Feb. 22: Facebook, Palantir and Yahoo

Two types of pushback against Facebook’s Manifesto

There’s two main categories of criticism post-Facebook Manifesto: one focusing on the section about the press and one focusing on the section about politics. The first kind of press arguments, as this NYT article, point out “the role that Facebook and other technology platforms are playing in inadvertently damaging local news media, and the one way they could actually save journalism: with a massive philanthropic commitment” which they simply haven’t been doing – except when forced to, e.g. in Europe where Facebook spent more than $40 million in new media. The second kind of politics argument can be most simply expressed as “digital gerrymandering” (read Zittrain on New Republic):  “when a site… distributes information in a manner that serves its own ideological agenda.” Indeed, if interactions between citizens and representatives happened mostly on Facebook, the platform would potentially have the necessary data to tilt an election whichever way it would like without no one realizing it.

Palantir is navigating murky waters

After the May 2016 Buzzfeed article attacking its then-sterling reputation (claiming the company “lost blue-chip clients, is struggling to stem staff departures, and has recorded revenue that is just a fraction of its customer bookings”), two recent articles are attacking Palantir as an intelligence-created firm profiting from the securitization of the pubilc debates. Telerama (in French) describes the $10million contract that Palatir allegedly signed in summer of 2016 with the French intelligence services and questions the threat to civil liberties that this represents, especially under a never-ending state of emergency. The Intercept describes in detail and with supporting documents how the platform works and integrates with existing intelligence capabilities in the US, and how the relationship between these two entities has been a close one from the start.

How much does a breach cost? The example of Yahoo!

Yahoo! has been under public scrutiny for a couple of years – everyone wondering how long it could continue to survive. The announcement last year that Verizon would buy part of the company came before the revelations of a 500-million-accounts breach in 2014 – only to be followed by the announcement two months ago of a billion-accounts breach. This had consequences on the Verizon deal: was it off, or was it still on? It appears that the two companies negotiated a new deal, where Yahoo! would discount the original price by $250-300 million in exchange for Verizon agreeing to foot half of the bill for the future costs of the breach. This enables us to do something interesting: put a rough price tag on these breaches! The estimated cost would be between $500-$600 million – an astonishing cost of around $.33 per account. For such a low price tag, how can we expect companies to take security seriously? (NYT, Bloomberg)

Have an eagle-v-drone Monday!



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