Facebook paid kids as young as 13 to install spyware on their phones to track their every move, and they snuck around behind Apple’s back to do it:
Desperate for data on its competitors, Facebook has been secretly paying people to install a “Facebook Research” VPN that lets the company suck in all of a user’s phone and web activity, similar to Facebook’s Onavo Protect app that Apple banned in June and that was removed in August. Facebook sidesteps the App Store and rewards teenagers and adults to download the Research app and give it root access to network traffic in what may be a violation of Apple policy so the social network can decrypt and analyze their phone activity, a TechCrunch investigation confirms. Facebook admitted to TechCrunch it was running the Research program to gather data on usage habits.
I think a lot of well-meaning and smart legislators are reluctant to regulate social media and tech companies because those companies
donate freely to their campaigns have convinced them that the magic pixie fairy dust of techbro innovation doesn’t work if even a whiff of evil government regulation is involved. That’s obviously not true – these companies products are pretty mature and the market is fairly well understood, so it’s more than ready to be regulated.
If some other established entity, like, say, the Roman Catholic Church, paid 13 year olds $20 a month to let a bunch of priests watch them on hidden cameras, we’d be sharpening up the pitchforks. We need to treat Facebook the same way we’d treat any other big corporation that consistently lies and does real societal harm in order to increase their profits. There’s very little special and innovative about them, as far as I’m concerned.
Facebook is a criminal enterprise. I’m generally opposed to boycotts, but using Facebook is aiding and abetting.
The solicitation to minors is troubling, but if Facebook wants to pay adults real money to sell their privacy, I don’t see a public policy issue there.
But is it limited to their privacy alone and not the people they interact with?
@Baud: is it their own privacy or others as well? Curious about this
The Moar You Know
I’m an IT security guy and this is so wrong on so many levels.
@MattF: I have a lot of objection to the platform for many reasons, but am flat-out starting to come around to this point of view. Yeah, a TOS violation, which is what this is, is not a crime as such. And what Facebook is, letter of the law, is not criminal.
But it should be.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
The Church could have done shit like this for 400 years and the freaking Pope would be bloviating that no one understood that it was wrong, and would ask that those offended pray for them.
Zuckerberg probably uses the Church’s PR firm to help him craft his weasel replies.
But, yeah damn, Facebook needs to be taken down over this. Unsurprisingly, Facebook gets defenders from tech journalists, not just because they are techno-libertarians, but because they worship technology even more vehemently than gun nuts love their guns.
ETA. I think Congress is unhappy that the tech industry does not give them more bags of money than they currently do, and that they treat politicians like ignorant boobs, which they kinda are.
Friends don’t let friends work for facehook.
(Sic/ not Sic.)
The Moar You Know
@OzarkHillbilly: Right to the crux of the problem by post #3. No, it isn’t, and that’s the problem with Facebook – if one of your friends consents to some form of monitoring, you’re getting monitored whether you consent or not.
I only skimmed the article quickly, but I didn’t notice an allegation that other people’s privacy was affected. My impression was that the program monitored how users used their phone, not the content of their communications.
[Individual 1] mistermix
To those asking if it’s the privacy of the user only – the answer is clearly no. Facebook’s “Research” app runs a VPN that can intercept all communication to and from the device. In other words, when you’re running “Research”, Facebook can see everything. So it can see messages to the device as well as from it. Now, some of those messages could be encrypted by the underlying app itself (such as iMessage or WhatsApp), and Facebook could choose to not look at some traffic, but the ability to see messages from others clearly was there.
@[Individual 1] mistermix: Is that in the article? You would think that would be the lead.
ETA: I did my own research. See below.
Hey, what have you got against free money, anyway?!??!! WDYHASM??!!!
Who’s against “improving the user experience”??!?!!
Seriously, these FB apps (and similar) are marketed as a way to get money for doing “nothing” with mumbo jumbo about “general trends to improve the user experience”. They’re not doing that. They’re scraping all the data they can to sell to advertisers who will do with it what they want. That needs to be spelled out clearly. (And probably needs to be illegal.)
And “kids are only 5% and the kids got their parents consent” isn’t good enough. Kids can’t know what they’re doing with regards to their information, and their parents often have less idea than the kids do.
Agreed that it’s well past time that these monsters were regulated like utilities.
(“Yeah, the devil’s in the details.”)
Like almost everything else in American policies, Republicans would be defending or ignoring it because Fuck You, Libtards. And that’s pretty much what’s going on here with Facebook. If you want to see abusive internet companies regulated, put Democrats in charge.
Ok, I went back and read more carefully and it says this:
So that appears to indicate that non-users may be affected. That said, if someone you talk to wants to share you communications with Facebook, I don’t know how you stop them.
@Baud: it included content including photos and videos. If your teen daughter sent a sexy selfie to her boyfriend and he was in this program, Facebook got the photo.
@[Individual 1] mistermix: Thanx. Yeah, that’s a problem.
At a minimum, Facebook should be pressured to disclose the data they were actually collecting. In terms of legislation, I can see a law that requires such disclosure.
There’s a Facebook icon on the right side of this column. ???
Oh, You noticed that too.
Funny, that, and all this.
Fuckerberg needs a lot of time in the barrel.
Major Major Major Major
Facebook can (and does?) vacuum up every single thing your phone does, network-wise, with this installed. I’m a little upset that some people are focusing on the Apple TOS aspect of this—would it be better somehow if it was an Android app?
What if the adults don’t understand what they’re selling? “This certificate allows Facebook to monitor the network traffic of your device, nothing more than you’ve already given to other corporations such as Apple [or google for the hypothetical android case], in order to deliver a better user experience.”
@oatler.: You aren’t required to click it.
As a mobile app developer (lapsed), what they are doing is certainly an abuse of the beta/enterprise app process.
Why have an app in permanent beta? Beta testing is to let a larger audience find problems in your app before letting it lose in the wild, not spy on users.
Enterprise Apps are Spyware for corporate owned devices. Which is why many employees have one phone for work, one for personal use.
This also hilights the need to encrypt my user’s data before it hits the network layer, especially for PII and such.
totus thug to US spooks: ‘Go back to school’
Decades of kissing rethugs’ ass and dissing dems finally comes to this for the ‘law enforcement’ types like fbi, nsa, cia and other 3 lettered orgs.
Oh. So do nothing then.
@MattF: I am not opposed to boycotts at all. At least limit Facebook usage to a once a month update with friends. Also, Scott Lemieux at the LGM blog has come up with an idea to crowd source Howard Schulz’s campaign slogan.
Meanwhile, let’s crowdsource Schultz’s slogan:
“More money for me, fuck you”
“Learn to code”
“FIX THE DEBT (as long as it doesn’t affect me)”
…Looks like calling people “un-American” is going to be Schultz’s calling card:” http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2019/01/why-schultz-is-running
“. . . any other big corporation that consistently lies and does real societal harm in order to increase their profits.”
That’s pretty much how most big corporations operate, seems to me.
But, but, but, I *depend* on facebook to communicate with my writer’s group … Democracy is very important to me but not using one of the tools used to subvert Democracy in the 2016 election would be, like, really inconvenient…
/insert sarcasm/smacking my head emoji here.
@Sherparick: Boycotts look to me like willfully limiting your own choices. Which doesn’t mean I’m a fan of Starbucks– but I just prefer to buy my coffee elsewhere. Also, I like my coffee black, with nothing added. If I want the sugar, I’ll buy coffee gelato or ice cream.
@The Moar You Know:
This particular behavior is not criminal, but it’s only one part of a much larger pattern. Facebook does what it wants and doesn’t give a damn about its agreements, either with customers or business partners. That is not the behavior of a company that carefully abides by the law, and there’s good evidence that they’ve engaged in criminal activity. For example, there’s a lot of evidence of massive fraud in their ad sales business.
@Major Major Major Major: Yeah, adequate disclosure is a real problem, but this doesn’t seem to be a situation where the adult consumers who got paid are complaining.
@Another Scott: That chunk of info helps me understand better why I was turned off by Facebook from the get-go: the weaponization of peer pressure. I watched friends and colleagues go ga-ga for it in strange ways, and try to recruit me into their time-waste. Now I understand it was all part of the addiction — a bunch of digital junkies sharing needles. And it was deliberate.
@The Moar You Know: Smoking isn’t criminal. Just sayin’…
Good point about the products being mature and the misdeeds plain at this point. Sometimes even reps I like talk about Facebook, Twitter, etc., as if they’re magickal unicorn poop. I suspect one thing that stymies regulation efforts is the rapid evolution of the platforms, but doing nothing is ceding control to amoral profiteers who’ve demonstrated they’ve got no problem wrecking democracies worldwide to rake in an extra buck. In addition to protecting consumer privacy by making abuses like this extremely costly for the companies involved, these platforms desperately need ad regulation. Or rather we desperately need it to rein the platforms in.
Anyone go through the process of deleting their Facebook account? I mean, REALLY deleting it? I understand Facebook offers flavors where the account is deleted, but your data is still there. I’d like to nuke me (huh, another phrase I thought I’d never type) in their system (and, given how slimey they are, it must not be TOO easy to do).
@Omnes Omnibus: Amazing! Oh, Tragic 8-Ball!
@Brickley Paiste: It depends on the group. Several blogs I had participated in moved their public forums to Facebook and I stopped participating. Those who were hosting these sites told me that they could assure privacy. As if. I am not an idiot. At any rate, I just dropped them altogether. My current level of FB activity is reading things posted by others and I have noted a significant drop off in posting by all people except maybe my daughter, who posts content and links for a variety of pro-LGBT and Native American sites. I did use FB last year to post what I thought were clear and accurate resources on the ACA repeal efforts that were comprehensible to general readers. But if you were using FB to communicate with customers — like a restaurant closed for the day for a private party or that day’s menu — then it seems to me not that big a deal to keep doing that.
Mostly, I think FB is boring.
Major Major Major Major
@Baud: I read the TechCrunch article yesterday and don’t recall if it says, but—are any of the consumers complaining?
We definitely need laws to address disclosure/TOS language regarding tech, among other industries.
An interesting question which the article raises is what, if anything, Apple will do in response. Apple has made a big deal about the importance of user privacy and the question is whether they’ll put their money (OK, Facebook’s money which Apple would like to be Apple’s money) where their mouth is.
More than anything else including medicine, algorithmic media like Facebook and Twitter needs government attention in the form of stringent regulation and publically run services.
@[Individual 1] mistermix
Facebook bought WhatsApp. if I’m not mistaken, so would have ready internal access.
@The Dangerman: I tried after google automatically made me an account (or was it ATT? I never could get the story straight). After they asked me for a copy of my passport or my driver’s license (we’ll be good, we swear), I came here and asked. Several of the jackals recommended I do nothing. So that’s what I did. It sits there collecting electronic dust.
@The Dangerman: I have not deleted my FB because a) I do use it a few times a year to get FB-only info or look up acquaintances and b) there is no way those lying cheats would actually delete things anyway.
One disturbing thing us how many people think they can avoid FB with Instagram – which is owned by FB.
Oh shit. My family insisted I use WhatsApp. I only ever use the app to respond to messages, and I never post any info about myself, but still …
The purpose of most apps is to lure you in with a promise of amusement or some benefit but their real purpose is no different than Facebook’s – to acquire and sell your personal information. That’s been clear for a while.
I’m not sure how much impact regulation would have. People mostly shrug at the idea that their comings and goings are of value to people/industries whose goal is to part them from their money directly.
It’s so easy to set up websites nowadays. When we went on vacation with three other couples last year I just added a couple of private pages to my website to get everybody on the same page re the itinerary/reservations/etc. Gave everybody a dropbox link for shared photos so people could go there and save/download/ignore favorites. It might have been a bit easier to do this in facebook, but that then requires people to sign into facebook (give up varying amounts of their privacy to do so), etc.
I’m not picking on your daughter here, but there are so many ways to get better reader engagement than facebook
Anything that encourages and further’s facebook’s ubiquity is a bad thing.
@The Dangerman: You can’t do that. Even if you were allowed to delete all the data you put in and walk away, Facebook is keeping a file on you and recording everything your friends and acquaintances add about you, and developing machine learning so if you’re ever seen in a photo you can be tagged which means with GPS data your historical location can be tracked by Facebook without you maintaining an account on it. Whether you have or use the public-facing aspects of Facebook is pretty irrelevant.
Much as with many giant corporations, talking about boycotting the giant thing as a way of hurting it is naive and possibly dangerous. It just doesn’t work at all. Regulation is the correct way to address society-wide things like this. Whether you delete your facebook account is virtue signalling, go ahead and have one (and don’t shovel data into it how about) and pressure Congress to do their job and address the problem.
Yeah, that’s kinda what I was guessing.
I haven’t used my account in over a year and I thought i’d zap it, but I’ll let it collect dust. The funny thing is a lot of prominent pictures on that account are me firing weapons (it was at a public range, but that isn’t all that clear in the pics) and makes me look like Mr. NRA when I’m anything but … it was only pics and not text, however, so maybe that can’t be crawled for information.
@Baud: Wouldn’t it be wiser, given their history, to assume they are hoovering up any and all user data they can, regardless of what they say? That’s where I’m at, having walked away from the Faceborg the day of the 2016 election.
ETA: what MMMM said…
Did anyone see yesterday’s Finding your roots? Sheryl Sandberg was on it. The show highlighted her Jewish ancestry and the travails of her immigrant forefathers and mothers. Was it damage control for the Soros smearing revelations? My mind immediately went there.
@Brickley Paiste: I don’t want to set up a website. Seriously, I communicate with the people I want to via email or phone or text, and I use FB mostly to follow others, including a few political groups that post their scheduled activities there.
Major Major Major Major
@NotMax: @Amir Khalid: iirc WhatsApp encrypts all its messages at the device level, so Facebook central couldn’t read them if they wanted to.
I think I read somewhere that Zuck wants to mash all his messaging platforms into one horrible Frankenstein’s monster.
@schrodingers_cat: No, it just shows how deep the moral rot is that it either didn’t occur to her or she didn’t care that she would be trying to get some benefit from anti-Semitism by pursuing George Soros. I mean, I think it is totally fair for FB to try to figure out whether he had a financial angle underlying his antipathy to FB, but when it was clear he didn’t, that should have been the end of the story.
@Barbara: Forgive me for not being so trusting of the COO of Faceborg. It seemed like an attempt to garner sympathy and whitewash her doings at the Faceborg. She also spoke of her husband’s sudden death.
@schrodingers_cat: I suspect she’s in perpetual damage control mode, what with the Soros thing, the drumbeat of revelations about FB abusing consumer data, Michelle O pointing out the limitations of her “Lean In” model in hilarious fashion, etc.
Yup, that’s been going on for a while. They’ve been almost broke and wiped out and made a “pivot” to video. They also received a miraculous cash injection around that time. FB is most likely compromised by the Russkies.
@Major Major Major Major:
Facebook is merging Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram.
Ireland’s regulators are already looking into how it affects privacy.
If it wasn’t for European regulations, we would know little about Facebook. Our laissez-privacy American system is utter crap.
Apple pulled Facebook’s Enterprise Certificate that they used to distribute this application.
That also killed FB’s internal apps that were distributed with the same certificate.
More on theverge here
Major Major Major Major
Just wait’ll you see what Congress comes up with in the next few years!
@Yarrow: I have Whatsapp on my phone, because my family in India is on it.
@tarragon: That’s pretty much the maximum that Apple can do.
@schrodingers_cat: I was looking into alternatives to WhatsApp the other day for something else and found this article.
10 Alternatives to Whatsapp that Actually Respect Your Privacy
Has anyone noticed the independent and bipartisan CEO attacks only liberal politicians and liberal ideas? For which he is invited on every single cable news network. Come on. Show some respect to your audience. Stop fucking SCAMMING us.
@The Dangerman: I accidentally created an account 3 months ago, deleted it immediately, it’s still there.
Facebook seems to have a basic ethical problem and it’s systemic. They lie all the time and they hire and promote liars.
That’s self-selecting, and like the Trump Administration it won’t get better- it will only get worse.
They’ll have to stop lying if they want to be a better company, but really it’s probably so much a part of the company culture by now it may be too late. At this point they’re hiring for “lying”. That’s the skill they’re selecting.
Apple has one more step they could take. Kill the developer certificate and account. That would kill every FB app on customer phones.
It’s not true but it is one of the 50 most boring fake facts about Ronald Reagan.
I love how he didn’t prepare for this at all. He is stumped by the kiss-ass questions on Morning Joe. He’s up there just talking away, knowing nothing about this subject or sector, but supremely confident that he would not only be good at it, but the best at it.
He’s actually a lot more like Trump than he knows. We should have taxed these people. They’ve run amok.
@MattF: No it’s not. It’s a good start – pulling that certificate will result in all manner of chaos inside of Facebook, but Apple can go so far as to pull the Facebook app from the store. They can also sue Facebook for breaching the TOS. I think it’s safe to say that at a minimum, Apple will specifically target Facebook in their lobbying to Congress.
All in all, I think I’d rather have Congress as an enemy than Apple. This was really stupid of them.
J R in WV
I’ve started calling “Facebook” FascistBook, just because they’re both so useful to central state oppression, and so willing to facilitate that oppression, anywhere, everywhere, all the time.
Zuckerberg is willing and happy to support the election of an authoritarian dictator to make money. He’s willing to do ANYTHING to make money. Money is his core value, his only value. Sad!
Fuck that guy! If he actually shared data with Cambridge Analytical or any other group that worked for Trump’s election, he should get RICOed out of business and spend 20 to life in Supermax. That would shut down FascistBook and do away with all the personal data they’re collected.