And I thought the Equifax security breach last year was bad.
The situation exposed this past week with Facebook is not a breach, it’s intentional, has lasted for years and it’s called “psychographic research.” If you are a Facebook user, and what genealogist isn’t today, it has already affected, read targeted, you. Facebook intentionally collected and allowed the collection of various types of information from their user’s profiles that enabled “others” to construct an extremely accurate psychological personality profile for each Facebook user. Those profiles allowed bad actors to tailor content intended to manipulate each individual Facebook user for their own nefarious purposes.
Facebook exploited the trust of every single one of their 1.8 billion users. Yes, that’s billion, with a B. Of those, 214 million are located in the US.
Most genealogists use Facebook routinely to maintain links to family, share photos and participate in various groups that support our genealogy addiction. Unfortunately, while Facebook users receive camaraderie and social media makes our world smaller – we have been being used as unwitting pawns in a heinous psychological experiment.
I’ve always said there is no such thing as “free,” and I know full well that Facebook supports the “free” platform with advertising revenue from advertisers hoping to reach people who like cats, for example, are in my age group or perhaps my geography. I never knew that they were stealthily gathering my information and selling it to unethical companies and organizations whose intention was to manipulate me psychologically and more specifically, attempting to manipulate my vote.
The full intention of these manipulators is to do whatever is necessary to mold your mind, including distribution of incorrect information, remaining blind to infiltration by “bots” and allowing Facebook users to be targeted with the intention of sewing divisiveness. As a result, we have the most polarized, hate-filled and divided country I’ve known in my lifetime.
This wasn’t an accidental security breach, nor even a security breach due to negligence. This was a planned act, sanctioned and even abetted by Facebook. They are complicit.
Without allowing this article to dip into the toxic brew of politics, suffice it to say that the intention of various “bad actors” was full well to sway our election and undermine our democratic system by whatever methods worked, regardless of ethics or morality, and Facebook was a full-on willing partner. User information was sold not just to the highest bidder, but every bidder, who just happen to be the devil(s) incarnate. Not one of the people who did this had “your” best interest at heart, which in and of itself is enough to tell me whatever they want is a bad idea.
If you’re unaware, please educate yourself on what has happened and fully understand that this DOES affect you. Even if you personally have never played a seemingly innocent Facebook game, like Farmville, or clicked on one of those “personality profiles,” “what is your movie star name” links or answered those “tell me 10 things about yourself” postings, one of your Facebook friends surely has…and your data has been collected and used both against you and the underpinnings of our very democracy. While I’m an American, there is evidence that these same shady characters were also involved with manipulating the highly volatile Brexit vote in the UK along with elections elsewhere in the world.
Even more unfortunate, many of the people on Facebook, especially those focused on genealogy, are of or near retirement age. 26% are age 55-64 and 21% are over 65. These people tend to be the most trusting, the least technologically savvy and the most likely to click on those fun links or answer those “20 questions” challenges posted by friends – never suspecting that they are exposing themselves to targeted psychological manipulation by people who are willing to pay to have their poison information planted in your newsfeed.
That total of 47% means that the private data of over 100 million US people of AARP age has been gathered. In 2017, the entire population of the US was 325 million, including children, so roughly 30% of the entire US population has been targeted and unknowingly manipulated by God-knows-who-all.
Think about this for a minute. Look at the things you’ve “Liked” on Facebook over the past few days. For me, it’s been cats, quilts, wildlife, photos, genetic genealogy, DNA articles and my friends and cousins’ feeds. To many Facebook users, a “like” is the online equivalent of waving at your neighbor when you see them drive by.
Nothing revealing in what I “liked”, you might say, but that’s not true. You can tell that I’m both empathetic and science focused. You can tell by looking at the race of my friends along with articles that I “like” that I’m certainly not prejudiced. Combine those things together, along with whatever else Facebook has collected by reading my posts and private messages, and you can easily tell what kinds of propaganda to plant in my news feed to upset me.
Post just one article about animal abuse in my feed, and I’m on the phone calling someone to emphatically demand change. For example, the dog last week who died on a United Airlines flight. I’m certainly not flying United if I have any choice whatsoever.
Racism, discrimination, domestic violence or child abuse…same reaction. Now, do you still think you’re not predictable by the trail of psychological breadcrumbs you’re leaving behind?
Ever forward one of those, “If you love Jesus, you’ll forward this” pictures because you certainly didn’t want anyone to think you didn’t love Jesus, or felt obligated or guilty if you didn’t forward? Well, you were psychologically manipulated and you just told the exploiters about your religious beliefs so you can be targeted and so can everyone of your downstream friends and family members.
Up until now, the viruses we worried about were viruses implanted on your computer. What Facebook did was to pave the way for these exploiters to plant viruses in your brain without your knowledge.
Even worse, Facebook recently made changes in their algorithm to limit the things you see in your feed, and the ONLY way for you to increase the things you like to see is to “like” even more, or tag the page or account to “show first,” providing Facebook with even more information about you to sell to whomever.
I feel somewhat responsible at this point, because I wrote an article just 10 days ago telling you exactly how to do just that – never suspecting the clandestine information collection that was occurring, or why. So yes, I’ve been exploited too. And I’m furious.
If you thought “Big Brother” was the government all along, you’re wrong. It’s Facebook who will apparently sell to anyone including the devil himself.
Is Psychographic Profiling Accurate?
If you’re doubting the accuracy of psychographic profiling, as I was, take into account the compiled research information about Facebook “likes” by a grad student at Cambridge University. The inspiration for this whole debacle was inspired by this research which indicated that by gathering:
- only 68 Facebook “likes,” your skin color could be predicted with 95% accuracy
- 68 likes – your sexual orientation predicted with 85% accuracy
- 70 likes – they would “know you” better than your friends
- 150 likes – know you better than your parents
- 300 likes – know you better than your partner
Massive surveillance designed to capitalize on your emotional and psychological vulnerabilities in the hands of those who do not have your best interest at heart.
Take this one step further and imagine that if it’s obvious that you are strongly opposed to sex trafficking of children, someone who wanted to deter you from voting for a particular candidate might make up a story about that candidate engaged in a sex ring trafficking children. Would you dislike that candidate? If you were on the fence, would it knock you right off? If your answer is yes, then psychographic profiling and manipulation worked. Does it matter whether the information is true? No, not as long as it works. A vote now is worth being caught in a lie later – or at least that’s the theory.
And we were worried about what our DNA might divulge. Absolutely nothing, comparatively speaking.
I’m listing a few articles here that describe, in horrifying detail, the inside workings of the stealth Facebook operations by shady operators and the companies, like Cambridge Analytica. They utilized harvested user data by collaborating with Facebook to control what users see and targeting users through their emotionally vulnerabilities. In other words, you were fed information specifically aimed at making you feel one way or another.
Former Facebook operations manager, Sandy Parakilas, yesterday, in a Newsweek article stated that most of Facebook’s users likely had their information acquired by companies exploiting the same terms and conditions that allowed Cambridge Analytica’s data gathering through an app called “thisisyourdigitallife.” While only 270,000 people had played that game on Facebook,” the data of over 50 million was collected from the friends (and friends of friends) of those 270,000 people through exposures exploited by that app with Facebook’s full knowledge and consent – in just 3 months time.
This is both terrifying and nauseating.
- Mark Zuckerberg finally commented today, on Facebook of course, at this link.
- The Guardian and the New York Times first broke the news. Guardian article – The Cambridge Analytica Files: meet the data war whistleblower
- CNN article – Facebook’s data scandal: Key names to know
- LA Times (note the photo) – data mining company allegedly used Facebook to distort user’s reality
- Newsweek – Facebook whistle-blower reveals Cambridge Analytica is tip of data-mining iceberg
- New York Times Podcast – The Data Harvesters
The NYT podcast is especially enlightening and explains the timeline and methodology of how a bright young man devised a methodology to harvest Facebook data with the explicit intention of influencing voting behavior to reshape American politics. Realizing his discoveries had become a monster out of control, he resigned in 2014. Now he has become the whistleblower that blew the lid off of this scandal of unprecedented scope and scale, a magnitude undreamed of…at least by most of us. This is the most detailed of all of the resources I’ve found and explains the path from what seemed a relatively innocent and interesting discovery initially to a weaponized massively deployed fear-based political exploitation tool just three years later.
Ok, now that you know what’s happening, what can you do?
Many people are leaving Facebook and deleting their accounts. The #DeleteFacebook movement is growing.
Be aware that this doesn’t mean that what you’ve already done is gone. Your postings and comments on people’s pages and in other groups will still exist. It’s just your own account that is removed. At least you can’t be manipulated by what is fed to you anymore, but you also won’t be able to connect with family members. For many, and especially older people, Facebook is where friends are and connections make people feel a lot less isolated, especially when mobility or distance is an issue.
Furthermore, the cow has already left the barn, and “they” already have a psychological profile of you, meaning whoever has gathered or purchased your data. Believing “they” will delete that information and never use it is foolhardy.
Yes, you can leave Facebook. That’s clearly the easiest and most direct approach and I’ll show you how to do that in the next section.
If you don’t want to leave Facebook, there are precautionary steps you can take.
First, stop interacting, meaning “liking” things. Yea, I know. Double edged sword.
Second, don’t take any quizzes or post any personal information, at all. Ever. There’s a reason why people with high level security clearances aren’t allowed to have Facebook accounts.
Third, do not, EVER click on those “clickbait” things that give you something interesting for free. I don’t care how great you’ll look airbrushed and all glamoured up on the cover of a fashion magazine, and yes, my friend did look fantastic, BUT – DON’T DO IT! It’s an entryway for the rats. Same with “what would you look like as a woman?” or man, or bald, etc.
Ask yourself when you see something like this – why would someone want to give you something for “free?” Free is often a clandestine trap for the unsuspecting. The more interesting it looks, the more suspicious you should be.
Just. Don’t. Click.
Fourth, take steps through Facebook settings to protect yourself from application platform sharing. Of course, this does nothing to affect what Facebook itself is collecting in order to target you with focused ads. Ever wonder why something you googled outside of Facebook now appears in your Facebook ad feed almost immediately? It’s not coincidence. It’s your digital trail of breadcrumbs.
Here are some great articles about Facebook security and privacy, and how to shore yours up.
I strongly recommend the following FaceCrooks article that not only tells you what to do to protect yourself, but why.
Fifth – do not sign in to applications through Facebook, which provides your Facebook user data to that application, potentially exposing your friends’ data too. These articles explain how to get rid of those pesky apps, including an article by Facebook itself.
- Electronic Frontier Foundation – How to Change Your Facebook Settings to Opt Out of Platform API Sharing.
- FaceCrooks – Why you should NOT install “Fun and Entertaining” Facebook Applications
- CNN Article – Fed up with Facebook? Here’s how to protect your data
- Facebook – Cracking Down on Platform Abuse
Strengthening or Deleting Your Account
I’m going to check my own privacy settings, so come along and then use this same technique to check your own.
Go to Settings by clicking on the down arrow on the top right of your blue bar. You’ll see a dropdown list that includes “Settings.”
Click on Settings.
If you are going to leave Facebook, you can download a copy of your data through the “Download a copy of your Facebook data” link, at the bottom of the list.
By clicking on “Manage Account,” you can delete your account. Note that delete means permanently.
Don’t want to delete your account and leave Facebook? Then let’s improve your privacy.
On the left hand side, click on “Privacy” which shows your various selections. Lock this down to only your friends and allow “only me” to see your friends list.
Next, on the left hand sidebar, click on “Apps.” At the top, you’ll see which applications have access to your Facebook account. I didn’t think there would be any other than WeRelate, the Ancestry app, but I was wrong.
It appears that I have indeed logged into a few sites through Facebook.
Most of these I at least recognize, except one. Who the devil is Hub One and why are they in my account?
Clicking on the pencil icon by the app shows you your options, below.
Looking at what the apps have access to is enlightening. Apps have access to both my profile photo and other public profile information, plus my e-mail address.
Neither the link titled “Choose the Info This App Can Use” nor “Learn How Apps Can Use Your Info” tell me what this app is doing or even “who” this app is. Both just link to an article. Not useful.
The “Remove Info Collected by the App” simply tells me to contact the developer by clicking the X in the bottom right corner after opening the app. Three strikes, Facebook.
I still don’t know who Hub One is, nor what they are doing, nor any way to find out what data they’ve collected. I couldn’t contact them if I wanted to, because I don’t know who they are.
I resorted to Google and discovered that a company called Hub One says they are a document management company, but Googling a little further, look what I found.
Interesting, a company that says they are an “integrator of mobile and tracking solutions for 4500 enterprises” shows up on my Facebook account and I have no idea why.
Of course, this might not be the same company. The logos don’t look the same, and I have absolutely no way to know. Facebook certainly isn’t telling.
Furthermore, how does one figure out HOW to contact the company that has weaseled their way into my Facebook account. Clearly Facebook knows, because they approved this app for their platform, but they aren’t divulging AND they are putting the onus back on you to figure out who they’ve allowed to weasel in.
Hub One, whoever you are, you’re gone!
I certainly don’t want Bing collecting data about me from Facebook either, which probably explains about those ads mysteriously appearing on Facebook right after I googled “witch costumes” for my granddaughter. To delete, I click on the little X by their app, then continue in the box in the corner.
I use Skype, but why would it want access to my Facebook account? Same question for Norton Safe Web.
Next, click on the square box labeled “Apps, Websites and Plugins.”
You can disable all of the applications. I would suggest doing so by clicking on the bottom right on “disable platform.” That means no application can interact with Facebook by effectively shutting the door entirely. If you’re a blogger, and your blogging platform interacts with your Facebook account to post, you might not want to do this.
Next, click on the square box “Apps Others Use.”
By now, it should be pretty obvious that you’re really only as safe as your most exposed friend – same concept as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
I suspect I’ve disabled some of these options in the past, but look at what’s exposed now. This is the data that can be (and probably has been) scraped from my account through the accounts of my friends who use those apps that allow me to be targeted.
Not anymore, they are all gone now. Don’t forget to “Save.” For some reason, I had to repeat this process two or three times to get it to “take,” so check your selections afterwards. I’ll be generous and call it a glitch or a bug and not cynically suggest that maybe Facebook is trying to retain my “open door” settings.
There is no excuse. Period.
You knew and intentionally betrayed every single one of the people who trusted you by luring your subscribers into a false sense of security. You never told us that WE, our minds, are the commodity that you are selling. You never disclosed the truth. Your behavior is utterly reprehensible, especially given that your small act of contrition in your Facebook posting today only occurred after you were called onto the carpet, very publicly, years into this deceptive behavior.
Kind of reminds me of the unfaithful spouse who has been sleeping with half the town for several years. Finally caught, they’re very sorry, of course. Much like the betrayed spouse, I have lots of questions.
- I want to know what has been harvested from me.
- I want the history of what apps, if any, I interacted with, ever, that gathered or might have gathered my information. Don’t make me hunt for it like you made me hunt for the Russian bot information. Put it right there in my feed where I can’t miss it, you know, like you put the other articles you planted for me to read.
- I want to know who exposed my data.
- I want to know the identity of the apps on my account. You owe that much to your users, instead of making the victims attempt to figure out who that app is and how to contact them.
- I want a list of which apps you’ve determined to be acceptable for any Facebook user, who they are and what they are really doing. I want full transparency. Now.
- I want you to stop manipulating me either through ads or targeted psychological profiling as a result of surveillance designed to determine what to “serve” me in my newsfeed. Stop making me the unwilling victim in your information meat-market.
- I want to know what you’re doing for your users to right this wrong?
Just like I used to tell my kids, remorse after getting caught isn’t remorse about your behavior, it’s only remorse that you got caught.
- Just because you can doesn’t mean you should!
- Integrity is what you do when no one else is looking.
I guess Facebook and their compatriots in this psychographic war have removed any question about integrity. Now all that’s left is the cleanup, or divorce, your choice.
As for genealogists, make your decision about Facebook. If you stay, spruce up your privacy, protect yourself and one way or another, continue with your valuable genealogical research.
Please feel free to share the link to this article with anyone; friends and family, groups, and especially any Facebook page!
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Roberta, I took every one of these steps just yesterday. You’ve provided a very helpful overview of how to navigate the maze. Thanks.
Facebook’s standard for decency is set very low. I’ve reported explicit photos depicting animal abuse/torture many times, only to be informed that it does not breach Facebook’s community standards. My feed is populated with news articles that are chosen according to my personal posts and likes. I’m not the slightest bit surprised that Mark Zuckerberg has allowed data harvesting, selling and manipulation of users.
… and you haven’t even touched on browser cookies, browser add-ons and phone app permissions. Facebook is simply a more convenient aggregator of those fundamental profiling tools.
When you connect with everyone, you get .. everyone connected to you. 😮
(heck, I just connected with WordPress & you via this post log-in, lol)
I never knew that they were stealthily gathering my information and selling it
Geeky privacy nerds have been sounding the alarm about social media since MySpace was popular (I’m aghast at the amount of private information people slap on Facebook, like “Going to Florida for the week!! which broadcasts to the world that your house will be empty for a week), just as security nerds sounded the alarm about how abominably atrocious Microsoft was at making Windows secure.
Nobody listened about Windows, because, while people *say* they want secure computers, they really want *convenient* computers.
Likewise, you don’t really want privacy: you want enjoyment and sharing while chatting with your friends about genealogy and cat videos.
There’s a vast difference between not advertising to the world that you’re on vacation and somehow knowing that Facebook was facilitating clandestine spy operations on billions of individuals. If you knew that, then I’d hope you came forward as well as bought a bought a lottery ticket.
Great article Roberta. However there is a bigger offender out there which is Google. They not only track and keep a record of your searches, they sell that information to advertisers and Facebook. I checked something out at Amazon and in a short time the product I looked would show up in my Facebook feed for an Amazon ad. Plus they have gmail which tracks your correspondence. All of these companies interact with each other. Even scarier I would post something I liked on Facebook and I would get ads for it in gmail…especially from Amazon. Big Brother is here!
Thank you for all that you do for us! You are spot on about how those of us interested in genealogy use facebook. My Mom was adopted and facebook was a valuable tool in my search for our biological identity. Just want to mention an add-on that I use called Facebook Purity. It blocks a lot of the bs quizzes and “like this” “don’t like that” drek that facebook inundates its users with constantly. I plan to check the settings you mention above to lock down my account even further.
What amuses me is all the hashtag-prefaced campaigns to get people to leave Facebook, they seem oblivious to the fact that Twitter does the very same thing. Its all about exploiting weak minds for financial or political gain.
One thing I will disagree with you on, Roberta, is that older people are more gullible. I’m 62, and I’ve seen enough scams in my lifetime to never fall for any of them. I don’t buy every bright shiny object dangled in front of me, and I’m sure a lot of seasoned citizens feel the same way.
Maybe we ought to teach people how to recognize the difference between sincere people in real life, and virtual hucksters that will separate us from everything they can. Maybe we’d have less teen suicide if we could convince young people that Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and whatever garbage social media comes next is just NOT the real world.
I saw a study recently that said exactly the same thing about young people and depression rates associated with screen time.
I am a retired computer security manager and I never had a facebook account until I retired, but as I get more into genetic genealogy, I found that I needed a facebook account to access many sources of information. I created an account, but I have NEVER friended anyone including my sister, daughter, and grand children that live on facebook. I just join genealogy groups and read posts. I only post something a couple times a month. I keep my account an genetic and empty as I can. No photos, no information except email and phone number that was required to create an account
Me, too! And, I only use it to access a neighborhood/community feed. I was once cyber-stalked from a genealogy forum I frequented. After that, I always used a pseudonym. Scary world…….
Thanks for walking me through the steps to tighten up my privacy and apps on Facebook.
Thank You Roberta for this well explained and gut-wrenching article. I have shared it with “the world” on my Facebook page and while I won’t be dropping Facebook as yet (but looking around for alternatives) I have removed a lot of the permissions that Facebook gathered on my behalf and without my permission.
I agree with your blog but a big part of all this is personal responsibility.
I just got a birthday card from my wife: “Happy Birthday to a giant of critical thinking”.
One should not automatically let one’s mind consume a bubble of psycho-propaganda without determining which axe is being ground or which ox is being gored,,,,,
I do not belong to Facebook. Facebook ignored a FTC consent decree regarding apps informed consent and scraping of “FRIENDS” data in 2011…..
I am a giant of critical thinking. I can not be hypnotized. However, the world DOES know a lot about me through Ancestry.com, FTDNA, 23andme, Amazon, etc..
Steve in Oro Valley
Excellent article. I was already pretty stealth on Facebook but you showed me how to clean up a few things. Thanks
I also suggest adding Privacy Badger cookie blocker to all your browsers. I block Facebook, Google, Twitter, Pinterest… and it does help some.
Too bad that the USA doesn’t enforce the anti-monopoly & anti-racketeering laws to white collar corporations… And the US Supreme Court thinks that corporate persons should have unlimited free speech to contribute to election candidates??
If they could break up Ma Bell under the anti-trust laws, why can’t the social media companies be treated similarly??
Even with all these precautions, aren’t everyone’s social media accounts forever available via the Wayback machines to recover web pages???
This isn’t about the governmenet “protecting” us, it’s about the stupidity of putting your whole life online and expecting that only your “friends” will see it. The government has put sterner warnings about tobacco use on the very packages that this weed is sold in, yet we still have people ignoring them.
The Internet is like a billboard over your house, don’t put anything on there that you don’t want anybody driving by to know about you!
Thank you so very much for all this advise, Roberta!
Exactly, this same thing happened in the last 3 political elections. However, the LA Times and New York Times and others didn’t complain in the elections where this same thing happened and things swung in favor of their preferred political candidates. If they are truly concerned about what Facebook is allowing advertisers to do, they should be consistent about it in all circumstances and not just when it agrees with their particular opinions.
This isn’t about the NYT and I specifically posted several resources do that this does not devolve into politics. This is about data harvesting regardless of who does it or who tries to weaponize it.
Thank you Roberta for an interesting analysis of the current Facebook crisis. I am dismayed and saddened by the prospect of the need to hide our input and postings from anyone! I started and administer a Facebook Group with over 450 members and growing, which is dedicated to a specific Y-Chromosome Haplogroup. Most of our members are from Finland because over 61% of Finnish males are positive for a certain SNP (N-M178) which founded our Haplogroup. Our site is dedicated to providing our distant cousins with the latest scientific and historical findings concerning our haplogroup, as well as advice about what additional testing is available to further define one’s subclade, etc. Typically, I post a welcome message to each new member, and many of our members signal their approval by liking my post. I’m having difficulty imagining how our members, who merely liked the fact a new member has joined our group, are providing nefarious individuals and marketing companies with ammunition to be used against us? I would certainly not like to see Facebook become so restrictive that people will be afraid to join our groups because of the fear their personal information will somehow be appropriated for some commercial, political or religious use to their detriment. Facebook is a wonderful tool for traditional genealogists and genetic genealogists and I feel any abridgment of our free and open access to this service to be abhorrent! Are this risks really all that profound?
Everyone will have to make that decision for themselves. Read the resource links I’ve provided. Yes, I believe they are that profound. Think if a hate group buying a list if “Jewish people” in a specific geography to target them, just as an example, based on this type of profiling. It’s not like any if us knew or gave permission for our information to be used in this manner.
So Roberta, is your answer to my concerns that, in order to protect our members from the evil designs of unseen information hackers, I should disband my 450 member group and pretend it never existed? Or, perhaps our members should be encouraged to never like anything anyone posts on our site, including my “Welcome to our group of distant cousins” posts?
My answer is that everyone needs to understand the actual risk level involved in using an unsafe platform that fully intends to psychologically manipulate them and make their own fully informed personal decision. It comes down to a personal choice about what is most important.
The late great comedian George Carlin is quoted as saying, “Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of them are stupider than that.”
Our politicians and advertisers have realized that most of the idiots are too lazy to form their own opinions. They only have one if they are GIVEN one.
We all have to be vigilant and do our own fact checking. We will only have freedom if we earn it ourselves everyday…
Yes, people sometimes just do not think things through; and many people have a lack of good ole common sense.
Yes, I agree, what I fear are the hate groups that don’t want to be educated. They just want a platform to spread their hate. Look at all of the white supremacists that were empowered in the last couple of years. This platform allows them to find like minded people.
Somehow I knew something was up with Face Book a couple of years ago, so I have rarely used it. I found my relatives and a few friends who I contacted once in a while. I put little information on FB. I am glad I was wary. What tipped me off? The political ads I found revolting were showing up. I deleted my “friends (?) who were known persons who shared such things. Everyone was asking me why I was not on FB more, but I never answered. I found it offensive. I still do not use it much.
As soon as I discovered that FB had been harvesting information, I knew there was something I really wanted to do as a pay back. I shared some of the more “interesting” posts from my political viewpoint concerning current news events. I wanted to see who defriended me, and what kind of comments I got from my relatives and in-laws. My return comment to them was that I had seen your shares for a couple of years and not responded, so you could tolerate my viewpoint. It has been interesting, but they did not de-friend me yet. Hopefully, this is a temporary thing I am doing just to make me feel better. ..and it really does. I think I got my point across.
As for commercial sites harvesting my buying pattern, I am less offended. Beware of those little shoppers cards that go on your key ring and give you discounts at certain stores. I bought Depends for an elderly person I know, and I am still getting ads for depends on my computer.
This whole thing is disgusting!
I think the point of this reply is to ask, Is there not some way to get back at these people who harvested information from Face Book, and other places. Clearly this should be illegal, if it is not now. They need to be stopped.
I wish I knew. I hate to say the word legislation, which clearly wouldn’t be a popular, nor probably an effective answer, given who adopted these techniques in the first place.
The harvester is not the one to blame. Ultimately the responsibility and the blame lies with Facebook for allowing it to happen. It is not as if Facebook is pure as the driven snow. If you read the fine print in their contract agreement when you sign up for their site you will probably realize that you have virtually no rights. The hold all the cards in this game.
They are both morally bankrupt parties to the same travesty.
There are quite a few people who feel as I do. Today I read on my computer news that states are contemplating making this harvesting and sales of personal information illegal. I am wondering how they intend to enforce this if it is determined to be illegal. I do think this is an issue that people will have to deal with now and in the future. The solution will not be here overnight, but we have to start somewhere, if social sites are to continue. It is not just social media sites but everywhere you go, and everything you say, they are watching you.
Excellent post Roberta! I’m friends with an API Guru and he is forever trying to educate friends that care about the backdoors built into Social Media. You’ve summed up how to close some of these intrusive doors. I’m sure more news and directions will come out soon for other ways to protect ourselves.
Reblogged this on Lineage Hunter and commented:
This is important. Please read this post. I am thoroughly disgusted with Facebook and all connected with them in this violation. I am deleting my account with them. Back to good old fashioned letter writing and phone calls and emails to family and friends. Then again, maybe I lied to them because I never trusted them in the first place. It’s not hard to create a false identity on Facebook.
Reblogged this, Roberta. Thank you for caring and helping limit some of the damage. It’s infuriating that Facebook and their cohorts have violated the trust of their users. I have always kept my privacy settings very limited, “liked” very little and didn’t fall for those “see how you look as…” ect. things. I must admit I was not completely truthful with my profile, but that is for me to know what isn’t as it seems and them to guess. More than one can play the game and I feel no compunction about lying to them, again, only I know what isn’t true. I have always been leery about social media, there was always a suspicion in the back of my mind that there was some clandestine reason for their platform, seems my gut was very right. Again, thanks for the clear and helpful info.
I don’t think this was in your article Roberta (sorry if it was) but I suggest using a dedicated email address that has no contacts and is only used for facebook. And I routinely use a fudged birth date on any site that asks for one.
Read my other reply in this thread. Using an alias and fudged birth date is prohibited by Facebook.They will discover it and demand that you prove your identity to them. If you don’t comply, they will terminate your account.
Note that there are other items in the Settings section of Facebook that you should check out. I’m exploring the Notifications Settings and found that I can choose to not receive notifications of memories to look back on, friends’ fundraising activities, etc. I still like FB for the genealogy groups, but I’ve got to practice not “liking” things any more! Thanks for the great post!
Fantastic and a tremendous service to the community. Thank YOU Roberta
I can give you a bit of insider information on this. I have been professionally involved with both Facebook and Google, in an area that’s relevant to this. You might imagine that the two companies are fairly similar. Nothing could be further from the truth. My experience with Google is of dealing with professionals, and I’ve always been extremely impressed with their technical expertise. My experience with Facebook is of dealing with rank amateurs. In all my experience with them, they were completely incompetent and out of their depth. It’s like dealing with high school kids. I’ve seen them make basic beginner mistakes which absolutely shocked me. It’s no wonder that Cambridge Analytica were able to obtain access to private information. Zuckerberg is giving all this rhetoric about how they’re tightening security but I don’t believe they even have the technical competence to do that. Even if they really wanted to, which I have some pretty grave doubts about. Don’t think of Facebook as evil masterminds. They don’t deserve that level of respect.
From a March 21st column by media columnist Margaret Sullivan:
“Consider the plain gray T-shirt. Or the pious talk about connecting the world, through a tech platform, into one big group hug. Or the wide-eyed references to “our community.”
Mark Zuckerberg still looks the part of the Harvard undergraduate who invented what a 2010 movie dubbed “The Social Network,” also known as a world-class way to meet girls.
The same guy, with the same moral compass, who at 19 bragged to a friend about how he got all those college kids to give him their photos, email addresses and more.
“They ‘trust me’ ” he wrote in an instant message, adding his jokey assessment of their wisdom: “Dumb f—s.”
Now, the Facebook founder is one of the richest and most powerful people on the planet, and we dummies number in the billions.”
and, near the end of the column,
“Like the cartoon of a naked President Trump on the cover of this week’s New Yorker magazine, Zuckerberg seems to have lost his protective garb: not a pricey suit with an overlong red tie, but a gray T-shirt that promises, “Trust me, dummies.”
Now, if we’re paying any attention at all, we know better.”
I’ve always been leery of FB and considered shutting down my account many times. Several years ago, I received a notice from a law firm that my name was listed as a claimant in a class action lawsuit against FB. Apparently, they had been using FB user names and/or images to sell products on their site without consent of these users. I contacted the law firm to inquire more info and they confirmed with me that my name or image had been used! From what I gathered, the advertised products were sometimes things you wouldn’t want to be associated with. FB eventually paid a settlement. I’ve kept my account to stay connected to friends and groups, but I’m not very active on it and I’m careful with what I post or like. Looks like I need to be even more careful. Thanks for your article!
Thanks, Roberta, for giving me a shake and helping me focus on what to do next. I feel embarrassed that I have not been more vigilant, because I should have known better. Even though I’m 65, I don’t believe I’m any more naive or trusting than younger people. I have many relatives in their 20s and 30s who are walking right into a mess – I hope I can provide the shake and focus they need, too.
You know, I probably shouldn’t have generalized, but I see older people being targeted so often. Most of them have not grown up with technology and many struggle.
Right from the start when Facebook began I didn’t want any part of it. The whole concept of it struck me as being sophomoric, even juvenile. I have a hobby business with a website and found that it has become increasingly difficult to attract potential customers, because the trend is now toward everyone using a smart phone and doing everything through Facebook. I was not about to pay Facebook to advertise there. So about two years ago I signed up with Facebook and joined two hobby groups on the same topic, so as to connect with people who might be interested in my service. A few months later, I began getting lots of posts on those two FB groups that were written entirely in Russian (which I cannot read). Shortly thereafter the Yahoo Mail e-mail account that I had linked to my FB account was hacked, with lots of messages in Russian appearing in my inbox. I immediately terminated my FB account and cleaned up my Yahoo Mail account by changing the password, etc. Yahoo Mail was discovered to be sloppy about their security, but I don’t think that the Russian content that immediately preceded it in my FB groups was a mere coincidence. I also briefly joined and participated in a Genealogy group at Facebook. This time I used an alias and a different dedicated e-mail address to keep my true identity protected from Facebook. Using an alias is prohibited by them, and within a month they demanded proof of my identity from me. I was not about to comply, so they terminated my account. How did they know I was using an alias? They demand that their subscribers always be truthful with them, but they don’t play by the same rules. I refuse to tell a sleazy company like Facebook my personal identity, or provide them with any other information about me. I’ll never have anything to do with Facebook again. I hope they fail – and the sooner the better.
Suspecting the worst which you so eloquently present in this article, I didn’t sign up for Facebook until last summer, pressured by everyone I know to do so. Yet I didn’t really use it, and never “liked” anything or asked to “friend” anyone. Then in October I was notified that someone from some oblast in Russia had changed my password. I went on, saw the face of some young girl, and immediately cancelled my account. I certainly don’t miss it.
I always felt “social media” was in fact antisocial, as demonstrated by the inability of young people today to effectively communicate in any way other than texting on their cellphones. Maybe I’m too old-fashioned, but I enjoy conversation and I really don’t want the world to know how I spend every minute of the day. Some day the Internet will collapse, no Twitter, no Facebook, and no one will remember how to talk with anyone.
I hate to say this, but it serves everyone right.
Mark, while I share your opinion on the possible demise of Facebook, at least in part (as an adoptee, I use it to find information on the people who won’t respond to me from DNA website messaging, and they blab so very much!) it just won’t happen. Roberta started out by comparing this to the Equifax breach, and I disagree, with the Facebook situation, nobody got anything that was truly secret. With Equifax, things that should never have been revealed were stolen.
I tried to start a petition to the White House to ask the President to condemn Equifax, and even if he hadn’t done so, a large response to that petition surely would have made news. I couldn’t get even a hundred people to sign on. We’re a nation of sheep, we look for big government to do the job of “protecting” us, and we clutch our pearls when something bad happens that was completely foreseeable.
The Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and whatever social media companies you can think of have a solid foothold in the weak minds of too many people. The fact that Facebook can charge advertisers $40 billion dollars last year proves that businesses believe that completely. We live in a country with a short attention span, in another month, nobody will be talking about this.
All you can do is protect yourself. Share as little as possible on social media, if you feel you must use it, say only things that you would shout from the rooftop of your house with a bullhorn, and don’t use any social media site to “sign in” to something else. Pictures of cats doing goofy things will not get you any trouble, but telling people that you’re on vacation might.
George Orwell, in his classic novel, “1984” envisioned a society where Big Brother was always watching everyone. He probably assumed that government would force observational devices on us, he would surely be spinning in his grave to think of people buying microphones (Echo, etc.) to constantly listen to everything that is going on.
I’m not predicting or hoping that the internet will collapse as it has immense value as a resource of information. But I do agree that we can do without “social media”. As you said, it pretends to be social and attractive to the masses, while engaging in psychological manipulation and data mining, Do we have the fortitude to shut media off and say no to it when we realize that it is exploiting us? I’ve said this before (but probably not here), and I’ll say it again – we now have more communication DEVICES than ever, *but less real communication than ever*. As for age, since many of us seem to be of an older age here, I’ll quote an adage that I heard in my youth and still is expressed on an old iron trivet hanging on my kitchen wall: “Ve get too soon OLDT, undt too late SCHMART!” 😉
JMHO – My sense and mindset is that FB is juvenile, silly and somehow undignified. But, I will not express this to my children and grandchildren for fear of being blasted. LOL
Thank you for this, it’s great! I posted a breakup letter to FB too the other day on my blog (https://isabelrose.net/2018/03/22/dear-facebook-its-over-time-to-deletefacebook/ -I have links to some possible alternatives) and within a few hours had stats saying someone in Russia had read it :/
We genealogists also may need to be wary of Ancestry-the other night I was waiting and waiting for a page to come up (on Firefox) and I could see in the bottom left that it was feeding information to Facebook!
I think I’m just about DONE with Facebook even if there are useful genetic genealogy groups there or ancestry resources. I have come up against (in the last few weeks) some really racist comments-just trolls and nasty people in all sorts of groups, that make it very hard to even use a lot of those groups at all, and honestly, I think they are paid (or bots) to stop people from discussing certain topics. There’s got to be some better alternatives!
What do you look for to see Ancestry feeding info to Facebook? I’m curious and would like to know how to determine this. Thank you.
On Firefox, I was using a regular tab, searching something in Ancestry and while waiting for the new page to come up, in the very bottom left of the page it will say “waiting for” and show things like adzip or googleanalytics or batbing…and then I saw that Facebook was also there…It’s pretty quick-I’m on satellite so it’s slower…
I just now remembered I have “Mozilla Lightbeam” a Firefox add on, so I just updated it and looked at it…it shows (when you open a new page) a sort of visual display-like a planet (the main website) and it’s satellites (all of the sites they just shared info with). I just did it for Ancestry and it shows like 28 sites that Ancestry just shared with.
I just looked at this page: https://www.ancestry.com/cs/legal/privacystatement
And it says (among other things) that they look at the page you were on just before and just after Ancestry. WOW.
They also get info about you from 3rd parties, etc.
So for the last 2 day and from here on out I only use private browsing.
One of my blocked Privacy Badger cookies is “connect.facebook.com”. So it’s sent if you haven’t blocked it.
One slight disagreement. Decades ago Marshall McLuhan said that the medium is the message.
“The medium is the message” is a phrase coined by Marshall McLuhan meaning that the form of a medium embeds itself in any message it would transmit or convey, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived.
He was prophetic.
Back when I first heard that I was young and I didn’t understand what that meant, but now I do. We are not “the product”. We ARE *the consumers* – and we now live in a society that has an economy that is almost entirely based upon consumerism, fueled and driven by the media. The medium is the message and now it also IS the product. By now we have been programmed, slowly but surely to be willing to pay for access to it in one way or another, in order to receive it.
And the sheeple said Baa, Baa, Baa.
Read Orwell’s “Animal Farm”. It’s a very short book and it won’t take anyone very long to read it. Then focus on the last page of the book. That says it all, succinctly.
This is an article receiving widespread coverage today on Facebook’s mining of your cellphone usage – https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2018/03/facebook-scraped-call-text-message-data-for-years-from-android-phones/
Roberta, you said it succinctly, regarding both sides: “They are both morally bankrupt parties to the same travesty.”
“What’s next?” The writing is on the wall. We’ve been warned. We can take the high road and terminate any relationship we have with Facebook, or not. Those who are reluctant to pull the plug on Facebook might regret not having done so, at their peril.
Not very long ago I added the messenger feature to FB. I am sorry I did, because that was when I started noticing odd activities. I probably will remove messenger, if I can figure out how to do this without deleting FB completely. For now, I am not removing FB because I have found it the only reasonable way to socialize with my relatives and friends living in different places. Before FB, I rarely had contact with my cousins, and did not know how to reach some of them because people do change their email providers, phone numbers, and they move. FB provides a valuable service allowing me to have some sort of social contact with people I have known all or much of my life.
I have reached the time in my life where I do not buy very much, and my political viewpoints have been formed. Profilers would find me not very profitable and quite contrary.
“Quite contrary”. You make me smile. 😁
Also, I read Animal Farm and The Medium is the Message many years ago. I have an iPhone, not an android.
Unfortunately, life is not without risks, but we do what we can to minimize them.
Having read a book long ago is not the same as your reading it again,in the here and now. Why? Because owing to time, the river of life has changed your perspective. That’s the impersonal “you” I mention, and it’s sad that I often need to state that in social intercourse on the web, lest I be considered “offensive”. I recommend that everyone read Animal Farm again. For those who are too lazy or disinterested to spend an hour reading it, at least read the last page of it. That’s the universal moral of the story. And yes, “Big Brother’ will be watching you – but only as much as you allow him to watch you. IMO, it’s time we set and imposed some limits, both on ourselves personally, and on “Big Brother”.
Animal Farm is a novel. Much of the news is not fake, although it may read like a novel.
Actually, Animal Farm is not a novel. It’s an allegory that encompasses political philosophy and morality. If you don’t like such things, don’t read it.
Great post. I have already been victimized by Facebook recently in censorship and deliberate harassment. I have saved all documentation and have filed a complaint the the department of justice as an affront to my civil liberties.