Monday, April 2, 2018

Bono's Investment Guy (and early FB investor): “I Think You Can Make a Legitimate Case that Facebook Has Become Parasitic”

From the University of Chicago's Promarket, a major interview:

Roger McNamee: “I Think You Can Make a Legitimate Case that Facebook Has Become Parasitic”
In an interview with ProMarket, Facebook early investor Roger McNamee talks about his efforts to get Facebook to fix its business model and the moment he realized the social media giant is unwilling to change.
With Facebook increasingly mired in controversy following the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal, an apologetic Mark Zuckerberg broke five days of radio silence on Wednesday as he made the media rounds. Facing a transcontinental backlash and intensifying calls to regulate Facebook, Zuckerberg expressed regret and even some openness to government regulation, so long as it’s the “right” regulation. Echoing these sentiments, Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg also said that Facebook is “open to regulation.”

Belated public statements aside, many are skeptical of Facebook’s willingness to address its privacy issues, not least because the company reportedly knew for two years that Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal data of millions of users without their consent. The FTC is currently investigating whether the company violated the terms of a consent decree it signed with the agency in 2011 to settle charges that it deceived consumers by sharing data they were told would be kept private with advertisers and third-party apps. As part of its agreement with the FTC, Facebook agreed to conduct regular privacy audits, conducted by independent auditors, for a period of 20 years. If the FTC finds Facebook to be in violation of the agreement (it already suspected Facebook of violating it before, in 2013), the company could be fined billions of dollars. In a letter to Facebook, senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) already requested that the company list all the incidents from the last ten years in which third parties violated its privacy rules and collected user data, in addition to providing copies of every privacy audit it prepared since 2011.

Moreover, the Cambridge Analytica revelations helped shed light on a greater problem: Facebook’s business model, which, as Zeynep Tufekci wrote in the New York Times , relies on massive surveillance of users “to fuel a sophisticated and opaque system for narrowly targeting advertisements and other wares to Facebook’s users.” Former employees and third-party app developers have attested that Cambridge Analytica was not alone: other firms have been utilizing the same covert data harvesting methods as well.

Roger McNamee probably has more reasons than most to doubt Facebook’s act of contrition. As an early investor in the company and former mentor to Mark Zuckerberg, McNamee—a renowned venture capitalist and cofounder of the private equity firm Elevation Partners—played a pivotal role during the company’s early days, advising Zuckerberg to refuse a billion-dollar acquisition offer from Yahoo in 2006 and helping facilitate the hiring of Sandberg. But starting in 2016, when he first noticed bad actors were exploiting Facebook’s algorithms and advertising tools and alerted Zuckerberg and Sandberg, McNamee had been trying unsuccessfully to get Facebook to acknowledge that its product was putting people in harm’s way.

This process, said McNamee in a recent interview with ProMarket, gradually turned him from a “huge fan” into one of Facebook’s harshest critics. “I arrived at this by really small degrees over almost two years,” he says. “With extreme reluctance, I realized that these people whom I trusted and helped were committed to a course of action that I could no longer support and that my friendship with them had to be put in a box while we address the threat to democracy.”...
Previous visits with Mr. McNamee:
Nov. 1, 2017
Early Facebook investor compares the social network to Nazi propaganda, likens its workers to Goebbels and claims it is creating a climate of 'fear and anger' 
Nov. 12, 2017
"Climateer Line of the Day: Bono's Guy Talks Regulating Facebook and Google"
January 8, 2018 
"Facebook Can’t Be Fixed" (FB)

May 2012
Bono's Elevation Partners Runs $90 Mil to $1.5 Bil in Facebook, Making Him the World's Most Insufferable Musician (FB)

Also from May 2012:
"How Mark Zuckerberg Hacked the Valley" (FB)

Nov. 2017 
Climateer Line of the Day: Neurotransmitters and Facebook Edition
Via The Verge:

 "The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we've created are destroying how society works.  No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it's not an American problem — this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem."
—Former Facebook Vice President for Addicting Users, Chamath Palihapitiya
And the rest of the story:

Former Facebook exec says social media is ripping apart society
‘No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth.’
Another former Facebook executive has spoken out about the harm the social network is doing to civil society around the world. Chamath Palihapitiya, who joined Facebook in 2007 and became its vice president for user growth, said he feels “tremendous guilt” about the company he helped make. “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,” he told an audience at Stanford Graduate School of Business, before recommending people take a “hard break” from social media. 
Palihapitiya’s criticisms were aimed not only at Facebook, but the wider online ecosystem. “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,” he said, referring to online interactions driven by “hearts, likes, thumbs-up.” “No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem — this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.”...MUCH MORE, including video
Possibly also of interest:

Founding Facebook President: ‘God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains’ (FB)

Want to Make Big Money? Engineer A Little Addiction Into Your Product

"'We're designing minds': Industry insider reveals secrets of addictive app trade"

"Google, Twitter and Facebook workers who helped make technology so addictive are disconnecting themselves from the internet"

Dopamine Labs: "Meet the tech company that wants to make you even more addicted to your phone"

If You Want To Be Happy, Listen Up. Now! alternative title: The FT's Izabella Kaminska Is...