The Great Debate UK

Help, I want my email back…


The web-based Heartbleed bug has dominated discussions about online security in recent days. We’ve been told to change passwords, and if you were a regular user of Mumsnet then you’ve probably had your data stolen, the forum said in a message earlier this week. While I was reading all of these articles not once did I think to actually change any of my passwords. This is not because I think that I am immune to Heartbleed and its evil ways, but rather I don’t think the data this super bug could steal from me would be of much use to anybody.

Take my email. First it started with my personal email, an account I have had since 2001, provided by a major internet company headed by an extremely glamorous CEO. For years now it has been hijacked by marketing types. I get hundreds of emails every day, all adverts. It’s worse than watching an episode of Game of Thrones in the US. There are literally adverts coming at me every minute of the day. Some even use my name in the subject line. Just today I have had a cleaning company asking me if I am ready for Easter (who gets ready for Easter???), a website telling me the secret to perfect “standout eyes” and an Easter gift from a clothing site.

I sowed the seed for my own digital undoing as I definitely have used these services. For some ridiculous reason I was asked for my email address at the checkout. For some even more ridiculous reason I gave it to them willingly, and they now update me many times a day, far more frequently than my best friends, or even my mother.

I am now drowning, digitally speaking, in so much marketing rubbish that anyone who genuinely tries to get in touch with me may find that I don’t respond. Rather than deal with the 10,000+ adverts in my inbox I try to ignore them. Luckily, I have an account at work, which I have always tried to keep private and not share with anyone bar my husband. But recently, when organising a little party for a friend, I found it so much easier to use my work account I broke my own rule and sent the invitation from work.

from Nicholas Wapshott:

Buying into Big Brother

Whatever high crimes and misdemeanors the National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden may or may not have perpetrated, he has at least in one regard done us all a favor. He has reminded us that we are all victims of unwarranted and inexcusable invasions of privacy by companies who collect our data as they do business with us.

Some, like Google and Facebook, pose primarily as software companies when their main revenue source, and their main business, is to mine data and sell advertisers access to customers. We knew this already, of course, though it seems many of us would prefer to forget the true nature of the technology firms that have boomed in the last decade. Seduced by their dazzling baubles, we have bought in to Big Brother without truly understanding the true price we are paying and will continue to pay for access to their brave new world.

A new challenge for Zuckerberg


By Kathleen Brooks. The opinions expressed are her own.

Who wouldn’t want to have been an early investor in Facebook? The graffiti artist who spray painted the walls of Facebook HQ decided to take stock rather than a paycheck and will be $150 million dollars richer as a result.

Facebook is one of the biggest ever IPOs in the U.S. and at the end of last week it even managed to knock Greece out of the headlines and was credited with boosting market sentiment.

from Paul Smalera:

What real Internet censorship looks like

Lately Internet users in the U.S. have been worried about censorship, copyright legalities and data privacy. Between Twitter’s new censorship policy, the global protests over SOPA/PIPA and ACTA and the outrage over Apple’s iOS allowing apps like Path to access the address book without prior approval, these fears have certainly seemed warranted. But we should also remember that Internet users around the world face far more insidious limitations and intrusions on their Internet usage -- practices, in fact, that would horrify the average American.

Sadly, most of the rest of the world has come to accept censorship as a necessary evil. Although I recently argued that Twitter’s censorship policy at least had the benefit of transparency, it’s still an unfortunate cost of doing global business for a company born and bred with the freedoms of the United States, and founded by tech pioneers whose opportunities and creativity stem directly from our Constitution. Yet by the standards of dictatorial regimes, Internet users in countries like China, Syria and Iran should consider themselves lucky if Twitter’s relatively modest censorship program actually keeps those countries’ governments from shutting down the service. As we are seeing around the world, chances are, unfortunately, it won’t.

from Paul Smalera:

Facebook shouldn't pay its users. Its users should pay to own Facebook.

“Facebook was not originally created to be a company,” founder Mark Zuckerberg wrote in his letter to investors announcing the IPO of his already hugely successful and profitable company. “It was built to accomplish a social mission — to make the world more open and connected.”

Facebook has succeeded wildly, despite internal admonitions that its “journey” is only 1 percent finished. Journalists have latched onto Zuckerberg’s statement that Facebook wants to “rewire” the way the world works. In a world of thousands of self-anointed “social media experts,” only Zuckerberg can claim to have basically invented what the world thinks of as social media. He has etched himself into the timeline of human innovation.

from Business Traveller:

What happens when the meeting’s over?

That’s when the fun starts, says the boss of a new social network for business travellers. But how is carving a niche among the Goliaths of social networking?

Socially you’re likely long-entrenched in Facebook; reserving LinkedIn to connect with a larger professional network. You probably also dip into user-generated TripAdvisor for opinion overload on restaurants and hotels; the well-organised among you might use the travel-planning and itinerary sharing networks Dopplr or Tripit, and be eyeing up the just-launched Gtrot.

from Reuters Investigates:

Myspace and Facebook: the numbers tell it all

Yinka Adegoke delves into what happened at Myspace in his special report today: "How News Corp got lost in Myspace."

Weak technology, management in-fighting and a rival called Facebook led to the rapid decline of the once dominant social network.

from Chrystia Freeland:

When the hacker ethos meets capitalism

The uprising in Egypt has provoked the familiar “realism-versus-idealism” foreign policy debate in many Western capitals, as diplomats and politicians struggle to balance their ideological sympathy for the protesters against fears of chaos and the threat of a future anti-Western and anti-Israel policy from Cairo if the people do win.

What we have paid less attention to is that the demonstrations have forced some of the world’s hottest technology companies to engage in a very similar debate. The conclusions these technorati end up drawing may be as significant as the verdicts of Western governments. This new intellectual battleground is a further sign that in the age of the Internet and the global economy, foreign policy doesn’t belong just to professionals or to states any more.

from Breakingviews:

Goldman’s old-school Facebook deal sets new tests

Goldman Sachs' old-school Facebook deal brings a new set of challenges. The bank is raising up to $1.5 billion from clients to invest in the social network while putting in $450 million itself. Like Morgan Stanley's reported deal with online coupon service Groupon, it looks like classic merchant banking. With hot firms in the driver's seat, however, the banks could find themselves in for a wild ride.

Internet darlings, with their growth, profitability and cash, face little pressure to go public yet still have some use for what a fundraising can provide. So instead of an IPO, they rely on so-called D-rounds. This allows them to raise money at favorable valuations for internal use, while buying stock back from employees or early-round investors who want to cash out.

from Breakingviews:

Will 2011 be the year that Facebook’s value gets real?

By Robert Cyran and Rob Cox

Facebook may at last become a real, rather than virtual, money spinner in 2011. The social network doesn't need capital to grow, but expectations from backers and employees for an IPO are too high for founder Mark Zuckerberg to ignore. There's just one challenge: trading in Facebook's unlisted shares values the website at more than $40 billion. Getting to that number requires some astonishing growth assumptions.

That's not to say it's impossible for Facebook to attain a public market value at least as big as its current implied worth. Facebook is both valuable and becoming more so. It has more than 500 million users and it's adding thousands by the minute. But rarely has a private company attracted such a large -- and relatively liquid -- financial status as Facebook.