to keep them safe?

Facebook’s sense of entitlement is duly based on the fact that it provides users all of its selfie-promoting, self-flattering, and self-deluding services free of charge. If my informed cynicism does not resonate with you, just ask yourself why it is that every time you hear about private information being hacked and exposed, it always involves an account held with private companies like Target or social networks like Twitter.  Whereas nobody had ever heard of NSA accounts being hacked and exposed … until Edward Snowden perpetrated his now notorious betrayal.

Snowden would’ve provided a far more useful public service if his leaks had focused more on the spying social networks are doing for profit and less on that which the NSA is doing for security. But I trust it will finally reveal for all to see that, when it comes to the invasion of privacy rights, we have far more to fear from Facebook than the NSA.

Remarkably, Brad Parscale, digital director for Trump’s campaign, is on record making a mockery of this faux outrage. He took great pride in broadcasting how he exploited the access Facebook granted Cambridge (and other data mining companies) to its users for a fee.

Parscale summed up his strategy, during an interview on “60 Minutes,” to harvest users’ personal information in a “Matrix”-like scheme to electronically brainwash them to “like” Trump.

Short-term loss
Meanwhile, Zuckerberg has amassed an obscene amount of wealth from peddling the personal information of Facebook’s nearly 2 billion users. Nothing reflects this quite like hysterical reaction to this scandal causing a $5 billion loss, yet leaving his net worth at close to $70 billion.

But the valuation of social media companies is so fickle that, with confidence-building PR moves, he could regain that loss (and earn billions more) in a single day next week.

Both Zuckerberg and Sandberg have been conspicuously disconnected in the midst of this latest viral storm. I expect both to come out of hiding any day to begin making PR moves, complete with congressional testimony framing Cambridge Analytica as just one bad apple.

Anthony L. Hall is a native of The Bahamas with an international law practice in Washington, D.C. Read his columns and daily weblog at


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