How Facebook has gotten away with its constant abuses dealing with the greatest raw material of all time, data about human preferences and interactions.
the primary raw material of our time — and Facebook is a key player in that
here’s the curious thing: Until the current brouhaha about Donald Trump’s
posts, no matter what charge had been levied against the firm by whichever
privacy or competition authorities, Facebook always portrayed itself as
beats even the past imperial swagger that, before the age of data imperialism,
U.S. oil companies used to be famous for.
much as the latter outsourced their dirty work to U.S. and UK intelligence
agencies and operations, even they rarely claimed that they did not need any
permits (and at least legal titles) for what and where they wanted to explore
well over a century ago — in the earlier, rough-and-tumble capitalist times in
the United States, the oil industry essentially had the privilege of operating
in a quasi-lawless state. But the law — and antitrust — eventually caught up
with it. It begs disbelief that Facebook should operate with less oversight
than the oil industry of old had to contend with.
The new oil
all, more so than oil these days, data is a very precious raw material. And, as
with oil, if not conducted properly, its extraction, production and
distribution can certainly cause considerable damage to the human environment.
Facebook has gotten away with playing with fire as it taps into the greatest
raw material of all time, cataloguing our every move and click to gather its
data about individual preferences and interactions.
has played political Washington like a fiddle. All of which makes makes its
pseudo-libertarian attempt to get away with Zuckerbergian boyish naiveté and
wonderment all the more troublesome.
humanizing sidekick, Sheryl Sandberg, ultimately is an equally ruthless
enforcer. She has tried, but one assumes deliberately and artfully failed, to
provide more adult supervision to the company.
that, at various stages in the past, so many senior executives left the company
in disgust over its business model of at most paying only lip service to any
serious privacy rules is conclusive proof of that.
the fact that Sandberg’s erstwhile offer to seriously explore a paid model
option for using Facebook still is without any follow-up. The company simply
cannot part with its emotions-driven toolkit. Otherwise it wouldn’t rake in the
and Sandberg’s goal
of the Zuckerberg and Sandberg act is to make sure that U.S. politicians have
no teeth. And President Trump has made plain his view that anybody putting any
shackles on Facebook and the rest of the Silicon Valley privacy-eating machine
is messing with his idea of Making America Great Again.
matter what troubling activities it engages in, and no matter how it is found
out to have operated against its presumed noble principles, Facebook has made
an art out of always playing naïve. It was prepared to get away with its patent
set of lies and deceit until the end of time.
thing for humankind?
grotesque that the company still claims that it sets its engineers free to
devise great things for humankind. It does anything but. A highly deceptive
money-sucking machine would be much closer to the truth.
firm’s basic approach is to claim noble aspirations, while always being
prepared to break a lot of china. And then to claim remorse, while not really
being sorry about it or changing any of its practices.
Facebook’s boy wonder likes to believe, is simply the price of progress. Of
course, he is far from alone in the belief that data imperialism is the core
condition of continued American leadership in the world.
ahead, so his ultimate suggestion goes, we Americans just have to press the
pedal harder to the metal of the human data trough. After all, the Chinese are
even more ruthless.
is now major U.S. brands’ refusal to keep advertising on Facebook that is
getting Mr. Zuckerberg to rethink his ruthless ways might be considered
progress. And it is.
companies act with a greater deal of conscience than politicians do is truly a
sign of how debased American politics has become.
Richter is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Globalist, the daily online
magazine on the global economy, politics and culture, which he founded and
launched in January 2000.He also is the President of The Globalist Research
Center, an online thinktank. Mr. Richter is a frequent guest on leading radio
and television programs, including Germany’s “Meet the Press” program on ARD
and ZDF’s Morning Show. While based in the U.S., he frequently appeared on
National Public Radio as well as on the PBS Newshour and CNN.
after and thought-provoking keynote speaker at executive conferences and
retreats, he has moderated more than 150 policy events during his time in
Washington, D.C., featuring prime ministers, CEOs, Nobel laureates and heads of
articles and views have appeared in such publications as the New York Times,
Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Financial Times, Harvard Business Review,
Fortune, Salon, Japan Times, Le Monde, Les Echos, Die Welt, Der Spiegel,
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Die Zeit, Handelsblatt, Manager Magazin,
Cicero, NZZ and Foreign Affairs.
past ten years, he was the presenter of the Marketplace Globalist Quiz, aired
on public radio stations all across the United States as part of NPR’s Morning
Report. He also created The Globalist Quiz, a weekly feature exploring the
global agenda in an innovative fashion syndicated to newspapers around the
he was a monthly columnist for Les Echos, the leading financial daily in
France. He was also the U.S. correspondent for Rheinischer Merkur from 1990-98,
as well as a monthly columnist for CEO Magazine.
addition, he has been a keynote speaker on geopolitical and geoeconomic issues
and trends at major international conferences organized by asset managers,
investment banks and public policy institutions in Europe, the United States
starting The Globalist, Mr. Richter led a global strategic communications firm
based in Washington, D.C., advising ministers and CEOs of governments, leading
global banks and corporations, international organizations and foundations
around the world.
capacity, he served as North American advisor to the German Economics Ministry
and Vice Chancellor in the early 1990s, when he successfully shaped the “New
Federal States” campaign, designed to create a dynamic brand image for the
former Communist East Germany.
fall of 1990, at the request of the U.S. Senator Bill Bradley, he drafted the
Sense of the U.S. Senate resolution calling for forgiveness of Poland’s
Communist-era public debt. It proved a crucial step in the successful
conclusion of the April 1991 Debt Agreement in the Paris Club.
those activities, he was awarded the Cross of the Order of Merit by the
President of Poland in June 2014, as part of the country’s celebrations for the
25th anniversary of the arrival of freedom.
Richter received his J.D. from the University of Bonn, Germany in 1984, was a
Rotary Foundation Award recipient in 1980-81 and a Congressional Fellow of the
American Political Science Association in 1986-87.
book, Clinton: What Europe and the United States Can Expect, correctly forecast
the Clinton Administration’s emphasis on fiscal consolidation in U.S. public
he was the co-editor of the book, In Search of a Sustainable Future:
Reflections on Economic Growth, Social Equity and Global Governance.