Note to Self: Remember to Answer the Senators’ Followup Questions.

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Following my Senate testimony last month, several Senators reached out with additional questions and clarification requests. As I understand it this is pretty standard. Given I published my testimony here earlier, I asked if I could do the same for my written followup. The committee agreed, the questions and my answers are below.

Questions for the Record from Sen. Cortez Masto (D. Nevada)

Facebook Audits

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The Dawn of Digital Switzerlands

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Photo by Derek Thomson on Unsplash

The tech behemoths’ role in nation-states is evolving

The biggest US tech companies now have powers which challenge the primacy of governments in many domains. In many cases they also have capabilities not available to nation states. We touched on these issues, and the notion of “corporate foreign policy” in one of the previous issues of my weekly newsletter Exponential View.

Last year, Microsoft’s Brad Smith argued that — at least in the realm of cybersecurity — “the global tech sector needs to operate as a neutral Digital Switzerland. We will assist and protect customers everywhere.”

Now in the Pennsylvania Law Review, Kristen Eichensehr looks at the issue of Digital Switzerlands in greater depth, 66 pages of it to be precise. We’ve summarized parts of it here. One key distinction between large corporations and nation states is that they lack territory, control of state-violence, and have very different governance mechanisms to nation-states. But that is as true for many supranational bodies as well.

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Two Thirds of the U.S. Population Wrongly Believe Facebook Sells Their Data

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Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

How does this impact their Facebook habits?

A month ago, I suggested that the Facebook Golum will never give up on its data ring — that perfect, shiny, gigantic stream of information about two billion people globally.

Where my Golum comparison goes awry, however, is in the realisation that the real battle of the ring depends on understanding what it is. Facebook users, most of us, do not know the ring.

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How GDPR Kills The Innovation Economy

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Dept. Of Predictable Externalities

It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way.

The seven key principles of GDPR (image)

(Cross posted from Searchblog)

It’s somehow fitting that today, May 25th, marks my return to writing here on Searchblog, after a long absence driven in large part by the launch of NewCo Shift as a publication on Medium more than two years ago. Since then Medium has deprecated its support for publications (and abandoned its original advertising model), and I’ve soured even more than usual on “platforms,” whether they be well intentioned (as I believe Medium is) or indifferent toward and fundamentally bad for publishing (as I believe Facebook to be).

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Facebook’s Gollum Will Never Give Up Its Data Ring

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Precious!

Does Facebook sell your data? An informal poll of my informed Twitter followers suggested that about 70% of us believe that.

Facebook does not sell your data. It protects your data like Gollum holding the ring. Selling your data would not be nearly as profitable as leasing access to you, via advertising— over and over again.

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One Year Later: What Have We Learned About Russia, Facebook and Our Elections?

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NewCo Shift Forum 2018

John Heilemann, Renee DiResta, Laura Rosenberger and Roger McNamee discuss the future of democracy in an era of unrestrained social media.


One year after the Shift Forum convened one of the very first conversations around the role of Russia in disrupting the US electoral process in 2016, moderator John Heilemann once again convenes a panel of experts to plumb what we know about the story. What was revealed is both fascinating and deeply disturbing.

John Heilemann: All right, guys. We have the third in our series of political policy-related panels this morning. This is the one that I have been most looking forward to, because I think it gets to one of the issues that everybody in this room has been thinking about. Everyone in the country’s been thinking about, and the one that no one in the country was thinking about.

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Advertisers to Democracy: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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Its most significant business crisis to date fails to tarnish Facebook’s earnings. Perhaps it’s time to admit something about ourselves we don’t want to face.


Facebook earnings just came out, and as it has nearly every quarter, the company crushed it. Many (including myself) were expecting at least some measurable effect on the company’s performance from the Cambridge Analytica train wreck, but the company seemed instead to pick up steam, booking a 63 percent increase in earnings year on year and beating Wall St. estimates by an astounding 34 cents a share. “Up yours, haters!” may not have been overtly stated on the earnings call, but I am quite certain there was plenty of that sentiment going around One Hacker Way today. In America — particularly Trump’s America, nothing washes away sins like unmitigated success. Oh, and money — lots and lots of money.

Facebook stock is already trading more than five percent up in after hours, and will likely pop on the open, as the investing public hastens to ride it back up to its pre-Cambridge Analytica highs. And why not? It’s Facebook’s time, after all. The company has taken its licks, apologized, and promised to do better. Zuck went to Washington, and new features seems to roll out almost daily — each promising one more “fix” for whatever was originally broken about the service.

It’s not Facebook’s fault that capitalism works the way it does. The bare truth is simply this: Facebook works for advertisers, which is another way of saying it works for business. And as long as it keeps doing that, business people aren’t going to stop using it. Period, end of sentence. The executives at Facebook know this, and as much as they’ve claimed they’re willing to impinge their business to “fix” their service, there’s simply no way they’ll actually going to roll out any changes that significantly change how their advertising model works. Regulation could “fix” it for them, but after Congress’ laughable performance earlier this month, that’s highly unlikely.

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Advertisers to Democracy: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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Its most significant business crisis to date fails to tarnish Facebook’s earnings. Perhaps it’s time to admit something about ourselves we don’t want to face.


Facebook earnings just came out, and as it has nearly every quarter, the company crushed it. Many (including myself) were expecting at least some measurable effect on the company’s performance from the Cambridge Analytica train wreck, but the company seemed instead to pick up steam, booking a 63 percent increase in earnings year on year and beating Wall St. estimates by an astounding 34 cents a share. “Up yours, haters!” may not have been overtly stated on the earnings call, but I am quite certain there was plenty of that sentiment going around One Hacker Way today. In America — particularly Trump’s America, nothing washes away sins like unmitigated success. Oh, and money — lots and lots of money.

Facebook stock is already trading more than five percent up in after hours, and will likely pop on the open, as the investing public hastens to ride it back up to its pre-Cambridge Analytica highs. And why not? It’s Facebook’s time, after all. The company has taken its licks, apologized, and promised to do better. Zuck went to Washington, and new features seems to roll out almost daily — each promising one more “fix” for whatever was originally broken about the service.

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No Trump, No Comey, Very Little Zuckerberg.

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Money Quote April 16 2018

You’re welcome.

One of these companies is not like the other.

A number of consequential business stories broke over the past few days, but it was hard to hear it over the braying contest between our president and his detractors (or the second and third day analysis pieces on Facebook’s journey to DC). So for your Monday morning, a review of the stories we’ve been reading since late last week. No Trump, no Comey, and very little Zuckerberg.

WPP Chief Executive Martin Sorrell Steps Down

No one seems to know exactly why Sorrell stepped down, save “personal misconduct.” If this is how advertising agencies handle things, they deserve to be put out of their misery entirely. No transparency, no public accounting, and therefore no institutional learning and transformation. Utterly unsurprising, unfortunately.

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Zuckerberg Prepares For His Close Up

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The Facebook CEO will testify in front of both the Senate and the House next week. Will it be memorable — or simply more of the same?

Image

April 10 and 11, 2018 will likely create the kinds of memories for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that his own platform will remind him of for years to come. My guess is he’ll pass on the opportunity to “relive” those memories, or share them with his millions of followers. The whole thing will likely just be too painful to recount.

Then again, Zuckerberg’s testimony next week in front of a joint Senate Judiciary and Commerce committee, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, could prove to be the highlight of his already storied career. No matter what, it’s a historic moment — the world’s largest and most celebrated social media company, in the throes of an existential crisis driven by allegations of massive election fraud, being called to account by the world’s most powerful government, victim of samesaid fraud. It’s going to be riveting.

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