Government agencies around the world demanded access to the information of over 38,000 Facebook users in the first half of this year, and more than half the orders came from the United States, the company said on Tuesday.
Facebook’s first “global government requests report” covers the first six months of 2013, ending 30 June. It comes as the social network giant and its peers are coming under intense scrutiny following revelations about their co-operation with the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance of US and foreign citizens.
"Transparency and trust are core values at Facebook. We strive to embody them in all aspects of our services, including our approach to responding to government data requests," Colin Stretch, Facebook general counsel, said in a blogpost. "We want to make sure that the people who use our service understand the nature and extent of the requests we receive and the strict policies and processes we have in place to handle them."
US authorities made 11,000-12,000 requests for information on 20,000-21,000 individuals over the six months. The company complied in 79% of cases. Facebook said it had to give a range for the US figures in order to give an indication of “all criminal and national security requests to the maximum extent permitted by law”.
The figures released by Facebook give no detail on the types of requests received or of what type of information the company handed over. Facebook, along with Google and others, is currently pressing Congress to be allowed to give greater detail the number of requests it receives from the US authorities. The NSA has the the authority to demand data about communications with non-US citizens without specific warrants and gags companies from disclosing even the most basic details of those cases. [++]
No heads have rolled yet for Facebook’s lackluster performance. But NYT’s Andrew Ross Sorkin has an idea of who should be the first on the chopping block.
It is David Ebersman’s fault. There is just no way around it.
Mr. Ebersman is Facebook’s well-liked, boyish-looking 41-year-old chief financial officer. He’s not as well known as Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and chief executive, or Sheryl Sandberg, its chief operating officer and recently appointed director.
But when it came to Facebook’s catastrophe of an initial public offering — the stock reached a new low on Friday, closing at $18.06 — it was Mr. Ebersman, not Mr. Zuckerberg or Ms. Sandberg, who was ultimately the one pulling the strings.
Now, three months after the offering, the company has lost more than $50 billion in market value. Let me say that again for emphasis: Facebook’s market value has dropped more than $50 billion in 90 days.
To put that in perspective, that’s more market value than Lehman Brothers gave up in the entire year before it filed for bankruptcy.
So if Facebook moves fast and tears apart the social fabric as we have come to count on it? Oops. If we have fashioned an identity and an ethos based on certain expectations of privacy and mutual respect for boundaries that no longer pertains? Oh, well. That’s not Facebook’s problem.Rob Horning on Facebook as Experiment (via thenewinquiry)
All of these stories suggest that Wall Street is increasingly turning into a giant favor-and-front-running factory, where the big banks and broker-dealers that channel vast streams of crucial non-public information (about the markets generally and their clients specifically) are also trading for their own accounts, and sharing information with a select group of “preferred investors,” who in turn help the TBTF banks move markets in this or that desired direction by jumping on or off various pigpiles at the right times.
Sooner or later, people are going to clue into the fact that one or two big banks, acting in concert with a choice assortment of unscrupulous “preferred investors,” can at least temporarily prop up or topple just about anything they want, from Greece to Bear Stearns to Lehman Brothers. And if you can move markets and bet on them at the same time, it’s impossible to not make tons of money, which incidentally is made at everyone else’s expense. So we should always be on the lookout for any evidence that that sort of coordinated, non-disclosed activity is taking place.
With a reported 900 million active members, Facebook is, by far, the largest digital-sharecropping operation that the internet has yet produced. About one out of every eight people on the planet sharecrops for Facebook today - and their collective labor is expected to put about a billion dollars of cash into CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s pocket when the company goes public in a few weeks. In a 2006 post, I explained why sharecropping is such a powerful business model for social networks and other online businesses:
One of the fundamental economic characteristics of Web 2.0 is the distribution of production into the hands of the many and the concentration of the economic rewards into the hands of the few. It’s a sharecropping system, but the sharecroppers are generally happy because their interest lies in self-expression or socializing, not in making money, and, besides, the economic value of each of their individual contributions is trivial. It’s only by aggregating those contributions on a massive scale - on a web scale - that the business becomes lucrative. To put it a different way, the sharecroppers operate happily in an attention economy while their overseers operate happily in a cash economy. In this view, the attention economy does not operate separately from the cash economy; it’s simply a means of creating cheap inputs for the cash economy.
A recent announcement by NATO produced a strange vindication for the Iranian regime’s warnings of a “Cultural NATO” using soft power to destabilise foreign countries, especially through the Internet. It came in the form of a Huffington Post article by Dr. Stefanie Babst, NATO’s Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy, and Elizabeth Linder, Facebook’s ‘Politics & Government Specialist for Europe, Middle East and Africa’ entitled “NATO and Facebook Join Forces in the Global Digital Age”. The article is the now familiar Web 2.0-utopian bluster: hailing new forms of engagement, empowerment, and transparency – contemporary policy must be “inclusive of the people whose ideas can help shape our policies.” The Secretary General of NATO uses Facebook because he “wants others to know what he is doing and wants to know what people everywhere think about transatlantic issues”!
You can share things on NATO’s Facebook wall, join them on Twitter and Flickr, or engage on their new WE-NATO platform. But this claim to edginess would remain unvalidated were it not for the eager embrace of the likes of Facebook. Emplifying a terrifying vacuity, Facebook celebrates such moments as when General Stavridis, “announces that NATO successfully terminated its mission in Libya via a Facebook post”.
The NATO-Facebook complex wants to move away from just “shouting out” messages and dictating policy, to a world in which “the wisdom of crowds gives organizations an unprecedented opportunity to make increasingly more informed, more nuanced, and certainly more thoughtful decisions”. In a world of military power and diplomatic realpolitik there is not a chance of this happening, but it sounds nice. The problem is that this zeitgeisty PR justifies the actions of every internet-fearing tyrant with access to the Huffington Post. How can NATO and Facebook think that the publication of an article like this, in which (within the fluff) they mention deepened bonds with bloggers “from member countries, as well as from Russia, Ukraine and across the Middle East”, ties with “eminent digital activists and online journalists”, and the use of social media sites for “direct links to people”, will have a positive effect on the wellbeing of the Internet in countries outside of or wary of NATO’s threat. Such statements — which I asked NATO to clarify across 3 social media platforms and was ignored — do not benefit activists and journalists working in dangerous situations, upon whom they only bring more suspicion; nor do they benefit those looking to use the internet for social change, as they invite crackdowns by foreign governments. The only beneficiary is NATO’s PR wing which gets a brief moment of tech-savvy street cred. Those who actually use the internet to engage, empower, and work towards social change pay the price. [++]
Yesterday, the Daily Dot reported that Kimberly Hester, a teacher’s aide in Michigan, was fired for refusing to give her password to her supervisor at the elementary school where she works. The district’s special education director wrote her: “[I]n the absence of you voluntarily granting Lewis Cass ISD administration access to you[r] Facebook page, we will assume the worst and act accordingly.” And they did.
Perhaps not coincidentally, last Tuesday, Republicans in the House of Representatives voted down a proposal that would have made it illegal for an employer to demands his or her employees’ Facebook passwords. The vote against the bill was 236-184, with only one Republican voting in favor of it.
House Republicans blocked a measure Tuesday night that would have let the Federal Communications Commission prevent employers from forcing workers to reveal their Facebook passwords.
Democrats offered the legislation as part of bill to slap new restrictions on FCC rules after a string of reports about employers insisting on access to social media accounts — a practice that some senators already want investigated by the Justice Department.
The measure failed, 184 to 236, with no Republicans voting for it.
In defense of these brave Republicans, the amendment was a clever attempt by ACORN and Bill Ayers to force tyranny down our liberty loving throats. There may be no evidence of this, but just trust me.
So a few days ago, I got a chance to visit and tour the Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto.
The most striking thing one finds when visiting Facebook is the communal feel of the work environment. There are no gray walls, small windows, and cubicles that epitomize the typical visualization of an “office space.” Instead, the Facebook building is filled with colorful walls, free-snack areas, couches, and alcohol. There are no cubicles, just sets of large desks and ultra-comfortable $800 dollar chairs for each employee.
There are no deadlines for projects; no set time to come to work or leave. You come when you want; you leave when you want. You’ll have a set amount of time to finish a project, but how you use that time is entirely up to you. There appears to be very little “supervision” or “management” that is burdening much of the business world.
And this type of business model is not actually unique to Facebook; indeed, the relaxed work environment is typical of Silicon Valley. Google was one of the first companies to have the rather obvious insight that treating your workers well will result in more creativity, more production, and more profit. And with the clear benefits of such companies, the relaxed communal style of business has become a hallmark for successful, intelligent corporations.
Take care of your workers, and they will take care of you.
I don’t normally have time to engage in Facebook flashmobs, but when I heard the news that we were all invited to speak out on Eric Cantor’s wall, well, shucks! Seein’ as he’s holding the country up and shoving it to the brink of disaster with his Tea Party branding games, I thought I might take my ladylike self on over to his wall and say a few words.
Naturally, using the invite I had received, I invited my friends to participate as well:
Hello my quiet little friends….FYI, “there is a fb flashmob going on now on Eric Cantor’s wall. Please “like” his page so you can leave a message on his wall. The numbers are reaching critical.mass…..too many.for his admin to.keep.up.with! Please Participate!!!!”
So I went along and posted a comment telling Eric it was his job to deal with the debt ceiling and he needed to get to work. Up for a second, long enough to get replies, but as soon as I hit refresh? Gone! What? Surely a mistake. My comment could have come from anyone, left or right. What the heck?
I had imagined they’d be busy deleting the swearing and the general facts that Eric is allergic to, but never did I think they would be real time monitoring the page and deleting everyone. But sure as heck that’s what they’re doing, because each comment and response to my comment would be up for not even a few seconds and whammo — the live monitoring hammer would come down. And we wonder why the Republicans have no idea what Americans really want? [read more]