MONOPOLIES AND BIG DATA: THE FUTURE OF DEMOCRACY AND SOCIETY

TECH & SOCIETY / ETHICS:
MONOPOLIES, BIG DATA AND SURVEILLANCE CAPITALISM: THE FUTURE OF SOCIETY AND DEMOCRACY 

Section B/Topic 6 – Charu Arya, Ervis Bida, Joe Colombo, Christian DeFelice, Jessica Flaherty, Kyle Rusignuolo, Rajat Sinha, Tom Williams

 

The unprecedented rise of the big four — Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple — many argue, has brought into place a concentration of power unknown in human history. The amassing of power seems to follow two vectors: the first the rapid rise of monopoly power and second, the absolute control over data.

PART 1 – The Problem: MONOPOLY


https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnmauldin/2019/04/11/america-has-a-monopoly-problem/

 

  • We have become a nation of monopolies; a large and growing part of our economy is “owned” by a handful of companies that face little competition
  • Three companies control about 80% of mobile telecoms, three have 95% of credit cards, four have 70% of airline flights within the U.S. Google handles 60% of searches.
  • Creative destruction is the process of companies growing their profits by delivering better products at lower prices than their competitors, but that is not happening today. Creative destruction also means that companies go out of business and workers lose their jobs for a new competitor to hire them eventually.
  • Doug Kass predicted in 2019 that Amazon stock prices will be at $3,000 within a few years, and $5,000 by 2025
  • We are currently living in a niche market where the world is moving to fewer competitors and larger businesses. 

 

 2 Responses

Roger McNamee — Investor / Venture Capitalist — watch video interview and associated article.

https://www.wired.com/story/this-big-facebook-critic-fears-techs-business-model/ (Links to an external site.)

 

  • Roger McAmee, an investor and early Facebook backer, has since soured on the company, along with other early 2000’s Silicon Valley technology that has since exploded.
    • He argues these companies (Google, Facebook, Paypal) behaved unlike any organization before them.
      • They created disruption and harm by trying to gather as much personal information from their users in order to boost their own profits.
  • McAmee believes society has accepted the practice of companies tracking users, claiming domain on their personal information, and then analyzing said info through machine learning and AI to steer people towards advertisements and predict their searches.
  • McAmee does not blame the CEO’s, including Mark Zuckerberg, for continuing these practices. 
    • He places the blame firmly on the business models which have made these companies so profitable, where it relies on storing and utilizing customer data.

 

FB co-founder says “It’s time to breakup fb” NYT May 2019

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/09/opinion/sunday/chris-hughes-facebook-zuckerberg.amp.html

 

  • The author condemns Mark Zuckerberg for sacrificing user security & civility on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp for clicks
  • Facebook’s news feed algorithm:
    • Changed their corporate culture
    • Had influence on elections
    • Empowered nationalist leaders
  • The author finds Mark Zuckerberg’s power unprecedented and un-American
  • The author calls to break up Facebook
  • Monopolies prevent the competition that spurs innovation and leads to economic growth.
  • The Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 outlawed monopolies. More legislation followed in the 20th century, creating legal and regulatory structures to promote competition and hold the biggest companies accountable.
    • Ex.) Standard Oil & AT&T
  • In the past 20 years, more than 75% of American industries, from airlines to pharmaceuticals, have experienced increased concentration, and the average size of public companies has tripled.
    • Results: ​​less entrepreneurship, stalled productivity growth, & higher prices/less options for customers
  • Social media is seeing similar unchecked behavior
    • Facebook faces no market-based accountability
  • Mark Zuckerberg’s drive to “dominate” the social media landscape was what drive Facebook to acquire Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014
  • Facebook’s Monopoly Statistics
    • Worth half a trillion dollars
    • Commands more than 80% of the world’s social networking revenue.
    • EPS have increased by 40% since the previous year
    • Roughly 70% of American adults use social media, most of whom use Facebook products
      • ⅔ use Facebook
      • ⅓ use Instagram
      • use WhatsApp
    • Fewer than ⅓ use competing sites such as LinkedIn, Pinterest or Snapchat

 

 

PART 2 – The Problem: BIG DATA AND SURVEILLANCE CAPITALISM


Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff (McMillan 2018)


Review of SURVEILLANCE CAPITALISM 

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/feb/02/age-of-surveillance-capitalism-shoshana-zuboff-review (Links to an external site.)

 

  • Companies, such as Google & Facebook, have come into a “behavioral surplus” of user personal information based on how their services are being utilized.
    • Allows these companies to take a user’s personal information and wants and trade them for profit in new markets which predict needs.
    • Same companies are spending billions to prevent legislation blocking them from profiting off their user base’s personal information.
    • Author Shoshana Zuboff coined this practice as “Surveillance Capitalism”.
  • A majority of people are willing to sacrifice their private information to these companies in return for perceived benefits, in what is known as “Decision Rights”.
  • Perceived benefits such as:
    • Ease of use.
    • Navigation features.
    • Access to information and other people

 

  • Zuboff argues that the implications to allowing private data to be shared can be dangerous for societal norms in the future. Belief that surveillance capitalism will look to model human behavior and erase both free will and free markets.

 

 

 

A Zuboff documentary on Surveillance Capitalism

https://youtu.be/hIXhnWUmMvw

According to Zuboff, our personal and private experiences have been hijacked by Silicon Valley and used as the raw material and reveals how Silicon Valley deceives us.

We voluntarily provide personal information to technology companies

  •       Facebook knows all our hobbies preferences and friends
  •       Google knows where we are at all times thanks to its navigation app

Residual (wasteful data) from all the way back to 2001 contains rich user data that these companies use to improve their service, but also used to train their models (patterns of user behavior) to predict consumer behavior in the present and future.

  •       Sell this behavior data to business customers who can in turn use it to target those customers with promotion and targeted ads.
  •       Maximize the consumer value

We have no idea what today’s algorithms can predict about us or what behavioral data they used to do it

  •       Buying a single shampoo can predict our behavior. Walmart case of how Walmart knew a woman was pregnant before she did.

Big tech knows us better then we know ourselves

  •       they can predict things like our personality our
  •       emotions our
  •       sexual orientation our political orientation 

Our data can be sold to totalitarian regimes like China who uses to oppress political dissidents and minorities

Big tech operates in stealth. The systems have been engineered to be indecipherable to be undetectable to Create ignorance in a vast group of all of us that they call users.

  •       Facebook experimented with subliminal cues planted in its Facebook pages That would actually influence offline real-world Behavior and emotions to see if they could make people feel happier or sadder.
  •       Pokémon go is used as a surveillance system (initially incubated at google) that uses Google Earth which in turn used to be a CIA program called Keyhole.
  •       Hidden microphone in Nest security systems

 Functionality of the devices and services we buy/use is held hostage to your agreeing to the privacy contract.

  •       For example the way to pay with privacy with privacy for all the free services we get from Google

Google’s free mobile operating system Android means Google holds the key to almost 90% of the world’s smartphones in the world.

Need more whistleblowers to prevent illegal data usage such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

21st century citizens should not have to make a choice of either essentially, going analog or

living in a world where our self-determination and our Privacy are destroyed for the sake of this market logic.

 

 

 

A similar argument from Evgeny Morozov on the issue of Democracy and Democratization

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Efd14ZC7u4U 

  • t the 2019 Univention Summit, writer Evgeny Morozov gave a speech on the dangers of power in the hands of “Big Tech” companies.
  • Facebook launched an app and would actually give users $20 a month (mainly ages 13-25) to allow Facebook to gather and study user data.
    • This continued until Apple recognized the act, and removed Facebook’s app from the iOS marketplace.


  • Morozov believes the above situation with Facebook represents the three problems facing the digital economy today:
    • American and Chinese tech companies promise security & privacy, when in fact these same companies track user data in order to determine what products to launch.
    • Periods of growth/competition push tech companies to gather more data and new ways to extract this data. There are no current social rules to dissuade this behavior, so these spying techniques are just accepted.
    • Apple has immense power to decide which companies are allowed to continue their activities on their platform and which companies should be relegated away. 

  • Danger of all three problems above is that the digital economy right now is not properly regulated. 
    • The strongest companies have the best chance to flourish and continue while others are left to fade away or are pushed out by the larger groups.
  • Immediate positives but long-term negatives with the current agreements we have with tech giants.
    • Positives:
      • Increased Efficiency
      • Cheaper or Absence of Prices
    • Negatives:
      • Data is Harvested and Sold 
      • Prices are Subsidized by Venture Capitalists

  • Uber is an example of a tech company subsidizing prices in the short-term in order to achieve long-term dominance.
    • In 2017, Uber lost $4.5 billion, but their size and capital backing allows them to continue to operate while smaller firms would die off.
      • Long-term, Uber can outwait competition until they are the remaining company. At that point, they can operate at much more profitable levels in a monopoly.

  • Society has accepted these dangerous business practices.
    • While the cheap prices are nice now, if regulations are not put in place, or if social norms do not adjust, the prices will rise and the burden will be placed on society.

  • Morozov believes data should be off limits from corporate control, and regulated instead.
    • Build a model to give companies, like Facebook and Google, the right to pay for this data rather than harvesting it like they are now. 

 

Summary:

 

Big tech has amassed power in similar paths with two significant steps: the first, establish a monopoly, and the second, obtain complete control over the collected data. Monopolies have overtaken the United States, and it has been proposed that we are moving towards a market in which monopolies are more significant and competition is fewer. Monopolies like Facebook and Google have been harvesting consumer data to create more advertising revenue at the consumer’s expense. McAmee believes that this business model, which allows for companies to gain unprecedented power through consumer data, is the one to blame. Tech giants, including Google and Facebook, track user data and develop targeted advertisements. Monopolies have been proven to decrease entrepreneurship, decrease productivity growth, reduce options, and increase prices. Facebook is one such monopolistic company, whose significant influence in the social media industry with its platforms, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, has influenced elections, empowered nationalist leaders without being checked or regulated and has spread misinformation and sacrificed user security. Although Facebook had to pay punitive damages of over $5 billion to settle a U.S. investigation into years of privacy violations, their practices continue to perpetuate the behavior of harvesting user data for their monetization purposes. 

 

In contrast, many people are willing to exchange their private user information for perceived benefits, including better user interfaces, navigation features, and access to other people and information. This exchange has significant implications, including the potential for the erasure of both free will and free markets. For example, on Google, people are willing to forego the risk of having the site violate their privacy rights to get more personalized searches that are more applicable to their interests. In the end, some consumers may not care for their rights to privacy being violated, just so long as they can have their needs fulfilled by these Big Tech companies. Furthermore, because of the data they can gather on large groups of customers, big tech knows consumers better than themselves, and there is little information on what these monopolistic companies do with consumers’ data. The digital economy is facing three critical issues, outlined by Morozov, which are markers for an unregulated digital economy in which only the most substantial and most prominent companies are most likely to flourish. One solution presented by Morozov is to regulate consumer data outside of corporate control and have corporations like Google and Facebook pay for the data they use. 

 

Surveillance capitalism poses a significant threat to both free will and free society. The aforementioned current benefits may not be enough to justify the long-term implications. Indeed, the state of the digital economy cannot continue to go unchecked. There needs to be greater transparency and accountability surrounding data and privacy in the current tech environment. Ultimately, it is up to consumers to determine what they are willing to sacrifice in terms of data privacy in exchange for access to more personalized features and platforms and more customized and relevant user experiences. We can conclude that there is still much to be done on the digital regulation front and how it will undoubtedly shape the future of the technological landscape and how these large corporations manage user data. It’s been discussed whether or not organizations such as the ones mentioned above should have to report data as an asset on a company’s balance sheet. While data can be a significant business asset to an organization offering tangible results in revenue that is hopefully not exploited, there can be severe limitations and consequences to an organization, and it can become a significant liability if not managed properly.

 

Questions:

  1. Facebook co-founder, Chris Hughes, believes that the current state of the Social Networking company has sacrificed user privacy and safety for clicks.  As they acquire other apps, their monopoly grows stronger within the social platform industry. Through this power, Facebook can influence elections and empower nationalist leaders with very little checks and balances.  Do you believe that Facebook’s power has gone unchecked and what regulations should be put in place to combat their rising monopoly?
  2. What are the three problems Morozov believes are facing the digital economy today? Morozov also feels data should be limited from corporate control, and companies should have to pay to acquire this data. Do you agree with Morozov’s stance, and why? If not, do you feel there is a better way to handle how user data is distributed.
  3. Most of us acknowledge a privacy issue with tech and data – how private data is shared and utilized (i.e. targeted ads)? And yet Zuboff points to a much larger problem characterized by what she calls “behavioral futures”emerging as a commodity. What are behavioral futures and how does it help us go beyond privacy?

 

38 thoughts on “MONOPOLIES AND BIG DATA: THE FUTURE OF DEMOCRACY AND SOCIETY

  1. I do believe that the power of Facebook is very strong. I still use Facebook actively, participating in multiple groups where I interact, buy, and sell with others of similar hobbies. Even during this, I still see the political influence and interactions that occur within the more “social media” posting and sharing aspect. Facebook has become a strong platform for people to share their opinions and beliefs, and many times these can be flagged as incorrect. While some may disagree, Facebook’s growing strength has been able to filter what is shown, and sometimes tailors to specific audiences. This can create a huge problem, and may lead to intense bias. Along with this, the facts show that the products under the Facebook company are widely used amongst the social media industry, with many users interacting on Facebook and Instagram, for example. Other platforms are still popular, like TikTok and Snapchat, but will never reach the numbers in terms of usage and profits, compared to Facebook. It can be hard to put regulations in place, as many social media sites tend to come and go. Intellectual property laws would not be of much help here, as it is impossible to patent the way social media works, involving posting and sharing information.

    Morozov explains three problems, those being American and Chinese tech companies tracking user data instead of providing security, no social rules to discourage data gathering behavior, and the control of Apple over companies sharing their products to their platform. I completely understand what Morozov is suggesting in having larger companies pay for data, and in most ways I do agree. Websites, like the mentioned Google and Facebook, are taking data based on their users. This data is almost always used in order to gain larger profits by tailoring to any of the customers’ desires. This also gives them the strength to continue to grow, and if the smaller companies want to stand a chance, this model would make the most sense. It would mean that, in order to grow, these big companies would have to pay for the secret data they need. On the other hand, smaller companies would most likely have to follow the same rules, otherwise it can create an unfair advantage. Obviously, larger companies will always have the upperhand, but if smaller companies can access our data and build on that with no cost, they would be doing the exact thing that these large businesses do, which is disliked by the majority.

    Zuboff explains the “behavioral surplus”, which is what large companies have come into. This allows companies like this to take the user’s personal information, find what they might be looking for, and trade them for greater profits in the target market. She also refers to this as “surveillance capitalism”, and explains how people are willing to give up these private rights in order to receive benefits. Privacy is barely acknowledged, if at all, with these topics in play. Companies can continue to mine this information, sell it, and earn profits, and I would imagine it would only progress from this point.

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    1. Hi Jared,
      I really enjoyed reading your post. A few things that I feel get away from us as users is that we cannot be bothered with reading the privacy agreements. Some of these privacy agreements are so long that it is a waste of time to read just to use one site or read an article. There are so many websites now that make you “Accept Cookies” before you use their website and finding the “Do Not Accept” button is almost impossible every time. Websites and Social Networks almost give their users no choice, and they often state that they are using our data in a way that normal people don’t understand. For my use on Facebook, I often get things on my feed that I have never seen before or even thought of, most recently in my Facebook watch it is filled with shortened episodes of things on TV from random Spanish users, shows that I have never seen or even looked up on Facebook. It is weird how those things work. Even on this website I get ads and if I was to click on it, I would get those ads everywhere. Companies target us with their ads being fun, colorful, and often times popping up out of no where when we are scrolling. It is bizarre, and sometimes concerning how our data is being used and it is often hard to actually see how our data is being used by companies and social media pages. The talks on security privacy are just starting to scratch the service, and I think that they need to be a bigger priority as kids in elementary school are using computers and there are YouTube videos that are suggested for them that are harmful in ways. I also feel that when an “Accept Cookies” button comes up, there should be an easier way to see how they are using our data, and an equally as visible “Do Not Accept” button that appears.

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    2. Hi Jared,
      Great Post!
      As you mention, consumers are willing to sacrifice their data to exchange for a more accessible tool or other goods such as extra income. I have noticed that many new apps are built to collect personal data. Such as Apps that require one to upload a picture of groceries shopping receipt to get paid. People are willing to sell their data, and only a few groups of people would really notice the issues.
      Thank you,
      Cici Ouyang

      Like

    3. Hi Jared,
      Great point about the behavioral surplus. A scary example of this being exploited is the well-known story of how Target was able to know when its customers were expecting a baby, before the baby even arrived. The full story is here:https://bettermarketing.pub/target-knows-youre-pregnant-before-anyone-else-and-it-s-making-them-billions-7c4972a9bfabP). To summarize, they tracked the purchases of customers who recently had babies, and reviewed purchases they made months in advance. With this information, they could predict pregnancies with more than 80% accuracy. Target then would send ads regarding items such as maternity clothes to expecting mothers before they even had the child.

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    4. Hi Jared, excellent post. I liked your response to the third question and agree that companies barely acknowledge privacy nowadays and through this they mine information and create immense profit as there are little to no regulation to these practices which violates the privacy of individuals. I also found Zuboff’s concerns really important as in her book it is outlined how this affects individuals while it benefits the monopolies making it a big issue in society. Here I leave you with a video that elaborates on surveillance capitalisms and its implications.

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  2. 1) I believe Facebook’s power have gone unchecked and has a very strong influence. Facebook is meant for social interactions but has transformed into a political database. Most political beliefs, opinions, theories, and interactions can be reported and taken down. However, Facebook can show the posts they want the public to see and it would be made for a specific audience. This is a huge political bias towards one party. Facebook also would show advertisements tailored for that audience to strengthen that bias and not show support to anyone else. Facebook is pretty big in the social media world and very hard to put regulations in place. Copyright protection and IP laws are not impacted and very hard to prove. It is impossible to put a restriction someone’s ability to post and share information that would violate free speech. I would say a regulation to put in place is Facebook to not filter what they want the public to see.

    2) Morozov believes the problems facing the digital economy are Chinese companies tracking and selling your data, no filter and ethics when collecting data, and the control or influence a company has when advertising their product on a specific platform. I am very neutral about Morozov’s stance. I do agree with the aspect that big companies should have to pay to acquire data. This allows to make changes to business objectives based on what the consumer wants and allows room pivot a strategy or tactic efficiently. However, i do not agree with Morozov because it would be a bidding war for the data and whoever has the biggest wallet will collect the data. Smaller companies and start up companies cannot afford just for data that has a chance too might not even be useful for them. I feel like there is not a fair system to distribute the data effectively. It can best described as a bidding war and every man for themselves.

    3) Companies can take someones personal information, learn about what their behavior is like, and sell it for profit in a target market specialized for the person. An example of private data being shared and utilized are from advertisements for a product or a service you just researched about. “Behavioral futures” or “surveillance capitalism” is data captured from tracking or monitoring a person’s movement and behaviors online. This can be a total invasion of privacy and that data would be sold to the right market. I do not see this type of business model for companies ending anytime soon and companies will continue to make a profit anyway they can.

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    1. Hey Anthony, great response here. I would definitely agree that there is a bias on platforms like Facebook, with only specific things being represented., There is a clear bias, and it can result in one side of information creating a larger influence on its users. Along with this, there is certainly not a fair system of data distribution, like you mentioned. Practices can be put in place if handled properly, but this is not something that is possible as of this moment. Hopefully there are ways that begin to make larger companies pay for data, while also keeping it fair for smaller groups.

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  3. Facebook’s power and ability to influence elections is no greater than Fox News, CNN, or any other platform. It is certainly easier for a younger generation to find biased news and make decisions based on this, but the population that votes is generally older. This will not affect party bases. The issue surrounding the consumption of biased news is larger than Facebook. Ever since the necessity to afford air time to a competing opinion was overruled in 1987, this was made possible. The solution to this, is much more complex and bipartisan in nature. However, neither political camp is interested in affording either side the opportunity to persuade their base and swing voters. It is much easier to forgo the opposition’s base and battle over the swing voters.
    Facebook and Google have certainly enjoyed unchecked powers in the last two decades. Their ability to procure unlimited amounts of customer private data and bundle and sell it is becoming worrisome. As noted, people do not have a choice in bartering their right to privacy for access to applications that are necessary. Gmail for example has been selling and harnessing user data. If people’s only choice is either not use the application or give up privacy, then philosophically speaking that is not much of a choice. Especially when these applications require the input of incredible amounts of personal information to build a user profile. The EU and even U.S. are attempting to break up these companies via judicial proceedings, but this has largely been stalled and ineffective.

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    1. Hey Jesse! Thanks for your perspective on Facebooks overreach in the social media space. I do think that facebooks ability to influence an election as an example is not all that dissimilar to some of the major media outlets. that being said, where I think they differ is they are not originators of the content shared on their platform, so for that reason they do have a social responsibility and moral obligation to do the right thing and create a fair and balanced sharing of that information. Shadow banning certain users as an example I believe creates an unfair advantage for folks trying to get their perspective out on a certain argument. Targeting certain users who don’t necessarily align with the political narrative is a way that facebook could influence an election by sharing certain information with its users and not sharing others.

      I agree that companies like facebook and google has amassed too much user data in recent years. The hockey stick graphical view of the amount of data due to increased users is very worrisome and can be used against the population if not properly regulated. Philosophically, with the predictive algorithms you can wonder if the decisions you’re making are really your own or if they are the decisions the tech companies want you to make by putting the pathway in place.

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    2. Hi Jesse, I enjoyed reading your response. I definitely would agree with what you said, that Facebook is just as powerful as news channels. News channels can tend to show bias, and Facebook seems to also. There are many times where the filter or hide things that the majority might not agree with, and that can certainly present an unfair issue. If platforms like Facebook plan to continue to allow political postings and discussion, there needs to be a fair balance of all opinions.

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    3. Hi Jesse,
      I think an interesting difference between Facebook and the news stations is that the news stations have an obligation to speak the truth. There are legal and financial repercussions at stake if a news station were to publish false information. However, Facebook really does not have any control over the information that is shared over their network. Since the people are using Facebook as the medium to share information, it is more likely people are held accountable for their views rather than Facebook for hosting those views on their platform. It is also important to note that Facebook’s algorithm will share information (fake or real) to individuals with similar viewpoints. This creates potential for unchecked spread of misinformation. I think Facebook has an obligation to develop a system of checks and balances to ensure that their algorithm is not spreading misinformation which can be damaging to society.

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      1. Hi David,

        One way we can stop Facebook profiting from our data is to tax it. Congress could levy a tech tax on digital ads sold by Facebook and other social networks to subsidize telecommunication service in high-cost areas. We can use the same logic with Google tweeter etc.

        Unfortunately for any regulation to go in effect they need to make it past the all powerful lobby firms hired by these companies.

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    4. Hello Jesse, great post as I really enjoyed your view on Facebook’s power on elections as it brings insight to another media source such as the news. I do agree that some news channels have a biased take and they influence people to some way. Many of these channels use gatekeeping tactics in order to keep information away from people and just show what they want. For instance, Fox News a channels that was established in republican views, propagate republican views and in some instance they come up with conspiracy theories that affect the views of people watching these news thus I feel that this is an issue that should be addressed. Here I leave a video on Fox News.

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  4. I do believe Facebooks reach through their various strategic acquisitions over the years qualifies them as a social media monopoly and their influence has overgrown the market tolerance for a company to operate in this capacity. Regulators have accused the company of buying up rising rivals to cement its dominance over the social media landscape. This has drawn some significant criticism for the organization breaking many antitrust laws in the process. The state accusers called for several of the deals to be unwound, expediting and escalating regulators’ battle against the biggest tech companies in a way that could remake the social media industry. For example, Facebook purchase Instagram for $1 billion in 2012 and WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014, eliminating competition that could have one day challenged the company’s dominance.

    Yes, yes, yes regarding Morozov’s stance on data management and responsibility. While data can be a valuable business asset by offering tangible business results, it has some serious limitations and can become a huge liability if not managed well. And from a liability perspective regarding regulators, with increased rules surrounding how companies protect, share, and manage customer and user data, there becomes a major responsibility for these organizations increased data management complexity and cost.

    Often referred to as “surveillance capitalism”, people’s online experiences are gathered by private companies and translated into proprietary data flows. This data can be used to improve the companies products and some of it falls into the “behavioral surplus” category and valued for its’ predictive signals. The predictive data is utilized by new-age factories of machine intelligence where they are broken down, categorized, and computed by predictive algorithms into highly profitable prediction products that anticipate users current and future choices.

    https://www.forbes.com/advisor/investing/update-facebook-antitrust-lawsuit/
    https://www.project-syndicate.org/onpoint/surveillance-capitalism-exploiting-behavioral-data-by-shoshana-zuboff-2020-01

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  5. 1. I agree that Facebook’s power has gone unchecked and has the ability to influence elections. However, I am not sure how the government could regulate. As in Group 3’s summary, most consumers are willing to sacrifice their data to exchange for a more accessible tool. Also mentioned in the article is that consumers are eager to trade their data for other goods such as cash. There are tons of ads over the market that one could earn extra money by taking and uploading pictures of their shopping receipts. None of the regulations could stop one from doing so. On the other hand, the government needs these giant tech companies to battle in the war. One great example is that big tech companies now stop user functions in Russia. Does this seem fair to those innocent Russian citizens?
    2. The three issues are as follows: companies promise to keep private consumer data on the one hand but use personal data to determine which product to sell on the market on the other hand. No current social rules to dissuade companies from collecting private data. Monopolistic has the power to control the market. I’m afraid I disagree that the company should pay for this data since these companies invented products. Again, I do not think there is any better way to control how to stop companies from collecting private data.
    3. The company is able to learn one’s behavior from their data. The company could perform data analysis and sell this analysis to the marketing company to better understand consumer behaviors. As mentioned above, some people are willing to sell their personal data to exchange goods.

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    1. Hi Yongshi,

      I thought that you did a great job on your post. Specifically regarding your answer to question #1, I also agree that Facebook’s power has gone unchecked and they most definitely have the power to influence elections. We are seeing this currently and have seen this previously as well. Russia recently decided to restrict internet access to Facebook for its citizens because Facebook decided to censor Russian posts. I understand that some of the posts may have been inappropriate, however, Facebook is censoring and depicting a story that is inaccurate because of the items they censor. I also agree it is unfair to the citizens who are innocent in this scenario and do not agree with certain decisions because they are being silenced. I can recall the same thing happening regarding the 2020 presidential election. Facebook was censoring posts regarding a political party it did not agree with and again, created a story that was inaccurate. Because Facebook’s monopoly continues to grow, there needs to be some sort of regulations in place, similar to what Disney and Amazon experienced to even out the playing field. Unless there are severe threats being made in posts, there should be no censorship. News reporting and the media are crucial points for the public to get their information from. If it is not accurate from the actual events taking place, it is essential lies being told to the public.

      Like

      1. Hi Brianna,

        I couldn’t agree with you more. Especially how Facebook is intertwined in our life and it seems like there is no escaping it. If you use Facebook, you know that Facebook takes a toll on your privacy — but perhaps not in the way you expect. It isn’t just the Facebook app that’s gobbling up your information. Facebook is so big, it has persuaded millions of other businesses, apps and websites to also snoop on its behalf. Even when you’re not actively using Facebook. Even when you’re not online. Even, perhaps, if you’ve never had a Facebook account.

        Facebook provides its business partners tracking software they embed in apps, websites and loyalty programs. Any business or group that needs to do digital advertising has little choice but to feed your activities into Facebook’s vacuum. Behind the scenes, Facebook takes in this data and tries to match it up to your account. It sits under your name in a part of your profile your friends can’t see, but Facebook uses to shape your experience online.

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  6. The power of Facebook, along with Google, Amazon, Microsoft, etc., has gone largely unchecked. These companies hold the world’s most valuable resource and have sold that personal data to the highest bidder. What started out as a social media platform quickly turned into a conglomerate, as they are also the one of the world’s biggest advertising agencies. They have influenced elections all over the world, including our own in the United States. Unfortunately, I don’t know if regulations will stop them, simply because neither political party in our government is motivated to do so. There are certainly outliers, but not enough to make a real difference. Republicans don’t like government regulation, while Democrats benefit heavily from Big Tech’s influential and financial support.

    While Facebook is certainly an issue, I believe that Google is an even bigger problem. Google is supposed to be a search engine that provides unbiased, objective information, but it has been proven they suppress/censor content that doesn’t align with the company’s core values. Google controls 93% of all searches on the internet.

    Below is an informative podcast from JRE, which is relevant to this topic.

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    1. I couldn’t agree more with you Joe. These companies have been collecting our data for the past 20 years and are able to predict our behaviors to a certain extent. They use the data for profit and give willing buyers the ability to manipulate customer behavior.

      I am of the school of thoughts that self regulating does not work. They will do the bare minimum regulating just to avoid public scrutiny. When the Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen revealed how how the social network’s algorithm amplified misinformation and was exploited by foreign adversaries, it was a wake up call for the country. We can only prevent further misdeeds by these companies by having them monitored and held accountable.

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  7. 1.Facebook power has gone unchecked as we see from the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the most recent whistleblower. Their main concern is profits at any cost, in the process aggregating enormous amount of data for businesses to exploit. I feel that the current format of these companies self-regulating is unsustainable as ultimately, they are only responsible to their board rooms and profits. In my view the government needs to step in and set standards in place just like our European partners have done with data privacy. America is lagging behind and that is detrimental to us all.

    2. As consumers increasingly adopt digital technology, the data they generate create both an opportunity for enterprises to improve their consumer engagement and a responsibility to keep consumer data safe. These data, including location-tracking and other kinds of personally identifiable information, are immensely valuable to companies: many organizations, for example, use data to better understand the consumer’s pain points and unmet needs. These insights help to develop new products and services, as well as to personalize advertising and marketing.
    The questions arises that if these companies are profiting from our data, why shouldn’t we? I feel that every consumer should be in full control of their data. Each company needs to segregate such data until consent is given to be used.

    3. When Zuboff mentions behaviors future she means that by collecting these tremendous amounts of data, companies can determine our future behaviors. A good example given was how Walmart knew that a customer was pregnant before she even realized it. While companies might think that such systems are highly beneficial because they are able to give the customer exactly what they need, I find them disturbingly intrusive and a gross violation of privacy.

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    1. Hey Ervis,

      Great post! I agree with what you said for Question 3 in that big tech companies that are allowed to take personal information and create a personalized profile of users is downright sickening. It’s a blatant breach of an American citizen’s right to privacy. And I feel disgusted knowing that big companies like Google, Youtube and Facebook can easily try and predict what I want by taking consumer information from me without my consent. I think our country needs to adapt some form of Europe’s GDPR laws in order to protect U.S. consumers from having their rights to privacy violated by these big Silicon Valley companies for profit. I hope that in the near future either the Biden administration or another President can adopt these reforms to bette the online environment for a majority of U.S. consumers.

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  8. As per the article, Hughes truly believes that Mark Zuckerberg focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks. He is worried that Mark has created a leviathan that crowds out entrepreneurship and restricts consumer choice and when he is with a team that reinforces his beliefs instead of challenging them. Mark and his team for not thinking about how the News Feed algorithm could change our culture, influence elections and empower nationalist leaders. He also argued that Zuckerberg’s competitive drive and quest for domination has led the company to control an estimated 80% of the world’s social network revenue and beleives that Facebook is now a “powerful monopoly” should be forced to reverse its acquisitions of Instagram and Whatsapp Hughes being the latest prominent entrepreneurs and tech executives to call for stricter regulation of Facebook and other online platforms to put better controls in place following a wave of scandals related to data privacy, election meddling and the spread of misinformation. But, Zuckerberg has signaled that he’s open to some regulation. In an opinion piece published in the Washington Post in March, the CEO tried to sketch out areas where he thought regulation should start. In his view Facebook’s calls for regulation are a way to head off a potential antitrust case. In Hughes view, Facebook’s calls for regulation are a way to head off a potential antitrust case. Henceforth, the US government should create a new agency to regulate tech companies and It’s on our government to ensure that we never lose the magic of the invisible hand,”

    https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/09/tech/facebook-chris-hughes-break-up/index.html

    Dangers of power in the hands of “Big Tech” companies:
    Yes, I agree with Morozov belief that user’s data and security should be off limits from corporate control, and regulated instead. The American and Chinese tech companies promise security & privacy, when in fact these same companies track user data in order to determine what products to launch. Like, Facebook has launched an app that would actually give users $20 a month to allow Facebook to gather and study user data. This is because, the digital economy right now is not properly regulated now, These strongest companies have the best chance to flourish and continue while others are left to fade away or are pushed out by the larger groups. Periods of growth/competition push tech companies to gather more data and new ways to extract this data. There are no current social rules to dissuade this behavior, so these spying techniques are just accepted. There should be a new regulations to be set up in order to control the said dangers creating by the tech giants like Google and Facebook. Apple has immense power to decide which companies are allowed to continue their activities on their platform and which companies should be relegated away. Uber is an example of a tech company subsidizing prices in the short-term in order to achieve long-term dominance. Uber lost $4.5 billion, but their size and capital backing allows them to continue to operate while smaller firms would die off. Should create a New regulations to give companies, like Facebook and Google, the right to pay for this data rather than harvesting thee data and selling it to others.

    There needs to be greater transparency and accountability surrounding data and privacy in the current tech environment. Special systems like Cambridge Analytica scandal and Surveillance capitalism poses a significant role to free society from illegal data. Wasteful data contains resources of user’s data that these companies use to improve their service, but also used to train their models (patterns of user behavior) to predict consumer behavior in the present and future. Business customers buys this behavior data from tech giants like google and facebook to promote in their ads for their market.

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    1. Hi Madhavi,

      I was not aware that Facebook owned 80% of the world’s social networking space, but it does remind me of the oil companies of the early 20th century. At the turn of the century, Standard Oil, owned by John Rockefeller, had a monopoly on the oil market which is horrible for consumers. The monopoly was so strong that the government enacted the 1911 Sherman Anti-Trust act which forced Standard Oil to break into 34 different companies to actually allow competition (which is where Exxon and Mobil originated). Facebook has such influence that I do not think it is out of the realm of possibility something similar could happen in the future, where the government actually forces Facebook to break into separate companies. We are now obviously in a digital age, so how it would be done, if possible, would be interesting to see.

      Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_Oil#:~:text=Breakup,-Main%20article%3A%20Standard&text=By%201911%2C%20with%20public%20outcry,and%20split%20into%2034%20companies.

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  9. Facebook has grown exponentially making a strong monopoly that allows them to have immense power in the world and this power allows them to influence many things thus, I do believe Facebook’s power has gone unchecked as Chris Hughes states the company has sacrificed user privacy for clicks and they should have regulations that regulate their monopoly. In order to regulate monopolies there should be regulations that stop them from keeping acquiring companies that aid the growth of their monopoly. Many advocates for free market are against regulations nonetheless, regulations aid to cut such monopolies that “gain immense power through political power and their ability to shape society in an undemocratic and unaccountable way” (Pettinger). Thus, such companies need regulations to stop their power.
    https://www.economicshelp.org/blog/265/economics/are-monopolies-always-bad/
    The three problems Morozov found in the digital economy today are the false security promises tech companies offer. Next, the immense amount of data tech companies gather and extract from their users. Lastly, Apple’s power to decide whether the companies accept and not. I do agree with Morozov’s stance on data being limited from corporate control. This big data brings these companies immense amounts of data that transforms to revenue and power over the user; the user is the product and that’s a scary idea as usually you the consumer buy a product instead of being the product
    There are for sure issues with tech and data as private data is shared and utilized for the benefit of big corporations making the user the product such as targeted ads in which companies make billions through selling information to companies.

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    1. Hi Samuel,

      I enjoyed reading your post. It was concise and to the point.
      I think in regards to regulating monopolies we have similar ideas. I agree with your strategy that to reduce monopolies the regulation should be centered on reducing the acquisitions. I stated that to regulate the monopolies the number of competitors per industry should have a standard that way if the number of competitors went below this threshold, it would be a red flag.

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  10. 1. I do believe that Facebook’s power has gone unchecked. I think as with any industry with dominant leaders, there needs to be more regulation in place against rising monopolies. I do also believe that any social media has an influence over the consumer. It is evident that if you make a purchase on Amazon or search for something on Google, within the next hour you will probably see advertisements or posts on Facebook or Instagram about that topic. I do not think any checks or balances exist with Facebook. I think like most media, Facebook is known to side with certain views or political stances. One could state that monopolies exist as well with Internet Service Providers as the main competitors are Verizon and Comcast. Once competitors cannot compete fairly, then it hurts the consumer. There are less choices and the top firms within the industry gain the power. I think if it could somehow be quantified that the number of competitors can be standardized per industry, then there could be regulations if the number of competitors reduces below a certain threshold.

    2. The three main problems facing the digital economy today according to Morozov are American and Chinese tech companies track user data to determine what products to launch, there are no current social rules to dissuade this behavior, and Apple has immense power to decide which companies are allowed to continue their activities using their platforms and which cannot. I do agree with Morozov’s stance that companies should have to pay for the data. Some companies offer store credit cards or member cards to track shopper trends. Others are relying on social media and the free availability of data to trace consumer behaviors. If a company wants to track or be in a better position of anticipating buyer behavior, then they should offer programs or pay advertising firms to promote their products or services. I think it should be more regulated.

    3. Zuboff believes that allowing private data to be shared can be dangerous to society. The surveillance capitalism will ultimately look to model human behavior and erase both free will and free markets. This behavioral surplus provides companies with data that helps them better position themselves in the markets. Consumers are willing providing this data in exchange for benefits such as ease of use or navigation features.

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    1. Hi Natalie,

      I also believe creating a space for companies to purchase user data would be a positive route to move into based on how we currently behave. I believe people have just accepted that their user data is not safe, but simply do not care enough now to fight against it, despite the number of scandals on the topic the last decade. With a data marketplace, these companies would have to pay for the data they harvest, but then I think the topic of conversation becomes this: what happens with the funds used to purchase this data?

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  11. 1. I do believe Facebook’s power has gone unchecked, and I feel the timing of the company, as well as their quick rise, are reasons for this unregulated growth. While there were other social media platforms before Facebook, it seems as if Facebook had “figured out” the platform, which allowed them to expand across the globe in becoming the largest networking site. With the growth came a massive user base, something that had never really been seen before, and I think Facebook took advantage of their resources since there was no previous set rules in regards to this sort of regulation. Facebook is now a juggernaut, who continues to expand and purchase other platforms, such as Instagram. However, I am unsure how to properly regulate such a force, and it feels wrong to tell a company they are not allowed to expand. At the same time, in the 20th century, the US government has broken up monopolies in the oil and telecom industries to create competition for a consumer-friendly marketplace. Should Facebook keep expanding, the government may consider such actions again.

    2. Morozov believes the three problems are:
    -American and Chinese companies promise privacy on their platforms, but these same companies sell user data for profit.
    -There are no social behaviors discouraging the selling of user data, so it goes unchecked.
    -Platforms, like Apple, control which companies may operate and sell in their space and which ones should fade away.

    I did also like Morozov’s idea of creating a marketplace of user data, rather than just letting companies take it like they do right now. As he argues, society has accepted our data is not safe, so if we know our info is already out there then companies should be forced to give a little back in order to utilize it.

    3. Per Zuboff’s research, she believes we have become used to companies taking and studying user data in order to help study and grow their own brands. These companies then curate the user experience with targeted images and ads in what she calls the “behavioral future”, where these companies look to influence how we behave. Zuboff is concerned for the future of e-commerce if we do not act against these companies, as people are willingly giving up their own information and decision rights for perceived benefits of online use, such as ease of use and access. But in due time, these companies may mold human behavior and ruin the free market.

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    1. Hey Joe, I agree with you on how we need to create some kind of marketplace for user data. As a society, we’ve become too cavalier with how big companies pass our internet traffic. In reality, there isn’t really anything malicious in a company like Facebook creating a personalized ad campaign for a user. The question becomes how far will this practice go before it does become more serious for the users? The ability for these companies to pass our information around and to create “profiles” about us without consent is something that should not be allowed to happen much longer.

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  12. It’s a problem that affects the entire industry. Because the business model has been so successful, these corporations not only have legitimate economic power, but they have also gained political power, allowing them to control the public square in any democracy. That’s dangerous because they’re not elected or accountable, and they haven’t yet demonstrated the maturity to deal with the responsibility of protecting those who use their products. As individuals, I don’t blame them. I believe that this is a result of a combination of Silicon Valley’s larger culture and these business models that were so successful that they became engulfed in their own bubble and didn’t realize the harm they were causing.

    From a regulatory standpoint, the current products — Facebook and Google, as well as the properties they own — have resulted in the equivalent of digital chemical spills. They’re artificially profitable because they’re oblivious to the costs of their success’s side effects. We’ll have to better match costs to the people who create them, just like the chemical industry. That, I believe, is a form of regulation that is extremely important.

    We need to take a closer look at how data is utilized. Why is it permissible to collect information on minors? Why is it permissible to sell credit card data or transaction records? That has never been a point of contention for us. In essence, these companies have taken a concept like eminent domain and said, “We own this data because we have it.” That does not appear to be the case. I’m not sure selling geolocation data is a good idea. Because you can create a really, really high-resolution map of anyone, even if they aren’t on Facebook or Google, using credit card data and geolocation. That concerns me greatly.

    When you look at Alexa or Google Home, you’ll notice that they’re collecting data in places we’ve never gone before. There’s already proof that the systems can be hacked. The manufacturers of some of the hardware are causing our military great concern. Even if you trust Amazon and Google, there is enough evidence to suggest that you should exercise caution. There are a lot of other failure modes in these things, and the value they provide is negligible compared to the risk

    2. Morozov identifies three issues: American and Chinese tech companies tracking user data rather than providing security, a lack of social rules to discourage data collection behavior, and Apple’s control over companies sharing their products on their platform. I completely understand Morozov’s point about larger companies paying for data, and I agree with him in most ways. Websites, such as the aforementioned Google and Facebook, collect data about their users. This information is almost always used to increase profits by tailoring to the desires of customers. This also gives them the strength to continue growing, and if smaller businesses want to compete, this model is the best option. It would imply that, in order to expand, these large corporations would have to pay for the confidential information they require. Smaller businesses, on the other hand, would almost certainly be required to follow the same rules, as failing to do so could result in an unfair advantage. Larger companies will always have an advantage, but if smaller businesses can access our data and build on it for free, they will be doing the same thing that these large corporations do, which the majority despises.

    3.Some privacy policies, for example, state that they collect information from consumer search firms and public databases. As a result, users are aware that the company obtains information about them from a variety of sources. But where are we talking about? Turow says, “Most people would have no idea what that means.” “It appears simple, but what do public databases [refer to?]… Under the guise of telling you what they’re doing, this actually tells you nothing.”
    These four strategies — placation, diversion, misnaming, and jargon — all contribute to a consumer’s feeling of resignation. According to another paper Turow co-authored, “The Corporate Cultivation of Digital Resignation,” if they can’t fight data collection and tracking, they might as well give up. It was first published in the journal New Media & Society in March 2019. The findings could explain why the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal sparked initial grassroots efforts to leave Facebook.
    Users are resigned as a result of this. “It makes people throw their hands up,” Turow explains. It happens on a daily basis: Consumers will not be able to use an app, online service, or website until they accept the terms of service, which the vast majority do. When a freebie, such as a 10% discount, is offered in exchange for data — such as a phone number or email address — it becomes even more difficult to refuse to share one’s information. Turow refers to this as “seduction.” “Its seduction aspect outweighs the surveillance aspect.”

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  13. 1. I do believe that Facebook has been allowed to grow without checks for too long. Their ability to purchase smaller apps makes them virtually impossible to compete with for newer app startups. They’ve also made a clear shift in the content they put out, or allow to be put out. Lots of hate speech and vitriol can be found on comment threads everywhere, and the company’s algorithm for their news feed does not help. They are calculated in a way so that users see controversial or upsetting content for the user. This negative content feed has a way of bringing people back to the app to comment or dig deeper into posts. I find this behavior to be disappointing as Facebook has taken a very negative shift since I began using it in 2008. I believe some governing body should be put in place, whether through Facebook or an independent 3rd party, to monitor the algorithms and comment threads. I don’t suggest that free speech be taken off the app, but some better level of observation is necessary. I also feel some form of acquisition cap could be put in place to reduce the speed of Facebook’s growth. Left to their own devices, Facebook has become so large they can buy whichever new app is willing to sell to them. Perhaps some annual limit of apps they can purchase could slow their growth to a level that allows for healthy competition in the social network.

    2. The three problems Morozov believes are facing the digital economy today include; Chinese & American tech companies tracking user information vs providing secure data traffic, Apple’s control over companies sharing their products and a lack of social pressure to change the behaviors of these large tech firms. I agree with his assessments that data should be something larger corporations should have to purchase. Large companies like Facebook, Instagram, and Google are able to see user’s data and tailor the user experience on their apps based on their data. While that sounds like a good idea at the surface, many feel their privacy is being infringed on by these companies. People feel their internet search data should be private and free of influence. These large companies can post ads that are specifically tailored to the user in an attempt to get more internet traffic or for additional sales. Some form of regulation, like forcing them to pay for data, may help keep people’s internet searches secure from large companies.

    3. Large tech companies are able to collect a user’s data traffic information and sell the data to marketing companies who can analyze the consumer’s behavior. With this knowledge companies can tailor sales initiatives to better target customers thanks to the behavior data purchased. People feel this goes beyond privacy because these transactions are taking place without the consumer’s consent. Large companies are able to create a digital profile of these customers by analyzing their behaviors and purchasing trends. People do not want companies collecting information on them and creating easier situations for other companies to sell to them.

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    1. Hey Tom,

      Great post! I agree with everything that you said. Especially about how Facebook has gathered too much power and is clearly abusing the system in becoming a great monopoly. They do a poor job policing hate speech and misinformation, they collect data on their users without their consent, and when confronted about any and all controversies they play dumb as if they weren’t aware of such activity that was happening on their sites. Even with their latest expansion into virtual reality, with the purchase of Oculus Entertainment and rebranding to Meta, I still think they are unprepared to expand their business to a whole other level. They need to be broken up now in order to alleviate all the problems they are causing in America. The January 6th riot, the many COVID-19 deaths, and other controversies are all on Facebook’s hands and it’s up to our federal government to break this company up in order for us to be rid of its monopolistic abuse of power.

      Like

  14. 1. Yes, I believe that Facebook’s power has gone unchecked to the point where it is a rising monopoly. Facebook has always been sacrificing user privacy for profit. In 2018, Facebook got in hot water over the Cambridge Analytics Scandal, in which, it was discovered that the company was selling people’s personal information to a British-based analytics company. It got so bad that CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, had to testify in front of Congress. Another scandal that has rocked Facebook in recent times has been the spread of misinformation about the COVID-19 virus as well as the spread of misinformation about election fraud during the election of 2020. Facebook created echo-chambers for antivaxxers/right wing nationalists to get in contact with each other and played a direct role in the millions of deaths from the pandemic as well as the January 6th storming of the Capitol. Facebook’s power has gone unchecked because it has been able to get away from these controversies with only punitive fines and loss of shareholder revenue. The company also, owns multiple other brands like WhatsApp and Instagram which continues their growing influence. They’ve established multiple revenue streams by targeting multiple users on these platforms. With all this in mind, I do believe that Facebook needs to be regulated by the federal government similar to how they broke up Big Oil and Steel companies when they were abusing their power as large monopolies. For Facebook, they continue to abuse the system and gain power everyday, and if they aren’t stopped then I’m afraid the resulting consequences will be severe.

    2. Three problems that Morozov believes are facing the digital economy today are: that Apple has a right to allow or dismiss any company on their platform, both American and Chinese technology companies offer false promises not to track user data but renege on their word instead, and with the rise of tech companies in the 21st century, they’ve just kept finding more and more ways to harvest user data for their own purposes. I agree with Morozov that data should be limited from corporate control, and companies should have to pay to acquire this data. In Europe they have GDPR laws or General Data Protection Regulations that give the user a choice of what data they want collected by companies and not. For instance, if they go on an American news website like CNN.com or MSNBC.com, then the people in Europe can choose to opt out of whatever cookies they want to give on the site. For Americans, we can;’t opt out of such services and are forced to give away our right to privacy in order to access the Internet.

    3. The main privacy issue with tech and data is that large companies have access to consumer searches and personal information through their public IP address. These corporations can use their search data to target ads towards these consumers. This search data is never private unless someone uses a VPN and disguises their IP address with a country in Europe in order to take advantage of GDPR laws. An example of an American being targeted by multiple ads through search data would be if one was searching up cars on the Internet in order to just look at the new options on the market. Google would take that search data and utilize it in ads on their other subsidiary company Youtube if that same person was to watch a video there. On Youtube, they might get an ad for a Ford F-150 or Chevy Silverado if they may have been in the market for a specific car/truck

    Zuboff defines behavioral futures as when a large company has created a profile about a user’s specific tastes and the like after they have collected enough data on their search history and other relevant online sources of personal information. These go beyond privacy because this means a large company like Google or Facebook can easily tailor ads towards your personal preferences so long as they have a large data surplus to create a profile of you. They can predict what foods you like, games you want to buy, houses you may like, etc. This is a blatant disregard for privacy because it’s the company who is illegally collecting data on a user to use for their own monetization purposes without the user’s consent. But to any large corporations in Silicon Valley, they don’t care about user privacy so long as they are always making money.

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  15. 1. Facebook co-founder, Chris Hughes, believes that the current state of the Social Networking company has sacrificed user privacy and safety for clicks. As they acquire other apps, their monopoly grows stronger within the social platform industry. Through this power, Facebook can influence elections and empower nationalist leaders with very few checks and balances. Do you believe that Facebook’s power has gone unchecked and what regulations should be put in place to combat their rising monopoly?

    For nearly a decade, Facebook has used its dominance and monopoly power to crush smaller rivals and snuff out competition, all at the expense of everyday users
    Today, we are taking action to stand up for the millions of consumers and many small businesses that have been harmed by Facebook’s illegal behavior. Instead of competing on the merits, Facebook used its first comer advantage to suppress competition so it could take advantage of users and make billions by converting personal data into a cash cow.
    In today’s economy, this ability to predict behavior, curate offerings, and fulfill orders automatically, offers the single most important advantage: helping an organization expand. Sure, the initial entrepreneurial insights are still important – discovering your customer’s needs is the first step. But once you’re past the stage of a minimal viable product, your ability to scale determines your success.
    Social media platforms are rated based on engagement rates of their viewership. In order to increase the user engagement rate, Facebook has brought a concept called minimum social engagement, which is powered by persuasive technologies. Persuasive technologies eventually have taken an ugly turn, which focused on engaging the user at whatever cost, promoting Facebook and its partnering organizations. Thus, Facebook became one of the causes of social unrest in some countries.
    I strongly feel Facebook must reform, and users’ personal data has to be protected. There should be rules and regulations to govern the data privacy of users which should control the social media platforms from taking advantage of PII (Personally Identifiable Information) data of the users.
    Here are some rules and regulations that are in development or implementation in various states across the United States:
    • Antitrust policing: Apart from the Facebook app, as a company, Facebook includes multiple popular applications such as Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Oculus there under the same brand. Several analysts opined that compelling Facebook to sell off all these companies will neutralize its concentration of power, allow smaller competitors to arise, and encourage the corporation to do better by providing customers with alternative information and communication channels.
    • Create a federal agency, similar to the Food & Drug Administration, that would regulate digital platforms. Despite its rising strength and impact in society, the social media industry in the United States is lacking a dedicated regulatory authority like the other industries. Actions such as the formation of a new agency, or at the very least increased money for the existing FTC to oversee digital safety requirements in the same manner that FDA oversees food and pharmaceutical products, should be considered.
    Facebook’s troubles are almost synonymous with Mark Zuckerberg’s leadership, Many analysts believe that Facebook requires a strong executive to make meaningful changes.
    References:
    https://www.vox.com/recode/22762596/how-to-fix-facebook-mark-zuckerberg
    California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)
    https://www.ftc.gov/about-ftc/bureaus-offices/bureau-consumer-protection

    2. What are the three problems Morozov believes are facing the digital economy today? Morozov also feels data should be limited from corporate control, and companies should have to pay to acquire this data. Do you agree with Morozov’s stance, and why? If not, do you feel there is a better way to handle how user data is distributed?

    The three difficulties are as follows: on one hand, firms pledge to keep their private customer information confidential, but on the other, they utilize private information for identifying which product to promote on the market. There are no special rules in place to prevent firms from acquiring personal information now.
    American and Chinese tech companies promise security & privacy, when in fact these same companies track user data in order to determine what products to launch.
    Periods of growth/competition push tech companies to gather more data and new ways to extract this data. There are no current social rules to dissuade this behavior, so these spying techniques are just accepted.
    Monopolistic firms can control the market. I agree with Morozov’s stance and believe that corporations should pay for this data because they are using the data to promote their products and services.
    For example, Apple has enormous power to pick which companies may and should continue to operate on its platform. Several organizations provide store credit and debit cards or subscription fees to analyze customer behavior. Some rely on digital networking and the open availability of information to track consumer behavior. If a company wants to follow or be in a better position to forecast customer behavior, it should gather or pay for user information.

    3. Most of us acknowledge a privacy issue with tech and data – how private data is shared and utilized (i.e., targeted ads)? And yet Zuboff points to a much larger problem characterized by what she calls “behavioral futures” emerging as a commodity. What are behavioral futures and how does it help us go beyond privacy?

    “If you are not paying for the product then, you are the product!”- The Social dilemma
    According to Zuboff, Silicon Valley has stolen our intimate and personal events and is using them as raw material, revealing how Silicon Valley misleads us. And businesses developing creative business models to attract users’ focus and keep them engaged for extended periods of time, she feels people have learned to adapt with organizations collecting and analyzing customer data in order to study and expand their respective brands.
    These companies may mold human behavior and ruin the free market. Large technology corporations might acquire a user’s network data information and sell it to marketing firms that can evaluate the consumer’s activity. This data about consumers and their activities are used to develop prediction products using artificial intelligence and machine learning. Zuboff called these large tech corporations as Surveillance capitalists. She called markets that are developed based on users’ behaviors as “behavioral futures markets,” where surveillance capitalists sell certainty to their business customers.
    Companies can adapt sales tactics to better target clients with this knowledge, owing to the behavioral data acquired. People believe that this extends beyond confidentiality since these transactions take place even without a person’s consent. Large corporations can construct a digital profile of these clients by researching their purchase habits and patterns. People do not want corporations collecting information about them and making it simpler for some other businesses to outsource to them.

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  16. I do believe that Facebook’s power has gone unchecked for too long, especially since it has grown to such a level that the amount of information that is communicated and shared has in many cases gotten to a harmful amount. In the last four or five years that Facebook has grown, it has also become a place for harmful activity such as cyberbullying and even the spreading of misinformation, which was a focal point during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 Presidential election. In the wake of all of these problems, Facebook has started to try to weed out correct information from incorrect information but I feel like they have found themselves behind the eight-ball and are now catching up. Nowadays, since Facebook has purchased other apps such as instagram and Snapchat, these social media platforms have become a stage for news related media which might not always be accurate or true. With the size of Facebook’s coammunity across all of its apps, it is extremely hard to manage. In the recent whistleblower situation, Frances Haugen called out her company for their lack of acknowledgement of these misinformation problems, explaining that the company valued clicks and views over community safety and didn’t act to prevent certain viral articles or news stories from making their way through our community.

    I do mostly agree with Evgeny Morozov’s stance on social media and data. It has often been said that tech companies and social media platforms promise security and privacy all while there are situations where these companies will use data from users and consumers to fine tune their technology. Mostly this is due to the fact that the tech industry is so competitive the many developers have to rely on user data to succeed. I don’t necessarily agree that paying for data is the right solution. When certain data is for sale to companies, obviously there are companies that have more financial capital than others, so there could be a situation where there becomes a data monopoly. If there were stricter regulations in place to keep track of companies’ use of the information, that might help maintain a level playing field and companies will be less likely to abuse power with access to a high quantity of data.

    “Behavioral futures” is data that a company collects through our tech habits, such as search history, internet/social media activity and location tracking. Companies can then use this data to cater specifically for certain advertising campaigns and other habits. You can argue that this is a desirable or undesirable activity. Customization is great in many ways because it helps simplify our day to day life, especially when it comes to our technological activity. On the other hand, many companies that gather this data are breaching user privacy which could be abused if it is not regulated properly.

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    1. Hello Collin,

      Great job with your post, I also agree that Facebook’s power has gone unchecked for too long. In addition, I enjoyed your thoughts on what Morozov’s stance on social media and data and thought it was very easy to understand. Overall good job with your post.

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  17. I do believe that not only Facebook’s power has gone unchecked but so as other social network platforms. I do also believe that a system should be put in place to combat the rising monopoly. However, if I am not mistaken, Facebook, Amazon, and other large corporations recently have been fighting antitrust lawsuits and have been settling in these suits. So it seems that someone in power is paying attention to what is going on.
    Three problems Morozov believes are facing the digital economy today are the tracking of user data, no rules to discourage data gathering behavior, and Apple’s control over other companies sharing their products on Apple’s platform. I do agree that there is a big problem tracking user’s data and the lines between what is ethical and not can get very blurry in this category. I also Agree that Apple has too much control over other tech companies.
    Behavioral futures are when companies take data on people’s behavior and sell that information for profit. This is an invasion of privacy without question.

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  18. 1. I definitely think that Facebook’s power has got unchecked and has reached a point where they need to combat the rising of the monopoly. Ever since their purchase of Instagram this has been a very prominent issue as they were now in charge of two major social media platforms. This presents them the opportunity to be able to not only take in tons of data from users, but then sell that to other companies to give them the ability to make major business decisions. Regardless, they have reached a point where they need to be monitored very closely with how they are choosing to operate their business.

    2. I think that there is a huge issue with companies wanting to purchase data from other companies and a need to figure out how to regulate it immediately. Until there is set in stone principles, companies like Facebook can expose a lot of user information and are actually profiting off of it and if they are not going to be penalized, why would they even consider not doing it? I don’t necessarily have an exact plan on how to regulate any of this, but there needs to be more defined principles on what can and can’t be done.

    3. Behavior features track things like our search history to give us even more targeted ads. It’s funny how many times you think you might just say something about a pair of shoes without even looking anything up and then you’ll see an ad for them on online that day. I have also several times searched for a product on a site like amazon to have ads for that product appear on other social media accounts that I have.

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