How Social Media Influences Everything, from Architecture to the Outdoors

Because I recently graduated law school and I’ll be studying for the bar exam all summer, I’ve decided I’ll be doing something a bit different with this blog/newsletter for the next few months.

Recently, I’ve noticed a lack of a well-curated newsletter of long form essays on technology and its impact on society. Social media and other algorithms are great at surfacing the news of the day, but aren’t great at curating the long reads that step back and force us to think about the big picture.

This tweet from Andressen Horowitz’s resident tech pundit, Benedict Evans, crystallized the gap:

In short, this is what I’m going to do over the next few months. I’ll provide links to a few great long reads from the past week, with a short synopsis and some takeaways.

I love thinking in depth about technology and society, but more than that, I love reading others’ in-depth thoughts on how technology is impacting what it means to be human. While books often address these topics, technology moves so fast it can be better to read digital essays that don’t have to go through the time-consuming book editing process to understand quickly evolving trends.

And so without further distraction, here are this week’s long reads.


 

🗻 Death in the Alpine, High Country News

The story of two buddies who attempt to hike one of Colorado’s famed fourteeners, and what happens when outdoor adventures are inspired by social media.

“Even in the wildest places, we are connected to a universe of people and information through Instagram and Facebook, while those same apps bring distant landscapes into the comfort of our living rooms. That can affect people’s assessments of how dangerous things are: What once seemed extreme becomes normal if you look at enough Instagram photos showing other people doing it….

If mountain climbing has traditionally reflected the most heroic versions of ourselves — triumphant and invincible — social media has amplified that projection.”

It’s another story of the way the digital world has come to reshape the physical world around it, and how the physical world is responding to reshape that digital milieu.

 

⌨️ ‘Crush Them’: An Oral History of the Lawsuit that Upended Silicon Valley, The Ringer

On the 20th anniversary of the filing of the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft, the Ringer convened the lawyers who tried the case, the competitors who found themselves under Microsoft’s heel, and the journalists tasked with making sense of it all to recount tech’s most important legal battle, in their own words.

A fascinating oral history of the DOJ’s case against Microsoft, with little gems like this: “The line in the sand for Microsoft was the freedom to put anything it wanted to into Windows. And [Steve] Ballmer’s line was, ‘If we want to put a ham sandwich in it, we can.'”

It also tells the tale of lead prosecutor David Boies using Bill Gates’ awkwardness against him, starting with opening arguments (sound anything like another famous founder under regulatory scrutiny now?)

 

📺 Poppy’s Legal-Battle Woes Are Years in the Making, Polygon

Can a living art project be found guilty of identity theft? A new lawsuit alleges that a YouTube star Poppy “copied Mars Argo’s (a former YouTube star) identity, likeness, expression of ideas, sound, style,” and “dyed her hair a specific platinum blonde and, in character as Poppy, started to alter her voice to be a pitch higher to mimic Mars Argo’s distinctive speaking voice.”

In addition to concerning accusations of domestic violence and abuse, the lawsuit brings important questions regarding copyright and fair use to the fore. In a world where nothing is new and everything is derivative, every character or caricature that comes into question could be subject to legal proceedings. — an avenue few YouTubers want to travel down.

It’s quickly become one of the most important legal battles in YouTuber history, and an interesting challenge for adapting old copyright laws to new mediums.

 

😱 I Tried to Get an AI to Write This Story, Bloomberg

The author goes on a fun adventure to get machine learning tools (TensorFlow) to create real-sounding meetings. It highlights the promises and potential pitfalls of a future powered by machine learning, including the possible centrality of Google to AI infrastructure:

“Even if TPUs shrink and everyone in the world can do machine learning, I’ll (Google) have the data. The beautiful, expensive-to-acquire data. I will have turned all my maps into self-driving cars, all my conversations into phones that have conversations for you, all my emails into automated replies. And I will be providing the cloud infrastructure for a whole machine learning world—clawing back what’s rightfully mine from those mere booksellers at Amazon—because my tools will be the standard, and our data will be the biggest, and the applications the most immense.”

 

🏢 The Brand Builder, The New Republic

A profile of the work of “starchitect” Bjarke Ingels. Ingels’ firm, BIG, many current commissions include campuses for Google, station and car designs for Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, a private school for WeWork (“WeGrow”) in Chelsea.

“BIG is as much a brand as an architectural practice, devoted less to building timeless structures than to associating itself with the newest and latest. This might explain why Silicon Valley clients like Google and WeWork find Ingels’s sensibility so appealing.”

As BIG continues to win commissions and followers, the result may be a kind of aggregate BIG world, in which rapid change and flexibility take precedence over a textured sense of place and community, as architecture merges with brand building.

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BIG’s Via 57 West. It could be in any of today’s rich, cosmopolitan cities, but this one is in Manhattan.

 

🇻🇳 The Untold Story of Robert Mueller’s Time in Combat, Wired

Wired’s June cover story – an in-depth exploration of special counsel Robert Mueller’s time in Vietnam.

 

📜 Section 230 as First Amendment Rule, Harvard Law Review

Section 230 of the Community Decency Act, often referred to as the law that made the internet possible (the law provides for intermediary liability protection, which shields websites from lawsuits directed at user activity, while also encouraging these sites to engage in content moderation), has found itself the target of many attacks against big tech over the past couple years. Cary Glynn, a graduating Harvard Law student, argues that even without Section 230, protecting internet intermediaries from liability should be the First Amendment rule

 

Patents, Spotify, and Incentivizing Innovation

💊 PATENTS AND INCENTIVIZING INNOVATION

Tuesday brought decisions from both patent cases argued in front of the Supreme Court this term, Oil States Energy Services v. Greene’s Energy Group and SAS Institute v. Iancu. At issue in both cases was the process of inter partes review (IPR), which was instituted in 2012 after the passage of the America Invents Act. The process allows a competitor to bring call for an IPR, which, if institute, initiates a trial-like process engaging both parties. The USPTO has the sole discretion in reconsidering and potentially invalidating the patent at issue.

In Oil States v. Greene’s Energy, the question before the Court was whether the adjudication of IPR petitions by the USPTO is an exercise of the “judicial power” that under Article III of the Constitution can be exercised only by courts. The Supreme Court’s resident patent expert, Justice Clarence Thomas, wrote the opinion, holding that IPR does not violate the Constitution. Thomas wrote that because patents are a public right and the IPR process is simply a reconsideration of that grant, Congress has the authority to conduct the reconsideration. There has long been an academic argument about whether patents are public (e.g. statutorily created) rights or private (e.g. common law) rights, with Justice Thomas falling on the former side of that debate. But, Thomas was careful to articulate that the decision should not be misconstrued as suggesting that patents are not property for purposes of the Due Process Clause or Takings Clause.

According to Court documents, the IPR process has been used to invalidate some 1,300 patents since 2012. Tech companies are largely please with the decision, as it allows them to continue to use the IPR process to challenge patents instead of having to undergo long, drawn out litigation against alleged patent trolls.

But, pharmaceutical and biotech companies are more worried about the ruling, fearing it may open the door for competitors to more easily (and cheaply) invalidate patents through IPR. This gets to the difficulty of treating two fundamentally different industries (tech/internet companies and pharm/biotech companies) with different business models the same when it comes to intellectual property.

For modern tech companies, potential returns are much greater. Modern internet companies are driven by network effects that can generate massive returns to scale for innovation. They’re able to spread fixed costs over a massive user base that can scale quickly. Meanwhile, Moore’s Law (yea, I went there) implies that R&D cost, on a per unit basis, continues to decline for computing-based R&D.

On the other hand, evidence suggests that biotech and pharmaceutical R&D is only getting more difficult and more costly. Some have even referred to drug discovery as operating under a “reverse-Moore’s law,” and while machine learning may facilitate the drug discovery process, this promise is largely unfilled as of yet.

The Constitution gave Congress the power to “promote the progress of Science and and useful arts,” but the reality is spurring innovation requires different tactics in different industries. We can quibble about how strong patents should be in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, but the heavy capital investment required to innovate in these sectors necessitates some statutory protection. But, the case for government-granted monopolies (patents) for software innovations is much more tenuous.

While we wait for the merging of software and biology (or, for software to eat biology), it’s important to recognize the different capital structures at play for different industries and structure incentives accordingly. We don’t need the government to incentive investment in the next “one-click buying” patent, but we do need to incentivize continued commercial investment in biological R&D. Government-granted monopolies are an impure means to an end (innovation), and it’s important to critically evaluate when and where they should actually be issued.

The second, less exciting opinion held that when the USPTO institutes an IPR process to review an already issued patent, it must decide the patentability of all claims the petitioner has challenged.

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash
Some inventions require patents (above). Some don’t. Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash.

🎧 SPOTIFY THE HITMAKER

On April 24, Spotify announced its new free tier with a few major changes. First, it’ll recommend music to users on the fly using its machine learning. Second, and more importantly, it’ll let free-tier users listen on-demand to whatever song they want, as many times as they want, if the song appears on one of Spotify’s 15 personalized discovery playlists. These playlists account for about 750 tracks in total.

As I wrote after Spotify filed its F1, its success depends largely on its ability to cut out the music labels, whose content currently accounts for 87% of content streamed on Spotify. With the overhaul of its free tier, Spotify is attempting to mint new hints, allowing the 90 million users of its free tier to listen to certain songs, selected by Spotify, as often as they want. Spotify’s success depends in large part on its ability to serve as a platform for new or up-and-coming artists, helping users discover new artists while at the same time helping new artists get discovered. It’s a beneficial relationship for both listener and musician, with Spotify sitting in the middle taking a cut of the transaction. Providing free users access to unlimited listening of select songs drastically increases Spotify’s ability to be a hitmaker.

Apropos the patent discussion above, note that while Spotify has patents related to its machine learning and recommendation algorithms, these may not be essential to its business. The fact that it has 160 million total users makes the cost of acquiring these patents relatively trivial. Either way, the data Spotify continues to gather on its users is much more valuable (and protectable) than any patent it may or may not have acquired.


🎬 NETFLIX THEATRES?

From one subscription media business to another. Reports have emerged that Netflix is looking for ways to get into the movie theatre business. While it may not be interested in Mark Cuban’s Landmark Theatres anymore, it sounds like Netflix wants to get some of its productions in theatres so it can qualify for awards. Jeff Bezos has long been obsessed with garnering awards with his Prime Video service, so it seems he’s not the only one with a complex (the Prime Video section of his shareholder letter is basically one long sentence about how awesome Prime is because of all the meaningless awards its various shows received).

Of course, Netflix (and to a lesser extent, Prime Video), are successful illustrations of the “laddering up” strategy that Spotify is now pursuing. That is, they built businesses off of licensing copyrighted content from TV and movie studios, building a war chest to invest in their own original content and cut out the middle man.

But, there may be differences between music and video that make this strategy harder for Spotify. Namely, old music still holds a ton of value, while old TV shows and movies are less valuable. I love to bump the Beatles, but only watch I Love Lucy when I’m home during the holidays and my mom makes me.


🦅 Bird’s Eye View. In China, facial recognition technology was used to spot a man in a crowd of 60,000 concert goers.

💡 From the Printing Press to the Internet. A chart showing productivity from 1440 printing press to today. Other academics have studied causes of the productivity slowdown since 2004, illustrating it’s more than just a “measurement problem” (Business Insider, Marginal Revolution).

 

The Bundle is Back 🗞

From Spotify to Apple News, bundles are back; are they better than ever?

One of the business world’s great apocryphal sayings goes something like this: “there are only two ways to make money in business: One is to bundle; the other is unbundle.” Netscape founder Marc Andressen attributes it to his buddy Jim Barksdale.

A recent spate of bundling news makes it clear that a new age of bundling is upon us:

  • Hulu and Spotify announced a $12.99/ mo bundle that includes unlimited access to both services. It’s a nice savings, as Hulu (with ads) cost $7.99/ mo and Spotify premium costs $9.99/ mo. It’s an expansion of the two companies’ partnership: last year, they offered a student bundle for $4.99/ mo.
  • On the heels of acquiring Texture, “the Netflix of magazines,” there are now reports that Apple is working to launch a subscription news in its Apples News app later this year. Apple has recently been pushing to bring in more revenue from its Services (think App Store and Apple Music), so this move fits in line with its broader strategy. Speaking of Apple Music, it was also recently reported that Apple Music now has 40 million subscribers, creeping towards Spotify’s 70 million.
  • Comcast and Netflix announced that customers will soon be able to add a Netflix subscription to new and existing Comcast Xfinity packages.
  • Medium’s Ev Williams wrote about the Medium model, bragging that it’s “one of the largest bundles of original content of its type, so it’s a great value for readers.” Medium launched its subscription model a year ago, and apparently it’s going great (graph without a y-axis be damned).
  • Jeff Bezos revealed in his annual shareholder letter that Amazon Prime – the bundle of all bundles – has over 100 million subscribers. By tacking on benefits at recently acquired Whole Foods, the scope of the Prime bundle continues to expand.

In addition to Netflix and Spotify proving that subscription bundles can work, the recent fire Facebook and other ad-driven companies have come under has give the bundle even greater tail winds.

Meanwhile, with the official launch of ESPN+, the sports broadcasting giant has dipped its toes in the water of the over-the-top future, albeit cautiously. ESPN won’t offer many of its flagship sporting events on ESPN+, indicating a reluctance to fully embrace a digital future. Despite staff upheaval and non-stop talk of “cord cutters,” ESPN’s cable TV business remains profitable. Further, ESPN owns (and continues to bid on future) rights to sporting events, meaning it has an intellectual property moat that others don’t necessarily have. Sporting events need to be seen live, while very few other events do. As such, ESPN doesn’t want to make the shift to digital too soon, thereby undercutting its existing cable business before it needs to do so.

Really though, the pendulum swinging from bundled to unbundled and back again is a reflection of the underlying technology: in the early 2000s we all carried around individual songs on our iPods. They took forever to update – and we had to hardwire the iPod into our PC – so it was fine if we just bought a few songs. Then, as cloud storage and streaming became technically (and economically) feasible, consumers shifted to streaming services. Chris Dixon has a great explainer on bundling economics here, but the conclusion is this: in the end, bundling is beneficial for buyers and sellers.

But, bundling can also be used as an anti-competitive mechanism. I recently warned that Google’s Chrome ad-blocker may be an attempt to do this:

This forced tying of products together is what often gets monopolies in trouble with the law, in one way or another. AT&T’s attempt to force consumers to buy its own phones and network attachments was eventually deemed unreasonable and unnecessary by the FCC. Similarly, Microsoft’s attempt to bundle Internet Explorer with the OS eventually caught the DOJ’s attention, leading to a landmark antitrust case. And now Google is attempting to leverage its browser to squeeze the ad blocker market.

Of course, Spotify is nowhere near anti-competitive behavior: it’s not even profitable, and tech giants like Apple and Amazon are nipping at its heels. In fact, the bigger anti-competitive worry is these tech giants that can bundle together any number of services making it almost impossible for startups to compete.

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Sometimes, what’s old is new again. Photo by Nikita Kachanovsky on Unsplash.

THAT’S NOT (WAY)FAIR

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in South Dakota v. Wayfair. It’s a case on whether to overrule a 1992 decision that prohibits individual states from requiring out-of-state retailers that do not have a physical presence in the state to collect tax on sales to state residents. States claim they’re losing massive tax revenue. Online retailers are concerned about a patchwork system of state and local taxes, making it hard for them to efficiently conduct business. Since you asked, Amazon already collects sales tax when it sells its inventory through Amazon.com, but when third-party retailers sell through the Amazon Marketplace, the company leaves it up to them to collect the sales tax. Most probably don’t.

Even this Amazon example illustrates that large companies may be better able to collect local tax revenue, and it might be more difficult for small companies or merchants to collect the sales tax, robbing the smaller merchants of a single national marketplace. Thankfully, it seems as though our President has a handle on the matter:


☁️ Microsoft dismissed, but a cloudy future. With the hasty passing of the CLOUD Act, the Supreme Court dismissed a long-running dispute between Microsoft and the Department of Justice that had made it all the way to the Supreme Court.  The CLOUD Act clarifies that warrants for data held by service providers like Microsoft and Google reach data stored anywhere in the world. But, questions over whether Microsoft will challenge the new warrant issued under the CLOUD Act and how foreign governments will react to the new, hastily enacted legislation leaves the potential high for fresh disputes to surface.

The new legislation authorizes the U.S. to enter into bilateral data-sharing agreements for law enforcement purposes, while allowing service providers to move to quash a warrant if they believe there is a “material risk” that the request would violate the laws of a foreign government.

This sets the CLOUD Act on a collision course with international privacy laws like the EU’s forthcoming GDPR. Meanwhile,

Meanwhile, the EU has introduced a similar law, that allow European prosecutors to force companies to turn over data such as emails, text messages and pictures stored online in another country, within 10 days or as little as six hours in urgent cases (Reuters).


👮‍♂️ FCC adviser arrested. Perhaps taking a cue from her boss, broadband adviser Elizabeth Pierce was arrested on charges of tricking investors to dump $250m into a fiber optic scheme by faking contracts (The Verge).

🔑 Post hoc, ergo proper hoc. Visualizing errors and manipulation in logical thinking. Oh, and also it’s “raise the question,” not “beg the question.”

Mr. Zuck Goes to Washington

ZUCK BE HUMBLE

Mr. Zuckerberg goes to Washington, and the tech journo community can barely contain its excitement, ready to pour itself a big glass of lulz as it watches the little fucker squirm.

From the The New York Times:

Internal staff has pushed Mr. Zuckerberg to answer lawmakers’ questions directly, and not to appear overly defensive. Their goal is to make Mr. Zuckerberg appear as humble, agreeable and as forthright as possible, the people close to the preparations said

Zuck will testify before the Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees on Tuesday and the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday. Expect calls for privacy regulations from the Left, claims of bias in social media from the Right, and a whole lot of nothing in the end. Oh, Wall Street will be watching closely too: Facebook stock is down about 15% since the Cambridge Analytica news broke, mostly on fears that Facebook’s ad-driven business model or data collection practices may finally run up against regulation from Washington.

The Congressional testimony comes a week after Zuckerberg fielded 45 minutes of questions from big-time jouros (basically a dry run for his Congressional testimony). One recurring theme: that Facebook is an “idealistic and optimistic company”, and for the first decade of its existence, it didn’t really think about how its tool could also be used for bad. And in Zuckerberg’s defense, neither did other people: from the ’08 Obama campaign to the Arab Spring and many grassroots efforts in between, social media has been a tool used for good. Even now, the #MarchForOurLives kids have done a great job using social media to mobilize. As Congress contemplates legislation, it’s important to keep this in mind.

As it turns out, his prepared remarks – released in advance of his testimony – are similar to remarks from last week’s press conference, with Zuckerberg closing out by saying “I know we’ll look back and view helping people connect and giving more people a voice as a positive force in the world.” Yea, if only he could get the Nazis to stfu in the meantime.

No matter what happens, SNL’s Mark Zuckerberg summed it up best this weekend: “unlike my facial expression, Facebook is going to change.”

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It never really made sense to me that the “front” of the Capitol doesn’t face the National Mall | Photo by Louis Velazquez on Unsplash

🚘 Picture me rollin’

Meanwhile, the FTC has confirmed that it’s already investigating Facebook’s privacy practices. It could a huge ass fine, with some 87 million users having their data exposed and Facebook potentially on the hook for a $40,000 fine per violation. Oh, and now some consumer groups are saying the FTC should investigate Facebook’s collection of face and biometric data. TFW 😱

🚫 Deja CubeYou…

In other (or really, the same) news, CubeYou and its Apply Magic Sauce quiz was suspended from Facebook for doing basically what Cambridge Analytica did. This time it took a CNBC investigation to get Facebook’s attention. So have we really learned anything yet?

👩‍⚕️ What to ask next time you see your doctor

Wanna check my data too? In the New York Times, Harvard professor Jonathan Zittrain proposes that Facebook, like doctors or lawyers, should be deemed “fiduciaries,” meaning they’re legally obliged to place clients’ or patients’ interests above their own. It kind of makes sense, right? Companies like Google and Facebook have similarly sensitive, and much more, information as compared to our doctor or lawyer (I skipped both those annual check ups this year), and can certainly wield a lot of power over users. And as these companies and their algorithms get better at predicting and shaping our behavior, wouldn’t it be great if they didn’t just use that power to sell us more stuff or place us in little filter bubbles?

😇 Honestly?

Finally, Facebook has formally announced its support for the Honest Ads Act, which would require all digital platforms with more than 50m users to maintain a public file of all election ads purchased by a person or group who spends at least $500 on the platform. Fast forward to 2020 when thousands of Russian accounts are buying $499 worth of ads.


BACKPAGE.COM ON THE FRONT PAGE

The Feds shutdown Backpage.com on Friday, following it up with a 93-count indictment on Monday, charging its two co-founders and five other employees with money laundering and facilitating prostitution. Backpage is a classifieds website (think Craigslist for creeps/felons) that’s faced persistent allegations of facilitating illegal prostitution that law enforcement has been after for years. Importantly, this has nothing to do with Congress passing a crappy bill called FOSTA/SESTA, which, while trying to stop online sex trafficking, will make the problem worse (my explanation). President Trump hasn’t signed the bill into law yet, so color me shocked when a Congresswoman is trying to claim victory for something she didn’t really have anything to do with:

The shutdown is actually the result of long-running court cases in numerous states that have recently found Backpage.com is not entitled to immunity under Community Decency Act § 230, the statute which generally provides for immunity from liability for internet intermediaries.


👮‍♂️ This week Amazon should…

Call Alexa to the witness stand. This according to a CNet report, where a man’s own pacemaker is being used against him to show he committed arson, and wasn’t asleep – as he’d claimed – when his house caught fire. Of course, it won’t stop at pacemakers. From the law’s perspective, the data is fair game under the 4th Amendment, so if law enforcement gets a warrant, Alexa can be dragged into court.  And if it’s Alexa’s word against mine, I don’t like my chances.


📬 I don’t care about your damn emails! In a sign that whitehouse.gov might be as vulnerable as whitehouse.com, a report says that most domains under the purview of the Executive Office of the President aren’t using a certain protocol to protect email addresses from phishing and other hacking attacks (Cyberscoop).

🎭 When is anonymous anonymous? A Texas court may soon have the answer, but not before Big Tech weighs in (Law360).

👾Instructions on how to use Cloudflare’s new 1.1.1.1 to get a truly encrypted DNS service and keep your ISP out of your shit (Ars Technica).

🎧 What’s a stream cost? Music licensing is complex and expensive (unless you’re YouTube. A graph comparing artist revenue, users, and loss per user of major streaming platforms (Information Is Beautiful).

 

Welcome to Codebrief

Welcome to Codebrief. It’s a weekly newsletter providing a roundup of tech, privacy and legal news with a point of view, without the bullshit. Its simple goal is to help you understand the week’s news and why it matters – all while providing the occasional lukewarm take. Tech news doesn’t have to be dry and dense, so we’re out to make it enjoyable.

I’ve been blogging since the beginning of 2018, and the newsletter is an effort to bring regular news to readers in a more intimate format.

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Facebook Unbundled

Remember When Craigslist Was the Site Being Unbundled? Now It’s Facebook

Subscribe to my weekly tech, privacy and legal newsletter.

In 2012, Andrew Parker, A VC at Spark Capital, put together a now famous graphic of all the marketplace companies trying to carve out a niche from craiglist.

Now, it seems like Facebook is the company that many entrepreneurs are trying to carve niches out from. In the last few weeks, there’s been a lot of comments to the effect of “I’d love to delete Facebook, but I use [Messenger, Groups, Events] a lot and there’s not real substitute.” All of these niches are uniquely enabled by Facebook’s Social Graph, but, to a varying degree, companies have had success in carving out a nice business for themselves.

The great Facebook unbundling

Unfortunately (for competition’s sake), Facebook has also bought some of the competitors that once encroached on crucial FB functionalities (Instagram and photo sharing, Whatsapp and messaging). Additionally, some of these companies existed before Facebook, but have remained viable businesses over the years through some differentiation. Some of these startups may occupy multiple niches, but I highlighted their main functionality here.

Beyond Facebook Analytica: Privacy Law Explained

Cambridge Analytica was bad, but Facebook’s collection of data is just the way the government wants it

It’s been almost two weeks since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke for the third time since 2015, so it’s time to zoom out a bit and look more broadly at privacy law in the United States, and what those laws mean for a company like Facebook.

Like many stories that coastal elites and thought leaders make a fuss about, this one begins at that school in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The idea of a “right to privacy” or “right to be left alone” all began in 1890 when two elitist Harvard law students were concerned about the intrusions upon their lives in high society posed by journalists and the fancy new instantaneous camera. Basically, they were worried their dinner parties would be ruined; so worried, in fact, that they wrote a law journal article about it that I assume at least four people have read. This article laid the foundation for the modern formulation of a “right to privacy.”

Let’s walk across the Harvard Yard (is that what people call it?) and skip forward 110 years to the dorm room of a computer science prodigy known by his Live Journal name Zuck On It. Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook for precisely the opposite reason as those snobby law students: he was an awkward computer geek and just wanted a way to meet girls. So even at first conception, we see the right to privacy (snobby law students) and Facebook (nerdy computer geeks) are fundamentally at odds. Remember, before Facebook, Zuckerberg got himself in trouble for making Facemash (think hot or not), which he built by hacking into the database of each Harvard house and taking the photos from each face book.

Lucky for us, Zuckerberg documented his every move when he built Facemash in 2003. He’s a little intoxicated!

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