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

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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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