“The business model of the Internet is surveillance” contd.

This useful graphic comes from a wonderful post by the redoubtable Doc Searls about the ultimate unsustainability of the business model currently dominating the Web. He starts with a quote from “Facebook’s Surveillance Machine” — a NYT OpEd column by the equally-redoubtable Zeynep Tufecki:

“Facebook makes money, in other words, by profiling us and then selling our attention to advertisers, political actors and others. These are Facebook’s true customers, whom it works hard to please.”

Doc then points out the irony of his Privacy Badger software detecting 13 hidden trackers on the NYT page on which Zeynep’s column appears. (I’ve just checked and Ghostery currently detects 19 trackers on it.)

The point, Doc goes on to say, is that the Times is just doing what every other publication that lives off adtech does: tracking-based advertising. “These publications”,

don’t just open the kimonos of their readers. They bring people’s bare digital necks to vampires ravenous for the blood of personal data, all for the purpose of returning “interest-based” advertising to those same people.

With no control by readers (beyond tracking protection which relatively few know how to use, and for which there is no one approach or experience), and damn little care or control by the publishers who bare those readers’ necks, who knows what the hell actually happens to the data? No one entity, that’s for sure.

Doc points out that on reputable outfits like the New York Times writers like Zeynep have nothing to do with this endemic tracking. In such publications there probably is a functioning “Chinese Wall” between editorial and advertising. Just to drive the point home he looks at Sue Halpern’s piece in the sainted New Yorker on “Cambridge Analytica, Facebook and the Revelations of Open Secrets” and his RedMorph software finds 16 third-party trackers. (On my browser, Ghostery found 18.) The moral is, in a way, obvious: it’s a confirmation of Bruce Schneier’s original observation that “surveillance is the business model of the Internet”. Being a pedant, I would have said “of the Web”, but since many people can’t distinguish between the two, we’ll leave Bruce’s formulation stand.

Ethics 101 for Facebook’s geeks

”Ask yourself whether your technology persuades users to do something you wouldn’t want to be persuaded to do yourself.”

”Toward an Ethics of Persuasive Technology” By Daniel Berdichevsky and Erik Neuenschwande, Communications of the ACM, Vol. 42 No. 5, Pages 51-58 10.1145/301353.301410