Realist, not conformist analysis of the latest financial, business and political news

Facebook’s Power Over Our Data – Who Would You Prefer To Have It?

Ellie May O’Hagan makes what she thinks is an entirely uncontroversial statement. One that should in fact set us all thinking because it’s is in fact highly controversial. Sure, Facebook – and others – have vast amounts of data on and about us. Given the technological stage we’re at right now someone, somewhere, is going to have that information. So, who do we want to have it and who do we want to control said data?

The revelation that Cambridge Analytica exploited the data of 50 million Facebook profiles to target American voters is indeed frightening. But Cambridge Analytica shouldn’t act as a diversion from the real bad guy in this story: Facebook. It is mystifying that as his company regulates the flow of information to billions of human beings, encouraging certain purchasing habits and opinions, and monitoring people’s interactions, Mark Zuckerberg is invited to give lectures at Harvard without being treated with due scepticism.

We have now reached the point where an unaccountable private corporation is holding detailed data on over a quarter of the world’s population. Zuckerberg and his company have been avoiding responsibility for some time. Governments everywhere need to get serious in how they deal with Facebook.

Let’s just start from the reality of our universe. We’re at this stage of digitisation that someone, somewhere, is going to have this information given how much we like using the various digital platforms. OK.

So, who do we want to have the power over that information? Ellie is obviously insistent that people engaged in the accumulation of mere filthy lucre shouldn’t be those people. At least not as the ultimate arbiter of what is done with it.

Myself I think I’d prefer the hunt for pelf to any other grouping of people controlling it. Certainly I’d prefer those interested only in the cash to be deciding what to do with it rather than the sort of people who get elected to political power. Or, worse, the not-elected who end up running state bureauracies.

A little story, the Germans used Hollerith card machines – supplied by IBM – to tot up the results of the Census in the 1930s. Come the round up to the camps all they had to do was run the cards through again and note who had put “Jew” under religion. So, we’d like the State to have all that power would we? Note whose cards are, quite literally, marked?

Myself I’d prefer those who only care about the loot really. Ellie would prefer those who might actually use it. You?

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So Much For Subtlety
So Much For Subtlety
3 years ago

Come the round up to the camps all they had to do was run the cards through again and note who had put “Jew” under religion. I suspect this is a myth designed to smear IBM more than anything else. After all, Germany also rounded up those people who were born Jews but had become Christians – occasionally nuns and priests. They also rounded up those people who had one Jewish grandparent as long as they were not a veteran of World War One. The computer did not tell them that. They did have Block Leaders in every neighbourhood who… Read more »

So Much For Subtlety
So Much For Subtlety
3 years ago
Reply to  Theophrastus

Precisely what I mean by a myth designed to smear IBM. IBM points out that no records from its German subsidiary have survived. But this man wants to deo a Goldhagen and get rich by writing asinine commentary. Notice that every legal case against IBM has been dismissed due to the utter lack of evidence. The 1933 census, with design help and tabulation services provided by IBM through its German subsidiary, proved to be pivotal to the Nazis in their efforts to identify, isolate, and ultimately destroy the country’s Jewish minority. If this man has the slightest bit of evidence… Read more »

So Much For Subtlety
So Much For Subtlety
3 years ago
Reply to  Tim Worstall

I hope I am not accusing you of blaming IBM. But Theo’s link was to an author who did. And I think that your claim is the faint echo of that lie.

Were they used later? Does anyone have any evidence for that? I don’t think that book produces much if any. They did not need IBM. Several generations of Europeans honestly and faithfully filling out census forms meant the Germans had all the information they needed.

Maritime Barbarian
Maritime Barbarian
3 years ago

The IBM card system was used by the Nazis, I understand. But not as the sole source of data.
IBM Germany continued to function and supply the State during the war. IBM America reported it as a “non-performing asset” in its books, because it didn’t deliver profits from 1941-45.

Spike
3 years ago

The point is not that IBM killed the Jews. The point is that access to information and processing power was a tool that enabled the partial automation of the Holocaust. I am not for blaming the tool. But the “moderate” argument that the government should not seize stuff but simply have a modern database on where the stuff is, is evil in a three-piece suit.

Spike
3 years ago

Americans have sent money for our pensions to Washington “for safe keeping,” and since Obama-care, anyone using medical insurance must now send their complete medical records to Washington “for safe keeping.” Some of us maintain this illusion that anything there is safe, despite daily anecdotes of treachery and lawlessness. New generations, brought up to believe that no one needs privacy unless he has something to hide, have voluntarily coughed up tons of personal information and given it to Facebook et al. Voluntarily. The question is on moving it to Washington “for safe keeping.” You’ve got to be kidding! Police and… Read more »

Maritime Barbarian
Maritime Barbarian
3 years ago

Stalin was described as “Ghengis Khan with a telephone “.
We can hardly blame the phone company for the Gulag. Or Alexander Bell for inventing it.

Bloke In Italy
3 years ago

Tim, I think you’re right in theory but naive in practice, I linked to your article from a post on the subject at: http://www.homoitalicus.it/2018/03/19/secrets-and-lies/

The reality is that the NSA and all the rest of the federal alphabet soup have all they want from the Silicon valley giants.

Pcar
Pcar
3 years ago

C4 News tonight
First 40 of 53 minutes was Evil, Fraudulent Cambridge Analytica. Obviously nothing else happened in world today.

If Cambridge Analytica had been working for Hellary would story have been covered by BBC/C4 at all?

Spike
3 years ago
Reply to  Pcar

Aye, the point of devoting 40 minutes to this is that it furthers the search for the Democrat Holy Grail: Proof that Trump’s victory, which denied Her Nibs the Oval Office that was her birthright, was somehow illegitimate!

BniC
BniC
3 years ago

In Canada the liberal govt added a declaration to a funding application for summer jobs for teens etc. A number of organisations complained when it was introduced that it infringed their religious rights to have to make the declaration.
The number of refused applications has gone from 150ish to 1,500ish.
The declaration was around supporting reproductive rights so any anti-abortion group or group that was against was penalised

moqifen
moqifen
3 years ago

The left and the Guardian are only whining because Trump won. When Obama did something similar in 2008 the left were congratulating him and lauding him for his innovative use of technology. See – https://www.forbes.com/sites/kalevleetaru/2018/03/19/why-are-we-only-now-talking-about-facebook-and-elections/#7a9426864838

Much like the rubbish vomited out by Capt potato I view most of the articles especially opinion pieces in the Guardian as pure left wing drivel – full of lies and butt hurt. I wouldn’t even wipe my arse with it – it’s so toxic.

James in NZ
James in NZ
3 years ago

I would trust Facebook with my data far more than I trust anyone from the State. Facebook cannot use the data it holds against me, it can merely sell it on; the State has the power of men with guns if they don’t like something that I have provided them.

This is why I returned our recent census with “none of your business” on 90% of the questions.

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