Ashamed to work in Silicon Valley: how techies became the new bankers

Wall Street has long been the industry people love to hate. But as big tech's reputation plummets, suddenly a job at Facebook doesn't seem so cool.

"I would never say I worked at Facebook," said one 30-year-old software engineer who left the company last year to pursue an alternative career. Instead, at dinner parties he would give purposefully vague responses and change the subject. "There's this song and dance you learn to play because people are quick to judge." [...]

"We have this habit of highlighting and celebrating brilliant assholes like Steve Jobs and Travis Kalanick, when the reality is they are awful human beings," said Greg, head of technology at e-commerce startup Brandless, adding that it is women and people of colour who tend to bear the brunt of their behaviour. [...]

Some of this behaviour stems from the hubris that positions profit-seeking corporations as benevolent forces in the world.

"You are selling ads, you're not really making the world a better place," noted the former Facebooker. "But most people drank the Kool-aid."

It's a view echoed by one current Googler in her 20s, who is embarrassed by tech companies' cluelessness about their reputation outside of the Silicon Valley bubble.

"Internally I don't think they have a good read on how they're perceived," she said, citing the backlash after it was discovered that ads were appearing around videos promoting extremist views on YouTube or the investigation into possible Russian interference in the US election, including buying ads on Google, Facebook and Twitter.

"[Googlers] will say 'why are the papers making a big deal out of this, I don't get it'. Are you fucking joking? These people don't realise the scale of what they are doing," she said.

"Some of these folks aren't the most socially gifted people and therefore suddenly having a culture encouraging this experience for them bleeds into everything, giving them a sense of self-importance and entitlement. It's effectively like dealing with children all the time," Greg said, referencing his time at Dropbox when people would "fly around the office on these stupid scooters and skateboards". [...]

All of this feeds into the perception that techies are, according to the former Facebooker, "pod people" who aren't part of the community.

"You wake up, get the shuttle bus, go to the bubble of campus and order food via an app when you get home. You are not a citizen, just a bizarre leech who makes money," he explained.

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Shadow Profiles

How Facebook Figures Out Everyone You've Ever Met:

Shadow contact information has been a known feature of Facebook for a few years now. But most users remain unaware of its reach and power. Because shadow-profile connections happen inside Facebook's algorithmic black box, people can't see how deep the data-mining of their lives truly is, until an uncanny recommendation pops up. [...]

Facebook warns users to be judicious about using all this data. "You may have business or personal contacts in your phone," the Learn More screen admonishes the reader. "Please only send friend requests to people you know personally who would welcome the invite."

Having issued this warning, and having acknowledged that people in your address book may not necessarily want to be connected to you, Facebook will then do exactly what it warned you not to do. If you agree to share your contacts, every piece of contact data you possess will go to Facebook, and the network will then use it to try to search for connections between everyone you know, no matter how slightly -- and you won't see it happen. [...]

The existence of shadow contact information came to light in 2013 after Facebook admitted it had discovered and fixed "a bug." The bug was that when a user downloaded their Facebook file, it included not just their friends' visible contact information, but also their friends' shadow contact information.

The problem with the bug, for Facebook, was not that all the information was lumped together -- it was that it had mistakenly shown users the lump existed. The extent of the connections Facebook builds around its users is supposed to be visible only to the company itself.

If this sounds a lot like Equifax to you, then you are, like, some kind of pattern-matching machine:

Schneier's Congressional testimony on Equifax:

3. There are thousands of data brokers with similarly intimate information, similarly at risk.

Equifax is more than a credit reporting agency. It's a data broker. It collects information about all of us, analyzes it all, and then sells those insights. It might be one of the biggest, but there are 2,500 to 4,000 other data brokers that are collecting, storing, and selling information about us -- almost all of them companies you've never heard of and have no business relationship with.

The breadth and depth of information that data brokers have is astonishing. Data brokers collect and store billions of data elements covering nearly every US consumer. Just one of the data brokers studied holds information on more than 1.4 billion consumer transactions and 700 billion data elements, and another adds more than 3 billion new data points to its database each month. [...]

4. These data brokers deliberately hide their actions, and make it difficult for consumers to learn about or control their data.

If there were a dozen people who stood behind us and took notes of everything we purchased, read, searched for, or said, we would be alarmed at the privacy invasion. But because these companies operate in secret, inside our browsers and financial transactions, we don't see them and we don't know they're there.

Regarding Equifax, few consumers have any idea what the company knows about them, who they sell personal data to or why. If anyone knows about them at all, it's about their business as a credit bureau, not their business as a data broker. Their website lists 57 different offerings for business: products for industries like automotive, education, health care, insurance, and restaurants. [...]

6. The market cannot fix this because we are not the customers of data brokers.

The customers of these companies are people and organizations who want to buy information: banks looking to lend you money, landlords deciding whether to rent you an apartment, employers deciding whether to hire you, companies trying to figure out whether you'd be a profitable customer -- everyone who wants to sell you something, even governments.

Markets work because buyers choose from a choice of sellers, and sellers compete for buyers. None of us are Equifax's customers. None of us are the customers of any of these data brokers. We can't refuse to do business with the companies. We can't remove our data from their databases. With few limited exceptions, we can't even see what data these companies have about us or correct any mistakes.

We are the product that these companies sell to their customers: those who want to use our personal information to understand us, categorize us, make decisions about us, and persuade us.

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The paranoid Carter Page transcript: What in God's name did I just read?

For anyone who doesn't want to curl up with 243 pages of testimony and footnoted letters, here is pretty much how the thing went, severely condensed:

Carter Page: Hello. I am a doctor and a scholar, and I am here about the world premiere of the dodgy dossier that inexplicably made all kinds of charges against me, an innocent man who has never met anyone directly in my life! I have been illegally wiretapped by the FBI, CIA and other U.S. propaganda agencies, and my life has been ruined. I must be continually on the move, like a shark. I have done nothing wrong, but I will answer none of the questions put to me, because I have been studying the law. I am, as I said, a scholar. Here is a letter. I know it looks like a scrawl in red crayon, but trust me -- it is a letter about the CIA's illegal dossier. [...]

Rooney: Did you ever meet Mr. Trump?

Page: No. Never. I've met him in my heart. Never in my life, except on the television. And at rallies. I think he is beautiful and has a lot to teach all of us.

Trey Gowdy: So, you were a volunteer, unpaid, informal, unofficial. What was your role, exactly?

Page: Sometimes I would stand outside the glass window of the Trump campaign and look in admiringly, but I never ventured to set foot inside. I was not involved in any way, except I did sign a non-disclosure agreement, it will turn out, and met repeatedly with Sam Clovis. Honestly, no one wants me to be involved, ever. All my emails to them were unwelcome and went unreturned. I never went to Trump Tower, except for the fly-swatter incident. Whenever I showed up at Trump Tower, they would shoo me away with a big fly-swatter. One or two times or maybe eight. Ninety times. I never spoke directly to Donald Trump.

Gowdy: Why do you keep saying "directly"? How else would you speak to a person?

Page: Listen, Trey, we can speak as one lawyer to another. I am an expert in the law after taking a mail-order course in what I believe is known as the Law of the Sea, and I know a man must choose his words wisely.

Gowdy: What?

[...]

Page: Listen, you have to live your life. I went to a gathering of scholars at the New Economic School, and everyone I met there was a scholar, although it would be fairer to say that I greeted them than that I met them. I don't remember who any of them were. Some were lifelong friends.

Schiff: What is a scholar? You keep describing yourself as a scholar, but I am not sure that word means what you think it means.

Page: I would define scholar very loosely to include the Russian deputy prime minister, several senior officers of Russian energy companies, and also myself, but really I only spoke to the man on the street.

Schiff: The man on the street.

Page: The television, mostly, and I went to some speeches. And I did greet that man in passing who I would later discover to my horror was the deputy prime minister. For three seconds, tops. But mostly the television.

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Prima Bionic Eye

Pixium Vision has received the approval to begin in-human trials of a miniature wireless sub-retinal implant.

The PRIMA implant is a photovoltaic chip about 2mm square and only 30 microns thick. That's tiny, but the device has 378 electrodes. The patient uses a device that looks like a conventional pair of glasses but contains an integrated camera that sends data wirelessly to a small pocket-sized image processing computer. This computer then commands the glasses to send data to the implant via invisible infrared light. The chip converts the light to electrical impulses and conducts them to the optic nerve.

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Today in Dunning-Krugerrand News

Etherium:

A guy named Gav convinced people put all their money into a box. But none of them knew that the box would burn down if you just tossed it around enough. Then your 2-year-old little brother found the box. So the box burned down, all the money is gone and people are very very mad at Gav and your 2-year-old brother. They are also trying to figure out how to go to a parallel universe where all of this is just a nightmare and never really happened. [...]

You missed the part where the grownups warned them not to play stupid games with their allowances but they just angrily called the the grownups "statists" and proceeded to obliterate their money.

Afterwards their peers told them this was the will of the free market and good for ethereum.

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