Here’s An Idea: Maybe Facebook Should Consider Not Collecting So Much Personal Data In The First Place

Mark Zuckerberg’s Response To Cambridge Analytica Debacle Has Everything To Do With Better Protection Of Personal Data, And Nothing To Do With Maybe Collecting A Little Less Of It

The “fix” this time mostly involves getting tough on outside developers, including:

  • A full audit of all apps with “suspicious activity”. And banning any developer that does not agree to an audit.
  • Blocking developers from accessing personal data if a person hasn’t used their app in 3 months. (But of course Facebook will continue to hang on to the data).
  • Making it easier for people to revoke permission for apps to use their data. (This actually already exists, but it’s not featured by Facebook).

The details from Facebook’s Founder and CEO came, as Zuckerberg is wont to do, in a Facebook post of his own. (Click on the graphic for the full text):

Zuckerberg then made the rounds, from Wired, to Recode, to CNN, where he even admitted maybe Facebook should be more regulated by the federal government. Sort of. Here’s that clip (click on photo to play).


Mostly though, he stuck as closely as possible to the words he wrote in his post, often verbatim: “We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you”. And said he’s sorry an awful lot.

The problem with this? No mention anywhere of Facebook looking at itself and questioning if maybe part of the problem isn’t the unbelievable amount of detailed data it collects on its users and their friends. As if it’s not even something that entered his mind. Because it probably didn’t. And I guess one could legitimately argue that’s not really the matter at hand here. Only it kinda is, too.

Congress could legislate changes along these lines, and seems to be getting at least slightly less bashful about attempting to more rigorously regulate the internet (something we generally don’t agree with!). But Roll Call has a great piece detailing why we shouldn’t expect that anytime soon.



One Of Our Favorite Senators Just Voted Against An Internet Bill All Other Senators (Except Rand Paul) Supported. We Wanted To Know Why.


The “Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act” or SESTA bill passed in the Senate 97-2, and with the House and the President on board too it’ll almost certainly become law. It is supposed to combat sex trafficking by making internet companies liable for content posted on their sites. So who would be against that? (Especially in an election year when your opponent will no doubt run ads against you saying you support sex trafficking?)

Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, that’s who. Wyden, (who incidentally is not running for reelection this year–not until 2022 in fact), says the bill is a disaster in the making:

Wyden co-wrote the statute this new law reverses, known as Section 230, which stated: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider“. In other words, I can’t be held legally responsible for something you post on my site.

The new bill’s supporters say the changes are very narrowly aimed (the idea originally came up to target one classified ad site: But it’s also easy to see Wyden’s point, that it represents the most significant rollback in protection for internet platforms and websites maybe ever. NPR has a good explainer of the legal and economic issues involved.

Wyden envisions a legal hell that will block innovation by smaller internet companies and individuals. Here’s his description on the Senate floor of how he sees it playing out (click on the photo to play):


Prior to the vote in the Senate, Wyden offered amendments, including a more straightforward approach: additional funding for the F.B.I. and Justice Department to combat online sex trafficking. Those amendments were defeated or withdrawn.



Congress Agrees On $1.3-Trillion Spending Bill That Needs To Pass By The End Of This Week. Trump Seems To Be On Board Now Too.


This deal seems to be sealed now, with Trump Tweeting late last night with justifications for accepting less than everything he wanted.

We’ve already gone over a lot of the controversial items the bill doesn’t contain: like a DACA fix, and defunding Planned Parenthood.

The Washington Post says the big win for Republicans and Trump in the end is an increase of $78-billion in military funding, while Democrats got $52-billion for domestic programs they want (but apparently as a direct result of Trump’s intervention, they didn’t get the money they wanted to rebuild commuter rail service between New York and New Jersey–two states that didn’t vote for him).

The Post also points to a couple of other significant late things that snuck in: money to improve background checks for gun buyers and language that federal funds can be spent to research gun violence, which is currently not allowed.

Trump was getting antsy about not getting all his wall money, so things were touch-and-go for a while. He does get some: nearly $1,600,000,000 but that’s far short of the $25-billion he wanted up front. The bill is also very particular about how and where the wall funds can be spent.

Washington Post reporter Mike DeBonis lays it out in a Tweet (click on the graphic to view the specifics–it’s interesting):

In what’s expected to be a largely symbolic gesture, many Democrats in the House are likely to vote against the spending bill, in protest of the fact that it does not contain a DACA fix, (something Trump is trying to blame them for), but they can do nothing to stop the bill’s passage, unless radical House Republicans decide to also block it because it doesn’t defund Planned Parenthood and rip federal funds away from so-called “Sanctuary Cities”.

In case you’re a real masochist, here’s the entire bill, all 2,232 pages of it.



Fed Raises Rates As Economy Continues To Heat Up


This is both a positive and potentially negative sign for the economy and stock market. For consumers, it depends whether you’re a saver (good) or a borrower (bad).

The increase was widely expected. It means the economy is growing and the Federal Reserve is making some modest moves to take some dollars out of circulation in order to head off inflation. To do this, it’s literally making them more expensive.

Specifically, the Fed raised its Fed Funds target rate (which is kind of a “wholesale” short-term interest rate), to 1.75% from 1.5%, that’s the highest rate since 2008. The Fed’s already said it’s planning on raising rates at least 3 times this year, but it could very well end up being 4, with newly appointed Fed Chairman Jay Powell suggesting the central bank’s inflation target of 2% for the year is already pretty much in the bag. But Powell also stressed the Fed is not breaking from its monetary policies of the past several years.

Here’s Powell (click on the photo to play):




China Tariffs Coming Today


The $60-billion tariff package is expected to be very broad, across a wide range of products, and will also restrict Chinese investment in the U.S.

The South China Morning Post today reported China is willing to make concessions to try to head off the tariffs, mostly related to access to the banking industry. And, of course, promises to protect intellectual property–but they’ve made those promises before.

Anyway, we don’t think better access for U.S. banks is what Trump wants: he’s indicated over and over that he wants to bring manufacturing back to the U.S. He doesn’t really care about services hardly as much. So a “fix”–even if genuine–that exclusively seeks to expand services and not goods might not fly.



Mitch Landrieu’s Suddenly Getting A Lot More Attention


We’ve been saying for months that as unlikely as it seems, New Orleans’ Democratic Mayor would be a pretty good Presidential candidate for 2020. And Presidential elections are all about unlikely. Politico just published a profile supporting that assertion, though still arguing Mitch Landrieu’s a real long shot. Landrieu first caught our attention when he spoke for a gathering of Mayors who were invited to meet with the President to talk about infrastructure, but then refused to go after the President threatened to take their funds away if they didn’t cooperate with his immigration crackdown.


At the time, Landrieu said of Trump: “I can never recall a situation where someone professes to want to work with other people, punches them in the face first and says now I would like to talk to you.”



“Legal Colonoscopy”: Alan Dershowitz’ Unwittingly Apt Description Of The Mueller Investigation


The law professor and political commentator, who’s never been shy of the spotlight, was dragged into one by Trump, who quoted him quoting Trump, saying: “I think President Trump was right when he said there never should have been a Special Council appointed”.

Dershowitz, writing in The Hill, later expanded on what the President said, arguing that a “nonpartisan investigative commission” should’ve been appointed instead. (Just the kind of panel Trump hates.) And that “The public has lost faith in the leadership of the Justice Department and the FBI”. What “public”? Not us. Not yet.

Dershowitz topped it off by also calling Mueller’s investigation a “legal colonoscopy“.

Right. A colonoscopy is how you find and get rid of cancer.