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Archive for the ‘facebook’ tag

Facebook’s Role in Data Misuse Sets Off a Storm on Two Continents

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Helicopter with Camera
Helicopter with Camera

The big news over the weekend was how Facebook, Trump and Cambridge Analytica worked together to weaponize people’s personal information against them to help Trump win the 2016 election, perhaps with the assistance of Russia. The truth is this harvesting and manipulation of data is Facebook’s model, and anyone who uses Facebook is participating. Facebook is “free”, how exactly do you think they make their billions?

American and British lawmakers demanded on Sunday that Facebook explain how a political data firm with links to President Trump’s 2016 campaign was able to harvest private information from more than 50 million Facebook profiles without the social network’s alerting users. The backlash forced Facebook to once again defend the way it protects user data.

Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, a Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, went so far as to press for Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, to appear before the panel to explain what the social network knew about the misuse of its data “to target political advertising and manipulate voters.”

The calls for greater scrutiny followed reports on Saturday in The New York Times and The Observer of London that Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm founded by Stephen K. Bannon and Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, had used the Facebook data to develop methods that it claimed could identify the personalities of individual American voters and influence their behavior. The firm’s so-called psychographic modeling underpinned its work for the Trump campaign in 2016, though many have questioned the effectiveness of its techniques.

But Facebook did not inform users whose data had been harvested. The lack of disclosure could violate laws in Britain and in many American states.

(click here to continue reading Facebook’s Role in Data Misuse Sets Off a Storm on Two Continents – The New York Times.)

Even the Faux Walls have eyes
Even the Faux Walls have eyes

If you have time, you should read the tale of the ex-Cambridge Analytica whisteblower, Christopher Wylie in The Guardian/Observer.

which includes this revelation:

Dr Kogan – who later changed his name to Dr Spectre, but has subsequently changed it back to Dr Kogan – is still a faculty member at Cambridge University, a senior research associate. But what his fellow academics didn’t know until Kogan revealed it in emails to the Observer (although Cambridge University says that Kogan told the head of the psychology department), is that he is also an associate professor at St Petersburg University. Further research revealed that he’s received grants from the Russian government to research “Stress, health and psychological wellbeing in social networks”. The opportunity came about on a trip to the city to visit friends and family, he said.

There are other dramatic documents in Wylie’s stash, including a pitch made by Cambridge Analytica to Lukoil, Russia’s second biggest oil producer. In an email dated 17 July 2014, about the US presidential primaries, Nix wrote to Wylie: “We have been asked to write a memo to Lukoil (the Russian oil and gas company) to explain to them how our services are going to apply to the petroleum business. Nix said that “they understand behavioural microtargeting in the context of elections” but that they were “failing to make the connection between voters and their consumers”. The work, he said, would be “shared with the CEO of the business”, a former Soviet oil minister and associate of Putin, Vagit Alekperov.

“It didn’t make any sense to me,” says Wylie. “I didn’t understand either the email or the pitch presentation we did. Why would a Russian oil company want to target information on American voters?”

Lukoil is a private company, but its CEO, Alekperov, answers to Putin, and it’s been used as a vehicle of Russian influence in Europe and elsewhere – including in the Czech Republic, where in 2016 it was revealed that an adviser to the strongly pro-Russian Czech president was being paid by the company.

When I asked Bill Browder – an Anglo-American businessman who is leading a global campaign for a Magnitsky Act to enforce sanctions against Russian individuals – what he made of it, he said: “Everyone in Russia is subordinate to Putin. One should be highly suspicious of any Russian company pitching anything outside its normal business activities.”


(click here to continue reading ‘I made Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool’: meet the data war whistleblower | News | The Guardian.)

The attention led to Facebook suspending Mr. Wylie’s Facebook and Instagram accounts…

Techcrunch reports

In the latest turn of the developing scandal around how Facebook’s user data wound up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica — for use in the in development in psychographic profiles that may or may not have played a part in the election victory of Donald Trump — the company has taken the unusual step of suspending the account of the whistleblower who helped expose the issues.

(click here to continue reading Facebook has suspended the account of the whistleblower who exposed Cambridge Analytica | TechCrunch.)

Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic writes:

Academic researchers began publishing warnings that third-party Facebook apps represented a major possible source of privacy leakage in the early 2010s. Some noted that the privacy risks inherent in sharing data with apps were not at all clear to users. One group termed our new reality “interdependent privacy,” because your Facebook friends, in part, determine your own level of privacy.

For as long as apps have existed, they have asked for a lot of data and people have been prone to give it to them. Back in 2010, Penn State researchers systematically recorded what data the top 1,800 apps on Facebook were asking for. They presented their results in 2011 with the paper “Third-Party Apps on Facebook: Privacy and the Illusion of Control.” The table below shows that 148 apps were asking for permission to access friends’ information.

But The Guardian’s reporting suggests that the company’s efforts to restuff Pandora’s box have been lax. Wylie, the whistleblower, received a letter from Facebook asking him to delete any Facebook data nearly two years after the existence of the data was first reported. “That to me was the most astonishing thing,” Wylie told The Guardian. “They waited two years and did absolutely nothing to check that the data was deleted. All they asked me to do was tick a box on a form and post it back.”

But even if Facebook were maximally aggressive about policing this kind of situation, what’s done is done. It’s not just that the data escaped, but that Cambridge Analytica almost certainly learned everything they could from it. As stated in The Guardian, the contract between GSR and Strategic Communications Laboratories states, specifically, “The ultimate product of the training set is creating a ‘gold standard’ of understanding personality from Facebook profile information.”

It’s important to dwell on this. It’s not that this research was supposed to identify every U.S. voter just from this data, but rather to develop a method for sorting people based on Facebook’s profiles. Wylie believes that the data was crucial in building Cambridge Analytica’s models. It certainly seems possible that once the “training set” had been used to learn how to psychologically profile people, this specific data itself was no longer necessary. But the truth is that no one knows if the Kogan data had much use out in the real world of political campaigning. Psychological profiling sounds nefarious, but the way that Kogan and Cambridge Analytica first attempted to do it may well have proven, as the company maintains, “fruitless.”

(click here to continue reading Cambridge Analytica and the Dangers of Facebook Data-Harvesting – The Atlantic.)

The way I personally deal with Facebook is by seeding it with incorrect information whenever I can, and by being diligent about deleting Facebook cookies from my browsers. Of course, I’m sure they know way too much about me, but at least some of their information is wrong.

Facebook Cookies
Facebook Cookies.PNG

Written by Seth Anderson

March 19th, 2018 at 9:27 am

Posted in Business,politics

Tagged with , ,

How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions While Facebook Winked

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Revolution of The Innocent
Revolution of The Innocent…

Cambridge Analytica, remember them?

All the more reason to cut back on the amount of time you spend at Facebook, and all the more reason to give Facebook and similar data-mining corporations fake information whenever possible:

As the upstart voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica prepared to wade into the 2014 American midterm elections, it had a problem.

The firm had secured a $15 million investment from Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, and wooed his political adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, with the promise of tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior. But it did not have the data to make its new products work.

So the firm harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, according to former Cambridge employees, associates and documents, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network’s history. The breach allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump’s campaign in 2016.

But the full scale of the data leak involving Americans has not been previously disclosed — and Facebook, until now, has not acknowledged it. Interviews with a half-dozen former employees and contractors, and a review of the firm’s emails and documents, have revealed that Cambridge not only relied on the private Facebook data but still possesses most or all of the trove.

Cambridge paid to acquire the personal information through an outside researcher who, Facebook says, claimed to be collecting it for academic purposes.

During a week of inquiries from The Times, Facebook downplayed the scope of the leak and questioned whether any of the data still remained out of its control. But on Friday, the company posted a statement expressing alarm and promising to take action.

“This was a scam — and a fraud,” Paul Grewal, a vice president and deputy general counsel at the social network, said in a statement to The Times earlier on Friday. He added that the company was suspending Cambridge Analytica, Mr. Wylie and the researcher, Aleksandr Kogan, a Russian-American academic, from Facebook. “We will take whatever steps are required to see that the data in question is deleted once and for all — and take action against all offending parties,” Mr. Grewal said.

(click here to continue reading How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions – The New York Times.)

Smile Through It All
Smile Through It All

Yeah, Facebook is going to “take action”. How? By admitting that they accumulate and sell way more personal information than their users know? By deleting this information? What exactly is the action that Facebook is going to do that will miraculously solve their bad PR?

The data analytics firm that worked with Donald Trump’s election team and the winning Brexit campaign harvested millions of Facebook profiles of US voters, in the tech giant’s biggest ever data breach, and used them to build a powerful software program to predict and influence choices at the ballot box.

A whistleblower has revealed to the Observer how Cambridge Analytica – a company owned by the hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, and headed at the time by Trump’s key adviser Steve Bannon – used personal information taken without authorisation in early 2014 to build a system that could profile individual US voters, in order to target them with personalised political advertisements.

Christopher Wylie, who worked with an academic at Cambridge University to obtain the data, told the Observer: “We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis that the entire company was built on.”

Documents seen by the Observer, and confirmed by a Facebook statement, show that by late 2015 the company had found out that information had been harvested on an unprecedented scale. However, at the time it failed to alert users and took only limited steps to to recover and secure the private information of more than 50 million individuals.

The New York Times is reporting that copies of the data harvested for Cambridge Analytica could still be found online; its reporting team had viewed some of the raw data.

(click here to continue reading Revealed: 50 million Facebook profiles harvested for Cambridge Analytica in major data breach | News | The Guardian.)


From the Facebook statement:

In 2015, we learned that a psychology professor at the University of Cambridge named Dr. Aleksandr Kogan lied to us and violated our Platform Policies by passing data from an app that was using Facebook Login to SCL/Cambridge Analytica, a firm that does political, government and military work around the globe. He also passed that data to Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies, Inc.

Like all app developers, Kogan requested and gained access to information from people after they chose to download his app. His app, “thisisyourdigitallife,” offered a personality prediction, and billed itself on Facebook as “a research app used by psychologists.” Approximately 270,000 people downloaded the app. In so doing, they gave their consent for Kogan to access information such as the city they set on their profile, or content they had liked, as well as more limited information about friends who had their privacy settings set to allow it.

Although Kogan gained access to this information in a legitimate way and through the proper channels that governed all developers on Facebook at that time, he did not subsequently abide by our rules. By passing information on to a third party, including SCL/Cambridge Analytica and Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies, he violated our platform policies. When we learned of this violation in 2015, we removed his app from Facebook and demanded certifications from Kogan and all parties he had given data to that the information had been destroyed. Cambridge Analytica, Kogan and Wylie all certified to us that they destroyed the data.

(click here to continue reading Suspending Cambridge Analytica and SCL Group from Facebook | Facebook Newsroom.)

Since 2015, Robert Mercer’s team of anti-liberal hordes have been siphoning personal information from Facebook, and Facebook only suspended them yesterday. Who else is doing similar things? I bet the list is long, longer than I can even imagine. But Facebook is content to take the cash…and get Trump elected.


Bloomberg reported a while ago

Facebook Inc.’s platform was a crucial messaging tool for President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, according to the campaign’s digital director — who told CBS’s “60 Minutes” that he hand-picked pro-Trump “embeds” from the company to help him use the platform in targeted ways.

“Twitter is how [Trump] talked to the people, Facebook was going to be how he won,” Brad Parscale told “60 Minutes,” according to an excerpt of an interview that the program intends to air Sunday. The social-media platform was particularly valuable because it allows for targeted messaging, Parscale said, according to the excerpt.

Facebook’s employees showed up for work at his office multiple days a week to provide guidance on how to best use the company’s services, Parscale said in the interview excerpt. “I wanted people who supported Donald Trump,” he said — and he questioned the workers about their political views.

(click here to continue reading Facebook ‘Embeds’ Helped Trump Win, Digital Director Says – Bloomberg.)

Written by Seth Anderson

March 17th, 2018 at 9:31 am

Posted in Apple,Business

Tagged with , ,

P&G Slashed Digital Ad Spending by $200 Million Last Year

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Be A Better Lover
Be A Better Lover

More signs that the bottom hasn’t yet been reached for the advertising industry, as we’ve mentioned previously…

The consumer products giant says that its push for more transparency over the past year revealed such spending had been largely wasteful and that eliminating it helped the company reach more consumers in more effective ways.

P&G , PG +0.18% whose brands include Crest, Tide and Pampers, says it cut its digital ad budget by more than $100 million from July through December. Those reductions were on top of the more than $100 million in digital marketing spending the company had already cut in the June quarter, which P&G said had little impact on the business.

The ad dollars were pulled back from a long list of digital channels but also included reducing spending with “several big digital players” by 20% to 50% last year, according to Marc Pritchard, P&G’s chief brand officer. He has been leading the charge among marketers as a vocal critic of digital advertising clutter, ad fraud and brand safety issues on platforms like YouTube.

Once armed with more measurement data, P&G discovered that the average view time for a mobile ad appearing in a news feed, on platforms such as Facebook , was only 1.7 seconds. The Cincinnati-based company also realized some people were seeing P&G ads far too many times.

“Once we got transparency, it illuminated what reality was,” said Mr. Pritchard. P&G then took matters into its owns hands and voted with its dollars, he said.

Long the biggest advertiser in the world, P&G carries significant weight among marketers and its efforts are closely tracked.

(click here to continue reading P&G Slashed Digital Ad Spending by $200 Million Last Year – WSJ.)

Translated, Facebook and YouTube ads were fairly useless for P&G, so they cut back on spending on them, without noticing much of a difference on sales. If P&G, with its sophisticated marketing analysis teams thinks digital/mobile ads are missing the mark, what about other businesses? I’d assume many will follow in P&Gs footsteps, and the digital ad world is about to have revenues sliced drastically.

Prevent Cross Site Tracking
Prevent Cross-Site Tracking…

Large advertising holding corporation WPP is already feeling the pinch:


Advertising’s digital upheaval took a heavy toll on WPP LLC as the world’s largest ad company Thursday logged its worst performance since the financial crisis, triggering jitters among investors across the sector.


On Thursday, WPP said net sales fell 0.9% on a like-for-like basis last year, spooking investors who were expecting signs of recovery after the company cut its forecast three times, predicting a “broadly flat” 2017. The firm also said it is setting budgets for 2018 on the assumption of no growth in revenue and net sales.


WPP shares tumbled 9%, and the fallout quickly spread to rival ad giants like Publicis Groupe SA, which fell 4%.


Digital disruption is leading Unilever PLC, Procter & Gamble Co. and other consumer-goods giants that once splurged on ad agency-led campaigns to redirect their spending. That is saddling ad firms with their slowest revenue growth in a decade and pressuring agency holding companies to revamp organizational structures that are out of step with the digital age. Advertisers are demanding agencies provide services that target consumers relentlessly over the internet as well as coming up with traditional campaigns for print and TV.

The question is whether the big ad companies can evolve fast enough. P&G, long the biggest advertiser in the world, has said that it is looking to cut an additional $400 million in agency and production costs by 2021, having already saved around a combined $750 million in recent year. Unilever, meanwhile, has also been slashing agency fees and production costs, in part by reducing the number of traditional ads it makes and bringing more of its marketing work in-house.



(click here to continue reading Ad Industry’s Digital Upheaval Rocks WPP; Shares Fall 14% – WSJ.)



The packaged-goods sector, which accounts for close to a third of WPP’s sales, is the key problem. Big advertisers like Procter & Gamble have been driving hard bargains with their suppliers as they trim and reallocate ad budgets in response to new consumption patterns and new media.


This malaise could spread to other industries challenged by new tastes and technology. Car makers, for example, are trying to work out how their approach to advertising needs to adapt if, as many expect, individual car ownership gives way to “mobility as a service”—renting cars by the hour through tech platforms. They accounted for 12% of WPP’s revenue last year.


Then there is the question of whether the ad industry itself is challenged by new technology. This is far from clear in the data: WPP’s 19% margins in media buying—the ad business most vulnerable to a more digital approach—haven’t slipped. Such high margins could also be a reason to worry at a time when clients are seeking big savings.



(click here to continue reading Is WPP Cheap Enough to Own? – WSJ.)

Interesting times. And like the Chinese proverb says,1 to live in interesting times is not actually fun.

  1. or doesn’t actually say []

Written by Seth Anderson

March 1st, 2018 at 10:09 am

Posted in Advertising,Business

Tagged with , ,

How Facebook Enabled Trump

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We Are What We Watch
We Are What We Watch (on Facebook)

More and more, Facebook seems to be the reason that Donald Trump’s traveling garbage barge won the 2016 election, without considering the substantial Putin assistance. Facebook was instrumental in Trump’s electoral college victory despite his popular vote loss.

Antonio García Martínez writes at Wired:

LIKE MANY THINGS at Facebook, the ads auction is a version of something Google built first. As on Google, Facebook has a piece of ad real estate that it’s auctioning off, and potential advertisers submit a piece of ad creative, a targeting spec for their ideal user, and a bid for what they’re willing to pay to obtain a desired response (such as a click, a like, or a comment). Rather than simply reward that ad position to the highest bidder, though, Facebook uses a complex model that considers both the dollar value of each bid as well as how good a piece of clickbait (or view-bait, or comment-bait) the corresponding ad is. If Facebook’s model thinks your ad is 10 times more likely to engage a user than another company’s ad, then your effective bid at auction is considered 10 times higher than a company willing to pay the same dollar amount.

A canny marketer with really engaging (or outraging) content can goose their effective purchasing power at the ads auction, piggybacking on Facebook’s estimation of their clickbaitiness to win many more auctions (for the same or less money) than an unengaging competitor. That’s why, if you’ve noticed a News Feed ad that’s pulling out all the stops (via provocative stock photography or other gimcrackery) to get you to click on it, it’s partly because the advertiser is aiming to pump up their engagement levels and increase their exposure, all without paying any more money.

During the run-up to the election, the Trump and Clinton campaigns bid ruthlessly for the same online real estate in front of the same swing-state voters. But because Trump used provocative content to stoke social media buzz, and he was better able to drive likes, comments, and shares than Clinton, his bids received a boost from Facebook’s click model, effectively winning him more media for less money. In essence, Clinton was paying Manhattan prices for the square footage on your smartphone’s screen, while Trump was paying Detroit prices. Facebook users in swing states who felt Trump had taken over their news feeds may not have been hallucinating.

One of the ways the Trump campaign leveraged Lookalike Audiences was through its voter suppression campaigns among likely Clinton voters. They seeded the Audiences assembly line with content about Clinton that was engaging but dispiriting. This is one of the ways that Trump won the election, by the very tools that were originally built to help companies like Bed Bath & Beyond sell you towels.

Unsurprisingly, the Russians also apparently made use of Custom Audiences in their ads campaign. The unwary clicker on a Russian ad who then visited their propaganda site suddenly could find yet more planted content in their Feed, which could generate downstream engagement in Feed, and thus the great Facebook wheel turned. The scale of their spend was puny, however, a measly $100,000, which pales in comparison to the millions Trump spent on online advertising.

(click here to continue reading How Trump Conquered Facebook Without Russian Ads | WIRED.)

Hit the Jackpot
Hit the Jackpot

or as Casey Newton writes at The Verge:


Did Facebook’s ad platform give Donald Trump an unfair advantage in the 2016 election?

To place an ad on Facebook, a political campaign has to win an automated auction. At any given time, millions of advertisers are competing to place ads in front of Facebook’s 2 billion-plus daily users. Advertisers can price their ads by the number of people who see it, the number of people who click on a link, or the number of people who engage with the ad, such as by watching a video or installing an app. Facebook averages out the cost of these various ads into a figure it calls an “eCPM” — the effective cost per 1,000 impressions.


The CPM is a standard measurement in the advertising industry. But Facebook’s ads differ from traditional ads in an important way: the company offers advertisers a monetary incentive to create more engaging ads. As users begin to click, share, and engage with an ad, Facebook begins showing it to more people. That lowers the eCPM, often allowing advertisers to reach a larger audience for the same amount of money. In some cases, Facebook’s automated systems will choose to display ads that had lower bids, if it believes the content of the ad will draw more engagement from users. The monetary goal of this system is to keep users scrolling through the News Feed, maximizing the number of ads that they encounter.

In my piece, I wrote about a senior Facebook employee who said Trump’s CPM was substantially lower than Clinton’s, according to communications I reviewed. At the time, I couldn’t find a second source for something else the employee said, which was that Trump’s effective CPM averaged $0.06, compared with $1.06 for Clinton.



(click here to continue reading Trump campaign gamed Facebook ads even better than we thought – The Verge.)

No wonder Facebook numbers for the politically aware ‘yout’ and the rest of us are falling off a cliff. Who wants to spend time with your Trump-loving neighbors and relatives?

On a personal note, I “unpinned” Facebook from my browser so that it wasn’t always open, and found myself visiting much less frequently. In fact, Facebook now is sending me emails trying to lure me back by telling me my grandmother has posted such and such (she probably hasn’t, she doesn’t post much), or so forth. 

Written by Seth Anderson

February 26th, 2018 at 9:48 pm

Posted in Business,politics

Tagged with ,

The Big Loophole That Helped Russia Exploit Facebook: Doctored Photos

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No Alien is Illegal
No Alien is Illegal

Not this photo, but a similar photo…

A decade ago, at a pro-immigration march on the steps of the Capitol building in Little Rock, Ark., community organizer Randi Romo saw a woman carrying a sign that read “no human being is illegal.” She took a photograph and sent it to an activist group, which uploaded it to photo-sharing site Flickr.

Last August, the same image—digitally altered so the sign read “give me more free shit”—appeared on a Facebook page, Secured Borders, which called for the deportation of undocumented immigrants. The image was liked or shared hundreds of times, according to cached versions of the page.

This use of doctored images was a crucial and deceptively simple technique used by Russian propagandists to spread fabricated information during the 2016 election, one that exposes a loophole in tech company defenses. Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google have traps to detect misinformation, but struggle—then and now—to identify falsehoods posted directly on their platforms, in particular through pictures.

Facebook disclosed last fall that Secured Borders was one of 290 Facebook and Instagram pages created and run by Russia-backed accounts that sought to amplify divisive social issues, including immigration. Last week’s indictment secured by special counsel Robert Mueller cited the Secured Borders page as an example of how Russians invented fake personas in an effort to “sow discord in the U.S. political system.”

The campaigns conducted by some of those accounts, according to a Wall Street Journal review, often relied on images that were doctored or taken out of context.

(click here to continue reading The Big Loophole That Helped Russia Exploit Facebook: Doctored Photos – WSJ.)

There is an advantage to having actual humans involved – not every decision tree can be outsourced to computer algorithms. I know tech companies like to reduce their costs by eliminating staff, but there are consequences.

Written by Seth Anderson

February 22nd, 2018 at 1:11 pm

Posted in Advertising,politics

Tagged with ,

Facebook Is the NSA of Corporate America

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Over Under Sideways
Over Under Sideways

Speaking of Big Data and Facebook, the marketing and privacy experts at Mark Zuckerman’s data mining company have come up with a new way to make money off of you: turning on the microphone on your mobile device, and listening in to your life as you live it.

The social network appears to be preparing to serve ads to users based on a Shazam-style feature that picks up via the microphones on devices with Facebook’s app installed—watching Breaking Bad? Check out this ad for the new drama on AMC. Listening to OutKast? Try Ludacris.…

Facebook’s ad strategy is getting more sophisticated every week; with the new tool (which Facebook stresses is optional, though you know how it is: if people like it and it’s convenient, that’s better than mandatory), it’ll have far more information about something Nielsen, Acxiom and other data giants conduct huge panel studies to determine: user media habits. Not the media habits users write down in diaries, but what people actually do and might not self-report to anyone but their friends—who marathons Murder, She Wrote until 3 in the morning or listens to nothing but Ween for three straight months.

  • It’s totally fair to wonder where the data derived from the recordings—song title, album, etc.—is stored and where it goes. Based on the fact that this is being used for marketing, the short answer seems to be “to people who are willing to pay to know what you’re into.” 
  • It’s hard to make this not creepy. Facebook is using your cell phone to listen to you and serve you ads. It’s doing it all in the name of user convenience, of course, but it’s still doing it. 
  • Marketers are going to love this. Dynamic ad serving has been a pipe dream for so long, and Facebook’s multi-billion-person user base is everyone’s favorite thing for that specific purpose.

(click here to continue reading Listening to Beyoncé? Facebook Has an Ad for You | Adweek.)

Or Pay The Price
Or Pay The Price

From the WSJ:

Facebook on Wednesday added a feature to its mobile app that identifies music and television shows playing in the background and suggests users share them with a larger audience.

The feature was the latest in a series of changes by Facebook to nudge users to divulge more—and more-specific—personal information on the social network. This week, it introduced a feature that allows users to prompt their friends to divulge more information about themselves. Last year, the social network allowed users to categorize posts by activity.

Facebook uses the data to sell targeted advertisements. The more detailed the information it gathers from users, the more personalized—and expensive—advertising the company can sell.

The recent changes represent an effort by Facebook to prod users into sharing more information about themselves. In recent years, the company has added categories, like “watching,” “eating” or “listening,” that users can add to their posts. In April it created a “traveling to” category, allowing users to post their travel destinations. A “nearby friends” feature, also rolled out last month, lets users know when their Facebook friends are in the vicinity. Turning on the feature lets Facebook track users wherever they go, even when the app is closed.

This week, Facebook began allowing users to request their friends’ relationship status using the new “Ask” button.

Advertisers like the additional data.

(click here to continue reading Facebook Adds Feature to Identify Music, TV Shows – WSJ.com.)

Continuous Video Recording in Progress
Continuous Video Recording in Progress

Amusingly, Facebook announced on the same day:

Responding to business pressures and longstanding concerns that its privacy settings are too complicated, Facebook announced on Thursday that it was giving a privacy checkup to every one of its 1.28 billion users.


“They have gotten enough privacy black eyes at this point that I tend to believe that they realized they have to take care of consumers a lot better,” said Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, a nonprofit research and advocacy group. Ms. Dixon was briefed in advance about the latest changes.

For most of its 10-year history, Facebook has pushed — and sometimes forced — its users to share more information more publicly, drawing fire from customers, regulators and privacy advocates across the globe.

(click here to continue reading Facebook Offers Privacy Checkup to All 1.28 Billion Users – NYTimes.com.)

Sure, sure they are.

Written by Seth Anderson

May 22nd, 2014 at 10:07 am

Posted in Advertising,Business

Tagged with , ,

Facebook, Google Face Backlash Over Logins

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Cougle, Google's neighbor
Cougle, Google’s neighbor

Personally, I never, ever use logins that depend upon Facebook. I have run across a few iOS apps that insist upon Facebook logins, and I deleted them rather than give up my information. I have on rare occasion used the Google login, but I’d much prefer using my own login credentials, even if it involves creating yet another password. Since I use 1Password these days, creating and maintaining unique passwords isn’t as much of a burden as it used to be.

Facebook and Google are battling to be the gateway through which users connect to websites and mobile apps. But users and businesses may be losing interest in such “social login” services.

Consumers worry about broadcasting their preferences and habits to companies and across their social networks. Businesses are torn between making life easier for users and letting Facebook and Google see the resulting data.

“A few years ago, there was a frenzy, but the interest has peaked,” says Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali, an analyst at Forrester Research who studies social login. “There’s the fear of, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to click something and God knows what’s going to show up on my Facebook wall.’ ”

The social login buttons allow consumers to log in to other websites and apps using their usernames and passwords, for example, from Facebook Login or Google+.
But a Forrester survey of 66 large and midsize companies finds that only 17% use social-login buttons, and more than half have no plans to do so. Forrester hadn’t previously done a similar survey, but Ms. Mulpuru-Kodali says social login offerings are no longer appealing to retailers and users.

(click here to continue reading Too Much Information? Facebook, Google Face Backlash Over Logins – WSJ.com.)

The One Chord Song Lasts A Lifetime
The One Chord Song Lasts A Lifetime

I think also more consumers are realizing that Facebook and Google are not creating these tools to make consumers digital lives easier, but instead to enable Facebook and Google to collect data on consumers that they will then sell to businesses. Why make the process any easier for Big Data? Especially since Google and Facebook have repeatedly made errors that benefit their own business practices, and only apologize when the “error” becomes public, or the FTC files a complaint.

One reason users hesitate is privacy — the fear that logging in to the real-estate website Zillow through a Facebook button, for example, might inadvertently reveal the house you looked at, and its price, to your social network. Facebook says this can’t happen without a consumer’s express permission. But many users are wary because of the social network’s mixed record on privacy.

Some large brick and mortar retailers are concerned that letting Facebook or Google put code on their website might lead to the Web giants collecting their purchase data. Google says it doesn’t collect this information1.

(click here to continue reading Silicon Valley Is Waging a War Over Your Online Identity. But Is It Worth It? – Digits – WSJ.)

  1. but won’t swear to it in court []

Written by Seth Anderson

May 22nd, 2014 at 8:14 am

Posted in Advertising,Business

Tagged with , ,

Facebook’s Brilliant Disaster and IPO Mania

with one comment

Abyss of Intoxication
Abyss of Intoxication

Interesting counter-point to the IPO mania by Joe Nocera:

Splunk, an 8-year-old, money-losing data analytics company … went public five weeks ago. Splunk’s investment bankers priced the stock at $17 a share. But it closed its first day of trading at $35.48 — a gain of 109 percent — before declining over the next month. (It has rebounded in the last week.)

The offering raised $229.5 million for the company. But if the bankers had done a better job of pricing the shares — and had come closer to the $35 a share that investors were willing to pay — the company would have reaped twice as much. Putting cash in a company’s coffers is supposed to be the whole purpose of an I.P.O. Isn’t it?

Who got all that extra money? The hedge fund managers and Wall Street insiders who were allocated shares — and who immediately flipped those shares for a quick, easy profit. That’s how I.P.O.s work nowadays: It is assumed that the offering will be underpriced, and anybody who can get shares at the I.P.O. price is guaranteed a killing. This pattern has become the very definition of a successful public offering.

Compared to Splunk, the Facebook I.P.O. was, indeed, a disaster. For starters, there was only the tiniest initial bump, so the Wall Street speculators did not make their usual killing. What’s more, because the company decided, late in the game, to issue 25 percent more shares — and because Morgan Stanley aggressively priced the stock, at $38 a share — Facebook maximized its take, at $16 billion. Long-term investors should be happy about this outcome; the company now has plenty of capital as it competes with Google and the other Internet big boys.

But let’s be honest. Were there really any long-term investors in Facebook that first day? Judging by the torrent of criticism that has rained on Facebook and Morgan Stanley, it sure doesn’t appear that way. Instead, what the Facebook aftermath suggests is that we’ve all become brainwashed into believing that, when it comes to I.P.O.s, up is down and down is up. A successful I.P.O. is one where the company gets hosed by Wall Street. A failed I.P.O. is one where the company’s interests, not those of Wall Street speculators, are served. It’s Alice in Wonderland goes to Wall Street.

(click here to continue reading Facebook’s Brilliant Disaster – NYTimes.com.)

He makes a good point: most of the hullabaloo surrounding Facebook last week was from short term corporate investors complaining they didn’t their usual profits for a big name IPO. Are many of them planning on owning Facebook stock for five years? 



More Nocera:

The current price is partly a reflection of the I.P.O. maelstrom, and partly a function of short-term problems: The decision by General Motors, revealed just before the I.P.O., to pull its advertising, and its inability, so far, to generate much advertising on mobile platforms.

What it doesn’t reflect is where Facebook will be 5 or 10 years from now. I could easily make a bullish case for Facebook — with its 900 million users, and its wise-beyond-his-years chief executive. I could just as easily make a bearish case: Maybe Facebook will never figure out mobile. Maybe its moment will pass before it ever becomes the kind of technology juggernaut that Microsoft once was, or Google is. But being either bullish or bearish requires making a judgment that is years away from being revealed. For bullish investors, it means holding the stock patiently, waiting for the judgment to pay off. That’s what good investors do.

Written by Seth Anderson

May 26th, 2012 at 8:14 am

Posted in Business

Tagged with ,

The Facebook IPO scandal

with 2 comments

To A We
To A We

And speaking of Facebook’s deplorable business model, there turns out to be some Wall Street shenanigans going on as the IPO began. Lest you forget, Wall Street plays by its own rules, and if you want to play too, you are the mark, the rube. The amount of hype for the Facebook stock was, and remains overwhelming. That alone should make one suspicious. I know I was1

The Los Angeles Times reports:

As Facebook shares continued their slide, regulators launched inquiries into whether privileged Wall Street insiders were alerted to the company’s weakening financial projections, leading them to shun the stock or dump shares just as buying was opened to the public.

Morgan Stanley, which led the Wall Street effort to bring the social network public, came under fire following reports that the bank had told some favored clients that the bank was cutting its revenue estimates for Facebook. The lowered expectations came after the tech giant expressed caution in a public filing about its advertising sales on mobile devices.

The legal issue raised could be “securities fraud — plain and simple,” said Ernest Badway, a securities lawyer in New York and New Jersey and a former enforcement attorney at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. “You can’t be putting out two sets of numbers.”

SEC Chairwoman Mary Schapiro said the agency will examine “issues” into the bungled Facebook public offering. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the Wall Street industry-funded watchdog, has also expressed concern, and Massachusetts securities regulators have issued subpoenas for Morgan Stanley.

“If true, the allegations are a matter of regulatory concern to FINRA and the SEC,” Rick Ketchum, the watchdog’s chairman and chief executive, said in an e-mailed statement.

One major institutional investor was informed of the lowered expectations during Facebook’s IPO “roadshow,” in which Morgan Stanley and other underwriters appeared before mutual funds and other big investors to make the case to buy shares in advance of the public offering.

“I am pretty sure the grandma who bought 10 shares of Facebook through her Schwab account didn’t get that memo,” said a person familiar with the matter who declined to be named to preserve his business relationship with Wall Street investment banks.

Facebook’s offering was one of the most hyped events on Wall Street, and became the biggest tech IPO in history. The company raised $16 billion by listing on the Nasdaq Stock Market in a move that valued the company at $104 billion, which is bigger than American corporate stalwarts such asMcDonald’s Corp. andAmazon.com Inc.

(click here to continue reading Facebook IPO flop drawing increased scrutiny – latimes.com.)

I found this phrase telling:

Some bankers were also troubled by the huge demand from individual investors, a relatively capricious group. While Facebook allocated most of its shares to big, institutional investors like mutual funds and hedge funds, it also gave a larger-than-usual block, close to 25 percent, to ordinary investors.

Around the same time, red flags emerged about the company’s growth prospects. On May 9, Facebook revealed in a regulatory filing some potential challenges to its growth. In particular, the company highlighted that users were increasingly using Facebook on mobile devices, but the company was not making much money on mobile ads.

(click here to continue reading Facebook I.P.O. Raises Regulatory Concerns – NYTimes.com.)

Banks don’t want the hoi polloi  to clutter up their hallways, mess up their nice tile floors.

Stay As You Are

Stay As You Are

Gawker’s Adrian Chen:

Facebook’s stock continues to suck harder than a Northwestern University freshman on a 5-foot bong in his profile pic. And the fallout from the most hyped IPO in history bursts not just the illusion that Facebook is actually worth $100 billion, but the idea that Facebook is different than any other corporation hell-bent on making as much money as possible for a handful of very wealthy people.
The lead-up to last Friday’s Facebook IPO was an orgy of web 2.0 populism. Started by a Harvard undergrad in his dorm room, Facebook was poised to become the largest tech IPO ever. And its value stemmed from our stuff—our status updates, pictures and pokes! This was the major driver of the outlandish hype surrounding Facebook’s IPO; the sense that the public would finally get a chance to share in the spectacular success of the company we helped build.

…(Incidentally, now that Facebook’s tanking, Morgan Stanley and the other banks that underwrote the deal have a good shot at making a profit by short selling millions of Facebook shares that had been created just for them under an arcane financial move known as the “Greenshoe option.” Nice deal, if you can get it.)

These maneuvers show once again that Facebook’s lofty ideals are at odds with how it functions in reality. For a company built on sharing and transparency, Facebook’s IPO was uniquely private and opaque. For a company which Mark Zuckerberg boasted in a letter to investors “was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission,” Facebook sure as hell acted like a company in helping to enrich insiders at the expense of public investors.

So, Mark Zuckerberg screwed Facebook investors in the IPO like he’s screwed Facebook users on privacy. (Hours before the IPO, Facebook was hit with a $15 billion lawsuit over privacy violations.) This would be just a hilarious coincidence, except for the vast amounts of money he’s made doing both.

(click here to continue reading The Facebook IPO Was an Inside Joke.)

Every Ace Got Played
Every Ace Got Played

Felix Salmon writes:

This whole episode stinks. It’s almost certainly not illegal. But if you look at the Finra rules about such things, it definitely violates the spirit of the law. For instance, the rules say that Morgan Stanley analysts weren’t allowed to show Facebook their research before it was published — but they don’t say that Facebook can’t quietly whisper in Morgan Stanley’s ear that its estimates might be a bit aggressive. Obviously, there’s no need for the analysts to give Facebook advance notice of their earnings downgrade if that earnings downgrade was a direct consequence of something Facebook told them.

Similarly, Morgan Stanley isn’t allowed to publish a research report or earnings estimates for Facebook within the 40 days following the IPO. But a few days before the IPO? I guess that’s OK — even if the way the estimates were “published” meant they were only available to good friends of the bank.

More generally, the rules ignore the key point here. Retail investors, and the market as a whole, knew when Facebook had its IPO that Morgan Stanley (and JP Morgan, and Goldman Sachs) had research teams with estimates for Facebook’s future earnings. They also knew that those estimates would be made public in 40 days’ time. And if they were sophisticated enough, they probably knew that select Morgan Stanley clients were given access to the analysts and their estimates.

What they didn’t know — what they couldn’t know, because nobody told them — was that those estimates had been cut, significantly, just days before the IPO.

(click here to continue reading The Facebook earnings-forecast scandal | Felix Salmon.)

Selling Her Spare Favors
Selling Her Spare Favors

John Cassidy of The New Yorker points out there have been trades of Facebook for years now, just not public trades. In other words, the big investors already cashed out…

The fact is, Facebook’s I.P.O. wasn’t really an “initial” stock offering. In December, 2010, Goldman Sachs raised $500 million for the company in a deal that, following objections from the Securities and Exchange Commission, was limited to overseas investors. In the I.P.O. world, these late-stage quasi-public offerings are called “D-rounds,” and they are becoming increasingly common. Zynga did one before its I.P.O., and so did Groupon. They provide a cashing-out opportunity for insiders who would rather not wait until the I.P.O. More to the point, they allow “hot” companies to bid up the price of their stocks well before the investing public gets a sniff.

Groupon’s D-round, which raised $950 million in January, 2011, valued the company at close to $5 billion. (It is now valued at $8 billion.) The Goldman offering for Facebook valued the company at $50 billion. (It is now valued at about $95 billion.) The valuations put on the companies in these deals were quickly reflected in the so-called “gray market,” where investors in the know could buy and sell the firms’ stocks well before they started trading on the open markets. Now that Facebook’s stock is trading publicly, many of the early players have already sold out, taking a handsome profit.

How will the public investors fare? So far, they aren’t doing well, but it is still early. I said the other day that Facebook isn’t necessarily a bubble stock, but it is undoubtedly a very expensive one. Buyers are bearing a lot of risk, and it is hard to see them ever reaping the sort of returns that investors in companies like Amazon and Google enjoyed. At twenty-five times trailing revenues and a hundred times trailing earnings, the $38 I.P.O. is already discounting an awful lot of expansion—and this at a time when Facebook’s growth rate has already slowed.

(click here to continue reading Inside Job: Facebook I.P.O. Shows the System Is Broken : The New Yorker.)

And over and over we read the phrase, “unsuccessful IPO”, and yet what does that mean? The bankers got theirs, the Facebook execs got theirs…

may have doomed any real chance the social-networking company had that its stock would jump on its first day of trading—a hallmark of successful IPOs. On Tuesday, the second full day of trading, Facebook shares fell $3.03, or 8.9%, to $31, after falling 11% on Monday. Investors are blaming the downdraft on the last-moment expansion of the offering.

Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro said Tuesday that her agency will examine “issues” surrounding the IPO in an effort to ensure confidence in public markets. An SEC spokesman declined to elaborate.

(click here to continue reading Inside Fumbled Facebook Offering – WSJ.com.)

Immigration Rally: May Day, 2006 - The Flag Guy
Immigration Rally: May Day, 2006 – The Flag Guy

Some paid for the money with coin that I wouldn’t be happy paying with, namely being banned from the US. Is the money really worth it? I’d say no, but I like living in America.

Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin’s decision to renounce his U.S. citizenship just in time to avoid a large tax payment essentially means he will not be able to re-enter the United States again, immigration experts tell TPM.

“There’s a specific provision of immigration law that says that a former citizen who officially renounces citizenship, and is determined to have renounced it for the purpose of avoiding taxation, is excludable,” said Crystal Williams, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “So he would not be able to return to the United States if he’s found to have renounced for tax purposes.”

Two immigration lawyers said his explanation hardly passes the laugh test. Saverin’s move was timed to the initial public offering of shares of Facebook stock. The valuation of the Facebook IPO explodes Saverin’s stake in the social media company to some $3 billion, on which avoiding taxes could save him at least tens — if not hundreds — of millions of dollars. Nor does it help his case that he relocated to Singapore, which levies no taxes on those earnings.

Two senators mobilized Thursday to crack down on Saverin and other tax dodgers.

“He’s fucked,” said Adam Green, an immigration lawyer based in Los Angeles. “He must have gotten horrendous advice.”

(click here to continue reading Renouncing Citizenship Makes Facebook Co-Founder Inadmissable To US | TPMDC.)

  1. I tweeted thus on May 17


Written by Seth Anderson

May 23rd, 2012 at 7:54 am

The Facebook Fallacy

with 2 comments

Coins of Realms
Coins of Realms

Very interesting point – is Facebook really a viable business? Will it be around in ten years? Will it be profitable? How?

Facebook is not only on course to go bust, but will take the rest of the ad-supported Web with it.

Given its vast cash reserves and the glacial pace of business reckonings, that will sound hyperbolic. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

At the heart of the Internet business is one of the great business fallacies of our time: that the Web, with all its targeting abilities, can be a more efficient, and hence more profitable, advertising medium than traditional media. Facebook, with its 900 million users, valuation of around $100 billion, and the bulk of its business in traditional display advertising, is now at the heart of the heart of the fallacy.

The daily and stubborn reality for everybody building businesses on the strength of Web advertising is that the value of digital ads decreases every quarter, a consequence of their simultaneous ineffectiveness and efficiency. The nature of people’s behavior on the Web and of how they interact with advertising, as well as the character of those ads themselves and their inability to command real attention, has meant a marked decline in advertising’s impact.

I don’t know anyone in the ad-Web business who isn’t engaged in a relentless, demoralizing, no-exit operation to realign costs with falling per-user revenues, or who isn’t manically inflating traffic to compensate for ever-lower per-user value.

Facebook, however, has convinced large numbers of otherwise intelligent people that the magic of the medium will reinvent advertising in a heretofore unimaginably profitable way, or that the company will create something new that isn’t advertising, which will produce even more wonderful profits. But at a forward profit-to-earnings ratio of 56 (as of the close of trading on May 21), these innovations will have to be something like alchemy to make the company worth its sticker price. For comparison, Google trades at a forward P/E ratio of 12.

(click here to continue reading The Facebook Fallacy – Technology Review.)

Live to Ride
Live to Ride

Facebook may have demographic information on 800,000,000 people, more or less, with more of less accuracy1, but what are they going to be able to do with this data? Currently, Facebook ads are so poorly targeted as to be a joke. I just looked at my profile, and see seven ads, only one of which is even mildly targeted to me2. The others are Dell ads3, luxury clothing ads, credit card ads, and some GMO tea in a plastic bottle. No wonder that GM decided to spend their money elsewhere. They weren’t the first to notice abysmal performance with Facebook ads. I’d be hard pressed to advise an advertiser to spend money on Facebook when there are so many better options.

General Motors Co said on Tuesday it will stop advertising on Facebook, even as the social networking website prepares to go public.

While GM gave no specific reason for dropping Facebook ads, a source familiar with the automaker’s plans said the company’s marketing executives decided Facebook’s ads had little impact on consumers.

(click here to continue reading GM to drop Facebook ads due to low consumer impact | Reuters.)

If I was a broker, I wouldn’t own Facebook stock for long.

  1. for instance, I have lots of erroneous information in my profile, just on principle []
  2. some sort of hot sauce []
  3. plural!! even though one of the only things in my FB profile is a love of Macs! []

Written by Seth Anderson

May 22nd, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Posted in Advertising,Business

Tagged with ,

Facebook Ad Performance Is Abysmal

with one comment

No kidding. Facebook ads are horrible, poorly executed, often bottom of the barrel, like late night television infomercials. No wonder they don’t get clicked. You’d think with Facebook would do a little better since they have so much information about their users, but…


Facebook’s advertising business is soaring. Yet the performance of the average Facebook ad is abysmal.

At least that’s according to a new report issued by the analytics firm Webtrends that recently examined 11,000 different Facebook ad campaigns which totaled 4.5 billion impressions. Webtrends found that in 2009 the average click-through rate on Facebook was 0.063 percent. That figure slipped to 0.051 percent in 2010.

Because of that decline, CPMs on Facebook have crept upward, going from 17 cents in 2009 to 25 cents last year.

(click here to continue reading Report: Facebook Ad Performance Is Abysmal.)


Written by Seth Anderson

February 1st, 2011 at 10:15 am

Posted in Advertising

Tagged with

Farewell, Facebook

with 3 comments

Here’s why I’m selectively changing a lot of my information in Facebook – faking my demographic details and so forth – Facebook wants so desperately to make a dollar off of my data, they have become skeevy, and untrustworthy. I’m old enough that there isn’t too much that is embarrassing in my Facebook profile, but I don’t every corporation in America to have access to my information without my permission1

Nothing remains from the past

The chorus of pro-privacy, anti-Facebook bloggers is getting louder. Facebook wants to keep track of everything you “like” — all over the Web and even in the real world. McDonald’s has signed on as Facebook’s first geolocation partner. Whatever that means. The Observer has a deeper relationship with my Facebook page than my best friend. Today I’m deactivating my account. Here’s why.

Then I stumbled upon a list of the various third-party groups that have access to my account. In all, there were 32, including the makers of “Which Jane Austen heroine are you?” (I’m Fanny Price), The Awl, a snarky, high-brow commentary site, and Business Insider. The latter two I didn’t recall approving. The media sites, I discovered, were installed automatically when I browsed their websites while logged in to Facebook. Jane Austen, I’m afraid, I must take responsibility for. Reports are unclear as to what information applications can pull from your account. Some warn that developers have broad access and do not distinguish between what you mark as public and private, and some quizzes even get access to friends’ information.

Considering Facebook’s track record of shifting privacy settings, which the Electronic Frontier Foundation wraps up here, and you can get a visual sense of here, it seems pretty much guaranteed that user control over personal information will only get weaker. At the same time, Facebook is collecting new data based on user browsing habits across the Web. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently unveiled Facebook’s “Connect,” a tool integrated with sites across the Web so users can “like” everything from articles on major news sites such as The Washington Post, to items for sale on retailer sites. Those connections are public, and if you don’t like it, Facebook has this advice to offer: “If you are uncomfortable with the connection being publicly available, you should consider removing (or not making) the connection.”

At the same conference, Zuckerberg also announced that the company will let third parties store information longer (previously, outside developers could store user information for no longer than 24 hours). So not only do we have to worry about Facebook’s policy; we also have to worry about the huge ecosystem of parties that hold Facebook data.

(click to continue reading Farewell, Facebook | The American Prospect.)

One could just delete one’s Facebook account, or take the guerrilla warfare route, and make lots of false data points. The latter option sounds more fun, actually.

Senator Al Franken of all people, with the help of The Consumerist, has published some detailed instructions on how to modify your Facebook privacy settings, which at the very least you should glance at.

  1. such as, if I purchase a new Nikon, I’ve given Nikon permission to update their records of me, and so on. McDonald’s on the other hand, shouldn’t have any information about me as I haven’t stepped into one of their restaurants in decades []

Written by Seth Anderson

May 11th, 2010 at 7:29 am

Reading Around on February 19th

without comments

A few interesting links collected February 17th through February 19th:

  • CBS Falsely Portrays Stanford as Democratic Scandal – But as Public Citizen, Huffington Post, ABC News and Talking Points Memo all reported, Stanford and his Stanford Financial Group PAC contributed to politicians and political action committees of both parties (including $448,000 in soft money contributions from 2000 to 2001 alone) to advance his agenda of banking and money-laundering deregulation. Many others journeyed on Stanford's junkets to Antigua and elsewhere, prompting TPM to brand his company "a travel agent for Congress." (TPM has a slide show of one of those of Stanford getaways.)

    As it turns out, the list of Stanford beneficiaries is long – and bipartisan.

  • Remembering Gene – Roger Ebert's Journal – Gene died ten years ago on February 20, 1999. He is in my mind almost every day. I don't want to rehearse the old stories about how we had a love/hate relationship, and how we dealt with television, and how we were both so scared the first time we went on Johnny Carson that, backstage, we couldn't think of the name of a single movie, although that story is absolutely true. Those stories have been told. I want to write about our friendship. The public image was that we were in a state of permanent feud, but nothing we felt had anything to do with image. We both knew the buttons to push on the other one, and we both made little effort to hide our feelings, warm or cold. In 1977 we were on a talk show with Buddy Rogers, once Mary Pickford's husband, and he said, "You guys have a sibling rivalry, but you both think you're the older brother."
  • TidBITS iPod & iPhone: iPhone to Add Location Logging? – Could the iPhone soon be able to track your location in the background as you walk around? A hint that such a capability is in the works at Apple comes from a programmer friend who spent some time spelunking around inside iPhoto '09, which shows traces of being able to associate such GPS log data with photos.
  • Daily Kos: Chocolate Covered Cotton – billmon – The fatal innovation…was the rise of so-called collateralized obligations, in which the payment streams from supposedly uniform pools of assets (say, for example, 30-year fixed prime mortgages issued in the first six months of 2006 to California borrowers) could be sliced and diced into different securities (known as tranches) each with different payment characteristics.

    This began as a tool for managing (or speculating on) changes in interest rates, which are a particular problem for mortgage lenders, since homeowners usually have the right to repay (i.e. refinance) their loan when rates fall, forcing lenders to put the money back out on the street at the new, lower rates. This means mortgage-backed securities can go down in value when rates fall as well as when they rise. By shielding some tranches from prepayments (in other words, by directing them to other tranches) the favored tranches are made less volatile and thus can be sold at a higher price and a lower yield.

  • An old habit dies… hard. « chuck.goolsbee.org – "I stumbled across a likely little application that seems to fit the bill: Gyazmail. It has a very flexible UI that allows me to make it behave very Eudora-like when I want it to. It has very good search, rules, and filters. It can import all my old mail(!)

    I’m test driving it at the moment and liking it so far. Switched my work mail to it late last week, and my personal mail is still coming over one account at a time. So far so good. If you regularly contact me via email be patient while I work through this transition period."

    I'm still using Eudora on three of our most used Macs (since 1995 probably -only 14 years), but the writing is on the wall. Have to check out Gyazmail.

  • Hands on: Drop.io's private, easy file sharing with a twist – Ars Technica – Sharing information online is getting more complex than it sometimes should be. If you want to share pictures, files, plain ideas, or even faxes with friends or businesses, you can try the old e-mail standby, but you may end up joining a social network, agree to a dense privacy policy, and then track down an app made by who-knows-who to get the job done. Even starting a simple blog usually involves more time than most users can afford‚ and more features than they'll ever need. Drop.io is an intriguing, but simple, new service that is part wiki, part file sharing, and part personal secretary, with an emphasis on privacy and ubiquitous access, requiring no signup or account activation.

    Upon visiting Drop.io—pronounced as a seamless single word: "drop-ee-o"—the site presents a basic elevator pitch about its services and a short form with which to get started uploading files.

  • Fat Tire Ale Downed Near Load Of Burgers – A Good Beer Blog – Motorists on Interstate 15 were impeded by a piles of hamburgers after a truck spilled a load of the patties, blocking the northbound lanes for four hours. The driver of a tractor-trailer carrying 40,000 pounds of hamburger patties dozed off around 5 a.m., said Utah Highway Patrol trooper Cameron Roden. The truck driver's rig drifted to the left side of the freeway near 2300 North and crashed into a wall and an overhead sign, which ripped open his trailer, spilling hamburger over the north and southbound lanes of the interstate…A second truck spill east of Morgan caused minor delays. Before 7:30 a.m., a truck was heading westbound on Interstate 84 about a half-mile east of Morgan… The truck slipped off to the left, hit a guardrail, and flipped over on its side. The impact split the truck open, spilling Fat Tire Beer being shipped from Colorado, Roden said.
  • The Associated Press: Chimp owner begs police in 911 call to stop attack – Police said that the chimp was agitated earlier Monday and that Herold had given him the anti-anxiety drug Xanax in some tea. Police said the drug had not been prescribed for the 14-year-old chimp.

    In humans, Xanax can cause memory loss, lack of coordination, reduced sex drive and other side effects. It can also lead to aggression in people who were unstable to begin with, said Dr. Emil Coccaro, chief of psychiatry at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

    "Xanax could have made him worse," if human studies are any indication, Coccaro said.

  • Facebook | Home – Over the past few days, we have received a lot of feedback about the new terms we posted two weeks ago. Because of this response, we have decided to return to our previous Terms of Use while we resolve the issues that people have raised. For more information, visit the Facebook Blog.

    If you want to share your thoughts on what should be in the new terms, check out our group Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

  • Big Tuna – Chicago — Anthony 'Big Tuna' Accardo, reputed crime syndicate figure, and his wife are shown as they arrive at the St. Vincent Ferrer Church in suburban River Forest to attend wedding of their son Anthony Jr, who was married to the former Janet Hawley, 1961 Miss Utah. Many top gangland bosses and other underworld figures attended the wedding under the watchful eye of law enforcement agencies
  • Home | Recovery.gov – Recovery.gov is a website that lets you, the taxpayer, figure out where the money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is going. There are going to be a few different ways to search for information. The money is being distributed by Federal agencies, and soon you'll be able to see where it's going — to which states, to which congressional districts, even to which Federal contractors. As soon as we are able to, we'll display that information visually in maps, charts, and graphics.
  • George Will: Liberated From the Burden of Fact-Checking | The Loom | Discover Magazine – In an opinion piece by George Will published on February 15, 2009 in the Washington Post, George Will states “According to the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979.”

    We do not know where George Will is getting his information, but our data shows that on February 15, 1979, global sea ice area was 16.79 million sq. km and on February 15, 2009, global sea ice area was 15.45 million sq. km. Therefore, global sea ice levels are 1.34 million sq. km less in February 2009 than in February 1979. This decrease in sea ice area is roughly equal to the area of Texas, California, and Oklahoma combined.

    It is disturbing that the Washington Post would publish such information without first checking the facts.

  • Wonk Room » George Will Believes In Recycling – Will’s numerous distortions and outright falsehoods have been well documented by Joe Romm, Nate Silver, Zachary Roth, Brad Plumer, Erza Klein, David Roberts, James Hrynyshyn, Rick Piltz, Steve Benen, Mark Kleiman, and others. They recognized that George Will is recycling already rebutted claims from the lunatic fringe, and offer the excellent suggestion that Washington Post editors should require some minimum level of fact-checking.

    But I haven’t seen anyone comment that Will is also recycling his own work, republishing an extended passage from a 2006 column — which Think Progress debunked — almost word for word. Take a look: