But if you read the actual article, that was only the intro/lead-in. The main point of the article is near the end:
> I think something more profound is going on here. We are getting a first taste of how difficult it is for a world in which humans and computers are intrinsically linked. Tristian’s punch line “The problem with Facebook is Facebook” hints at this. Is the problem the leadership of Facebook, the people of Facebook, the users of Facebook, the software of Facebook, the algorithms of Facebook, what people do with the data from Facebook, or something else. Just try to pull those apart and make sense of it.
> ... the big transitions are hard to see when you are in them but easy to see with the benefit of decades of hindsight. This might be that moment of transition, where there is no going back to what was before.
Brad is bringing up a question here. He's not making a claim about anything. Our world is being changed. We don't know how things are going to turn out yet.
You could run a social media platform instead as a service for users funded by donations, in the vein of Wikipedia. This way you don't need to convince most people to pay. You only need a small passionate few who keep the service going for everyone else. I think the business model would generally incentivize much more user-friendly operational decisions than an ad-sponsored approach does. And since this is a digital service, the operational cost can be scaled proportionally to the donations received.
Not exactly. While it is possible to become a Guardian 'supporter', and contribute financially in exchange for ad-free browsing after you identify yourself by logging in, you are not free from tracking by third-party ad companies as you browse their site.
The parent comment you are responding to said "I think the business model would generally incentivize much more user-friendly operational decisions than an ad-sponsored approach does." and while this gives you a superficially cleaner browsing experience, ad companies continue to track you as you browse the Guardian's website, harvesting data which can be used to manipulate you elsewhere on the web.
The Guardian could choose to disable all third-party trackers for logged-in paying supporters, but they do not. For privacy conscious readers, the only way to achieve what you want is to install an ad-blocker and a browser extension such as Privacy Badger. Contributing to the paper provides little or no privacy benefit, though it's always a good idea to support quality journalism, so if you do it, do it for that reason alone.
Be sure to include your subscriber/membership number in that email, which you can find in your profile https://profile.theguardian.com/
Perhaps it's a return to tried and tested model rather than a switch to a new one?
I believe Facebook is overvalued, but comparison to the value of a dog park is not exactly fair either.
What I was trying to convey was that a social network doesn't necessarily need to move the mountains of money that Facebook does. Diaspora* is an example of a free open source social network platform. Of course it still cost people a lot of time and money to build and host it, but nowhere near Facebook levels.
I also think the business model of running specifically a social network as a profitable business is likely to lead to "perverse incentives". Making a profit isn't necessarily opposed to helping people connect (e.g. OKCupid's business model of being free to all but selling advantages to power users), but it takes both the willingness to align your business model with your users' interests and the fortitude to stick to that approach even though other approaches could be more profitable.
One is a great place do be if it wasn't for all piles of steaming crap left around by irresponsible users.
The other is somewhere to exercise your dog
Second is the advertising business model. There as side effects to this three-way market. In any casefb as business works because they are such a monopoly.
Third is political influence, which I think is at the centre of FB's current heat, not data security. People become presidents on FB, revolutions happen on FB. This gives extra importance to the first two.
FB had been in denial about the politics issue, I suspect they still don't fully grasp it. They're not a neutral platform. They actually built in certain biases via their "optimization" for "engagement". In any case, since people like to argue politics on FB, it's a great advertiaing platform for politics.
I think they will not like the answer to the last problem. Its either an editorial approach, recognizing their position as a publication or trying to get rid of politics.
They grasp it. They've been running research studies on elections, politics, and "emotional contagions" since at least 2010.
What do we use the internet for? Communication, media, business, government. Most of these work on the internet exactly how they work in the non-Internet world. The only difference is the setting.
Media? We get it for free or for a small payment, both on the net, and IRL. Commerce? We still pay for things with our credit cards, the product catalogs and stores are just digital now. Public services? I apply for a change of address online and not at the DMV's satellite office. Chatting? Group text rather than party lines.
Now, social media certainly has changed people's bubbles. They're now tighter and larger, and reinforce biases and create false information to a much greater degree. But it's not like this wasn't already happening with FOX News, and before that with newspapers and journals dedicated to fringe groups.
I think the biggest problem we face is the world becoming more convenient and insular. Rather than have to pay for a local worker to produce some good for me, it gets churned through a global trade network to squeeze its price down to pennies and exploit the people and environment of the world to do so. And I would never know it unless someone went to great lengths to tell me so. Rather than read a newspaper, we look for what drivel has been retweeted by our friends. It's just "easy" to consume harmful products and information.
So what do you do when convenience is a problem? Give up convenience?
In order for the world to change people need to be genuinely, independently, and individually upset at the behavior here. Here, I think this  Onion article is a good example of when satire meets reality: "American People Admit Having Facebook Data Stolen Kind Of Worth It To Watch That Little Fucker Squirm". Factor in the political aspect, and I do think that probably sums up the situation pretty well. By the political aspect, I mean to say that I think a lot of the outrage is also geared again not around the behavior itself, but who that behavior may have benefited.
The issue is that if people are not upset at the behavior itself and in a vacuum, then nothing will change. And I really don't think they are. Facebook was revealed to be literally conducting psychological experiments on users without their consent, making their feed more negative or more positive just to see what would happen, and when the next shiny news bit came along - nobody cared anymore.
That all said, I completely and absolutely hope I'm wrong. But I do not think I am.
 - https://www.theonion.com/american-people-admit-having-facebo...
The themes of yesterday conflict with the themes of tomorrow as society exists in a period of transition
Freire referred to it as an epoch where new themes have the chance to take over
My guess is we’ll end up in the same spot: rich elites pushing their theme of “insure my wealth and power” while the majority do the actual work
I know that there are several defendants [drugs etc] even in my small area who have had deleted snapchat posts, deleted texts, deleted emails, "anonymous" forum posts etc etc etc show up as evidence in court. Now I'm obviously unfamiliar with the legal and technical means by which police investigators made things like that happen, but the fact that they happen means that we can assume that at LEAST the government has access to a record of most everything we do online. Free or otherwise.
Even ignoring the question of the government surveillance net, once your data is on that company's server, how would you even be able to reliably validate what's being done with it? By which I mean, they say they don't share it, but how do you KNOW?
So maybe we would get some pretty compelling new features in a lot of our services if we were to pay for them, but I'm not at all certain that ironclad privacy would be one of them.
In fact, I'm fair certain that it wouldn't be.
Unless you've been extremely diligent, there's no way you're going to escape a targeted invasion of privacy when someone, or some group, government or not, wants it bad enough. Trying to stop that would be exhausting and futile.
Right now, we're allowing highly coordinated, highly detailed, nearly invisible, for-profit, stalking to take place legally. There's no doubt that's bad for society. We have anti-stalking laws for good reason. It's worth doing something about the current state of things, even if it doesn't bring the tracking down to nothing. The free market and tech has failed to fix it so far. They don't have forever to keep trying. Laws are the next line of defense. Laws might not stop criminals from crimin' but I'm sure the Tim Cooks of the world aren't going to risk their company profits (or personal freedoms, if the laws are strict enough) to get a little extra info on everyone.
The issue is that the services have to be funded somehow. If they're funded through data mining, you lose your privacy. So if you want privacy, some other funding source is necessary but not sufficient.
> once your data is on that company's server, how would you even be able to reliably validate what's being done with it?
The answer is for it not to be on their server at all. Have it be on your server. Operating a server should be as simple as operating any other home appliance.
That, and there has to be a legal or technical way to prevent them from datamining you anyway. Because seriously, almost no company is going to voluntarily leave money on the table. Why drop old profit source for the new one, when you can have both?
> The answer is for it not to be on their server at all. Have it be on your server. Operating a server should be as simple as operating any other home appliance.
That's an important part of the solution, I believe. Personally, what I'd love to see is the move towards making service providers stop trying to own data. The way SaaS currently works is: I send my data to the service for processing, they basically own it, and I'm lucky if I can even get the data back out and untangled from the service. The way this should be working is that I own and control the data, and I rent their code to be run on it.
Come to think of it, that's how desktop software works, and that's why the abstraction of a file - the one the cloud is desperately trying to kill - is so awesome.
But... operating non-computerized home appliances is difficult, too. Remember all the jokes about the VCR blinking 12:00? This was because every damn thing had it's own completely non-standard, unique interface.
I mean, we've got fewer and fewer clocks we've gotta set, but back in the day, I remember I was the sort of person who would have to jimmy with a friend's car until their in-dash clock was right... and almost nobody I knew had a clock that was right year round, just 'cause they couldn't be bothered to look up or figure out how to set it.
Now, with connected appliances? (as any of your 'social network' appliances would have to be) if you didn't apply the security updates (and maybe if you did) the data would be even more public than it is now.
Not really. It was because the device is a VCR (or a car) that happens to contain a clock and people didn't care enough about the clock feature to bother with setting it. Even the people whose clocks weren't set could still play a video tape or drive to work.
What it points to is the need for good defaults. The default shouldn't be to blink 12:00, nobody actually wants that. It should be to get the time from a GPS receiver or NTP server or something like that. It's a problem caused by no external connectivity, which is no longer an issue today.
> Now, with connected appliances? (as any of your 'social network' appliances would have to be) if you didn't apply the security updates (and maybe if you did) the data would be even more public than it is now.
Security is an issue but it's a separate issue. Huge organizations get pwned all the time. Yahoo, Target, Equifax, OPM, it's a very long list. If the thing holding your data gets hacked, you lose. That doesn't really depend on if it's in your home or not.
Look at the Tor network, for example, the next time you assume that nobody would run a service for free without collecting data or ads.
EDIT: I used Tor as an example because of the contrast with data collection companies like Facebook but there are a lot of people who run Tor relays for free that push quite a bit of traffic around. Things like IPFS, blockchains, Mastodon Project, SETI@Home, etc, are examples of free approaches given our modern hardware proliferation.
Oh an exit node certainly has the capability to collect data. Have enough of them and you can de-anonymize an user.
My point is that most people run those services for free without the expectation of collecting personal data.
It's only after that in the second step that people try to monetise. Nowadays of course it's money from the getgo, but things have changed.
There's still plenty of free today. Lots of people run websites with highly interesting information and then distributed it without benefiting from the ads that run on the site (e.g. a Wordpress blog, where the privacy invasion and ad revenue profits go to Wordpress not the blogger).
See Firebase Hosting [a sister team of mine]: 1GB hosting and 10GB xfer monthly without even dropping a credit card.
Once they've said "let's monetize our free users" they've already lost. What people miss is that free users are incredibly valuable with a digital product -- whether it's seeing how real people use it or the free marketing they give you. Sure, a freemium product will generally have >95% of its users not paying a cent. That doesn't mean you need to sell of their data to generate value from them.
And as a consumer "outraged about privacy and advertising," frankly we're faced with many products that are overpriced for the value they deliver. More companies need to find the middle ground between surveillance business models and gouging consumers.
For me that kind of problem is the blocker, and "oh look nobody paid for for the premium version, therefore people don't value privacy" is a bit disingenuous.
And likely even if you paid for a subscription to a magazine, your name and address was sold to marketers to sell you direct mail. And this ended up in someone's database, who resold it to advertisers time and time again.
Cook's Illustrated is an example of a magazine that doesn't sell ads. But the cost per issue is higher and the number of pages is lower. Also most of the magazine is usually printed in black and white to save publishing costs.
The question I ask myself constantly, is do I want to end up being advertised to (Google, Facebook), or do I want to end up being part of someone's brand (Apple, Nike)?
This newsagent delivered the papers and magazines to your door before you left for work in the morning, didn't send your data to organisations and allowed flexible purchasing options (monthly, weekly, etc). Many people still use news agents for their subscription delivery mechanisms.
Perhaps we can see an online agent, where we pay a trusted third party that negotiates transactions on all our online activites on our behalf, and protects our privacy, location, when else we buy, etc. That digital agent would collect a small (1% of transaction cost) as fee, to continue it's operations.
This test doesn't seem to work in practice due to, I imagine, human psychology. When looking at a free vs not free service, most people are just comparing the cost of the service. The implied privacy costs are too diffuse and complex for the brain to properly comprehend them at that moment.
The individual-based solution is to develop a feeling of ickiness towards such services, but I'm not sure how that could be implemented on a mass scale.
I often don't want to haul out the credit card because it takes so much energy to evaluate a service.
The total comes to just over $300/yr. That's... really not that much, is it?
I'd imagine for minimum mage workers, that's obscene.
The internet is effectively a need, on the level of electricity, so it's closer to being an assumed cost. Nonetheless, some people probably can't afford it, and for those that do but struggle financially, adding more on top of it doesn't at all help. The idea that these people should be concerned about a diffuse danger of privacy violations compared to the very real danger of not being able to afford important things is completely preposterous.
Stop passing the cost to the consumer. Companies that abuse privacy should be regulated. If you're expecting this task to be done by people of low socioeconomic status, whom your own system has deemed as people deserving of less power, you're looking at the whole thing completely backwards.
I'm not a fan, and I apologize for contributing to it. I'll try to be more thoughtful in the future.
Plenty of other people must value your comments too, because you've accumulated a karma of over 5000 points in about 4 months - say 15,000 points a year, which is definitely a lot - cf HN leaders. 
SSDI pays very close to the federal poverty level. Even with the benefit of receiving Medicare, the monthly cost of very-necessary medication plus very frugal living expenses usually leaves me with up to ~$(40 +/- 40) each month in "discretionary spending" that I can use to buy anything beyond rent/medication/food. (e.g. clothes, household cleaning/repair/etc, very rarely travel expenses)
I'm lucky that my interest has always involved computers, which I can use for free for many different purposes. Well, as long as nothing happens to my old desktop (Core 2 Quad Q9650, nForce 790i, RAID-1 of ancient SATA disks). An extra $300/yr would would mean buying new boots and some new shirts. Paying that would mean dropping on of my medications (maybe fatal in the short term, defiantly fatal within a year or two), or skipping a few months of food.
For the record, I'm fine living frugally. I simply suggest that it's important to avoid falling victim to a filter bubble or survivor bias, because there are a lot of people - even engineers in Silicon Valley - that have an even worse situation that mine.
 I'm fortunate to have the privilege of being male and white. My friends without those privileges have only recently been able to start leaning math/software/etc. They are hackers at heart, but a math/CS/engineering education and SV startup opportunities were not available to black women in the 80s/90s.
I'm somewhat new to HN, so sorry if this is bad form, but I couldn't find a way to send a private message.
I've been doing a lot of research on systemd because a lot of the developer practices behind it frankly scare the shit out of me.
I thought you had some excellent comments (these were threads from like 2015/2016) - is there anywhere we could discuss the current state of systemd if you're okay with that? Basically I want to see if any of your opinions have changed, or if systemd still seems like a giant ugly tightly-coupled octopus that attempts to subsume too many features.
tl;dr: I've been playing around with arch linux and I've been loving it, but something about systemd rubs me the wrong way and it feels like an obvious target for security compromise if I were the NSA or [insert evil org] since systemd is present on so many linux distros
A couple of years back I was so poor I was sleeping on my brother's couch.
Not to mention that there are people on HN who are from developing countries, where even relatively well paid jobs don't pay a lot by Western standards.
The line gets a bit blurry when you consider that there are a few high school-aged people on HN who can't legally get a full time job.
Is paying 1/12th of your total annual income just to get 4 services worth it?
That would be, what?, like you paying $10,000 a year for those services?
Would you pay $150/month to not have ads ever again? I definitely would but considering how much people complain about $3/month for no-ad hulu...
I'm all for getting rid of all advertising in any (humanitarian) way possible, but that's the one thing that still bugs me - how to ensure kids with no disposable income will be able to work with the software used by pros?
My point is, people are paying it anyway.
It's only an ad model at the moment because we're only just getting started with ways to utilise massive amounts of data. Give it time and, unless we're vigilant and guard against it, it'll be an insurance model, a career model, a justice model, etc. Anything you can imagine turning big data to will become a business model if we let it.
Ads are an incredibly tame use of the data corporations have access to. It could be much, much worse. That's why we need to work out an alternative now.
Can the "alternative to free" be "considered" if that which is "free" has never before been offered for a price greater than zero
Can the "alternative to free" be "considered" when there is no such alternative (e.g. because alternatives have been acquired or blocked by a monopolist)
What if companies exist to serve advertisers and other customers and are not actually "serving" users
What if it was shown that many users do not actually require storage of data in data centers
What if the needs of users and the needs of data collectors are truly not aligned
What if users' "choices" are nonexistant or illusory
While not "the" answer, it could be an option so that you're not paying for each and every content driven website independently.
Of course, the downside is this harkens to the time when we had limited sources of information (newspaper sub, broadcast TV, cable TV and radio).
If micropayments is not working (yet?) and advertising is proving too invasive but we're also not willing to pay underutilized individual subscriptions, what else is there?
Oh, and ISPs would be regulated as utilities so their services would be dumb pipes with high bandwidth, low latency, and no caps or throttling of any kind!
Just because you pay for something doesn't mean you are also not the product. Businesses will maximize value and then they will draw revenue from both subscriptions and advertising. So simply paying will not solve the problem.
Negative externalities are usually handled by regulation in a civilized society as markets are a race to the bottom and cannot account for them. So safety standards, environmental protections, child labour, drugs all have to be regulated and enforced.
In this case the potential for micro targeted propaganda and misinformation are negative externalities. In this specific case its easy to tackle the problem at source by banning micro targeting by advertisers and platforms. Only textual context and immediate location can be used. This protects revenue streams and the current model. But removes the incentives to stalk everyone and hoover up incredible amounts of data to build profiles for micro targeting.
My wild guess is it will not, it will get much clever, it will be able to figure out if a given person is "worth being targeted" (buys expensive goods and services and does this often, has big credit on his card, etc.).
Soon or later those who does not qualify will get nothing or will have to pay a lot to access given service since not being part of it will be considered suspicious (by government, employers, shops). US gov wants people to give their "social" username at the border, Chinese government is working on system to "rate" citizens, companies are setting the prizes in online stores on the base of knowledge they have about incoming customers.
Traversing a saying about communists and capitalists it seems that social networks are giving away a rope they will hang its users someday.
Would I be willing to pay 10x-1000x times that for a half dozen $10/mo subscription? No.
The problem is is that (lack of) apathy is a strong signal, ripe for price-grading, and boy do they price grade!
Actual revenue per user for Facebook in the US and Canada is $26+ / quarter or over $100/year... That is on the order of $10/month . So if a company wanted to be as profitable as Facebook, and not make money from advertising, they would have to charge $10/mo. That is more than I am willing to pay for Facebook -- my friends have my phone number.
If you think profit of providers like Facebook should be limited then that's a regulation issue. Personally I don't think that should be the case.
It is possible to provide the service Facebook provides in a fully encrypted manner. Individual companies would require subsidies and audits to ensure encryption. Essentially regulation.
Another alternative is fully encrypted, distributed services where personal CPU and storage are used to support the service. This is possible through systems like Diaspora or Mastadon, but there is an ease of use / network effect issue there.
I just don't think it is as simple or inexpensive as pennies a day. Or to push a company to charge that little would require regulation.
Will this schema work with Internet? Like if I want FB I will pay for facebook's dedicated TCP/IP port access.
Sounds crazy of course but could it be something along these lines?
I mean, the whole concept of the most widespread p2p networks is piracy, or the act of paying for bandwidth and electricity to save money on the movies that you steal.
This is ridiculous. If nobody knew that this was happening, we'd be going on with our lives and nothing would be different. Society is not being destroyed by advertisements being delivered more effectively with user data. Whatever they're doing with it, it's preferable to having to pay to use websites.
How about the very small vocal minority of people who legitimately care about their data being harvested get to pay every website they want to visit, and the rest of us stick with ads?
The problem with Facebook is that it is owned and controlled by an individual whose personality, ethical standards and philosophy seems to be pretty static and problematic in many ways.
Add some more restrictive legislation on what major online platforms are allowed to display to users, and I think it would be a very different ball game.
- Facebook being a paid platform for subscribers would reduce subscribers
- Adding restrictions to what Facebook was allowed to show users would have some affect
Isn't that what mass advertisers do? Do you think Coca Cola doesn't want to influence the public?
Maybe it's not about the power to do this, but rather what it's used for? Use advertising to sell a good product, and all is forgiven. It might even be considered positive in the case of a public health campaign.
Sell a defective, dangerous product, or outright scam, and they will complain about the advertising.
(These days, many people are looking at soda rather skeptically.)
The thing is this picture kind of comes apart if you notice a lot of the polarizing dialogue comes from mainstream with dynamic that's been accelerating for many years, that atomization similarly increased significantly as described by Robert Putnam in Bowling alone and blaming things like the opioid epidemic on social networking is fairly absurd (factors like the loss of high paid industrial jobs and destruction of community are clearly more to blame than Facebook, however you might apportion the overall blame).
Moreover, the growing wealth disparity in this country is the elephant the behind a lot of these factors.
I'd note that the current wave of anti-Facebook rants seem to have appeared after the Cambridge Analytica "scandal", which allowed a parade of haters to appear with a variety of complaint; Facebook helped Trump win, Facebook sharing annoys because I don't want to engage with people's political rants.
The polarization and groupthink is even present on online platforms that have no ads whatsoever, like Wikipedia and, to an extent, Hacker News.
Funded by advertising -> commercially incentivised to get as many users as possible and keep them on the site as long as possible -> optimise structure/design/layout/activity feed/suggested content/notifications to do that -> online communication problems.
For example, Facebook controls the algorithm that decides which posts appear in your news feed, the order of them, the real name policy, which other users see your posts, and when you receive notifications; Reddit controls which content appears on the front page, the ease of sign-up, and the default subs; Youtube controls which video auto-plays next, and the content and ordering of videos on the homepage, and so on.
All of them also have hired moderators, reporting mechanisms, automatic spam filtering; and policies on things like bots, how bans work, what sort of content is allowed/banned, pornography, hate speech, copyright infringement, and so on.
So for example, in the pursuit of growth and engagement, companies might turn a blind eye to thousands of bots propping up their user numbers; or promote content that made people angry or mislead them; if doing so produced the best engagement metrics.
There's also the problem of funded by advertising -> incentivised to improve ad targeting -> incentivised to push the boundaries on user privacy. I think we're only beginning to see the consequences of this.
Oh yes it is. When Russian (and American) Trump, Brexit or other Nazi supporters use targeting to deliver propaganda to those segments of society most vulnerable to it, democracy suffers.
The US got Trump, the UK got the Brexit, France the shocking rise of the Front National, we Germans got the AfD fash, Austria the FPÖ, Italy the M5S and Berlusconi rising from the dead, and the situation in Poland or Hungary went to total collapse of democracy. Most of this was enabled by propaganda on social media, especially as many newspapers and other real media outlets get their headlines from Facebook and Twitter trending topics.
One thing common to all these "movements": easily shareable (and digestible) "share pics" filled with lies and "alternative facts" creating a massive echo chamber for those lured into it. With an equally massive radicalization feedback loop - like with snuff videos, people always need more extreme stuff.
I have a suspicion: many people in the tech world do not like it when someone points out that the tech world is very much at fault for what happened.
Many people (tm), especially here, believe in the Holy Free Market as the Solution To All Problems... and having someone show them that the total lack of regulation did cause issues is bound to cause discomfort.
Look, you are writing this on YOUR domain because Wordpress gave you that ability. It powers 20% of all new websites. What we need as a society is a Wordpress for social networking.
(Although there is a problem if you want to make nice things and get paid for them...)
There already are P2P social network platforms, the problem is how do you get mass adoption?
The actual cost of what e.g. FB does for its users is tiny.
What the magnitude of such metric actually is, probably depends as much on cultural aspects of your target demographic as the quality and usefulness of the network provided services.
Surely there is an academic paper on the subject, but if there isn't, then the real question is Why?!
There are various ways to get it. I would say viral expansion is the best way.
Feel free to reach out by email if you want to get help getting started with the FOSS platform
Imagine a de-centralized Facebook with the same engagement-optimized feed. Maybe it runs over the Web, maybe it runs on something like Ethereum.
What if we built that, and wound up with the same set of problems? Except now there's no off button, nobody to petition, and government can't intervene.
Decentralization is not a silver bullet. And in this case I might worry that the medicine is worse than the disease.
Well, there is someone who is responsible, but the problem is that you cannot hold them accountable. Which is why democracy avoids the same concentration of power in the first place.
Which is also the whole point of decentralization. You avoid the concentration of power that would allow any single party or small minority to turn against you without any way out for you.
If you email provider starts selling your emails to the highest bidder, you don't need to regulate your email provider. You simply switch to a different one. Or run your own server. Decentralization is about keeping the power your hands.
I'm a big fan of decentralization in general, but I think it's worth pointing out where things could go wrong at scale.
They assume that just because they don’t have a problem paying $5/mo, rest of the world doesn’t either. Their naive solution (“charge me money!”) is all about providing them some privacy while leaving the overwhelming majority of the world either without the free services or without the same privacy the relatively-rich would get.
As Jaron Lanier pointed out in his recent TED talk, with previous information technologies like books we figured out how to both charge for the information being distributed while providing access free of charge to those who could not afford it via public libraries. https://www.ted.com/talks/jaron_lanier_how_we_need_to_remake...
Furthermore, what Feld and others are describing here is an economic externality. You could both be right that many people would not and/or could not pay $5/month, yet still the negative social cost of a free product costs that user far more in the long run in the form of political unrest.
I believe you’re referring to the last elections. But the way I see it, this is mostly a case of people whose candidate lost wanting to change the rules of the game because their candidate lost. I voted for Hillary but I’m not delusional to blame the results on any nefarious use of ad targeting before blaming the campaign’s poor strategy (specifically, pouring money into states like Arizona to end up with 3m+ votes while getting too few votes in states that made a difference.)
Political campaigns are waged within the media landscape of the day. When Nixon sweated during the first televised debate, he lost the debate and the election. That signaled a transition from radio to TV as the dominant medium for political campaigns, and the types of candidates who won national office in the TV era were different from those from earlier eras. In that way the dominant medium of the day has a filtering & selection effect on who succeeds in a political race. Trump's election signaled another transition, this time to the era of social media. It's not partisan to worry about the type of candidates that transition will push to the fore.
And we can a apply your other plan in parallel in you have one, to maximize efficiency. And if you don't, well, then you realize it's though.
Things don’t become cheap in a vacuum: advertising is literally how many things that would have cost money could be offered for free. In that sense, we already have a solution to what you describe.
It’s been over a decade since the iPhone was launched. Its cost hasn’t come down. So Apple can boast all it wants about its privacy features but it’s not a mass market product outside of the US. For proof, just look at their marketshare in countries like India. I think if in a decade a company like Apple hasn’t been able to figure out a way to lower price in order to make their privacy-first product more affordable, it’s at least worth admitting this is a very hard problem to solve at scale. And I say this as an Apple fanboy.
Huh? Says who? How much do you think you could charge for an iPhone 3G today?
Apple hasn't lowered prices in the manner you're imagining because they are a luxury brand. Their business model is that you pay extra so that other people can see that you own an iPhone. Lowering prices means they get less money while losing value. But Apple has lowered prices in a very real sense, by providing much more performance at the same inflation-unadjusted prices.
True, but also, you’re using a much older version of a revolutionary product.
The price was lowered by $200 shortly after release, causing outrage amongst the earliest buyers. Compensatory credits were issued to affected customers.
Later, Apple began selling previous models as a more affordable line rather than eliminating them each cycle. The newest models retain their price point, but devices from the previous year receive a price cut.
They haven’t started making low cost commodity devices at the bottom of the market, but Apple typically doesn’t compete in that area.
Unfortunately this externality is not like environmental externalities. You can't just "fix" it by throwing money at mitigation measures (ie scrubbers, tree planting, fluid separation, dispersants, breakdown agents, remediation), the cost is fused into the society in subtle and difficult ways to isolate and measure.
What does that mean? Well for completing information in the market we can't scrap it completely. But we also want to cut out the psychological aspects surely? Obviously any solution would be imperfect, so I'm going to start with: We need a stricter, more comprehensive ratings agency in the way that films/TV games and music is rated. The greater the psychological impact, the less it can be broadcast to the public at large. So bland statements of technical specifications could be displayed anywhere, but something which says "buy now, limited time only, you'll miss out and your life will suck" will be limited to exclusively infomercial channels only.
So what do we do about the money side then? How will people pay for the services they can't actually afford? No idea. I'd like to put a tax on advertising, but how does that meaningfully go to people, or website holders? However, society getting to a state of charging people to skip ads/aka opt out, while not earning enough sounds a lot like Black Mirror.
This may be a case where an imperfect solution is still better than nothing. One where it should be reassessed constantly, lest loopholes eventually become exploited, like they are in almost any regulation or tax code which does not change.
I read this post over and over trying to tweak it, but it still sounds ridiculous. But I don't know how else to continue the conversation.
a) who are advertisers targeting and why? If it’s people who can’t afford the service why are they then targeting them? Only people who have excess money are worth targeting. So there is a choice for most people.
b) take the example of Facebook. 1.5 bn daily users generate 9 bn $ in revenue, that’s 6 $ per year and active user, so 50c a month, not 5$/mo
b) Vast majority of current users won’t pay $5/mo. If 10% do (and I’d say that’s an exaggeration), then they’d need to charge $5/mo.
b) There is no way to tell. Maybe 80% would pay 50c a month. I’d say there is some middle ground between 100%/0$ and your assumption of 10%/5$.
If I had a billion dollars to spend building a paid version of fb versus spending that money educating everyone about the privacy controls they already have, I feel the latter would make much more of an impact than the former.
As someone else has pointed out, education won’t help if the platform is abusing the data.
Instead, wages are terrible for the most part. Income inequality is so off the scale now that you can’t expect people to just pay for all the little things they use. Making all these free things might have the side effect of distracting people from realizing how little they can actually afford.
Since no one is paying for things that are useful, instead money goes to whatever can trick the most ad viewers: sensational news, outrageous things, etc. Anything that can’t be made interesting to most people has trouble making money.
No doubt humans are flawed. But is that FB's fault?
That everyone has self destructive tendencies is pretty clear, it's only when you get a reward for following through with them that you have a problem.
That the reward is likes or drugs is pretty immaterial.
Are you sure about that?
If the government and parents are failing to prepare children for dealing with the adversaries that they encounter in life ... does that mean anyone who is using that lack of preparation to their advantage while knowingly hurting those under-prepared people cannot possibly be at fault for their actions?
If a child hasn't learned about the dangers of drugs in school or from their parents ... does that mean that someone selling them hard drugs cannot be at fault for making money from that situation?
SV makes too much money from advertising to be able to admit the truths about it.
There is no free lunch: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8585237
Advertising is our C8: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10047706
Is that the company that sold "virtual goods" on Facebook.
Pay real money to "send" a cartoon image of a brownie to another Facebook user.
"What is going on here ("free services") is nothing new.
The entire television industry was created on it (broadcast TV was free, supported by advertising, dating back well before I was born.)
Nielsen ratings started for radio in the 1940s and TV in the 1950s. The idea of advertisers targeting users of free services based on data is, well, not new.
Propaganda is not new either. The etymology of the word from Wikipedia is entertaining in its own right."
What if a user simply wants a method of communicating with a friend, family member or colleague
Is that type of communication done via television, radio or propaganda
How about telegraph, telephone or internet service
What is the "service"
Is it entertainment
Is it a means of communication between friends, family and colleagues
If it is entertainment, then is it dissemination
Is advertising also dissemination
Is communication with friends, family and colleagues different from "dissemination* See 
Is there any history of surveillance of communication over telegraph, telephone or (until recently) internet service in order to inform advertising
I remember first seeing ads in gmail and trying to figure why it made me feel physically nauseous, while the early implementations of Google search ads seemed completely reasonable and inoffensive.
It was definitely the fact that they were showing me ads based on private communication as opposed to my previous consumption habits that caused the visceral reaction.
I think advertisements are OK, as long as personal data not aggregated, nor cross referenced/shared. I'm OK with google display few search related ads along the page. But it's insane to see van ads on youtube after I searched for one.
It's not just the humans being linked to computers. They're also linked to other humans.
Unless AIs have a higher ethical standard, free will for humans will become more and more an illusion.
Edit: I'm thinking of Ian Banks' Culture novels. In Excession, there's a ship mind that doesn't respect human autonomy. Other ship minds call it "meatfucker". As a slur.
There is a difference between free as in beer and free as in freedom. Only the latter can offer us privacy and security.
We need to support social media that use paid subscriptions with no ads. And we need to support platforms that make it core to their offering that they are not going to share user data, and which have a business model that will align with that.
There is a lot of discussion around this nowadays which is good, but it's time for people to actually take action and be leader and make the change themselves.
We need good advertising systems. Businesses need to be able to pitch new customers. We need to clean up some issues wrt privacy of course. But well-targeted, relevant ads are a good thing.
Seriously? That's supposed to be an argument?
> We need to clean up some issues wrt privacy of course. But well-targeted, relevant ads are a good thing.
How do you define privacy that using data about a person to target them is compatible with that concept of privacy?
FB leaking user data through CA is not part of FB’s business model.
Back in the 90s, that sentiment reflected reality; but not today.
Consumers cannot protect their long term interests and someone is taking advantage of it.
There are many reasons why they can't. Sometimes there's competition that forces you to only consider your short term interests. Other times a limited resource (ie time, expertise) is required to evaluate a set of choices and the consumer can't afford it on it's own. Or maybe the widespread adoption of one thing creates a monopoly and makes other choices impossible.
Whether the end result is nutritional deficiencies from unenriched food or complete and total misinformation, someone needs to intervene, and the only organization that has the obligation and means to do so is the government.
The governments all across the world need to stop this cancer of misinformation and deception from spreading any further. We need to make them stop it.
The irony is, a good number of these govs persist because of misinformation and deception. Until a tool like FB actually undermines that status quo the odds of change are low.
Look at the alleged Russian interference in the USA. The USA's spin was on the order of "we would never do that." Obviously, we know, that's no true. The US has been "protecting American interests" for ages.
1) The rich and powerful have gotten more rich and powerful since the birth of FB.
2) Cyber-surveillance by state and non-state actors has increased since the birth of FB.
Yes, on one hand it's correlation (but on the other it's an assessment of the status quo). If 1 depends on 2 then FB is not to be considered on the side of the people.
If that's really true, then consumers are doomed. Nobody else can protect your interests if you are unwilling to do so yourself.
> the only organization that has the obligation and means to do so is the government.
Governments are subject to all of the same misaligned incentives that ordinary people and corporations are. Only it's worse with governments because they make the laws.
In other words, governments "solving" these problems is a "cure" that's worse than the disease.
The price of centralized "free" is indeed too high.