How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions

Cambridge Analytica got shit tons of data that helped the Trump campaign by gaming Facebook.

People are going to call this a “hack” or an “exploit”. It was not. It was unethical harvesting, but it was using a system that Facebook set up as a key part of their core business model. From Daring Fireball, where I saw it linked first:

This was not a security breach. This is simply what Facebook is: a massive surveillance machine.

Between this and their profiting off of Russian trolls and misinformation that they pointedly did not ask questions about, it’s clear that Facebook is a big part of the reason why a probable felon who sexually assaults women and doesn’t have the attention span to read a two-page brief is President of the United States of America.

The 21st century definition of irony: Political outrage posted to Facebook or Twitter.

Update: Facebook fixed the problem by banning the whistleblower. Letting these people install software on your phone sounds like a good idea.

More updates: Even better! Their chief information security officer left over a dispute about this kind of thing. Includes a shocking revelation that security concerns on this issue were overridden by money concerns. And Zuck knew about the Russian accounts when he dismissed the idea publicly:

By November 2016, the team had uncovered evidence that Russian operatives had aggressively pushed DNC leaks and propaganda on Facebook. That same month, Mr. Zuckerberg publicly dismissed the notion that fake news influenced the 2016 election, calling it a “pretty crazy idea.”

Show me your heart

When Violet woke, she could hardly move. The ground beneath her feet was uncannily warm, as was the breeze blowing into her face. Her right arm hurt to bend, and her eyes were swollen shut.

“What’s happened?” she said to no one in particular, noticing with some distaste that the breeze blowing at her smelled uncannily like sulfur.


—Kelly Barnhill, Iron Hearted Violet

...and Peggy [thhbbpppt]

Weird Al has managed to simultaneously hit a very specific intersection of my interests while creating the perfect musical representation of what it sounds like inside an ADHD-addled brain.

Design’s Lost Generation

There are two words every designer needs to feel comfortable saying: “no” and “why.” Those words are the foundation of what we do. They’re the foundation of building an ethical framework. If we cannot ask why we lose the ability to judge whether the work we’re doing is ethical. If we cannot say no we lose the ability to stand and fight. We lose the ability to help shape the thing we’re responsible for shaping....

We are gatekeepers, and we vote on what makes it through the gate with our labor and our counsel. We are responsible for what makes it through that gate, and out into the world. What passes through carries our seal of approval. It carries our name. We are the defense against monsters. Sure, everyone remembers the monster, but they call it by his maker’s name. And the worst of what we create will outlive us....

We’re killing people. And the only no I hear from the design community is about the need for licensing. If why and no are at the center of who we are, and they must be, the center has not held.

Mike Monteiro is my profession’s John the Baptist. He says “designers”, but that means developers and engineers too. He means me.

There was one time early in my career when I was handed a software project that could potentially protect people from injury or even save their lives. It sounds great, right?

But the context was about cutting the lag time for calling off a repo agent if the owner of the car he was going after was armed and desperate. And actually it wasn't even about that. That was an ancillary benefit to the real purpose: repossessing cars more efficiently.

Now we've got a whole mess to unpack. Poverty. The tight link in nearly all of the U.S. between losing a car and financial ruin. The ethics of lending and borrowing. Guns. Not all of that was on me, of course, but it cast a pallor over that project. It weighed. It makes me queasy to remember it.

When I went back to school for my computer science degree, I was told I was "lucky" that I got to skip Computer Ethics because I have a philosophy degree. What those students did not want to hear was that I was lucky, because I had at least a dozen credit hours of ethics classes underpinning my choices, not just one course half-heartedly PowerPointed at me by an engineer from Acxiom.

That education has made it hard for me to do my job sometimes. Sometimes it makes me wonder if I should leave my profession entirely. I’ve had meetings and seen project plans that made me despair for the world I’m going to leave my children. And that’s happened at jobs I liked.

We are gatekeepers. We decide what you can see and what you can do about it and where the walls are built. We choose what is shared and what is safe. We dangle the shiny things.

I've decided to stop feeling embarrassed for being so strident about Facebook and Twitter and metadata gathering and identity and white-male-viable software, because fuck your lack of concern. My profession will only care when you start screaming and throwing things at us. We control your future. We control what you think. And you need to start asking who the fuck we are and what we want.

You had one job.


This is the man who broke Black Panther’s perfect Rotten Tomatoes score. That’s a shame.

You might think it weird that a person who gets paid to have opinions about art would gig a movie for an insufficient number of jumpings and beatings, but I draw strange comfort from knowing that such unique musings came from a man named Ed Power.

By their fruits you shall etc

Checker at Lowe’s: “That’s a sweet dog you have. Is he a terrier?”

Me: “Yeah, we think he’s some kind of ter—“

Jack: “He’s a Bearded Orwellian Snatchhound.”

The lies I tell my children may be catching up to me.

The magic wanted to be used.

"Wolf," Áine said.

The wolf whined and dropped the rope over the edge.

"If this is just a ruse to make sure you can eat me later, "Ned heard Áine say, "I will never forgive you." Ned saw the rope go taut, pulling against the knot on the tree.

Hand over hand over hand, Áine pulled herself over the edge of the cliff, and began walking her way up the slope, still holding onto the rope.

Ned's heart thundered in his chest. Be safe, he pleaded to Áine. Be safe, he urged the wolf.

You know, the magic began.

"SILENCE," Ned ordered.

And the magic was silent. And that feeling—both wonderful and terrible—from the swirl of the magic begin to ease. It was dangerous, that magic. And no matter how hard anyone tried to force it to do good, it wasn't enough.

It wasn't good.

Still. As Áine came closer and closer, he knew that no matter how wicked the magic was, he would use it again to save her. Again and again and again. Even the wicked can do one good, brave thing.

She is alive, he thought. She is alive, she is alive, she is still alive. Though he hardly knew her, and though he knew, as certain as he knew that his feet touched the earth and not the sky, that she was not his friend, not really, his heart soared all the same.

He reached out his hand to Áine, and she took it.

—Kelly Barnhill, The Witch's Boy

This woman writes kid stories that remind me of how to be a man. I hope to thank her in person one day.

The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction

I would go so far as to say that the natural, proper, fitting shape of the novel might be that of a sack, a bag. A book holds words. Words hold things. They bear meanings. A novel is a medicine bundle, holding things in a particular, powerful relation to one another and to us.

One relationship among elements in the novel may well be that of conflict, but the reduction of narrative to conflict is absurd. (I have read a how-to-write manual that said, "A story should be seen as a battle," and went on about strategies, attacks, victory, etc.) Conflict, competition, stress, struggle, etc., within the narrative conceived as carrier bag/belly/box/house/medicine bundle, may be seen as necessary elements of a whole which itself cannot be characterized either as conflict or as harmony, since its purpose is neither resolution nor stasis but continuing process.

Finally, it's clear that the Hero does not look well in this bag. He needs a stage or a pedestal or a pinnacle. You put him in a bag and he looks like a rabbit, like a potato.

That is why I like novels: instead of heroes they have people in them.

The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction by Ursula K. Le Guin

Rest in peace.

I found a much better take

This here is a much more reasoned approach to the possible future of blockchain and cryptocurrency.

It’s...not breathless, not at all, but still a little gee-whiz despite its reserved tone. It also ignores a few important points, like blockchain technology’s horrendous inefficiency. The savior of the web needs to not gobble up energy at tens of thousands of times the rate that a centralized system does, or we arguably go extinct quicker.

And even if we solve that, there’s also the problem that we haven’t yet found a good use case for blockchains despite ten years of trying. Other than buying hookers and blow and getting rich on a speculation bubble that your barber will ultimately pay the price for.

Even so, cryptographic identity verification is big. A decentralized database that no one owns is big. A robust system for verifying transactions democratically is big. These are all huge technological achievements.

And you’ll get no argument from me that the internet needs saving. Client-side JavaScript alone is killing it, even before we crack into the problems described in the NYT link at the top. Money and power are throttling it. But the solution will have to be efficient, basically bulletproof, and all but invisible (or at least easily understandable and low-friction) to the user.

I found a very bad take


You know, there’s another solution that would allow people to keep on taking advantage of FDIC-insured accounts and cards that have tons of consumer protections built in and don’t consume the equivalent of a whole household’s energy usage to verify a single transaction.

It’s called “regulation”. Turns out it works. Better than a Wild West seven-piddly-transactions-a-second invention used primarily for get-rich-quick currency speculation and paying for prostitutes and drugs online, anyway.


Grant me the serenity


To accept the things I cannot change


The courage


To punch Nazis in the youdamn face


And the wisdom


To shut my mouth and listen to women and people of color



We march.