#13 America Under Attack

The US Government has been hacked // Apple and Facebook Bicker // Anti-Trust Lawsuits Heat Up

Ad Hominem is a newsletter about the Advertising Data Economy and Surveillance Capitalism and how these forces engage with Humanity. This newsletter is one response among many to the data crisis we face as a society.

Just a short update this time, as I’m trying to get back into the swing of writing again. I appreciate all you subscribers for sticking around.

The latest big stories are about the recent hack of government and enterprise networks, the feud between Apple and Facebook over user data tracking (more on this soon), and the increasing efforts by the US government to tackle the scale and power of Facebook and Google.

In a harsh reminder that no system is secure, the big news lately has been the hack by a foreign actor to infiltrate US government systems via Solarwinds network monitoring software (Reuters). Hackers had access to the IRS and US Treasury, as well as several other federal agencies (Politico). Corporate customers of the popular enterprise software were also affected, including Microsoft (Reuters), who have now released a postmortem and updated their Windows Defender tools (Microsoft). Russia has been widely pointed to as the primary suspect in the media, but US intelligence has made no confirmations so far. It’s clear that the attackers had access inside the compromised networks for as long as six months, which means they may have installed further vulnerabilities (FireEye).

A group of states has filed an anti-trust case against Google, based on its dominance in the display advertising market (Texas AG). Another group of states has filed a separate suit based on Google’s position in the search engine market (Colorado AG). This latter suit hopes to join the case filed by DoJ in October. Both cases call for Facebook to be broken up or spin out the WhatsApp and Instagram businesses.

After reading the work of folks like Matt Stoller and Benedict Evans, I feel that the mistake of enabling Facebook to consolidate power was made by the Obama-administration FTC in 2010 (when it acquired Instagram) and 2014 (WhatsApp). Suing Facebook or trying to break it up merely chases a symptom of lax regulation by creating a scapegoat, albeit a truly guilty one. I believe that the solution moving forward must be America’s most feared word — regulation. We need laws that apply to everyone, otherwise after Facebook is dealt with, we’ll still have the same problem with a different logo on it.

Finally, as if we didn’t already know it was a problem, a new study shows a strong link between social media use and depression in young people (NIH).

🌏 Around the World 🌍

🇰🇷 Hyundai has bought controlling interest in Boston Dynamics (PR Newswire).

🇩🇪 German regulators are investigating Facebook over their policy of tying Oculus VR headsets to Facebook accounts (Bundeskartellamt).

🇮🇳 India’s dark data economy (Restofworld.org).

Ad Hominem is a blog and newsletter about the Advertising Data Economy and Surveillance Capitalism, and how those forces relate to Humanity. Ad Hominem currently has no paid subscription. If you want to support this project, the best way is just to spread the word via Twitter or forwarding this email to a friend. You can also send me a tip on my BuyMeACoffee page.

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- S