The Many Faces of Zuckbook

March 29, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

As evidenced by his business decisions, Mark Zuckerberg seems to be a complicated fellow. For example, a couple recent articles illustrate this contrast: On one hand is his commitment to support open source software, an apparently benevolent position. On the other, Meta is once again in the crosshairs of EU privacy advocates for what they insist is its disregard for the law.

First, we turn to a section of VentureBeat’s piece, “Inside Meta’s AI Strategy: Zuckerberg Stresses Compute, Open Source, and Training Data.” In it, reporter Sharon Goldman shares highlights from Meta’s Q4 2023 earnings call. She emphasizes Zuckerberg’s continued commitment to open source software, specifically AI software Llama 3 and PyTorch. He touts these products as keys to “innovation across the industry.” Sounds great. But he also states:

“Efficiency improvements and lowering the compute costs also benefit everyone including us. Second, open source software often becomes an industry standard, and when companies standardize on building with our stack, that then becomes easier to integrate new innovations into our products.”

Ah, there it is.

Our next item was apparently meant to be sneaky, but who did Meta think it was fooling? The Register reports, “Meta’s Pay-or-Consent Model Hides ‘Massive Illegal Data Processing Ops’: Lawsuit.” Meta is attempting to “comply” with the EU’s privacy regulations by making users pay to opt in to them. That is not what regulators had in mind. We learn:

“Those of us with aunties on FB or friends on Instagram were asked to say yes to data processing for the purpose of advertising – to ‘choose to continue to use Facebook and Instagram with ads’ – or to pay up for a ‘subscription service with no ads on Facebook and Instagram.’ Meta, of course, made the changes in an attempt to comply with EU law. But privacy rights folks weren’t happy about it from the get-go, with privacy advocacy group noyb (None Of Your Business), for example, sarcastically claiming Meta was proposing you pay it in order to enjoy your fundamental rights under EU law. The group already challenged Meta’s move in November, arguing EU law requires consent for data processing to be given freely, rather than to be offered as an alternative to a fee. Noyb also filed a lawsuit in January this year in which it objected to the inability of users to ‘freely’ withdraw data processing consent they’d already given to Facebook or Instagram.”

And now eight European Consumer Organization (BEUC) members have filed new complaints, insisting Meta’s pay-or-consent tactic violates the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). While that may seem obvious to some, Meta insists it is in compliance with the law. Because of course it does.

Cynthia Murrell, March 29, 2024


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