Facebook Insider: Covert Data Harvesting Was Routine

The Guardian reports:

Hundreds of millions of Facebook users are likely to have had their private information harvested by companies that exploited the same terms as the firm that collected data and passed it on to Cambridge Analytica, according to a new whistleblower.

Sandy Parakilas, the platform operations manager at Facebook responsible for policing data breaches by third-party software developers between 2011 and 2012, told the Guardian he warned senior executives at the company that its lax approach to data protection risked a major breach.

“My concerns were that all of the data that left Facebook servers to developers could not be monitored by Facebook, so we had no idea what developers were doing with the data,” he said. Parakilas said Facebook had terms of service and settings that “people didn’t read or understand” and the company did not use its enforcement mechanisms, including audits of external developers, to ensure data was not being misused.

Talking Points Memo reports:

Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) asked Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) this week to hold a hearing and request documents from voter-profiling firm Cambridge Analytica following reports that the company exploited information from millions of Facebook users without their permission.

According to reports from The New York Times and Observer of London who spoke with a company whistleblower, Cambridge Analytica not only took and misused data from more than 50 million Facebook users, it reportedly used that information to influence users in favor of President Donald Trump’s campaign.

“I believe the Judiciary Committee needs to look into exactly what happened,” Feinstein said. “That’s why I call on Chairman Grassley to join me in seeking testimony from Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix, whistleblower Christopher Wylie and Professor Aleksandr Kogan, who reportedly harvested the data from Facebook. I am also hopeful he will support document requests to Cambridge Analytica and Trump campaign officials.”

  • joe ho

    Why haven’t all liberals deleted their FB accounts, if they have one? I did.

    • Tulle Christensen

      I can’t delete something I never had

    • SelectFromWhere

      Honestly, the current generation is too addicted to some kind of social media, if Facebook goes under, it will just become the new MySpace, pushed aside for another, flashier platform. At least with all of the attention on FB, they will tighten their security procedures. Yeah, info that’s already stolen is already stolen(sold), but that is true whether FB shuts down or not. I’d rather the devil I know–who hopefully will receive quite a thrashing and straighten up their act–than a brand new one who can claim they are the “more secure Facebook” etc, and lure trusting people over to start sharing again.
      I just hope this whole thing has been a lesson about sharing personal info, often through those stupid “quizzes” that tell you which Game of Thrones character you are or which Harry Potter house you’re in (allowing the quiz’s owners access to your personal data is usually a requirement to take part).
      Also, please stop answering those less formal quizzes that get posted even on a Friend’s wall, like “Do you remember your first grade teacher’s name?” Those are just begging you to voluntarily give up info that is very often used as security questions to get into bank accounts, etc. (Ditto with “first pet”, street you grew up on, etc). People flock to those and can’t wait to give out info that can easily let someone into their email or other accounts, and for what? Just to tell people what street you grew up on, as if they care?

      • eddiebeskeddie

        thanks Select – I didn’t know this. I must admit, I have played a few of these games and then stopped when I purposely answered geographical questions wrongly and got a A+ score. Then I knew there was something wrong. But had no idea info was being collected.

  • Todd20036

    Glad I don’t use facebook. I suppose they have information on me (had an account I used to make comments on in certain sites. But I don’t use it routinely nor do I shop through there. In any event, it’s pretty safe to say that Zuckerberg is the social media equivalent of Pharma Douche

    • eddiebeskeddie

      Todd – how can we be sure this social page, Disqus, is not doing the same thing?

  • David L. Caster

    They want to talk to Zuk in the UK too.

    • bkmn

      Where they actually have real privacy laws.

  • Friday’s_cat

    He may not have started out as a Robber Baron but Zuckerberg morphed into one as soon as he monetized Facebook.

    • The_Wretched

      Zuckerberg was off from the start. The earliest form of facebook as a way to track which girls would put out and to have guys rate them.

      • Piet

        The only Facebook user whose private information was zealously guarded has always been Zuckerberg. He’s never given a rat’s ass about anyone else’s privacy, and made it pretty clear early in his career. He’s less forthcoming now, but it appears his attitude hasn’t changed a bit.

  • bkmn
  • Yalma Cuder-Zicci

    “it reportedly used that information to influence users in favor of President Donald Trump’s campaign.”

    I’m not clear how this is done. All I see on my facebook is posts from friends and I never saw anything pro-Trump. How did Cambridge Analytica disseminate the propaganda?

    • Friday’s_cat

      Did you ever post any racist or bigoted comments?

      • Yalma Cuder-Zicci

        Sorry, that doesn’t help. I still don’t get it. Can you explain?

        • Friday’s_cat

          Big Mark is watching you. Facebook monitors what you think, do, and say so they can direct advertising your way.

        • The_Wretched

          Person 1 – clean

          Let’s say you never have racist stuff that you post and you don’t use racial slurs on your comments etc. Then you don’t get flagged by the analytics as someone swayable.

          Person 2 – clean but ….

          Let’s change it so that you have the same page but you often upvote “all lives matter” comments or posts by people who use racial slurs (even if you never upvote the comments with slurs). Now analytics will see that you’re close to the racists but not openly racist, you get a ton of pro-trump and pro-racism fake news directed to you and your ads.

          Person 3 – racist

          Let’s say you’re an unrepentant racist and post racial slurs all the time. They don’t bother to target you. You’re already on the team. OR maybe they do target you but for reinforcement or with a different message like “go hold a rally”.

          I’m sure it’s more sophisticated but that’s the general idea.

    • Tulle Christensen

      They decided from the data collected about you that they had no targeted advertisement that could influence your vote

      • Yalma Cuder-Zicci

        So it’s through the ads.

        • Tulle Christensen

          and posts. whatever they thought would work best

        • They have been manipulating what you see and don’t see for several years now. Your “feed” isn’t just the latest of what your friends posted. how those are ranked in the feed is determined by facebook. So yeah they may have moved things they wanted you to see higher in your feed so you were more likely to see it or further down so you were less likely to. They probably didn’t bother with those of us who “liked” liberal posts though.

          • Yalma Cuder-Zicci

            Okay. But why? What interest does Facebook have in ranking my friends’ posts? I’m really considering dumping it.

          • The_Wretched

            At a minimum, FB wants you to spend time on the site (duration)- frequently return to the site (frequency) and to have you click around a lot (unique page views). They resort info from your friends feeds to maximize all three variables.

            They then sell ads based on your interests and charge markers higher rates for users who are more interested in that type of product or who spend more time on the page with their ads.

          • Well above all else, they have an interest in keeping you coming back to check out what’s new in the past day/hour/minute on their website. You are the content, not the customer. They want you clicking and posting because that’s data that they can sell.

    • bkmn

      CA used the data to micro-target people with ads/fake comments/etc. If you didn’t see it, you weren’t the one being targeted.

    • Do Something Nice

      That is the issue. I remember when ‘pro Sanders’ propaganda was discovered. It looked like it was designed by a 5 year old and I’m pretty sure it didn’t convince ANYONE.

      I think that what this will eventually lead to is the discovery that these data and data analytics are worthless, and many social media companies that make their money from this “product” will probably go out of businesses.

      • Gustav2

        And if you constantly see “hillary is anti-worker” or “anti-Black” headlines, even if you don’t click, it is background noise you unconsciously remember. Like the muzak you start to hum without thinking about it or it plants an earwig you have all day.

    • Gustav2

      How Red, Blue or Purple is your congressional district?

      • Yalma Cuder-Zicci

        Bluer than blue.

        • Karl Dubhe

          Then I’ll bet they didn’t waste their money on you. 🙂

  • bkmn
  • Friday’s_cat

    Second shooting victim friendly fire?

    • bkmn

      You mean a good guy with a gun shot somebody by accident?

      • Friday’s_cat

        Sounds like resource officer shot.

  • geoffalnutt

    Zuckeepoo, get the fuck out! Go To Russia where they could really use someone like you…oh, wait…

  • another_steve

    One of the advantages of us being Luddites is that my husband and I have never done Facebook.

  • Blake J Butler

    Reminder that today is the Illinois primary election today for congress, attorney general, and governor.

  • Tread

    Quelle surprise! A company that routinely washes its hands of responsibility of the product it oversees. Much like the “controversy” of conservative news sites being downrated because they peddle in fake news, or Facebook allowing a foreign government to interfere with an election because profit, this will simply be swept under the rug as standard operating procedure. So gross.

  • mikeinftl

    We sheeple really have no idea what we are signing up for when we rush to the latest social media buzz.

  • Slippy_World

    TOTALLY OT but a reminder that there is still some good in the world :

    Dogs waiting to enter the hospital rooms of sick children for animal therapy time. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7e90ed784b18fe6b72e8393bdfb37d3b921c69e0c99bba2143d05724d7393d0c.jpg

    • worstcultever

      I need all those pooches at my door, like right now

      • JCF

        Like yesterday! Like 11/8/16!

    • Mrs. Councillor Nugent

      The most moving aftershock of that horrible nightclub fire in Warwick RI a few years ago that killed 100 people, was that two women who had therapy dogs, usually brought to nursing homes and hospitals, instead brought them to the motel where survivors and relatives were staying. One account said that a woman cried into the dog’s fur for hours, the dog, of course, knowing how to console.

    • GayOldLady

      Just lost my little girl chihuahua and my heart still aches. I know how much joy these beautiful animals bring to our lives and seeing them waiting there patiently to see the children warms my heart. There is no substitute for the love of these precious spirits.

      • JCF


      • Mb

        Sending love and understanding. My oldest is 21 and I fear that day is near.

        • GayOldLady

          Thank you Mb. My baby was 13. She was my 24/7 companion and helped me through 3 surgeries. I miss her terribly, but I’m grateful for the time we had with her and the love and joy she brought to us. I know you feel the same about your baby.

          • prixator

            I think I understand. My little girl was also my 24/7 companion. Unfortunately, she only lived for 6 years and 8 months.

            I am pretty emotional and when I read something or watched a video that made me cry, she always came up to me and either put her head in my lap or tried to climb in my lap (she was a small Sheltie, so she fit). She knew that made me feel better.

            I don’t believe in god, but I do believe in Dog. Just think of how many ways they assist us dumb humans! And, all they want in return is love, attention, shelter, exercise and, most importantly, FOOD!

            Grooming is not something most dogs want, but they need it – and most endure it for our sake. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b1cd7504202e86802a2d7868fc3cf702cdc9bfde8f74ce005dd9dcd81d54be9a.jpg

          • GayOldLady

            She was so beautiful. I know losing her broke your heart. 6 years or 16 years the pain of losing your companion and devoted friend is difficult . We bring dogs into our lives knowing that because their life spans are short that they will likely die before us. I suppose that’s the price we pay for the joy and unconditional love they bring to us.

          • prixator

            Yes! They show us what unconditional love looks like. And, if they’re healthy (and well-treated), they are always happy, too!

            I hope that you are better able to move through your grief than I was. But, you have so many others in your life that need your love and attention and will give it back to you that I think and hope that you will be able to get to a better place emotionally soon. It’s hard, I know.

            Thanks for your kind words.

            (and, that pic wasn’t my girl, but very similar looking. I regret not taking more pics of her; all that I have are film pics.)

          • GayOldLady

            It will be 2 weeks on Thursday and as you know I’m still in the adjustment stage. She was with me around the clock and even traveled with us. It will take awhile, but I do have a lot of distractions with family so that helps.

          • prixator

            I wish you all the best. It will be difficult, but not impossible. {{HUG}}

    • JCF

      We don’t deserve them. <3

    • BearEyes

      I needed that

  • Christopher
  • Tread

    So basically Cambridge Analytica created an “idiots file” that they used to influence people to vote for Trump. Good to know there are so many fucking idiots out there.

    • ChrisMorley

      They didn’t target tRumpish idiots, they began with thousands who signed up for an ‘academic app’ on Facebook.
      Whistleblower Wylie told us that from those CA were able to suck out details from all the FB profiles of people who had interacted with those in anyway, an average of 300 other people for each app signup, and it may have propagated even further.
      Most people whose FB data was extracted would know nothing about becoming CA targets.

    • Yes, 62 million of them.

    • SelectFromWhere

      It was more subtle than that–they also targeted progressive people, especially racial minorities, and influenced them NOT to vote for Hillary, by showing old clips of her making a racist statement, or other subtly influential posts. These were micro-targeted in areas like Detroit, Milwaukee, and the Black areas of cities in Florida to suppress Democratic voters. They have even traced at least one Gay page, called ‘LGBT Union’, I believe, that looked on the surface like a typical Pride-rah-rah- full of Rainbow flags and such, but it was apparently peppered with anti-Hillary (or pro-Jill Stein) messages to influence the queers.
      It could be argued that this kind of influence is far more insidious than targeting Trump voters, which would be more of just a standard Get-Out-The-Vote campaign always used.

      • Cucker “Dick” Tarlson

        LGBT Union also gave out rainbow flags and wristbands FREE last year, in exchange for a few pieces of personal information. I thought it was a scam but couldn’t figure out what they were after. Now I know.

    • TheSeer

      Actually not. CA created “neurotic file” with people who are neurotic or prone to. And then started playing with their fears. Evil.

  • Karl Dubhe

    Who knew that the tentacles of totalitarianism could be so seductive?

    I’m glad that I ditched Facebook back at the turn of the century…

  • worstcultever

    I’ll say it again – this all HAD to happen. Can you imagine Prez Hillary besieged by this disinfo industrial complex on a daily basis (even worse than during the campaign) with with none of it EVER exposed?

    • AC

      Agree 100%

  • Paula

    Zuckerberg = complicit!

  • SoCalGal20
    • Karl Dubhe

      Are you really protected from the law if your claim is “I didn’t want to know what they were doing with the stuff we were giving them”?

      That really doesn’t sound like a ‘winning’ idea to me. Then again, I’m not a lawyer.

  • whollyfool

    Wow, looks like Uber has a challenge for evilist company.

  • Jefe5084

    Zuck needs to go. He’s got too much entitlement and money to be of any use anymore.

    • worstcultever

      He needs to die poor and in disgrace, just like Dump

    • teeveedub

      With the stock price tumbling and the biggest public relations nightmare in the company’s history, how soon will it be before the Board of Directors gives him a golden parachute?

  • lymis

    Like they always say about free things- if you’re not the customer, you are the PRODUCT.

    It shouldn’t surprise anyone they were selling off the data, and didn’t care what people did with it. The only thing I’m surprised about their not protecting the data they sold was that there was nothing keeping the people who bought it from sharing it with others, rather than forcing those others to buy it themselves.

    • whollyfool

      They did break the agreement by selling info that users had not agreed to (took the info from the user’s friends).

      I’m making your first line my signature.

  • evanedwards

    Facebook should face booking.

    • JCF

      …and trial, and conviction, and punishment!

  • The_Wretched

    “Sandy Parakilas, the platform operations manager at Facebook responsible
    for policing data breaches by third-party software developers”

    At some point, the storage and handling of sensitive information isn’t a business issue any more and is something more like a governmental one.

  • Joe in PA

    And Grassley’s response: “we’ll see”.

    And in my childhood “we’ll see” meant NO. 🙁

    • olandp

      In my childhood it meant, “No, and don’t ask me again.”

    • Gretchen

      That’s exactly what “we’ll see” means. Just ask my kid and the grouse spouse what I mean when I say it.

      • prixator

        And, if there’s a slight chance, the response is “we’ll discuss it later” and, even then…

    • Rambie

      It’ll be no until the investigation releases data imbarrasing against Crassley.

  • I have been watching the Guardian and Channel 4 coverage of what happened. Shame on the US media for not covering this 2 years ago, but here we are. Here’s what’s sick about this. Unless you had all your private settings configured just so (and they reset them about once a month so you had to constantly monitor them and know what you were doing when you did), if any of your friends signed up for a “third party app” (aka took a Facebook related quiz to see which Hogwarts House they’d be in), then YOUR data was harvested. Yeah. Zuckerdouche needs to go down for this and all his little friends too.

    • Gustav2

      If it all implodes maybe I won’t have to hear about one of my hubby’s second cousins who I have never met.

      • Gretchen

        The grouse spouse does that to me. I do not want to see pictures of anyone’s car, baby, beagle, tuba, lunch, new hair cut, or trip to the beach.

  • Natty Enquirer

    News flash: everything you do on the internet happens on someone else’s computer. They can, and do, track your every move and keep every file you upload, no matter what their boilerplate agreement says.

  • Nic Peterson

    wow! It’s just like everyone is waking up to realize that all along WE were the product that Facebook was selling.

    • fuow

      Which is why I refuse to use it.

  • JaniceInToronto

    Feinstein is going to ask a republican for help with this?

    WTF is she smoking?

    • The_Wretched

      Depends on what her final goals are. Getting cross-aisle cosponsers can be a quick way to get a low hanging fruit win.

      • JaniceInToronto

        They’re not willing to cooperate at the best of times.

        • stevenj

          I think that was the point of Feinstein asking Grassley to join her.

  • Jerry Kott

    What is disturbing is that years ago, Huffington Post made being a Facebook member a requirement to post on their site. They made the claim that it was a security measure and required you to use your real name. What happened was that many left the site and now the message boards seem to be made up of the shallow end of the pool. People bitching rather than questioning.
    Facebook has given self important people the semblance of being important and is nothing but a massive Phishing Expedition under the guise of sharing interest.

    • The_Wretched

      I leave any site that requires absolute tracking at that level.

      • Jerry Kott

        They required you to use your real name. I joined at that time and now I am planning to leave. They say the best way to leave is to just let it die because they make it impossible to just quit.
        I don’t think this is going to end well for Facebook. Their stock is going down.

        • The_Wretched

          It’s a big corp with huge tie-ins with every other site on the web and real businesses. I expect a push-back / media rally starting today or tomorrow. Other companies are still determining if they should step back from FB or support them. The default is support and big blow ups aren’t all that common. I predict FB recovers from this one but maybe not the next big blow up.

    • e’ville_globeguy

      Our local newspaper did the same thing to allow comments on articles—you had to have a FB account. It actually had the opposite effect. Most of the trolls who had been posting outrageous comments anonymously suddenly disappeared.

      • Jerry Kott


  • Wisterley

    I guess MySpace is looking pretty sweet right around now. Huh?

  • Gretchen

    Just FYI. I just permanently deleted my Facebook account. The easiest way to do this is to go to the Help section and typ “delete my account” into the search bar. It will give you a link to permanently delete your account. Click the button to confirm the deletion. It will deactivate your account immediately, and as long as you don’t log back in for 14 days, your account will be permanently deleted.

    I resisted getting a Facebook account until last spring when I needed to post some items from my mom’s estate to sell. I have believed for years that Facebook would be the downfall of civilization, but I didn’t realize it would be directly involved in the literal collapse of our government. I will be the first one in line to celebrate if Facebook completely goes away. Now I just have to convince the grouse spouse to delete his. It won’t be easy; he actually uses his account all the time.

    • Paul

      “your account will be permanently deleted”.

      Uh huh. The only way it’d be permanently deleted if it was able to used against Facebook in a court case. Else that data aint going anwhere.

      • Gretchen

        I suspect you are correct. It still made me feel better.

    • SelectFromWhere

      Before you “delete” it, go in and start Liking all kinds of disparate things so it can’t get a read on your proclivities–“Likes” are one of the main things they used in their algorithm.

      • Gretchen

        I’ve never actually used it for anything other than video messaging with one friend. I even had a message at the top saying that it wasn’t an active account

  • Cucker “Dick” Tarlson

    And with that, I’m bailing from Facebook.

    • As one who did it about five years ago, be warned: it’s like crack. You’re going to go through horrible withdrawal symptoms, but stand tough. Fight the urge to “reactivate” your account. It will eventually flush out of your system and you’ll see it for what it truly is: EVIL.

      • Cucker “Dick” Tarlson

        I deactivated once before, after the election. I needed a break to process my own hysteria.

        All of us who became part of Facebook helped create the monster It’s become. I am choosing to no longer feed it.

        I will stay in touch via the Messenger app (for now). I’ve created a shortcut for each news and entertainment site I broswe. I’ll text. What I won’t do is expose myself any further to the dark chaos Facebook has become. They’ve lost control of their company.

  • ECarpenter

    Here’s an article telling you how to turn off the feature that lets apps suck up your data – https://boingboing.net/2018/03/19/to-opt-out-just-die-2.html

    It’s in settings (upper right drop down menu) > settings menu item APPS > box for “Apps, Websites and Plugins” – disable Platforms

    • The_Wretched

      I used try and keep up with the endless settings for privacy. It was tedious and pointless. Now I never use them.

      • Treant

        Assuming they work, which I don’t assume in the first place.

    • Rambie

      Why do I not trust FB to adhere to that and still datamine posts?

  • Paula

    Mr Zuckerberg,
    There’s a Mr. Mueller on line 2 for you.

  • Wisterley
  • JWC

    OK Fuckleberg its time to fully cooperate. Get out and get ahead of this thing. Much easier for damage control

  • UiscePreston

    Anyone who still uses Fakebutt for anything should have their head examined.

  • timncguy

    more disturbing to me than the targeted marketing using stolen data is the fact that facebook allows the dissemination of propaganda, disinformation and outright lies without doing anything to stop it.

    • LBj

      Up vote x1,000

  • killreligion

    I hope Facebook goes down because it preys on the stupid or ignorant

    But please, if you thought your data were private…..what a joke. It’s the business model. Track what users do and monetize those data

  • Max_1

    Zuckerberg saved tens of millions of dollars by selling Facebook stock ahead of Monday’s decline

    • Jean-Marc in Canada

      Nothing at all suspicious about that. /s

  • sisterfalconer

    Facebook. Dead to me.

  • Rillion

    None of this was a “data breach”, not any more than it is stealing every time someone takes a piece of candy from the jar sitting on the receptionists desk. Data breach implies the app owners were getting access to data they were not authorized to access.

  • ColdCountry

    As unethical and immoral as these scumbags are, just remember that they were hired for that very reason.

  • TheSeer

    Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and Russia – the trifecta of evil

  • LBj

    Tomorrow will be the end of my long relationship with facebook (2008). It has been almost 4 months going through the deletion process. I wish I would have listened to my gut instinct at the time of signing up as I found the automatic, unauthorized email access rude and alarming but “friends” but”family”…anyway good-bye facebook please let the door hit you on your way ouuttttttt.

  • Cucker “Dick” Tarlson


    Apparently I was wrong. You CAN delete your account. And it appears a lot of people are doing just that, according to The Independent. They just published a how-to tutorial listing the steps.