Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #718 In Your Facebook: A Virtual Panopticon?

MP3 Side 1 | Side 2

Introduction: Recorded on 7/4/2010–Independence Day–this program contemplates how independent our innovative technology really makes us. Conceptualized as a “liberating” technology, Facebook (and by extension other social networking sites) exposes its clients to potential widespread dissemination of sensitive personal information.

Analyzing the individuals and elements involved with Facebook, the program should give potential users of the network pause to reflect. Do you really want these folks handling your most sensitive data?

Beginning with the background of Peter Andreas Thiel, the broadcast analyzes the background and political philosophy and activism of this primary backer of Facebook. Son of a chemical engineer an apparent employee of a successor firm to the I.G. cartel, Thiel’s residences include stints in South Africa and Namibia, both locations of Underground Reich activity.

Underlying this examination is the fundamental question of the family’s possible membership in the Underground Reich. (In order to gain a working understanding of the argument presented in these programs, listeners should familiarize themselves with Paul Manning’s Martin Bormann: Nazi in Exile. Dominating the successor firms to the I.G. and embracing the diverse elements of the postwar Nazi diaspora, the network Manning describes is to be found throughout the elements discussed in FTR #718.

Over the years, Thiel has manifested a far-right/libertarian political philosophy. In addition to spawning a conservative political review while at Stanford and authoring a conservative tome The Diversity Myth, he has networked with a neo-conservative organization The Vanguard.Org.

Another Facebook luminary is the grandson and namesake of Roelof (Pik) Botha, former foreign minister of South Africa. Although one certainly can’t judge the younger Botha by his grandfather’s politics, one should also weigh the possibility that they may constitute a trans-generational nexus of power, not unlike that looked at in connection with the Bush family in the Russ Baker interviews (FTR #’s 711-716.)

Also looming large in Facebook’s background is a CIA venture capital firm, In-Q-tel.

Of paramount importance in considering the Facebook milieu is the fact that much of what is going on on the tech frontier is being dominated by a small group of people–dubbed the PayPal Mafia by wags–who are the Thiel/Botha milieu.

Program Highlights Include: “Pik” Botha’s close relationship with Third Reich alumnus Franz Richter; review of the death of the U.N. administrator for Namibia (controlled by the apartheid regime of South Africa) on Pan Am 103; review of “Pik” Botha’s escape from death on Pan Am 103; Peter Thiel’s belief in the Peak Oil philosophy; review of the fascist overtones and history of Peak Oil.

1. The program’s title asks the implicit question: with its exposure of vast amounts of personal data and under the control of, or associated with, some apparently dark individuals and institutions, is Facebook a “virtual panopticon.”

Panopticon is a type of prison:

The Panopticon is a type of prison building designed by English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in 1785. The concept of the design is to allow an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) prisoners without the incarcerated being able to tell whether they are being watched, thereby conveying what one architect has called the “sentiment of an invisible omniscience.”[1]
Bentham himself described the Panopticon as “a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example.

“Panopticon”; Wikipedia.

2. Beginning with the background of Peter Andreas Thiel, the broadcast analyzes the background and political philosophy and activism of this primary backer of Facebook. Son of a chemical engineer an apparent employee of a successor firm to the I.G. cartel, Thiel’s residences include stints in South Africa and Namibia, both locations of Underground Reich activity.

Underlying this examination is the fundamental question of the family’s possible membership in the Underground Reich. (In order to gain a working understanding of the argument presented in these programs, listeners should familiarize themselves with Paul Manning’s Martin Bormann: Nazi in Exile. Dominating the successor firms to the I.G. and embracing the diverse elements of the postwar Nazi diaspora, the network Manning describes is to be found throughout the elements discussed in FTR #718.)

. . . It’s hard to say when Peter Andreas Thiel first decided that one person could outsmart the crowd. Born in Frankfurt in 1967, Thiel bounced among seven elementary schools — from California, to Namibia, to Ohio, to South Africa — as his father, Klaus, a chemical engineer, worked around the world.

Klaus; his wife, Susanne; Thiel; and Thiel’s younger brother, Patrick, eventually settled in Foster City, California, north of Silicon Valley. . . .

“PayPal’s Thiel Scores 230 Percent Gain with Soros-Style Fund” by Deepak Gopinath [Bloomberg.com]; CanadianHedgeWatch.com; 12/4/2006.

3. Thiel worked for Sullivan & Cromwell and Credit Suisse Group after leaving law school. One of America’s premier white-shoe law firms, Sullivan & Cromwell has profound connections to the fascist international, handling the business affairs of families such as the Bushes and the Bin Ladens.

. . . After collecting his law degree, Thiel clerked for U.S. Federal Circuit Judge Larry Edmondson in Atlanta and then joined Sullivan & Cromwell LLP in New York. He lasted seven months and three days before quitting out of boredom, he says.

He jumped to CS Financial Products, a unit of what’s now Credit Suisse Group, where he traded derivatives and currency options for a little more than a year. Then he went home to California, raised $1 million from his friends and family and started his first macro fund, Thiel Capital Management. . . .


4. Thiel subscribes to the Peak Oil philosophy, which has strong fascist underpinnings and overtones.

. . . Thiel is a proponent of a geologic theory known as peak oil, which holds that global oil production is now at or near its apex. Among his picks was Calgary-based EnCana Corp., which wrings oil from the tar sands of Canada. EnCana stock rose 54 percent in 2005. . . .


5. Over the years, Thiel has manifested a far-right/libertarian political philosophy. In addition to spawning a conservative political review while at Stanford and authoring a conservative tome The Diversity Myth, he has networked with a neo-conservative organization The Vanguard.Org.

In addition, a CIA technology subsidiary is deeply involved with the Facebook milieu.

Although it can be taken for granted that the intelligence community will centrally position itself with regard to any and all technological developments, the fact that intelligence services are involved with an organization that collects and organizes vast amounts of personal data should not be overlooked.

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”.

The Vanguard 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.

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.” . . . .

“With Friends Like These . . .” by Tim Hodgkinson; guardian.co.uk; 1/14/2008.

6. More about the CIA link to Facebook:

. . . . Facebook’s first round of venture capital funding ($US500,000) came from former Paypal CEO Peter Thiel. Author of anti-multicultural tome ‘The Diversity Myth’, he is also on the board of radical conservative group VanguardPAC.

The second round of funding into Facebook ($US12.7 million) came from venture capital firm Accel Partners. Its manager James Breyer was formerly chairman of the National Venture Capital Association, and served on the board with Gilman Louie, CEO of In-Q-Tel, a venture capital firm established by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1999. One of the company’s key areas of expertise are in “data mining technologies”.

Breyer also served on the board of R&D firm BBN Technologies, which was one of those companies responsible for the rise of the internet.

Dr Anita Jones joined the firm, which included Gilman Louie. She had also served on the In-Q-Tel’s board, and had been director of Defence Research and Engineering for the US Department of Defence.

She was also an adviser to the Secretary of Defence and overseeing the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is responsible for high-tech, high-end development. . . .

“Facebook–the CIA Conspiracy” by Matt Greenop; The New Zealand Herald; 8/8/2007.

7. Another Facebook luminary is the grandson of Roelof (Pik) Botha, former foreign minister of South Africa. Although one certainly can’t judge the younger Botha by his grandfather’s politics, one should also weigh the possibility that they may constitute a trans-generational nexus of power, not unlike that looked at in connection with the Bush family in the Russ Baker interviews (FTR #’s 711-716.)

. . . Roelof Botha has been a venture capitalist for three years, and he dreams of putting up the early money for a Google-scale success that is adored on Wall Street and feared by rivals. But Botha, 33, is one of the hottest dealmakers in Silicon Valley for taking the opposite tack: selling out.

Botha joined Sequoia Capital, one of Silicon Valley’s elite venture capital firms, in 2003; he had helped run the PayPal online outfit. In February 2005 two PayPal pals of his started a video Weblet called YouTube. Botha put up $8.5 million in Sequoia cash for a 30% stake. In November Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock. Sequoia will reap a 65-fold return, catapulting Botha onto the Forbes Midas List of top tech dealmakers; he ranks 23rd . . . .

. . . Botha was born and bred in South Africa, the grandson of Roelof (Pik) Botha, a foreign minister (1977–94) in the apartheid government who supported the release of the imprisoned Nelson Mandela and later served in his government (1994–96). . . .

“The Art of Selling Out” by Erika Brown; Forbes; 2/12/2007.

8. As discussed in AFA #35, Pik Botha apparently had prior notification of the impending bombing of Pan Am 103. He switched his reservations at the last minute, avoiding the lethal fate of the U.N. administrator for Namibia, who died on the flight.

There are indications that the Broederbond–epicenter of South African fascism–also went underground after the official fall of the apartheid regime. This “Underground Broederbond”, in turn, is affiliated with the Underground Reich.

His support for Nelson Mandela notwithstanding, Grandpa Botha’s political orientation can be gleaned from his support for associate Franz Richter, an alumnus of the Third Reich. (Botha was very close to Richter.)

. . . Franz Richter, who was murdered this week in a robbery near his game ranch outside Johannesburg at the age of 80, was one of the pioneers of game tourism in South Africa. Richter, who was born in Romania on October 27 1927, was an orphan by the age of five. As a youth in communist-run Romania, all he dreamt about was having a full stomach. That and Africa. When he was 15, he made his way to Germany where he was promptly drafted into the Hitler Youth and forced to fight in the German army. . . .

“Franz Richter: Pioneer of Game Tourism in SA” by Chris Barron [Times of Zambia]; psychedelicdungeon.wordpress.com; 12/22/2007.

9. Beyond Facebook, per se, it is important to contemplate the concentration of power within the tech world, with a small number of individuals (“the PayPal Mafia”) controlling much of what is taking place.

. . . Thiel won big with PayPal. Eight months later, in October 2002, EBay agreed to buy the company for $1.5 billion. The PayPal crew cashed-in and moved on. Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim founded video-sharing Web site YouTube Inc. and sold it to Google Inc. in October for $1.65 billion. Levchin went off and founded Slide, a photo-sharing site.

Executive Vice President Reid Hoffman founded Linked-In Corp., a business networking site. Vice President Jeremy Stoppelman created Yelp, a site that helps people find restaurants, shops and other businesses in their area. . . .

“PayPal’s Thiel Scores 230 Percent Gain with Soros-Style Fund” by Deepak Gopinath [Bloomberg.com]; CanadianHedgeWatch.com; 12/4/2006.


25 comments for “FTR #718 In Your Facebook: A Virtual Panopticon?”

  1. Outstanding program! Emory is an informational tour de force!

    Posted by Phillip D. Collins | August 12, 2010, 8:32 am
  2. Thank you for putting the truth “in our face”! Now we know whom we are dealing with.

    Posted by Christian Royal | August 14, 2010, 6:59 am
  3. dave emory is the reason im donating to WFMU

    Posted by david almanza | March 4, 2011, 11:07 am
  4. @David Almanza: I would’ve done the same thing, but my PayPal hasn’t been verified yet. =(

    But when I can, though, you betcha it’ll be one heck of a charity fundraiser, I can guarantee you that much. Dave has done so much to wake people up over the past 30 years. Let’s try to help him keep it going if and when we can. ;-)

    Posted by Steven | March 15, 2011, 12:18 pm
  5. I saw this and thought it was relevant to this earlier post. It seems that Julian Assange agrees that social media sites are being exploited by intel. agencies.


    Posted by Sherman Brennan | May 3, 2011, 8:26 am
  6. There’s an interesting bit of info regarding the Arab Spring in this piece about the CIA setting up an entire division to monitor Facebook and twitter (part of the Open Source initiative set up by John Negroponte). The steady meme of “the US intelligence community was completely caught by surprise by the Arab Spring” is apparently contested by the intelligence community itself: http://idealab.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/11/the-cia-is-following-twitter-facebook.php

    The CIA Is Following Twitter, Facebook
    Carl Franzen November 4, 2011, 7:30 PM

    Many around the Web reacted with alarm to an exclusive report published Friday by the the Associated Press that the Central Intelligence Agency has a whole center dedicated to monitoring Twitter, Facebook and other media, even old school print newspapers and TV stations, to obtain intelligence on international issues.

    The Open Source Center has been active since the middle of the Bush Administration, well before Twitter launched in 2006. In fact, it was established in 2005 under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (then John Negroponte) in response to the 9/11 Commission’s call for more focus on foreign counterintelligence.

    Still, the center’s analysis work reportedly ends up in the President’s daily intelligence briefing more often than not.

    And the center’s director Doug Naquin, said that through its monitoring, analysts employed there managed to foresee the January uprising against Mubarak’s government in Egypt, although he conceded they weren’t sure exactly when it would take place.

    That in-and-of itself is an eye-popping admission given that in February, the AP reported that President Obama was “disappointed with the intelligence community” for failing to predict the revolution and apparently said as much in a candid message to National Intelligence Director James Clapper.

    Congressmen on the intelligence committees in the House and Senate even reached across the aisle to join forces in their criticism of the inability of U.S. intelligence agencies to see the Arab Spring coming.

    Around the same time, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “I don’t think anybody could have predicted we’d be sitting here talking about the end of the Mubarak presidency at the time that this all started,” as Ynet News reported.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 5, 2011, 8:02 pm
  7. Of course, as set forth in the admittedly exhaustive series that began with discussion of WikiLeaks and morphed into coverage of the Arab Spring, the GOP/Bush/transnational corporate/Underground Reich faction of the intelligence community and State Department appears to have been behind it.

    Reference John Loftus’s analysis in FTR #731 for discussion of the two factions in the CIA and State Department.

    The factions that have come to power don’t appear to be particularly “moderate”–unless one considers the Muslim Brotherhood to be moderate.

    Posted by Dave Emory | November 5, 2011, 9:49 pm
  8. @Dave: Sadly, it is started to look like the Tahrir Square movement may have indeed been manipulated from the very start. Only question is, why abandon their old friend Gaddafi?

    Posted by Steven L. | November 6, 2011, 5:08 am
  9. @Pterrafractyl: Not surprising. The Underground Reich and the other members of the criminal Establishment have always been leery of social media and have constantly tried to take advantage of them from the start…..could Peter Thiel have been one of their useful idiots, as it were? He was one of the early financiers of Facebook, if I recall correctly.

    Posted by Steven L. | November 6, 2011, 5:12 am
  10. http://penumbralreport.com/2012/01/08/the-ever-expanding-digital-panopticon-dhs-releases-report-on-social-media-spying-program/

    The Ever Expanding Digital Panopticon: DHS Releases Report On Social Media Spying Program


    ” …In the final analysis we are left with a government surveillance program which covers every user anywhere on the internet which is collecting, storing and analyzing information on a very long and elastic set of terms which can be changed at a moment’s notice. It is this all- powerful, but obscured ability to conduct such surveillance on a population’s legal activities which is the hallmark of the digital panopticon. And, it is this capability coupled with the NDAA with its fear-inducing “indefinite detention” provisions aimed at citizens for unclear violations of the law which has the potential to bring about the true aim of any panopticon: self-regulated behavior based upon an uncertain punishment for potentially undesirable activity. The result of such developments will be citizens becoming hesitant to exercise their right of free speech for fear that they will end up in a government database somewhere — or worse…”

    Posted by R. Wilson | January 9, 2012, 9:14 pm
  11. http://openid.net/2011/01/08/internet-identity-system-said-readied-by-obama/

    Internet Identity System Said Readied by Obama Administration
    2011-01-07 05:00:01.9 GMT

    By James Sterngold

    Jan. 7 (Bloomberg) — The Obama administration plans to announce today plans for an Internet identity system that will limit fraud and streamline online transactions, leading to a surge in Web commerce, officials said.

    While the White House has spearheaded development of the framework for secure online identities, the system led by the U.S. Commerce Department will be voluntary and maintained by
    private companies, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the announcement.

    A group representing companies including Verizon
    Communications Inc., Google Inc., PayPal Inc., Symantec Corp. and AT&T Inc. has supported the program, called the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, or NSTIC.

    “This is going to cause a huge shift in consumer use of the Internet,” said John Clippinger, co-director of the Law Lab at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “There’s going to be a huge bump and a huge increase in the amount and kind of data retailers are going to have.”

    Most companies have separate systems for signing on to e-mail accounts or conducting secure online transactions, requiring that users memorize multiple passwords and repeat steps. Under the new program, consumers would sign in just once and be able to move among other websites, eliminating the
    inconvenience that causes consumers to drop many transactions.

    Fewer Passwords

    For example, once the system is in place, Google would be able to join a trusted framework that has adopted the rules and guidelines established by the Commerce Department. From that point, someone who logged into a Google e-mail account would be
    able to conduct other business including banking or shopping with other members of the group without having to provide additional information or verification.

    Bruce McConnell, a senior counselor for national protection at the Department of Homeland Security, said NSTIC may lead to a big reduction in the size of Internet help desks, which spend much of their time assisting users who have forgotten their
    passwords. Because the systems would be more secure, he said, it may also result in many transactions that are now done on paper, from pharmaceutical to real estate purchases, to be done online faster and cheaper.

    A draft paper outlining NSTIC was released for comment by the White House in June.

    ‘Who Do You Trust?’

    “NSTIC could go a long way toward advancing one of the fundamental challenges of the Internet today, which is — Who do you trust?” said Don Thibeau, chairman of the Open Identity Exchange, an industry group based in San Ramon, California, representing companies that support development of the new

    “What is holding back the growth of e-commerce is not technology, it’s policy. This gives us the rules, the policies that we need to really move forward.”

    The new system will probably hasten the death of
    traditional passwords, Clippinger said. Instead, users may rely on devices such as smartcards with embedded chips, tokens that generate random codes or biometric devices.

    “Passwords will disappear,” said Clippinger. “They’re
    buggy whips. The old privacy and security conventions don’t work. You need a new architecture.”

    Secure, Efficient

    Development of a more advanced security system began in August 2004, when President George W. Bush issued a Homeland Security Presidential Directive that required all federal= employees be given smartcards with multiple uses, such as gaining access to buildings, signing on to government websites and insuring that only people with proper clearances would have access to restricted documents. The system was intended to be more secure and more efficient.

    The Obama administration advanced the process when it issued its “Cyberspace Policy Review” in 2009. One of the 10 priorities was the security identification system. The federal government is facilitating what it calls a “foundational” system in two ways. It is developing the framework for the identification plan, and it will make a large
    number of government agencies, services and products available through the secure system, from tax returns to reserving campsites at national parks.

    “Innovation is one of the key aspects here,” said Ari
    Schwartz, a senior adviser for Internet policy at the Department of Commerce. “There’s so much that could be done if we could trust transactions more.”

    Schwartz said use of the system, once companies voluntarily choose to participate, may spur a range of efficiencies and e-commerce similar to the way ATM machines transformed banking, opening the way to a growing number of services little by little.

    Privacy Concerns

    Civil libertarians have expressed concern that the system may not protect privacy as well as the government is promising.

    “If the concept were implemented in a perfect way it would be very good,” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst for privacy and technology at the New York-based American Civil Liberties Union. “It’s a convenience. But having a single point of failure may not be good for protecting privacy. The devil’s really in the details.” He said the ACLU would “vehemently oppose” anything that resembled a national ID card.

    Aaron Brauer-Rieke, a fellow at the Center for Democracy & Technology in Washington, a civil liberties group, said it was important that the system would be operated by private companies, not the government. He said he was concerned about
    how the data on consumer online transactions would be used.

    “New identity systems will allow moving from one site to another with less friction and open up data flows, but might also enable new kinds of targeted advertising,” he said. “We have to make sure privacy doesn’t get lost in this.”

    Schwartz and McConnell said the new system wouldn’t be a national identity card and that companies, not the government, would manage the data being passed online.

    “There will not be a single data base for this information,” McConnell said.

    Posted by R. Wilson | January 9, 2012, 9:20 pm
  12. Just FYI:

    US spy agency can keep mum on Google ties: court
    AFP – Fri, 11 May, 2012

    The top-secret US National Security Agency is not required to reveal any deal it may have with Google to help protect against cyber attacks, an appeals court ruled Friday.

    The US Court of Appeals in Washington upheld a lower court decision that said the NSA need not confirm or deny any relationship with Google, because its governing statutes allow it keep such information secret.

    The ruling came in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from a public interest group, which said the public has a right to know about any spying on citizens.

    The appeals court agreed that the NSA can reject the request, and does not even have to confirm whether it has any arrangement with the Internet giant.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 14, 2012, 8:27 pm
  13. Yes Grover, it’s just like what the Nazis did:

    The Hill
    Norquist compares Sen. Schumer’s tax-dodger bill to the Nazis, communists
    By Bernie Becker and Erik Wasson – 05/19/12 07:15 AM ET

    The anti-tax activist Grover Norquist on Friday compared a new Democratic proposal to penalize Americans who renounce their citizenship to evade taxes to policies employed by the Nazis and communists.

    Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) introduced legislation this week – in response to a Facebook co-founder ditching his citizenship – that would force wealthy people who give up their U.S. citizenship to prove that they did not do so for tax reasons.

    Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, said the targeting people that turn in their passports reminded him of regimes that had driven people out of the country, only to confiscate their wealth at the door.

    “I think Schumer can probably find the legislation to do this. It existed in Germany in the 1930s and Rhodesia in the ’70s and in South Africa as well,” said Norquist. “He probably just plagiarized it and translated it from the original German.”

    The Nazis infamously implemented a departure tax on Jews who tried to flee Germany before World War II. Schumer is Jewish.

    Republicans argue the Democratic response to Saverin’s choice has been backwards – that instead of punishing citizens who renounce their citizenship, policymakers should reform the code in a way that makes taxpayers like Saverin want to stay.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 21, 2012, 7:52 am
  14. It begins:

    Think Progress
    Mark Zuckerberg’s New Political Group Spending Big On Ads Supporting Keystone XL And Oil Drilling

    By Josh Israel and Judd Legum on Apr 26, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Mark Zuckerberg’s new political group, which bills itself as a bipartisan entity dedicated to passing immigration reform, has spent considerable resources on ads advocating a host of anti-environmental causes — including driling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and constructing the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

    The umbrella group, co-founded by Facebook’s Zuckerberg, NationBuilder’s co-founder Joe Green, LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman, Dropbox’s Drew Houston, and others in the tech industry, is called FWD.US. Its initial priority is the passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill, including enhanced border security, more visas for workers with special skills, and a pathway to citizenship for those living in the U.S. without legal status. Other long-term priorities for the group include education reform and expanded scientific research.

    FWD.US is bankrolling two subsidiary organizations to purchase TV ads to advance the overarching agenda — one run by veteran Republican political operatives and one led by Democratic strategists. The GOP-lead group, called Americans For A Conservative Direction, has created an ad in support of Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) which praises him for supporting construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and expanded drilling elsewhere. The ad, which does not mention immigration policy, also attacks Obamacare, “wasteful stimulus spending,” and “seedy Chicago-style politics.” Politico reports the group plans a seven-figure buy with this and other ads.

    Watch the ad:
    [see video]

    The other group, called Council for American Job Growth and purportedly intended to appeal to liberals, lauds Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) for “working to open ANWR to drilling.” The ad also does not mention immigration reform but does highlight Begich’s support of a balanced budget amendment.

    Watch the spot:
    [see video]

    The group’s forceful advocacy for expanded drilling and pipeline construction is surprising given Zuckerberg’s public statements about the purpose of the group. In an introductory column, Zuckerberg said that the group would be dedicated to “building the knowledge economy,” which he contrasts to “the economy of the last century… primarily based on natural resources.” Zuckerberg adds, “there are only so many oil fields, and there is only so much wealth that can be created from them for society.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 29, 2013, 9:04 am
  15. […] our last post, we noted that, in addi­tion to Peter Thiel, the CEO of Palan­tir (Thiel asso­ciate Alex Karp) had Ger­man roots. The avail­able […]

    Posted by “Danger, Will Robinson!”–Peter Thiel, Robots and the Underground Reich (Be Afraid, Be VERY Afraid!) | The Freedom Report | August 16, 2013, 5:54 pm
  16. It is what it is. Dave Emory is on the money.

    Posted by David Almanza | March 13, 2014, 10:51 am
  17. One of the things rarely mentioned in The Scorpion and the Frog: The water is boiling too. The frog has desensitization issues:

    5/22/2014 @ 7:35PM 55,572 views
    Facebook Wants To Listen In On What You’re Doing
    Kashmir Hill Forbes Staff

    Facebook had two big announcements this week that show the company’s wildly divergent takes on the nature of privacy. One announcement is that the company is encouraging new users to initially share only with their “friends” rather than with the general public, the previous default. And for existing users, the company plans to break out the old “privacy dinosaur” to do a “ check-up” to remind people of how they’re sharing. Facebook employees say that using an extinct creature as a symbol for privacy isn’t subtle messaging, but simply an icon to which their users respond well. Meanwhile, Facebook’s second announcement indicated just how comfortable they think their users are in sharing every little thing happening in their lives. Facebook is rolling out a new feature for its smartphone app that can turn on users’ microphones and listen to what’s happening around them to identify songs playing or television being watched. The pay-off for users in allowing Facebook to eavesdrop is that the social giant will be able to add a little tag to their status update that says they’re watching an episode of Games of Thrones as they sound off on their happiness (or despair) about the rise in background sex on TV these days.

    The feature is an optional one, something the company emphasizes in its announcement. The tech giant does seem well-aware that in these days of Snowden surveillance revelations, people might not be too keen for Facebook to take control of their smartphone’s mic and start listening in on them by default. It’s only rolling out the feature in the U.S. and a product PR person emphasized repeatedly that no recording is being stored, only “code.” “We’re not recording audio or sound and sending it to Facebook or its servers,” says Facebook spokesperson Momo Zhou. “We turn the audio it hears into a code — code that is not reversible into audio — and then we match it against a database of code.”

    If a Facebooker opts in, the feature is only activated when he or she is composing an update. When the smartphone’s listening in — something it can only do through the iOS and Android apps, not through Facebook on a browser — tiny blue bars will appear to announce the mic has been activated. Facebook says the microphone will not otherwise be collecting data. When it’s listening, it tells you it is “matching,” rather than how I might put it, “eavesdropping on your entertainment of choice.”

    It reminds me of GPS-tagging an update, but with cultural context rather than location deets. While you decide whether to add the match to a given Facebook update, Facebook gets information about what you were listening to or watching regardless, though it won’t be associated with your profile. “If you don’t choose to post and the feature detects a match, we don’t store match information except in an anonymized form that is not associated with you,” says Zhou. Depending on how many people turn the feature on, it will be a nice store of information about what Facebook users are watching and listening to, even in anonymized form.

    Sure, we’re used to features like this thanks to existing apps that will recognize a song for us. But usually when you activate those apps, you’re explicitly doing so to find out the name of a song. Facebook is hoping to make that process a background activity to composing a status update — a frictionless share that just happens, the real-world version of linking your Spotify account to your social media account allowing playlists to leak through. Facebook spent a year honing its audio sampling and developing a catalog of content — millions of songs and 160 television stations — to match against. It’s obvious that it wants to displace Twitter as the go-to place for real-time commenting on sporting events, awards shows, and other communal television watching. “With TV shows, we’ll actually know the exact season and episode number you’re watching,” says Zhou. “We built that to prevent spoilers.”

    In addition to being a creepy reminder of the creeping surveillance capacity that technology inherently facilitates, part of what’s going to make the roll out of this kind of technology interesting to watch is that the sound matching algorithms are probably going to have to yield “fuzzy” matches, at best, since the application is designed to run passively in a noisy environment with lots of random noises and conversations overlaying the music or tv shows playing in the background. And with multiple seasons for 160 television stations getting stored as the audio database, users’ everyday random conversations that might get picked up by the app are going to be matched against a pretty massive database of conversational audio content. It raises the question of whether or not that database is going to be small enough to store on individual phones and tablets or if it’s going to be sending all that hashed audio content back to Facebook in real-time where it gets matched. This was this statement from Facebook:

    “We’re not recording audio or sound and sending it to Facebook or its servers…We turn the audio it hears into a code — code that is not reversible into audio — and then we match it against a database of code.”

    That sure sounds like the plan is for the audio content to get “coded” on the phone and sent to Facebook for real-time analysis. That’s service! A creepy service, but service!

    So how often will people get “false positives” where they’re inadvertently creating a “close enough” hit to a segment of some random TV show? It seems like it might happen every once in a while and it raises the possibility of a rather neat new type of survey: if users click a little “this isn’t what I was listening to or watching” button every time the app makes a “matching” mistake it could be a method of sampling the extent to which life imitates art in everyday conversations a whole new way. Kinda neat, eh?

    That said, we really don’t need fancy new ways of surveilling every last bit of our lives in order to measure how life is imitating art these days. Direct observation is enough.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 24, 2014, 6:06 pm
  18. @Pterrafractyl–

    This underscores one of the major themes of the Eddie the Friendly Spook series–it’s the tech companies that people should fear, with regard to privacy.

    NSA doesn’t care about the insignificant details of people’s turgid little lives.

    They are military and don’t move up pay grades by finding out what music people listen to, or whether they fart in their cubicles at work.

    Facebook, Google and others are vacuuming up EVERY available piece of information about everybody.

    That information is one of their major capital assets, and they market it to other corporations.

    People have bought in on this, frankly, and shouldn’t complain.

    After all, a scorpion is ALWAYS a scorpion, n’est pas?



    Posted by Dave Emory | May 24, 2014, 6:38 pm
  19. i@Dave: Here’s a recent interview of tech titan Mark Andreesen that really captures the dysfunctional way the topic of NSA surveillance programs issue tends to get treated by the tech industry. It’s basically Mission Impossible time:

    Washington Post

    Marc Andreessen: In 20 years, we’ll talk about Bitcoin like we talk about the Internet today

    By Brian Fung
    May 21 at 2:31 pm

    The investor and Web browser pioneer Marc Andreessen thinks we’ll all look back in 20 years and conclude that Bitcoin was as influential a platform for innovation as the Internet itself was. He says that tech companies think their meetings with President Obama on privacy are a waste of time. And he calls net neutrality a “lose-lose.” In a wide-ranging interview with The Washington Post this week, Andreessen painted a picture of a future that’s distributed, messy and fraught with tension. Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation.

    Is there anything that Washington has built a wall against in terms of progress?

    Well, the big thing right now for the tech industry is the Snowden revelations, and the consequences of that for the American tech industry. Specifically, in two areas: One is that the level of trust that customers have [in] American tech companies has been seriously damaged. And that is especially — but not exclusively — true outside the United States. Every time another revelation comes out, like the one this weekend about hijacking the routers on their way out of the country, or the one about hacking into the Internet companies’ backbone networks — every time one of these shoes drops, and apparently there is just an unlimited number of shoes — every time one of these things happens, it’s a serious blow to the credibility of these companies, especially outside the U.S. And so there’s a really big, I mean very, very, very high level of concern in the Valley that the American tech industry is in trouble outside the U.S.

    And then, two is this balkanization of the Internet that’s happening now. As more revelations happen, more and more countries are saying: “Okay, if we can’t trust the Internet, if the NSA is going to watch everybody on the Internet all the time, we’re going to have to break off and have our own Internet. Have our own firewalls, do what the Chinese do, have our own private Internet or whatever the hell it’s going to be.” This issue is being used as political cover for what these countries want to do anyway.

    That brings us to, “Okay, how is the American government getting in front of this?” And the answer is, “Not even a little bit.” The view in the Valley is that the White House has hung the NSA out to dry. Just like, “You’re on your own.” And there’s basically no effective communication right now that I’m aware of between the American government, especially the administration and American tech companies, on like, “Okay, what happens now?”

    Is there anything tech companies can do, whether on the Snowden stuff, or culturally?

    These technologies escalate the power of government, but they also escalate the power of business, and they also escalate the power of individuals. So everyone’s been upgraded. And it’s a recalibration of who can do what, and everybody can do new things, so everybody’s uneasy about it. Governments are very worried about what citizens are going to be able to do with these new technologies. Citizens are very worried about what governments are going to do, and everybody’s worried about what businesses are going to do. It’s this three-way dynamic that’s playing out. And so for any of these individual issues, it’s not just “What is one leg of this triangle going to be doing?” It’s, “What are all three of them going to be doing, and how will the tension resolve itself?”

    Yes, when asked about the progress made on this issue by the White House, Marc Andreesen talks about a growing sentiment in the US tech sector that enormous damage is being done to the US tech industry’s overseas markets every time a new Snowden shoe drops. But when the question is asked, “Okay, how is the American government getting in front of this?”, the answer is that the view on in the Valley is the the White House has hung the NSA out to dry. What?! So the White House was supposed to suddenly relieve the global public concern over NSA surveillance capabilities and fully back the NSA simultaneously, while presumably maintaining the robust growth of the military-digital-complex so as not to worry Silicon Valley too much. How was that supposed to happen?

    And when asked what the tech companies can do to address the Snowden fallout, the answer Andreesen gives is a vague mention of how technology has enabled changing power dynamics between governments, businesses. and individuals (yep). Nothing about strengthening regulations on profiting from private sector spying. Nothing about, say, a Silicon Valley PAC that lobbies against the growth of a global Military Digital Complex and promotes severe restrictions on the sale of advanced hacking tools to governments. It’s just a deer in the headlights answer that’s become typical of what we can expect from the tech sector itself on this issue.

    It’s a big reason why we should expect very little meaningful progress on this issue for the foreseeable future: Silicon Valley’s leaders clearly have no interest in any privacy solutions that harm profits and that means they want the impossible. It also means that the likeliest “solution” we’re going to eventually see is the same “solution” that seems to get applied to every problem in DC these days: further privatization, whereever possible.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 26, 2014, 3:44 pm
  20. Surprise!

    Here’s how to defend yourself from Facebook’s new browser-spying campaign

    June 12, 2014 1:12 PM
    Mark Sullivan

    Facebook sent out a notice Thursday about its intention to begin sharing the browsing data of its members with its advertising partners.

    It’s a move that most observers saw coming, but one that Facebook has always denied — with vigor.

    Facebook can’t capture data about you visiting just any site, only those that have partnered with it. Basically, any site that has a “like” button (such as this one) or that permits you to log in with your Facebook credentials will store data about your visit in your browser, which can later be read by Facebook.

    Here’s how Facebook describes it in its Terms of Service:

    “We and our affiliates, third parties, and other partners (“partners”) use these technologies for security purposes and to deliver products, services and advertisements, as well as to understand how these products, services and advertisements are used. With these technologies, a website or application can store information on your browser or device and later read that information back.”

    Facebook also released a video to advertisers and users Thursday morning explaining the company’s targeting practices. A common mantra among web marketers is that they’re actually doing consumers a favor by collecting the information they need to serve more relevant ads.

    What to do (and not bother doing)

    If you don’t want Facebook to collect and transmit your browsing data, you can take some steps to prevent it from doing so.

    But first, here’s what not to do.

    The advertising industry has put up a site called Your Ad Choices, which offers consumers a way to “opt out.” But the site lets you opt out of receiving ads that have been targeted at you based on your browsing data. But it will not let you “opt out” from companies harvesting your browsing data.

    Nor can you expect to get any real relief by trying to tweaking your Facebook Privacy settings. Facebook announced today that it would be rolling out “ad preferences,” a new tool accessible from every ad on Facebook that “explains why you’re seeing a specific ad and lets you add and remove interests that we use to show you ads.” Of course, Facebook is not offering you a way to stop them from collecting your browsing data in the first place.

    Several browser plug-ins will block sites like Facebook from dropping lines of code into your browser allowing it to track you.

    One of the good ones is Do Not Track Me from Abine.com. This is a Washington, D.C.-based firm that focuses on building browser tools to secure browsing data and other personal information.

    Other solid recommendations that will work on Chrome and Firefox browsers are Ghostery and Disconnect.

    Abine CEO Rob Shavell says he isn’t surprised by the news about Facebook.

    “I think you’re going to see a lot more companies doing this,” Shavell told VentureBeat. “Having worked at a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley, I think there’s a data bubble going on. There’s been so much money invested in ad tech companies, including Facebook, and so much hype around them, they are going to have to collect more and more personal data. There’s just too much pressure to make all that money back.”

    Shavell says investors have put $6.5 billion behind advertising tech companies in the past two years.

    Facebook did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 12, 2014, 2:18 pm
  21. Is that manic depression you have? No, it’s just my Facebook Guinea Pig Syndrome acting up again:

    Pando Daily
    Facebook’s science experiment on users shows the company is even more powerful and unethical than we thought

    By David Holmes
    On June 28, 2014

    If you were still unsure how much contempt Facebook has for its users, this will make everything hideously clear.

    In a report published at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Facebook data scientists conducted an experiment to manipulate the emotions of nearly 700,000 users to see if positive or negative emotions are as contagious on social networks as they are in the real world. By tweaking Facebook’s powerful News Feed algorithm, some users (we should probably just call them “lab rats” at this point) were shown fewer posts with positive words. Others saw fewer posts with negative words. “When positive expressions were reduced,” the paper states, “people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred. These results indicate that emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions, constituting experimental evidence for massive-scale contagion via social networks.”

    The results shouldn’t surprise anybody. What’s more surprising, and unsettling, is the power Facebook wields in shifting its users’ emotional states, and its willingness to use that power on unknowing participants. First off, when is it okay to conduct a social behavior experiment on people without telling them? Technically, and as the paper states, users provided the consent for this research when they agreed to Facebook’s Data Use Policy prior to signing up, so what Facebook did isn’t illegal. But it’s certainly unethical.

    Furthermore, manipulating user emotions in a digital space comes with uniquely disturbing consequences. In the real world, if you feel like the people around you bring too much negativity into your life, the solution is easy: Find a new crowd. But on Facebook, short of canceling your account, this is impossible to do if the company suddenly decides, whether as part of a research study or at the behest of certain advertising or engagement interests, to start sending more negative content your way. The whole point of the News Feed algorithm, to hear Facebook tell it, is to give users an experience tailored to their wants and interests. Clearly, that objective falls by the wayside anytime Facebook wants to turn its user base into a science experiment.

    And then there’s the tone deaf gall of the whole thing: This research wasn’t uncovered by an investigative reporter, Facebook submitted the research to PNAS themselves. To make matters worse, there are questions about whether the methodology used was even sound. To determine “positive” and “negative” sentiments, the researchers used a technique called “Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count” or LIWC. But even the creators of LIWC admit that assessing its validity when applied to “natural language” (like a Facebook update) is “tricky.” LIWC’s reliability has largely been tested by analyzing essays, where there is more repetition than in natural language.

    Perhaps I’ve been watching too much Black Mirror, but my brain can’t help but extrapolate on some of the alarming potential uses of this power. Psychological warfare techniques, like gaslighting, have long been used by government agencies to create cracks in the psyches of political dissidents or other undesirables. Assuming the ties between government organizations and tech companies continue to strengthen (and we’ve already seen Facebook cave to government pressure before), what’s to stop the NSA from manipulating what content a person sees in their News Feed in a manner designed to drive them to insanity? It might not be that hard to do: If every time you opened Facebook, all you saw were ex-girlfriends, old friends who are more successful than you, and upsettingly extreme political rants from family members, that might be enough to drive a person mad.

    It doesn’t have to be the government pulling the strings either — Facebook itself could target certain users, whether they be corporate rivals or current/former employees. Having such strong psychological control over your workforce would certainly have its benefits. And if Facebook ever gets caught? Why, the company could claim it’s all part of a social experiment, one that users tacitly agreed to when they signed up.

    With over one-tenth of the world’s population signing into Facebook every day, and now with evidence to back the emotional power of the company’s algorithmic manipulation, the possibilities for widespread social engineering are staggering and unlike anything the world has seen. Granted, Facebook’s motives probably are simply to convince people to buy more stuff in order to please advertisers, but the potential uses of that power to impact elections or global trade could be enticing to all sorts of powerful interest groups.

    Since this kind of research is entirely legal, you have to wonder how many of the other major (or minor) sites that provide tailored content are conducting experiments like this. You also have to wonder what kind of damage could be done to a society if this kind of research was applied to to something like TV content. It could get pretty scary.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 28, 2014, 6:09 pm
  22. Dailey Mail UK:
    August 21, 2016, James Wilkinson
    Fugitive ‘Facebook founder’ says he’s alive and well but ‘running for his life’ from CIA because of its secret involvement in the social media site
    – Paul Ceglia says the CIA wants to kill him because he knows too much
    – He says its venture capital arm, In-Q-Tel, had a hand in Facebook
    – Ceglia sued Mark Zuckerberg for 84 per cent of Facebook in 2010
    – But in 2012 he was put on house arrest for allegedly doctoring evidence
    – He and his family vanished in 2015; he has only just been heard from now


    Posted by Roger Wilson | August 21, 2016, 5:46 am
  23. Bloomberg, August 16, 2016
    Facebook Fugitive ‘Alive and Well and Living on the Air’

    by Bob Van Voris
    In his e-mails, Ceglia, 43, said he was forced to flee due to a “very credible” threat that he would be arrested on new charges, jailed and killed before trial. The reason he was marked for death, he said, was fear that the trial would expose the involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency’s venture-capital arm, In-Q-Tel, in Facebook.


    The origiinal Bloomberg article was published July 12, 2010 by Bob Van Voris
    New York Man Claims 84% of Facebook, Gets Order Blocking Assets
    “The day of Ceglia’s filing, without notice to Palo Alto, California-based Facebook, Acting New York Supreme Court Justice Thomas P. Brown signed an order blocking Zuckerberg and Facebook “from transferring, selling, assigning any assets, stocks, bonds, owned, possessed and/or controlled by the defendants,” at least until a hearing set for July 9.”

    The case is Ceglia v. Zuckerberg, 10-CV-00569, U.S. District Court, Western District of New York (Buffalo).


    Posted by Roger Wilson | August 21, 2016, 5:53 am
  24. Here’s a reminder that Facebook’s privacy invasions aren’t limited to tracking every last click you make on Facebook’s websites. It also includes tracking your visit to any other webpage that happens to have a Facebook “like” button (or agrees to allow a special Facebook tracking pixel on their site) even when you’re logged off from Facebook. And then there’s Facebook’s purchase of every major third-party database available to create one of the most detail personal profiles of you in existence. So when Facebook delivers an eerily topical ad that makes you wonder if the website is spying on you, keep in mind that it is indeed spying on you but it’s not alone in doing so. It’s a group effort:

    The Washington Post

    98 personal data points that Facebook uses to target ads to you

    By Caitlin Dewey
    August 19, 2016

    Say you’re scrolling through your Facebook Newsfeed and you encounter an ad so eerily well-suited, it seems someone has possibly read your brain.

    Maybe your mother’s birthday is coming up, and Facebook’s showing ads for her local florist. Or maybe you just made a joke aloud about wanting a Jeep, and Instagram’s promoting Chrysler dealerships.

    Whatever the subject, you’ve seen ads like this. You’ve wondered — maybe worried — how they found their way to you.

    Facebook, in its omniscience, knows that you’re wondering — and it would like to reassure you. The social network just revamped its ad preference settings to make them significantly easier for users to understand. They’ve also launched a new ad education portal, which explains, in general terms, how Facebook targets ads.

    But it remains to be seen whether users are pleased or frightened by the new information they suddenly have.

    Targeting options for Facebook advertisers*
    1. Location
    2. Age
    3. Generation
    4. Gender
    5. Language
    6. Education level
    7. Field of study
    8. School
    9. Ethnic affinity
    10. Income and net worth
    11. Home ownership and type
    12. Home value
    13. Property size
    14. Square footage of home
    15. Year home was built
    16. Household composition

    *Not even conclusive!

    As explained on that shiny new portal, Facebook keeps ads “useful and relevant” in four distinct ways. It tracks your on-site activity, such as the pages you like and the ads you click, and your device and location settings, such as the brand of phone you use and your type of Internet connection. Most users recognize these things impact ad targeting: Facebook has repeatedly said as much. But slightly more surprising is the extent of Facebook’s web-tracking efforts and its collaborations with major data brokers.

    While you’re logged onto Facebook, for instance, the network can see virtually every other website you visit. Even when you’re logged off, Facebook knows much of your browsing: It’s alerted every time you load a page with a “Like” or “share” button, or an advertisement sourced from its Atlas network. Facebook also provides publishers with a piece of code, called Facebook Pixel, that they (and by extension, Facebook) can use to log their Facebook-using visitors.

    17. Users who have an anniversary within 30 days
    18. Users who are away from family or hometown
    19. Users who are friends with someone who has an anniversary, is newly married or engaged, recently moved, or has an upcoming birthday
    20. Users in long-distance relationships
    21. Users in new relationships
    22. Users who have new jobs
    23. Users who are newly engaged
    24. Users who are newly married
    25. Users who have recently moved
    26. Users who have birthdays soon
    27. Parents
    28. Expectant parents
    29. Mothers, divided by “type” (soccer, trendy, etc.)
    30. Users who are likely to engage in politics
    31. Conservatives and liberals
    32. Relationship status

    On top of that, Facebook offers marketers the option to target ads according to data compiled by firms like Experian, Acxiom and Epsilon, which have historically fueled mailing lists and other sorts of offline efforts. These firms build their profiles over a period of years, gathering data from government and public records, consumer contests, warranties and surveys, and private commercial sources — like loyalty card purchase histories or magazine subscription lists. Whatever they gather from those searches can also be fed into a model to draw further conclusions, like whether you’re likely to be an investor or buy organic for your kids.

    When combined with the information you’ve already given Facebook, through your profile and your clicks, you end up with what is arguably the most complete consumer profile on earth: a snapshot not only of your Facebook activity, but your behaviors elsewhere in the online (and offline!) worlds.

    33. Employer
    34. Industry
    35. Job title
    36. Office type
    37. Interests
    38. Users who own motorcycles
    39. Users who plan to buy a car (and what kind/brand of car, and how soon)
    40. Users who bought auto parts or accessories recently
    41. Users who are likely to need auto parts or services
    42. Style and brand of car you drive
    43. Year car was bought
    44. Age of car
    45. How much money user is likely to spend on next car
    46. Where user is likely to buy next car
    47. How many employees your company has
    48. Users who own small businesses
    49. Users who work in management or are executives

    These snapshots are frequently incomplete and flawed, we should note — after all, they rely on lots of assumptions. But generally speaking, they’re good enough to have made Facebook an advertising giant. In the second quarter of 2016, the company made $6.4 billion in advertising, a number that’s up 63 percent from the year before. And now, Facebook ads aren’t only on Facebook.com and its acquired apps — they also populate an external Audience Network.

    “Speaking as both a consumer and as an advertiser, I think that Facebook’s ad capabilities make internet advertising a better experience overall,” said Kane Jamison, a Seattle-based marketer who has written about his experience with Facebook ads. “The majority of promoted topics that I see in my Facebook feed are relevant to my interests, and they’re worth clicking on more often.”

    Not everyone is quite so convinced that Facebook’s targeting methods are benevolent, though. Peter Eckersley, the chief computer scientist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, calls them “the most invasive in the world.”

    Yes, he acknowledges, many companies use data brokers to make direct-mail lists, and almost every website utilizes some kind of tracker or cookies — but no company on earth, save Facebook, bundles all that information.

    50. Users who have donated to charity (divided by type)
    51. Operating system
    52. Users who play canvas games
    53. Users who own a gaming console
    54. Users who have created a Facebook event
    55. Users who have used Facebook Payments
    56. Users who have spent more than average on Facebook Payments
    57. Users who administer a Facebook page
    58. Users who have recently uploaded photos to Facebook
    59. Internet browser
    60. Email service
    61. Early/late adopters of technology
    62. Expats (divided by what country they are from originally)
    63. Users who belong to a credit union, national bank or regional bank
    64. Users who investor (divided by investment type)
    65. Number of credit lines

    Take the example of the ad for your mother’s local florist: that might have been targeted to women from your hometown (which you’ve told Facebook) whose mothers’ birthdays are coming up (that’s in your Facebook calendar), who live away from family (based on off-site activity) and who have a high estimated income (according to Acxiom).

    Or the mystery of the spoken Jeep joke and displayed the car ad — an adjacency that actually happened on local Florida TV, convincing one newscaster that Facebook “eavesdropped” on her. Facebook actually sources data from IHS Automotive, an industry intelligence firm used widely by dealers, banks and financial analysts, and doesn’t need eavesdropping to know that your car’s 10 years old and you might be back in the auto market.

    “Facebook’s business model is to amass as much first-party and third-party data on you as possible, and slowly dole out access to it,” Eckersley said. “If you’re using Facebook, you’re entrusting the company with records of everything you do. I think people have reason to be concerned about that.”

    66. Users who are active credit card users
    67. Credit card type
    68. Users who have a debit card
    69. Users who carry a balance on their credit card
    70. Users who listen to the radio
    71. Preference in TV shows
    72. Users who use a mobile device (divided by what brand they use)
    73. Internet connection type
    74. Users who recently acquired a smartphone or tablet
    75. Users who access the Internet through a smartphone or tablet
    76. Users who use coupons
    77. Types of clothing user’s household buys
    78. Time of year user’s household shops most
    79. Users who are “heavy” buyers of beer, wine or spirits
    80. Users who buy groceries (and what kinds)
    81. Users who buy beauty products
    82. Users who buy allergy medications, cough/cold medications, pain relief products, and over-the-counter meds

    Eckersley’s main concern is how much consumers know about all this tracking — and how much they’re able to opt out of it. Facebook says it’s been transparent on both counts, and that the revamped ad preferences dashboard, as well as the long-standing “Why Am I Seeing This Ad?’ dropdown, is only the latest proof that it’s dedicated to user privacy.

    But while both the dashboard and the dropdown will rid you of ads you don’t like, neither actually lets users opt out completely of any of Facebook’s four tracking methods. The preferences manager, for instance, lets users tell Facebook they don’t have certain interests that the site has associated with them or their behavior, but there’s no way to tell Facebook that you don’t want it to track your interests, at all.

    Likewise, Facebook allows users to opt-out of advertisements based on their use of outside websites and apps. But that doesn’t mean that Facebook never tracks those people when they’re on other sites, Eckersley said: It just limits some of its more all-seeing methods. And while Facebook did push its data-broker partners to adopt better privacy measures when it began working with them in 2013, each broker still requires you to file an opt-out request with them individually.

    83. Users who spend money on household products
    84. Users who spend money on products for kids or pets, and what kinds of pets
    85. Users whose household makes more purchases than is average
    86. Users who tend to shop online (or off)
    87. Types of restaurants user eats at
    88. Kinds of stores user shops at
    89. Users who are “receptive” to offers from companies offering online auto insurance, higher education or mortgages, and prepaid debit cards/satellite TV
    90. Length of time user has lived in house
    91. Users who are likely to move soon
    92. Users who are interested in the Olympics, fall football, cricket or Ramadan
    93. Users who travel frequently, for work or pleasure
    94. Users who commute to work
    95. Types of vacations user tends to go on
    96. Users who recently returned from a trip
    97. Users who recently used a travel app
    98. Users who participate in a timeshare

    There is another option, of course: If Facebook tracking freaks you out, simply don’t use it. There are people who want targeted, “relevant” ads — and there are others, like Eckersley, who can’t stomach it.

    But wait, what was that? Eckersley has Facebook? Surely hell just froze over.

    “It’s the paradox of modern life,” he laughed, adding that he needs the site to keep in touch with friends and family. “We’re strongly incentivized, by the culture around us, to use this technology. It’s incredibly useful — and an incredibly giant structural problem for our privacy.”

    “On top of that, Facebook offers marketers the option to target ads according to data compiled by firms like Experian, Acxiom and Epsilon, which have historically fueled mailing lists and other sorts of offline efforts. These firms build their profiles over a period of years, gathering data from government and public records, consumer contests, warranties and surveys, and private commercial sources — like loyalty card purchase histories or magazine subscription lists. Whatever they gather from those searches can also be fed into a model to draw further conclusions, like whether you’re likely to be an investor or buy organic for your kids.

    That’s right, Facebook is creating one of the most advanced models of each of us individuals that’s probably ever been created. Maybe Google is competing with them in that department but that’s about it. That should be super helpful.

    And keep in mind that while it may be true that Facebook doesn’t actually need to use your smartphone’s microphone to spy on your private conversations…

    Take the example of the ad for your mother’s local florist: that might have been targeted to women from your hometown (which you’ve told Facebook) whose mothers’ birthdays are coming up (that’s in your Facebook calendar), who live away from family (based on off-site activity) and who have a high estimated income (according to Acxiom).

    Or the mystery of the spoken Jeep joke and displayed the car ad — an adjacency that actually happened on local Florida TV, convincing one newscaster that Facebook “eavesdropped” on her. Facebook actually sources data from IHS Automotive, an industry intelligence firm used widely by dealers, banks and financial analysts, and doesn’t need eavesdropping to know that your car’s 10 years old and you might be back in the auto market.

    “Facebook’s business model is to amass as much first-party and third-party data on you as possible, and slowly dole out access to it,” Eckersley said. “If you’re using Facebook, you’re entrusting the company with records of everything you do. I think people have reason to be concerned about that.”

    doesn’t mean that Facebook isn’t spying on your through your smartphone’s microphone. Spying on you to be extra helpful, of course.

    Also keep in mind that when you read…

    There is another option, of course: If Facebook tracking freaks you out, simply don’t use it. There are people who want targeted, “relevant” ads — and there are others, like Eckersley, who can’t stomach it.

    …you’re going to have to avoid using a lot more than just Facebook. Especially now that Facebook has decided to advertise to (and presumably track and profile) all internet users, whether they use Facebook or not:

    The Wall Street Journal

    Facebook Wants to Help Sell Every Ad on the Web
    The social network will show ads to non-Facebook users on other websites

    By Jack Marshall
    May 27, 2016 12:00 a.m. ET

    Facebook has set out to power all advertising across the Internet.

    To that end, the social network and online advertising company said Thursday it will now help marketers show ads to all users who visit websites and applications in its Audience Network ad network. Previously Facebook only showed ads to members of its social network when they visited those third-party properties.

    The change is a subtle one, but it could mean Facebook will soon help to sell and place a much larger portion of the video and display ads that appear across the Internet. The change will also intensify competition with Alphabet Inc. subsidiary Google, which dominates the global digital-advertising market, and a wide range of other online ad specialists.

    “Publishers and app developers have some users who aren’t Facebook users. We think we can do a better job powering those ads,” said Andrew Bosworth, vice president of Facebook’s ads and business platform.

    Facebook disclosed in March that about 1.65 billion people now use the site each month. According to the International Telecommunication Union, a total of 3.17 billion people used the Internet globally in 2015.

    To date, Facebook has only showed ads across its Audience Network to Facebook users, targeted based on information the company has collected about its users’ tastes and behaviors. Now Facebook plans to collect information about all Internet users, through “like” buttons and other pieces of code present on Web pages across the Internet. It will then use the information it collects to target ads to non-Facebook users.

    “Our buttons and plugins send over basic information about users’ browsing sessions. For non-Facebook members, previously we didn’t use it. Now we’ll use it to better understand how to target those people,” Mr. Bosworth said.

    For example, if a non-Facebook user visits a cooking-related website, Facebook might determine that person is interested in cooking and may target them elsewhere across the Web with ads for cooking-related products. One way it will do so is by placing small pieces of code on users’ devices called cookies, which can be used to identify them as they move around the Internet.

    This type of tracking and ad targeting is now commonplace online and is already being employed by a wide range of online advertising networks and ad companies to help marketers place ads across the Internet.

    But Facebook thinks it can use the technology and tactic more effectively than other online advertising companies, thanks largely to the enormous amount of data it has on its own users. That can help it spot patterns in people’s behaviors and better infer what a non-Facebook user might be interested in based on a relatively small amount of information, Mr. Bosworth said. Online advertisers sometimes refer to this tactic as “lookalike” targeting.

    “Because we have a core audience of over a billion people [on Facebook] who we do understand, we have a greater opportunity than other companies using the same type of mechanism,” Mr. Bosworth said.

    If widely used by publishers and media companies, the new feature could mean Facebook will have a hand in selling and placing a larger portion of online ads, which could help it generate additional revenue. The company generated over $17 billion in ad revenue in 2015.

    Facebook gets an unspecified cut of the revenue from ads it sells through its Audience Network. Typically, the company takes a roughly 30% share and gives the rest to publishers, according to people familiar with the matter.

    Non-Facebook users will be able to opt-out of “interest-based” advertising from Facebook, the company said. Facebook members will also be able to opt-out of seeing ads outside of the social platform based on their on-Facebook interests.

    Marketers buying advertising across the Facebook Audience Network will have the option to not show ads to non-Facebook users if they wish, but that ad space will be included by default, the company said.

    “To date, Facebook has only showed ads across its Audience Network to Facebook users, targeted based on information the company has collected about its users’ tastes and behaviors. Now Facebook plans to collect information about all Internet users, through “like” buttons and other pieces of code present on Web pages across the Internet. It will then use the information it collects to target ads to non-Facebook users.”

    Those “Like” buttons are probably going to get a lot more hated. But as we saw above, the actual information Facebook collects on you comes from a lot more than just internet activity. So while non-Facebook users will be able to opt-out of “interest-based” advertising from Facebook, that presumably doesn’t mean they’ll be able to opt-out of the actual tracking with both online and offline tracking methods. And now that Facebook is going to try to be serving targeted ads to everyone, including non-Facebook users, that also means that Facebook has an even bigger financial incentive to collect as much information as possible, from all possible data sources online and offline, on everyone too.

    Granted, Facebook (and Google and the other personal data collection behemoths) were almost certainly trying to track everyone anyway. It’s just going to be a little more profitable to track everyone now. Maybe a lot more.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 22, 2016, 6:36 pm
  25. Facebook has been developing new artificial intelligence (AI) technology to classify pictures on your Facebook page:


    By Dave Gershgorn
    February 2, 2017

    Facebook Quietly Used AI to Solve Problem of Searching Through Your Photos

    For the past few months, Facebook has secretly been rolling out a new feature to U.S. users: the ability to search photos by what’s depicted in them, rather than by captions or tags.

    The idea itself isn’t new: Google Photos had this feature built in when it launched in 2015. But on Facebook, the update solves a longstanding organization problem. It means finally being able to find that picture of your friend’s dog from 2013, or the selfie your mom posted from Mount Rushmore in 2009… without 20 minutes of scrolling.

    To make photos searchable, Facebook analyzes every single image uploaded to the site, generating rough descriptions of each one. This data is publicly available—there’s even a Chrome extension that will show you what Facebook’s artificial intelligence thinks is in each picture—and the descriptions can also be read out loud for Facebook users who are vision-impaired.

    For now, the image descriptions are vague, but expect them to get a lot more precise. Today’s announcement specified the AI can identify the color and type of clothes a person is wearing, as well as famous locations and landmarks, objects, animals and scenes (garden, beach, etc.) Facebook’s head of AI research, Yann LeCun, told reporters the same functionality would eventually come for videos, too.

    Facebook has in the past championed plans to make all of its visual content searchable—especially Facebook Live. At the company’s 2016 developer conference, head of applied machine learning Joaquin Quiñonero Candela said one day AI would watch every Live video happening around the world. If users wanted to watch someone snowboarding in real time, they would just type “snowboarding” into Facebook’s search bar. On-demand viewing would take on a whole new meaning.

    There are privacy considerations, however. Being able to search photos for specific clothing or religious place of worship, for example, could make it easy to target Facebook users based on religious belief. Photo search also extends Facebook’s knowledge of users beyond what they like and share, to what they actually do in real life. That could allow for far more specific targeting for advertisers. As with everything on Facebook, features have their cost—your data.

    Posted by J Barker | February 3, 2017, 9:53 pm

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