Your Data Is My Data

This piece in Recode explains that Cambridge Analytica built an app that 270,000 people used to amass profiles on 50 million people.

That’s not very surprising because we are talking about networks here.

This is a network graph that my colleague Jacqueline made of my twitter network a few years ago:

In our online life, we are connected to a huge number of people.

If I get access to your email inbox, I am going to see emails with thousands of people.

Which is what makes this privacy/data sovereignty stuff so important.

When your data is taken without your knowledge/permission, it is not just your data that is taken.

It is the data of thousands of other people, often the people closest to you.

That sucks.

This is one of the many reasons I am hopeful about an Internet 3.0, a decentralized system with data security and integrity at its core.

#blockchain#crypto#Current Affairs#personal security

Comments (Archived):

  1. Ben Longstaff

    i’m researching data wallets and how they can work with blockchain and zero knowledge proofs at the moment. So far i’ve found 65 projects and counting. The big problem that none of the projects really talk about is how to solve for liability if I trust your KYC.

  2. sdhouston

    Fred, I just fisihed this from the Guardian this morning:…. WOW! It goes into detail abouy how Cambridge mined that data and got away with it for years under the auspices of using it for academic purposes. One of the most interesting revelations was the involvement of Lukoil. Powerful read!

  3. Rob Underwood

    Agree about Internet 3.0 and overall need for new/revised protocols. As has been discussed here previously, the original internet protocols, as wonderful as they are, were designed to get the message through first and foremost at all costs, not challenge and stop bad actors.That said, I’m really amazed when I hear about friends and colleagues who are still on Facebook (and Instagram). (I know our host already doesn’t use FB). How much more harm needs to come from a platform, directly or indirectly, before people leave it? I get that for people in certain industries, including marketing and journalism, being off FB (and social media generally) presents challenges, and there is FOMO for anyone who is on FB and leaves. But, you know, tough noogies.You can still be active in technology – an investor, a builder, etc. – and not be on Facebook. Quit.(EDIT: I do want to acknowledge that their are contributions, including open source contributions, such as React and ReasonML, that have some from some of the engineering team at Facebook and which are important. But even the utility of those can’t outweigh the net harm the platform and company are doing.)

    1. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Still, they had to have their arms twisted to take their copyright shiz out of the React license.I stopped actively using FB *years* ago, not because I was aware of their bad practices but because I just hated it. It’s super interesting to me how some people really love it. Whereas, you’ll take Twitter from my cold dead hands. — I’d rather be overwhelmed by information than underwhelmed by it ;-D

      1. Girish Mehta

        Never had a Facebook or Instagram account, didn’t consider it.”Via Negativa” applied to today’s consumer tech world.

  4. Anne Libby

    Audrey Watters covers ed tech (and more) in her weekly newsletter: I read it religiously. This week’s newsletter, on the laissez-faire attitude many of us have about data.…(Seeing Google capturing the school-aged kids in my family, as they start using the internet in school: gulp. After some conversations with the eldest about Duck Duck Go, he started to use it, and the school district blocked the site. Somehow they can get to YouTube and watch inappropriate stuff, though. Sigh.)

    1. LE

      After some conversations with the eldest about Duck Duck Go, he started to use it, and the school district blocked the site.Anne do you really think that DDG is a better tool than Google (which other students and teachers are almost certainly using)? My feeling is I would want a child to be able to use the best tools and that the privacy thing really doesn’t make it worth the lesser quality results. Not even close. Especially given all of the other data leaks out there and things that kids do or are exposed to.Below are two screenshots when you search for AVC. Note the differences also note the extra helpful info from google that doesn’t exist on DDG. And you know this is typical. So if your son is doing research for school (or when I do research which is every day and many times a large part of the day) I want the best source of info period.Fred uses DDG because it’s an investment. If he uses it for privacy reasons that doesn’t make sense given the gross amount of person info that he exposes and the potential attack surface that already exists. (In that case Fred has made a decision to expose personal info (this blog, interviews etc.) because it’s good for business. )… https://uploads.disquscdn.chttps://uploads.disquscdn.c

      1. Richard

        Privacy is the nonissue elephant in the room. It is a 3% product.

      2. SubstrateUndertow

        Better privacy and that is the pivotal cyberspace variable moving forward !

      3. Anne Libby

        I use DDG as my default. Every so often when I don’t find what I want, I use !g to search google.As an adult, I have an inkling — even if the smallest — of the choice I’m making. AFAIK the schools aren’t talking about search privacy with the kids.

        1. LE

          Every so often when I don’t find what I want, I use !g to search google.1) !g takes you directly to google where you would be tracked like any other search. So it’s shortcut rather than typing in to the browser bar. It is just a redirect to google.An easy way to prevent being tracked on google is to simply clear your cookies everyday or half day whatever for ‘everything’. Also if you have a google account turn off tracking in that.You can turn most things off here:…2) When you say ‘when I don’t find’ how do you know about things that might be helpful if they are not there? We call it ‘unknown unknowns’ ‘impossible to imagine’. The answer that is more correct than the one that you think is correct in other words.

          1. cavepainting

            Google’s brand is not privacy or treating your data with respect. Whether that is true or not, they have not earned your trust.What Anne and many others want is the peace of mind of knowing they are not tracked or used as a product. They are ok with using a marginally less capable product as a trade-off.Do you really believe Google is substantially better than Bing or DDG? For the majority of use cases, they likely are about the same. The largest search category is navigation queries (i.e. find a website for a brand, product, or person), where the performance is equivalent.

          2. LE

            For me not even close. And the market doesn’t think so either.

          3. cavepainting

            It is more branding and mindshare than actual substantive differences. At least for the vast majority of main stream use cases

      4. Rob Underwood

        Are we discussing Google the search product? Or Google the suite of education products (Google classroom, Google docs), etc? The latter right?

    2. Rob Underwood

      I work in EdTech and Google (Apple too) is engaging in an unabashed land grab.Case in point. I am wrapping up a study I was commissioned to do by a large education focused non-profit here in NYC to study the root causes to poor network (both LAN and WAN performance) in NYC DOE district schools.In late September I was visiting a very large, diverse, Title I high school in Brooklyn. The assistant principal said to me that Google Classroom was bringing their school and classes to its knees — while the entire network was slow (due to a set of myriad reasons interacting with each other), Google classroom had become unusable since the start of the year and was, in her view, having a direct negative impact to teaching and learning — kids’ education was being hurt. She asked for my help. As other schools I was working with had expressed the same problems, I decided to go to Google.Figuring Google would want to know and remediate I reached out to a software engineer I know who put me in touch with the account manager at Google responsible for the account. This account person, rather than saying “Wow, our customer is having a bad experience, what can I do about it” instead added in senior people from the DOE (who I had been working with on the overall project, though I think she didn’t know; I was intentionally looking to give Google a chance to address these challenges first before escalating)Her response was instead to 1) disparage me, 2) shift responsibility to the DOE since the LAN/WAN network is DOE property rather than offer resources to figure out how to make their product work better in bandwidth challenged environments, and 3) explain that they have bi-monthly events at their West Village offices with senior DOE folks and at those have not heard of these problems and as such they must be untrue. Separately an engineer told me Google Education products are built in Google labs with high bandwidth and they don’t test for low bandwidth (i.e., real world) situations (!!!!!)My conclusion was the Google is in education for revenue and profit only, not because of any fundamental desire to improve education. I guess that shouldn’t be surprising but was disappointing nonetheless. That Google apparently does not design its edu products for the reality that many public schools have terrible bandwidth and network performance was perhaps what was most disappointing, and I still hope is inaccurate.

      1. SubstrateUndertow

        If the shoe fits wear it !Funding educational (bandwidth) and accessible healthcare is an low priority in America. Yes there will be years of growing pains while transitioning to network based learning tools.Excusing the lack of adequate educational bandwidth in a nation as wealthy as America is like rich parents excusing themselves of under feeding their growing child while living a lavish life style.

        1. @mikeriddell62

          Well said that man

      2. Anne Libby


      3. Matt Zagaja

        I find “EdTech” to be a confusing space. When I was in grade school it seemed to largely consist of silver bullets full of snake oil. For most classes, at least the ones I took, a laptop with Internet access and word processor give you most of what you need. That being said money abhors a vacuum. When schools that are flush with cash show up at the doors of Google wondering if they can serve up something “special” just for them, the chefs in the kitchen can certainly find some fresh toppings to sprinkle on their usual offerings to make it feel worth their while.

        1. Rob Underwood

          The school in question here was most certainly not a school flush with cash — that’s what makes this all the more painful. Google (or Apple) go into communities and sell products w/ little to no consideration of the underlying situation. They just are doing a land grab.And I think I’ve related the story before about when Facebook went to PS 298, a school located at a public housing complex in Brownsville, Brooklyn (one of the most disadvantaged parts of NYC) ostensibly to do an “Hour of Code” but instead spent most of the time showing advertisements and talking about how great the cafeteria was — to an auditorium full of kids, for whom most of their families have real day to day issues with food security.

    3. Kirsten Lambertsen

      The school district blocked DDG???

      1. Anne Libby

        Well, some admin did. There’s a lot of stuff blocked on safety grounds, and theoretically the Google searches on school equipment are somehow gated to be safe. (Though again, np finding questionable stuff on YouTube.) I should ask him if Bing etc. are also blocked.

    4. Vasudev Ram

      Just checked out her newsletter, seems good, with info that some might not talk about. Thanks for sharing.

      1. Anne Libby

        Apparently she’s controversial to some in ed tech.

        1. Vasudev Ram

          Likely, seeing some of the stuff I saw.

  5. David Noble

    At this point, I’m not sure that people care at all. Looking at equifax as an example. There was almost zero outrage. The world has become exceedingly reflexive, yet continually drowned out by the buzz of everything happening to them. One of the real challenges of internet 3.0 will be communicating the value of privacy to people that have been convinced that it is no longer necessary and, moreover, dangerous. Every time I talk, I hear that privacy is how terrorists and criminals survive…therefore, making us less safe.

    1. Rob Underwood

      I agree David. People not caring is a real problem. I find myself wallowing is the nihilistic hyper-relativism that SNL spoofed a few months ago about how nothing matters. It’s very easy to slip into that — I find I have to consciously psychologically guard against that every moment.But I think we have to keep pushing forward if we want a better society on the other side. I think we can all agree that technology is not going away — I don’t think any/many of here are Luddites – so we have to figure out a way to get it to work for us. Talking decentralized internet 3.0 protocols to non-tech people may feel/seem wonky, try we must, as the alternative seems to be to trust Mark Zuckerberg, Donald Trump, and Vladimir Putin with the keys to our future.

      1. LE

        Rob you keep using ‘we’ in some of your comments as if you are making a speech in front of residents in a small town and are running for office or trying to get support for some initiative. IE:One solution we can all take today is to quit Facebook. Period. We need to quit.Facebook is an addiction for most certainly the mass of people that use and visit Facebook. As such the only way to get rid of an addiction (and I would challenge anyone to disprove what I am saying here) is to replace it with another addiction. (As you know some of the most profitable things in the world are based on addictions: gambling, drugs, porn, cigarettes, social media, sex).I don’t ‘use’ Facebook I don’t post there and honestly don’t think I ever have. But I do have an account. And I do view what others post. I have always had a false birthday, town, and even company that I work for (totally fictional). And the account has about 20 ‘friends’ mainly people from the start (whenever that was) and people that are family members. (Maybe 10 years ago when the account was setup). So I get to see some family pictures. But more importantly I get to see some of the ridiculous things that others posts. As such it’s just really another source of info that gives me a way to get the pulse of what others find important (and mostly laugh at like a old friend of my sisters who is obsessed with Springsteen concerts).

        1. Rob Underwood

          You’re right. That’s a bad tick of speech/composition. I tend to speechify. Seriously, I’ll work on it. I really mean it.That said, in this case, I’ll try and be more clear here — “we” = “people who don’t want to lose their democracy”. Specifically here “US citizens who fear an existential threat to their/our democratic republic need to quit Facebook. Now.”

          1. LE

            Specifically here “US citizens who fear an existential threat to their/our democratic republic need to quit Facebook. Now.”I agree that it’s bad if a foreign government can manipulate our process. (And illegal). [1] However the truth is politics and how people are elected is fubb to begin with. After all what is the basis in fairness for celebrities (only one example) to be able to sway a large swath of voters to support the candidate they support and to play on people’s stupidity and emotions. Or perhaps well done advertising? The truth is it makes no sense right at the core the way and the reasons that people are elected.And in that fictional small town with a public speech you know that the most qualified candidate is very well not the one who gives the best and most engaging speech either.[1] Will note that crafty exploitation of social media helped get Obama elected in 2008.

      2. Richard

        Vladimir Putin ? Enjoy the cool-aid. SNL is not journalism, it’s not high level commentary about out society, it’s a comedy show. As to Facebook, it provides value and entertainment to its users. When it doesn’t people will stop using it.

        1. P Donohue

          They will be getting sued by shareholders. There is your care.

          1. Richard

            Thanks Einstein

  6. Ronnie Rendel

    That’s the #1 concern for our users (we are an AI startup in Enterprise email). address this with an excellent Trust page. I was wondering if we can use something like hash functions to hide private information so that our AI engine reads the content but no one at our company can do that .Would love to hear some potential solutions for this.

  7. William Mougayar

    This is so wrong. Shame on Facebook despite their legal-ish excuse! I don’t mind sharing my data, as long as the aggregate generates a benefit that I approved, and that I also receive a share of that benefit.But the solution is as much technology as it is business, behavioral and legal.

    1. Rob Underwood

      One solution we can all take today is to quit Facebook. Period. We need to quit.

    2. awaldstein

      Facebook has never had a soul as a company. Brilliant w/o a doubt. Useful but without a conscience.Honestly, Twitter while not complicit here has never been that much better.

      1. Rob Underwood

        As I think I’ve shared here before, in January 2016 I decided I wanted to teach myself how to make A/I powered bots, including bots that could be exposed through Twitter. Using API.AI and some node.js, I built a couple such bots exposed through a couple twitter accounts I had created. I sent 3 messages through these accounts before I trigged the Twitter API ban to permanently block those accounts from API access. The offensive tweets? “What is your favorite Phish song?”When I hear people say Twitter (or FB) didn’t know what was happening on their platform I laugh out loud. They monitor use of their APIs very closely — Twitter has been especially notorious for monitoring closely (and frequently changing) their API. I don’t buy, at all, that Twitter was somehow unaware of all the bots, fake accounts, abusive messages being sent by such bots and fake accounts. Anyone who has written code to the Twitter API knows how easy it is to get your account flagged or even banned for the most trivial of basic experimentation. They knew.That said, what makes Twitter a bit – and I stress “a bit” better – is that the scope of its core use cases is so much smaller and when you get down to it really just one core use case. Facebook, especially when you add in Instagram, is so much more expansive its scope.

      2. jason wright

        useful, like a bath plug or a tin can opener.

        1. awaldstein

          no amazingly useful.

          1. jason wright

            i think this may be the first time (that i can remember) i’ve come across the expressed idea that Facebook is amazing in any positive sense.

          2. awaldstein

            so be it.I had built and sold a company, took one public before the internet.that world of connections exists where? besides that lifetime of connections personally? besides communities like wine and art which have no platform or place so aggregate there?my world is broad as is my interests and my networks and a part of them exist there.why is that amazing or unique?doesn’t obviate all their bullshit. nor does it mean that i hang out there but that is the reality.

  8. jason wright

    Internet 3.0 and government. How does that play out in time? Government is the ultimate centralised data silo.

    1. @mikeriddell62

      Self governance over local resources and investment spend. You get out what you put in.

  9. Ray Chow-Toun

    Glad Fred to read your support to Internet 3.0, although I now read your blog on a regular basis, I cannot say for sure you never been a strong LinkedIn aficianado (and possibly an investor) who deserve the crown of best social network built on contact-acquisition made WITHOUT any data owner’s consent … exactly as you described, unfairly able to parse (hundreds) millions private mailbox since mid 2000s …

    1. fredwilson

      I don’t really use LinkedIn or Facebook. Twitter is my thing

  10. Salt Shaker

    I never, ever use FB or GOOG login for a third-party app. Why would I? It was obv from the get go this was being used for data capture. Why else would these companies allow for this. For your convenience? Data=money (privacy be damned). Get smart people. The Equifax breach is far more disconcerting.

    1. William Mougayar

      Data is money. Well said.

      1. Richard

        I remember these same arguments from the privacy cooks when grocery stores began collecting purchasing information. It’s much ado about nothing.

      2. jason wright

        people are the new oil. data is the extraction. a grim reality.

        1. @mikeriddell62

          Well said. I see it more as a process of rendering (you know, cooking over a long time to extract the best leaving all the shit behind you don’t want nor care for)!

      3. @mikeriddell62

        The trouble is that money is debt. Need new credit instrument that’s more valuable than money itself, so investors can shelter from the storm.

    2. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Burn down the ‘credit bureaus,’ I say!

      1. Salt Shaker

        Although perhaps not seemingly self evident, they do provide a valuable service. They insulate hundreds, if not thousands, of companies from bad debt, which would be untenable for companies if these filters weren’t avail. Is it an imperfect system? Yes. Many individuals are erroneously saddled w/ bad credit w/ little recourse for correction. How many lives are gonna be ruined from bad credit caused by student loans that can never be repaid? Bad credit can cause an individual from gaining employment. My credit rating can go up or down seemingly in the absence of justification. It’s a weird system that’s fraught with problems, benefits and a lack of transparency, independent of frightening security breaches.

        1. awaldstein

          Check out what Bloom is trying to do.One of my favorite crypto projects. They are trying to rethink a new credit system and while a bit unclear and squishy the community is an active one engaging passionately in trying to define a new world and building a platform to suit it.

          1. @mikeriddell62

            Have you got a link you can share, please?

          2. @mikeriddell62

            Cheers – I guess there’s a token involved somewhere?

          3. awaldstein

            Yes a very successful ICO but I just like this group. Their mission, their team and the way they are marketing and building and engaging with their community is really smart, honest and consistent.The token is key to the network in this case.Nope not part of them nor do I advise them.

        2. Kirsten Lambertsen

          The service itself, in theory, may be valuable. But the fact that my own data is used as a way to extract money from me, is basically blackmail — especially given the fact that it’s wrong an alarming amount of the time.And, knowing what I know about FICO after doing a lot of research on it a few years ago, the scoring system is antiquated and meaningless in the 21st century.I think what the 3 bureaus do should be illegal. My own info should be free to me on an on-demand basis.

          1. Salt Shaker

            It is FREE to you on an annual (1X) basis, though I don’t agree that credit services should be making money off of your financial data w/ out you opting in and/or w/ out some form of compensation.

          2. PhilipSugar

            You know what I find most galling? Equifax advertising and making money off their breach. I mean there is NO shame.Can you imagine if that was just two people? Hey Kirsten I know I accidentally gave the keys out to your house…..want to pay me to change the locks?

          3. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Right?!! Shakedown artists from start to finish.

          4. ShanaC

            now I am curious

          5. Kirsten Lambertsen

            ’bout what?

          6. ShanaC

            what specifically you know about FICO scores

          7. Kirsten Lambertsen

            I got in a tiz a few years ago (after buying my first house and fighting the credit bureaus) and wrote a booklet about how to fix your credit score quickly.The FICO score (which is your only real credit score — Credit Karma is complete b.s.) is just this calculation that has evolved over the years, is antiquated and probably inherently racist and sexist. There’s nothing sophisticated or scientific about it, and there IS NO ALTERNATIVE. One organization rules the entire system for no other reason than they set themselves up to do so.

          8. ShanaC

            can I have that booklet?

          9. Kirsten Lambertsen

            DM me on Twitter. I’ll send you a pdf.

      2. LaVonne Reimer

        This is a problem I’ve been working to solve forever. Mostly hampered by difficulty accessing the capital we need to launch. But, have always found programmers and data scientists intrigued by the problems and thus have a working system. I saw the reference to Bloom below and took a look at the protocol. Interesting. We see verified identity and credit scores as just a starting point to building enduring commercial relationships. The challenge, and opportunity, is to give participants an efficient and trusted platform to interact with each other directly. People are in charge of their data and willingly (selectively) exchange ever-evolving information to deepen trust.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          You have to solve for all sides of the market, and part of that is developing real, deep trust with all parties. It takes time, and capital. You’ll get there if you follow the right metrics that don’t trap you into bad/unreasonable expectations. It’s good work you’re doing.Is any part of the system you’ve developed public?

          1. LaVonne Reimer

            Thanks for the encouragement! We’re working on a couple white-label deals currently. A bootstrapping model of sorts but not public access for now. Your comment on solving for all sides is spot on. Just last night I submitted a proposal to speak on how I followed a co-creation process to engage participants across the ecosystem. Continuous proof of market/product fit if you will. I patterned it on strategic open source projects. More deeply buried in my eclectic past, I represented parties across commercial credit. I found it strangely fascinating that you get all of them in a single room, an efficient way to get a birds-eye view on stakeholder complexity. In any event, the website describing the system is

    3. Drew Meyers

      We require FB login on our app, Horizon (think couchsurfing/airbnb within trusted communities), and know we lose 30%+ of potential people instantaneously because of that barrier.

      1. P Donohue

        That 30% is starting to look conservative, very conservative.

        1. Drew Meyers

          Yup, will probably be 50% now.

  11. Kirsten Lambertsen

    The old saying, “if you don’t have to pay for the product, you ARE the product” just gets more and more appropriate, no?If we’ve entered into that dystopia that many predicted would come with the ascendance of the internet, I’m struck by how quickly we’re moving *through* it. Digital 2017 was scary in many regards, and 2018 hindsight is making it even scarier, but the fact that we *know* what happened so *soon* on the heels of events is, imo, amazingly good. Thanks to the nature of technology, itself, growing pains phases are becoming shorter and shorter in duration.We’re entering Internet 3.0 even faster than we did 2.0. And while nothing’s perfect, I truly believe the good guys are technologically always a few steps ahead of the bad guys — because they’re capable of envisioning a future that can’t be constructed on current or past paradigms. Bad guys are mired in dreams of the good old days, and the future doesn’t live there.Right there with you on the decentralized future and an economy that breaks free of consumers being the product.

    1. P Donohue

      It’s more than privacy, it’s security. Was it Berners-Lee who said the web was never designed with security in mind? Dan Geer, In-Q-Tel CISO said in a Wired article, “What I would call most egregious has to do with the aspect of data fusion.”That was in response to the question, “What’s the most outlandish invasion of privacy you’ve seen?” By data fusion he was speaking about “the ability to take data from disparate sources and put it together.”Basically that would be Cambridge Analytica and what was done during the election.But wait, it gets worse. For they have weaponized Gaze Tracking.…Consequently, it is hard to imagine a major backlash not happening. For when the public finally wraps its head around this… lets just say, it won’t be pretty. People will go to jail, shareholder lawsuits will proliferate and a ton of money will evaporate, like Facebook stock. POOF!

  12. george

    I hope tomorrow (Internet 3.0) we find an open source way to become more transparent with personal data use and providing safeguards against negative externalities. We cannot ignore pragmatic governance and rules that apply in every other system of society. If we don’t figure this out together, I believe, we’ll lose the advantage of self regulation (independence) and more importantly, innovative integrity.

  13. Dan G

    I’m ok with my data being used, with my knowledge/permission, since it also benefits me, and hopefully lead to better technology. For example, being able to see the traffic on Google Maps, showing advertisement that are relevant to me. Also, all this data helps develop better artificial intelligence. For the most part, I trust companies, like Google, that for the most part, embrace transparency and openness. And perhaps, since the management of all these data is very important, companies in this field should have more oversight- and regulation?

  14. Frank W. Miller

    Did the RSS feed get hacked?

  15. cavepainting

    It was clear from the start that “connecting” people without thinking through human nature is fraught with inherent challenges.The venture capital business has been complicit in the growth of the personal data monetization industry.The tens of billions invested in social media, ad-tech, and personal data brokering have fed the monster which is now out of control.With the possible exception of USV, most have been content to join the party when it makes money for them and then rile against it when it becomes uncool. Is there any moral conviction at all in those who purport to lead this industry?

    1. Lawrence Brass

      Absolutely agree. Nothing new about this.The digital ad cartels combined cap is now 1.3 trillion, nobody will complain about that.They are legally protected by their Terms of Service and Data Policies.Frankly, while money keeps flowing I think that they (G+FB) will give a damn.

    2. Amar

      I don’t think USV is that different. Or at least I haven’t seen any evidence to the contrary. They are very clear in their thinking and always have a investment hypothesis to guide their investments. But within that domain they still act like any other VC firm. I think USV is extremely good at placing smart bets on emerging technology trends and taking its wins with losses. They are as capitalist as any other VC firm though. For instance we have a big discussion below from Rob Underwood on Google doing a bad job with its edu suite of products. Where is quizlet on this axis? They have a clear TOC/Privacy page but what will stop abuse of their data by an unscrupulous actor similar to Cambridge Analytics and Facebook? They are legally protected of course. The key question is are they willing to intentionally hurt their near term growth/profits to do the “right” thing? Will their board give them that freedom?Do any of us truly know where and how a hedge fund like polychain capital or a network protocol disruptor protocol labs get their data from or will do with the data they obtain organically? Do we really think a hedge fund can succeed without significant data/information asymmetry advantages relatives to its peers?In USV’s defense, they have a portfolio of companies they stuck with, demonstrating their willingness to give latitude to their founders – DDG, Meetup, Tumblr, Disqus of the top of my head and I am sure there are more. I tend to think this decision is overwhelmingly guided by probability of a positive exit if i wait rather than anything else. This is just my opinion and fwiw, I respect Fred 100x more than the average blog famous VC (Theranos defenders seem to have crawled back into the woodworks)I am not saying USV is any worse. Success in this business relies heavily on knowing what questions to ask before you make the investment. Only ask questions you are comfortable learning the truth about.USV and any smart VC right now knows that the winds of change are blowing heavily towards data and individual privacy. GDPR + increasing institutionalization of blockchain being case in points tl;dr: Fred is smart and USV is as good as any VC firm in walking the line of “ROI first while doing the best to benefit the society” But I would not give them any humanitarian VC of the year award yet :-)A start up that is all about data privacy should do “data privacy pen tests” at a frequency at least on par with network pen tests. The rub of course is that if we do so, we will absolutely slow down innovation and freedom in iterating through business models if we put data pen tests over “Product Market Fit”. I don’t know if I will always say yes to this if I was a CEO of a startup.I think history teaches us that in the real world – significant and lasting change happens when a crisis forces clarity into human behavior and law of unintended consequences takes over and builds on the work of 1000’s and millions of well meaning folks, I definitely count USV among the latter populationwould love some thoughts from/cc @girishmehta:disqus @le_on_avc:disqus @JLM:disqus @SaltShaker1:disqus @philipsugar @falicon and anyone else interested in giving me feedback

      1. Salt Shaker

        Everyone presumably starts off w/ good and honorable intentions, VC’s and the companies they underwrite alike. Nefarious ways permeate the waters as financial pressure escalates, particularly when FB & G control the ad markets and everyone else grapples for crumbs. All these companies profess to have superior analytics driven by proprietary algos. The status quo just isn’t sustainable imo. fb will take it upon itself to try and control the narrative and implement meaningful changes, not by choice but by necessity, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if a catalyst from the Mueller investigation is new legislation that insures more stringent privacy guidelines. The Republican party is not aligned for impeachment proceedings, unless there truly is a smoking gun, and this is one way for the party to save face in light of third-party tampering and an alleged threat to our democracy.

        1. Pointsandfigures

          Uh, the Obama team was the first to actively mine social graph data and try to influence and change behavior. They were lauded for it at the time. This isn’t new. It’s just for a lot of people the wrong person won. Same goes for Brexit.

          1. Salt Shaker

            You are correct up til the point the Trump campaign and the Russians colluded w/ this data, which as yet to be fully proven or disproven, despite the House Intelligence “findings.” In other words, the jury is still out. Lastly, Cambridge Analytica did abuse FB’s TOS.

          2. P Donohue

            It will be ugly. All kinds of litigation.

      2. cavepainting

        Great comment.Nothing wrong with capitalism and making money.But the truth is: the quagmire we find ourselves in (“fake” news and fake “fake news”, social media trolling, personal data hacking and abuse, addiction, influence campaigns, etc.) could have been predicted by anyone with a deep perception of human nature. Unfettered and unregulated exploitation of personal data is deeply harmful to the well being of humanity.There is an onus on VCs to be more than stewards of capital. They also need the moral clarity and vision.They have a responsibility to understand what the right things are from a long term perspective, and evangelize with all stakeholders within and beyond the industry, especially when these things do not solve for shareholder profits. The hardest things to do are always moral dilemmas that conflict with what makes you easy money.

        1. Amar

          We are in full alignment. I don’t think the VCs will as an industry, change their behavior until they are forced to.

      3. Ian Virlov

        Agree. And what I see (from other side of the planet – I am in Russia) that some startups and VCs in the US (and this post is a good example) are trying to solve the problem your mentioned “the winds of change are blowing heavily towards data and individual privacy”… because there is no solution from legislation/government level. In Russia there is a federal law similar to GDPR since 2006…Fresh example. Last month won the case against startup “Double Data” that collected public user data for commercial use by enterprises like banks. More details here

    3. @mikeriddell62

      Haha good call. Having said that, a new consciousness is rising and if we want a society that is more inclusive, more diverse and more equal, we need to welcome everyone to the party. But if you don’t bring a bottle, well – ‘do-one’! (Manc slang for fuck off).

  16. @mikeriddell62

    Data is the new commons. Time to start building that walled moat thing called a castle: a user-owned network with a shared vision, purpose, business model, ethical marketplace and OS that automatically matches contribution to entitlement.

  17. @mikeriddell62

    Our society needs a new operating system: https://www.thealternative….(UK working hard on this…)