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Mark Zuckerberg at The Original Pat's King of Steaks in Philadelphia (9/24/17). Posted on Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook page.

Interchange – Facebook Breakup: Time to Cash Out?

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In March of 2014 it was reported that the National Security Agency had aggressively accelerated its hacking initiatives – codenamed TURBINE – to “allow the current implant network to scale to large size (millions of implants) by creating a system that does automated control implants by groups instead of individually.” Much of this done via “fake” Facebook Servers. Here’s what Mark Zuckerberg said about that on Facebook.

The US government should be the champion for the internet, not a threat. They need to be much more transparent about what they’re doing, or otherwise people will believe the worst.

“The internet works because most people and companies do the same. We work together to create this secure environment and make our shared space even better for the world.

This is why I’ve been so confused and frustrated by the repeated reports of the behavior of the US government. When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government.

That same Mark Zuckerberg, the face of Facebook, recently testified in front of Congress to answer questions about how the voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica harvested the data of more than 87 million Facebook users without their permission. It turns out that many other entities – academic, commercial, governmental – could have grabbed that data under previous Facebook policies. In a New York Times Op-Ed Harvard professor Jonathan Zittrain wrote “The Cambridge Analytica dataset from Facebook is itself but a lake within an ocean, a clarifying example of a pervasive but invisible ecosystem where thousands of firms possess billions of data points across hundreds of millions of people – and are able to do lots with it under the public radar.”

Will Davies, author of the Happiness Industry, has written in the London Review of Books that
“Destroying privacy in ever more adventurous ways is what Facebook does. But just as environmentalists demand that the fossil fuel industry ‘leave it in the ground,’ the ultimate demand to Silicon Valley should be ‘leave it in our heads.’”

Throughout his recent congressional testimony Mark Zuckerberg repeatedly apologized for allowing companies like Cambridge Analytica to access the personal data of 87 million Facebook users and as often promised to do a better job. But what kind of “better job” can we imagine if we allow Facebook, Google, and Amazon access to our random thoughts and our very imaginations? How is it that we trust our privacy to our Surveillance Capitalists?

Privacy and Trust…recall in 2010 it was reported that in 2004 a then 19-year-old Mark Zuckerberg and a friend had this interaction via Instant Message shortly after the launch of “The Facebook” in his dorm room:

Zuck: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard
Zuck: Just ask.
Zuck: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS
[Redacted Friend’s Name]: What? How’d you manage that one?
Zuck: People just submitted it.
Zuck: I don’t know why.
Zuck: They “trust me”
Zuck: Dumb fucks.

Still the real villain, Davies asserts, is a ruthless economic logic that insists on inspecting ever more of our thoughts, feelings and relationships. What’s the best way to thwart this? He suggests anti-trust laws. It’s hard to consider that the US Congress, full of millionaire industry flunkies, or a Supreme Court crowded with Federalist Society credentials, will have any interest in “breaking up” our now “two-big-to-fail” data companies.

We also discuss the University under the sway of the “high impact” mentality of science research. This is particularly damaging for humanities scholarship which has, really, no specific monetary application.

RELATED
Will Davies on Cambridge Analytica (LRB)
Mark Zuckerberg Can Still Fix This Mess by Jonathan Zittrain (NYT)
Economic Science Fictions, Edited by Will Davies
Beware the Big Five by Tamsin Shaw (NYRB)

GUEST
Will Davies is a political economist with particular interests in neoliberalism, history of economics and economic sociology. His work explores the way in which economics influences our understanding of politics, society and ourselves, themes which he has addressed in two books, The Happiness Industry: How the government & big business sold us wellbeing (Verso, 2015) and The Limits of Neoliberalism: Authority, sovereignty & the logic of competition (Sage, 2014).

MUSIC
“Paranoid Android” performed by Brad Mehldau
“Electioneering” by Radiohead
“Paranoid Android” by Radiohead
“No Surprises” by Radiohead
“Exit music (for a film)” performed by Brad Mehldau

CREDITS
Producer & Host: Doug Storm
Edited by Rob Schoon
Executive Producer: Wes Martin

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