By Justin Sanders

Welcome back to our semi-regular round-up of brilliant commentary about the endlessly burning dumpster fire that is Big Tech.

The last time we checked in on what’s wrong with Big Tech, the Federal Trade Commission was about to kick off a historic series of “Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century.” That was a good sign that our leaders in government are looking to put a check on internet companies that for too long have been shielded from liability for the behavior on their platforms. It can’t happen soon enough, because Big Tech has been doing everything in their power to show how ill-equipped they are to check themselves.

Facebook threw another, even bigger data breach at us, and then Google decided to get in on the fun as well – revealing a data “exposure” of their own that had been left on the down-low for months. Just in case that chicanery wasn’t sketchy enough, Google doubled down on it when it was revealed the company wasn’t being forthright about its plans for a search engine in China. Then there’s YouTube’s ongoing handling of children’s data, Facebook’s hijacking of its users’ security data for profit, and the dumpster fire burns on… and on, and on.

When will it finally be put out? Not until we hold these companies accountable for what they have done, and continue to do. Until then, here are 12 more reasons why we need to keep on fighting, from brilliant minds across the spectrum of political, cultural, and sociological discourse.

1.) Because Facebook had another, even bigger data breach, and we have a huge election in, like, two weeks:

“With consequential midterms less than a month away, this latest string of Facebook privacy failures is a discouraging reminder of how much potential there is for things to go terribly wrong — again — during those elections.”

The New York Times Editorial Board, October 6, 2018


2.) Because now Facebook is pilfering data that we didn’t even give them in the first place:

“Facebook is not content to use the contact information you willingly put into your Facebook profile for advertising. It is also using contact information you handed over for security purposes and contact information you didn’t hand over at all.”

– Kashmir Hill, senior reporter for Gizmodo, September 26, 2018

3.) Because Facebook is collecting our children’s data in ways that parents couldn’t imagine:

“First, the application’s parental consent mechanism is not reasonably calculated to ensure that the person providing consent is the child’s parent—or even an adult. In fact, it employs a mechanism similar to one that the FTC has previously rejected. Second, Facebook’s privacy notice for Messenger Kids is confusing and incomplete, preventing parents from making informed decisions about whether to allow Facebook to collect their children’s sensitive personal information.”

– Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), in a letter to the FTC, October 3, 2018


4.) Because internet companies are storing data in ways that even computer scientists are baffled by:

I think that many users don’t fully understand how ad targeting works today: that advertisers can literally specify exactly which users should see their ads by uploading the users’ email addresses, phone numbers, names, dates of birth, etc… In describing this work to colleagues, many computer scientists were surprised by this, and were even more surprised to learn that not only Facebook, but also Google, Pinterest, and Twitter all offer related services.”

– Alan Mislove, computer science professor studying how privacy works on social networks, September 26, 2018


5.) Because ad targeting has become dangerously biased:

“It really came to my attention that I was seeing hardly any jobs offered other than home health and stuff like that.”

– Pennsylvania mother Bobbi Spees, talking to the The New York Times about Facebook employment targeting that discriminates against women, September 18, 2018

6.) Because Facebook isn’t the only one with questions to answer about its handling of children’s data:

“How do you determine that a user is a child? What information do you collect from children using YouTube? Does YouTube distinguish at all between adult and child users? Is the same data collected from children and adult viewers…? Why don’t you employ an age gate to prevent users under 13 from viewing videos…? Why does content for YouTube Kids have to originate on the main YouTube site…? Is a user’s age one of the factors which Google enters into algorithms to select advertising to target to the user?”

– Reps. David N. Cicilline and Jeff Fortenberry, in a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichair, September 17, 2018


7.) Because Google is so desperate to avoid testifying to Congress, it didn’t tell anyone about a Google+ data leak affecting millions of users:

“[Disclosure of the data exposure would likely result] in us coming into the spotlight alongside or even instead of Facebook despite having stayed under the radar throughout the Cambridge Analytica scandal… [It] almost guarantees Sundar will testify before Congress.”

– From a secret, internal company memo leaked to The Wall Street Journal, October 8, 2018

8.) Because “Dragonfly,” Google’s planned, censored search engine for China, is catching flak from all sides:

“More business leaders are thinking beyond the next quarter, and thinking twice before diving into the Chinese market if it means turning over their intellectual property or abetting Beijing’s oppression. But more must follow suit. For example, Google should immediately end development of the ‘Dragonfly’ app that will strengthen Communist Party censorship and compromise the privacy of Chinese customers.”

– Vice President Mike Pence, October 4, 2018


9.) Because now Google is just straight up lying to us – Google Head of Search Ben Gomes said this to Dragonfly staffers back in July:

“Of the people who are internet-enabled, a huge fraction of the ones we are missing out are in China. And so the opportunity there is — all of you will know this, but — it’s clearly the biggest opportunity to serve more people that we have. And if you take our mission seriously, that’s where our key focus should be… We’re saying it’s going to be six to nine months [to launch].”

– From an internal Google meeting transcript leaked to The Intercept, October 9, 2018


10.) Then Gomes said this to the BBC about Dragonfly two months later:

“Right now, all we’ve done is some exploration, but since we don’t have any plans to launch something, there’s nothing much I can say about it.”

– BBC News, September 26, 2018

11.) Because some of the people doing the most to protect us from Big Tech… don’t even work in Big Tech:

“It’s frustrating… We’re cleaning up Facebook’s mess.”

– Marguerite de Leon, employee of the Philippines media company Rappler, on fighting Facebook’s war on fake news


12.) Because only supervillains can experience this much scandal… and not suffer any consequences:

“Over the past year, [Facebook] has experienced scandals … on a regular basis, often of massive scale and tremendous real-world consequence. Those facts — plus its ability to survive these scandals — is leading to a growing recognition that Facebook is one of the world’s most dangerous monopolies.”

– Sarah Miller & David Segal, co-chairs of Freedom From Facebook, October 5, 2018