The ink analogy

In politics in the UK it always used to be said that however lacklustre, dull or unimpressive an individual politician might look when in opposition, once they are getting regularly filmed jumping in or out of a Ministerial limo, walking into or out of 10 Downing Street surrounded by civil servants or other flunkies, or visiting the White House, suddenly they look like statesmen or stateswomen, born to be there. Entitled to be there. When you look at some of our present Government plainly it doesn’t work consistently all the time but you get the point.

It’s a bit like that in high tech. Elon Musk may be the richest man in the world. Mark Zuckerberg may be No.2, 3 or whatever. But being good at making money is not the same as being good. Or wise.

And it most certainly does not mean they always know what they are doing.

In several of my blogs I have made the point that some of the online platforms are now so large and complex they can truly be said to be out of control. Probably nobody really knows what’s going on. This leaves the businesses, and the world, open to Black Swan events or to exploitation by bad guys.

As if to prove my point another marvellous leak of an internal document appeared online yesterday. It’s from Facebook but I would be very surprised if the same wasn’t the case with other large platforms. Here’s the headline

Facebook Doesn’t Know What It Does With Your Data, Or Where It Goes

The author of the leaked document told us that Facebook works with three types of data about its users.

One falls under the heading of “sensitive categories”. Not hard to imagine what they might be.  Another is broader data directly generated by the user, and the last is “third-party data”, which I guess could cover a multitude of possibilities.

It is worth reading the whole article provided at that link, including Facebook’s not very effective rebuttal and the rebuttal of the rebuttal, but here is the passage which captures the crux of the matter. The author says

“We’ve built systems with open borders…….. Imagine you hold a bottle of ink in your hand. This bottle of ink is a mixture of all kinds of user data…(see above). You pour that ink into a lake of water (our open borders) … and it flows … everywhere …. How do you put that ink back in the bottle? How do you organize it again, such that it only flows to the allowed places in the lake?”

Well quite.