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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Mariene Awaad/Bloomberg
Commentary By Bill Owen – TechNewsBlog.net – April 4, 2019
I would like to preface this commentary by saying that I would like nothing more that to be able to say to Mark Zuckerberg: “Way to go. Keep up the great work.” But I can’t, at least right now, and holding out for that day is probably a useless exercise, unfortunately. Many others feel the same way and this commentary will address some of the reasons why. Each section will address a key issue, with additional links to articles that documents questionable activities. Comments and links have been distilled down through quite a bit of material, which should bring a lot of varied information into focus.
Note: Other companies will be discussed in an upcoming commentary soon. We will start off with the long-standing and ever-present circus that is Facebook.
The premise and essential purpose of Facebook was somewhat novel and had a lot of potential. Mark Zuckerberg ran with his concept/vision. Once the momentum started to build, Facebook became a runaway freight train, and successful in many ways. However, it was never presented as a company that had any concern for your privacy. Quite the opposite. Mark Zuckerberg (referenced as MZ for the remainder of this commentary) DISDAINS privacy. A little too arrogant and intrusive of an approach, to be sure. He does not have a very becoming history of integrity, which is why the Facebook ship may eventually run onto rocky shores at some point, as impossible as that seems right now, of course. A lot of smoke and mirrors from the fearless leader, from the early days right up to today, and no doubt continuing into the future. The following sections of the commentary discusses and documents various areas of importance and concern.
[For details and a chronology of Facebook from the beginning, see the following link]: Facebook
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
There will be quite a few compelling examples of the impact that Facebook has had over time, what it has gone through legally, and where it is headed. It may be fair to say that a lot of the drama that Facebook has gone through to date was unnecessary and did not have to happen. There is one main reason why it did, and something is going to give eventually. As stated in a previous posting recently, MZ is without a doubt a loose cannon of a leader. Irresponsible in many areas, where responsibility is revered and expected from a leader. This expectation comes from other executives and employees in the company, investors/stakeholders, peers at other technology companies and companies in general. It doesn’t seem to come up much, but there are many embarrassed Chairpersons, CEO’s and Presidents of other corporations around the world, and especially in the U.S., when one of their own, no matter what age or generation, is conducting the loose cannon approach to business. What most people recognize is that Facebook took off and went viral despite Mark Zuckerberg at a certain point. Credit needs to go to all of the dedicated staff/employees, and last, but not least, the general public and businesses that buy in to the platform. If it was not for them, there would not be a Facebook.
Despite the fact that you are buying into the program by joining and clicking on “I Accept” without reading the entire, if any, of the legal details/disclaimers on what you are signing up for, Facebook needs to be responsible in how it conducts its business. Sure, it’s covered by its legal clauses, but are they conducting their business with the member’s best interests in mind, or only their own interests? That’s the ethical question we need to ask ourselves. Many large corporations have been brought to their knees due to mismanagement. That result was due to people that were, or were not, in a management position, let alone at the lofty Chairman, CEO or President level.
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Where has all of the accountability gone? If the people that carry out activities that could eventually land them in hot water have an overwhelming sense that they can’t be touched, what then? We are unfortunately, for the time being, experiencing that right now. Our legal system has become a shell of what it once was, and was designed to be. Stiff fines and a slap on the wrist is status quo. For some corporations, it’s a mosquito bite. In an unrelated example,right now, I’m putting this together and shaking my head, as a well known person who completely fabricated an incident at the felony-level was let go on all 16 counts. Literally no explanation, just let go. A two-tiered judicial system. What happened to “If you do the crime, you do the time”? The legal system plays favorites and is corrupt on a lot of levels. They are influenced further by certain “behind the scenes” entities to bring about judicial/legal outcomes that are pretty outrageous. Just a bigger picture of accountability that is expected by all of us, not to mention business. If you or I had done the same thing, you know the outcome.
Facebook could eventually be in peril, despite its current success, valuation, etc., much to the dismay of hard working employees who may have a vision themselves. They may be “all in” and absorbed in the current Facebook culture, but just what is that culture? Is the vision espoused by MZ the best for Facebook, its employees and its followers? Accountability is one of the most admired qualities of a leader. So is integrity. MZ seems to lack both. That should be a red flag for all involved. Documented quotes throughout Facebook’s history reveals a “leader” that thinks a little too highly of himself. The following link is also at the end of this posting with other select links: WikiQuotes – Mark Zuckerberg (link to “Dumb F***s” quote, etc. at top of his WikiQuotes page). Many say that one particular quote will haunt him for a long time. I would say that it is etched-in stone and not going away. That is one of many examples of MZ’s arrogance and lack of leadership attitude that he displays on a regular basis. Whether he is before Congress or talking with the press over allegations of any sort, MZ talks from both sides of his mouth. He would like us to believe that he will changes things. He always says that he will, but never does.
Even as this commentary is released, MZ is hard at work saying all the right things to the media about changes to come, etc. Based on his past comments and a consistent lack of results on promises made, none of us should believe anything he says at this point. He will have to put his money where his mouth is and prove it.
MZ is riding the gravy train and momentum of Facebook with impunity. Even the mighty Facebook has an Achilles’ Heel, maybe multiple Achilles’ Heels. It does not help that the most prominent risk is running the company. In an ideal world, the Board at Facebook would seriously look at their leader and make sure that there is an understanding between them and him. Unless that Board and group of executives signed their lives away to Mark Zuckerberg, they would be able to leverage a sane and responsible approach to their business. As a group of executive leaders, and as a company in general, they could be so much more, but they are not. Can MZ be booted from Facebook? Most corporations have a provision built into the company rules of corporate governance that allows for the forced exiting of a leading executive should the current circumstances warrant it. Was MZ able to insert some kind of clause to prevent that? He sure acts like he did. Here is a link that explains that very topic and why MZ cannot be touched internally right now, while others can get the swift axe from him at any time: No matter how bad things get at Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg will be Chairman for as long as he wants, experts agree . The arrangement has just added more arrogance to someone that was never short on arrogance.
Leadership style and some cleaning up of the internal culture need to happen. But, of course, as explained in the link above, arrangements were made where MZ has complete control, even to the point that if any executive even hints of a focus on needed change and working with MZ on it, or a potential coup, he can kick them out immediately, and they know it. Their hands are tied. “My way or the highway”. That is one of the main reasons why corporate Boards are set up: to prevent unwise and/or impulsive decisions that may impact the company in a negative way. Things are discussed, viewpoints are laid out on the table, and any agreed-upon changes are made, understanding the implications of any unwise moves. Could that policy change at Facebook? Maybe. Changes that occur will more than likely come from outside of the company looking in, and those institutions will have every legal right to address specific issues with MZ and others, when the time comes. And it is rapidly approaching. There have been a few warning shots fired over MZ’s bow fairly recently, the Congressional Hearings in April 2018 and others. Details of those encounters will be provided in the following links below. MZ will no doubt have to “Face” the music in the future many times.
MZ should not be exempt from the typical company rules of corporate governance that help keep companies moving along responsibly. Just because he and his lawyers are legally allowed to add wording that completely keeps him safe, does that make it right to do so? As mentioned, corporate executives and the Boards at other companies are holding themselves to a much higher level of responsibility and integrity. What makes MZ so special? That internal provision designed to protect MZ needs to be changed, and no one, no matter who they think they are, should be above it. Certain areas of corporate law need to be reexamined and updated, and put in place to protect those very corporations, their executive staff, all employees and members of the public joining up on the platforms.
Based on what we have seen so far, there is no way that MZ plans to relinquish his iron grip on Facebook and his vision of No Privacy For All. In the early days of Facebook, MZ alluded that our days of privacy are over, and that could be true, especially for those that have opted in to Facebook. When you consider that there are over 2.2 billion monthly active users on Facebook, that represents approximately one third of the population of the globe. Even if you take into account multiple personal and business accounts, it is very near 2 billion people. If you are reading this now, there is a very high probability that you have an account.
The company has a policy, like many social media platforms, of having default account settings that have all sorts of implications. Unbeknownst to people signing up for the first time, it is very easy for someone signing up to bypass their “security” settings before they get rolling on the site. “I’ll take care of it later”. Especially when you are staring at the obligatory provisions of use/disclaimers of the site that goes on in tiny print for the equivalent of 4-5 pages. Most of the time, “later” never happens. Despite all the money-making reasons that Facebook has behind all of this, it would be refreshing to see these companies incorporate an “opt-in” policy vs. “opt-out”, which is the default setting now for many companies. You have to opt out of analytical functionalities within the platform: advantage company. Also, advantage for any of the third parties that are receiving loads of analytics data on your input, buying preferences, specific location, etc, through Facebook and other social sites. We have been given updates on what our specific personal information is being used for and by whom. But you can be sure that not all of that will be known. So it is a choice you need to make. Chances are very good that your personal data may not be going where you want or expect. Facebook is basically a digital diary of your life. What once used to be a diary or private notebook hidden or locked away somewhere to be pulled-out and written in for inspirational notations and posterity, is now open to the world. We have been so socially engineered that we do not give it a second thought.
Future of Facebook and corporate policy in general/Conclusion
The future of Facebook, as it stands now, is in the hands of Mark Zuckerberg. Don’t expect any significant changes to come through him personally, based on his past activities and overall attitude. There is a much better chance that it will stay the same or get much more interesting.
Regarding corporate policy rulings: It is not happening right away, but I feel confident that a number of far-reaching corporate internal policy rulings will be made on accountability issues and privacy issues for business. Hopefully rulings that will stick.
Note on upcoming related future commentary
Commentary on other technology companies will be coming soon that reveals some similarities to how Facebook is run, regarding privacy issues primarily, but having overall responsible management at the same time. Most, if not all, of the other example companies hold themselves accountable in the boardroom, for starters. Working together as a truly cohesive executive Team is the glue that keeps it all together.
Published September 11, 2018 Mark Zuckerberg’s Truth Problem Fortune.com Commentary on Facebook. Includes 5 minute video of portions of question-grilling by key Congressionals. Fortune.com.
WikiQuotes – Mark Zuckerberg Some choice quotes over the years. See his “Dumb F***s” quote from the early years, at the top of his WikiQuotes page. That quote also referenced in the Fortune.com link directly above.
Published April 5, 2018 How to Prevent a Faltering CEO from Damaging Your CompanyThis link offers some insight into internal dealings with questionable leadership abilities and activities/attitudes by CEO’s. This article is largely focused on companies that did not act in time, but could have. As mentioned previously in this commentary and within links on this posting, Facebook’s situation is a bit different in that other executives and the Board’s hands are tied. A good overview of a typical scenario, however. Strategy+Business.com
March 18, 2019, Düsseldorf, Germany. Cognigy, the market leader in Conversational AI, proudly announced today a strategic addition to their senior management team. Dennis Walsh joins the founding management team of Cognigy as President of its US operations.
Walsh has a deep experience in delivering automation solutions to enterprise organizations. He brings 20 years of high-level performance in the Business Process Automation (BPA) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) markets. Previously, Walsh was President of Redwood Software. There, he built the US and APJ operations and established a highly-successful OEM, reseller relationship with industry giant SAP. Walsh’s experiences also include building sales, marketing, partner and delivery operations at Sitelite, a startup Management Services Provider, as well as sales leadership roles at Tivoli Systems / IBM.
“I’m thrilled to be joining Cognigy at this stage of their growth. They clearly have a superior solution which delivers immediate value to large enterprises”, Walsh said. “Their focus on delivering an open-architected, all-encompassing enterprise solution, where today only departmental solutions exist, is very appealing to CEO’s, CIO’s, CMO’s who wish to realize the potential of Conversational AI in their organizations.
“We couldn’t be more pleased to have Dennis join our team” said co-founders Philipp Heltewig and Sascha Poggemann. “Dennis brings invaluable experience in the BPA and RPA marketplaces along with exceptional management skill and experience which are important for us at this stage of growth in our company”.
Cognigy is a leader in the Conversational AI marketplace. The Cognigy solution delivers an Enterprise Conversational platform enabling organizations to build complex, integrated cognitive bots on a single platform. Their solution helps companies rein in “bot sprawl” and delivers the most advanced level of Natural Language Understanding and enterprise application integration in the industry. Leading companies in the USA and EMEA have standardized on the Cognigy platform to accelerate their adoption of Conversational AI.
Human trafficking is the trade of humans for the purpose of forced labour, sexual slavery, or commercial sexual exploitation for the trafficker or others. This may encompass providing a spouse in the context of forced marriage, or the extraction of organs or tissues, including for surrogacy and ova removal. Human trafficking can occur within a country or trans-nationally. Human trafficking is a crime against the person because of the violation of the victim’s rights of movement through coercion and because of their commercial exploitation. Human trafficking is the trade in people, especially women and children, and does not necessarily involve the movement of the person from one place to another.
Human trafficking has always been a part of society. Slavery, of any type, can be dated back to the establishment of any form of human civilization. It is fair to say that it exists in any major city and many smaller cities and towns, across the globe, right under our noses. It is the advent of various technologies that has brought this issue to the attention of the general public and has allowed governments and specialty organizations to make significant inroads into the freeing of victims and the incarceration of criminals.
Human trafficking: countries of origin and countries of destination
Click to enlarge
I have listed a small sampling of organizations involved with human trafficking below, be it a provider of technology that is currently being used to combat human trafficking, or a provider of direct surveillance and apprehension of criminals involved in this activity. It is the combination of technologies and collaboration of efforts from all parties that is making the difference. Note: I am not implying endorsement or making statements of support for their personal work or their projects.
Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.): As their website main page states, “We exist to rescue children from sex trafficking.” Operation Underground Railroad is a non-profit founded by Tim Ballard which assists governments around the world in the rescue of human trafficking and sex trafficking victims, with a special focus on children. O.U.R. also aids with planning, prevention, capture, and prosecution of offenders, and works with partner organizations for prevention, victim recovery, strengthened awareness, and fundraising efforts. Quite a background story on Tim and the impetus behind this organization.
THORN: Digital Defenders of Children, previously known as DNA Foundation, is an international anti-human trafficking organization that works to address the sexual exploitation of children. The primary programming efforts of the organization focus on Internet technology and the role it plays in facilitating child pornography and sexual slavery of children on a global scale. The organization was founded by American actors Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.
Kutcher speech on human trafficking before Congress:
Blue Campaign (DHS). The Blue Campaign is the unified voice for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) efforts to combat human trafficking. Working in collaboration with law enforcement, government, non-governmental and private organizations, the Blue Campaign strives to protect the basic right of freedom and to bring those who exploit human lives to justice.
Additional organizations involved with Human Trafficking
It is important to verify the legitimacy of any organization that you may want to get involved with. Remember, if there is ever a non-partisan issue that would be considered, this is definitely one of them. Be aware of any potential criminal or political attempt to capture your donations for anything other than the intended use for anti-trafficking causes. This list of organizations is the tip of the iceberg. There is no doubt a solid organization near you, if you want to get involved hands-on. Of course, donations can be made to any organization in any location. Again, all should be vetted first.
As you can see, this is a huge problem globally. This could happen to anyone. The news stories that you have heard over the years of missing people could very well be the victim of human trafficking and are still alive today under duress. With the diligent work of governments, organizations and individuals focused on this issue, as well as prayers from many people, a serious dent is being made to try and bring it to an end.
Technology is both a blessing and a curse for officials fighting against human trafficking.
With the rise of social media and a world growing smaller through communication platforms, alongside the accessibility of online advertisements and encrypted messaging apps, traffickers have a host of technologies at their fingertips to help entrap victims, advertise their services and cover up the trafficker’s own illegal activity.
However, new technologies are becoming increasingly sophisticated and are playing a key role in eliminating human trafficking. Some are used to discover and rescue victims, others to identify networks of perpetrators. Many of these advancements are beginning to empower governments to source the root of trafficking rings and stop the activity at its core. In turn, this puts a new and heavier responsibility onto banks and corporates to innovate and improve their systems to themselves spot any nefarious activity and feed this back into the global effort against trafficking.
At the heart of each case of human trafficking is a victim, but knowing the identity of this victim is difficult. Hundreds of images of abused children are shared online every day – even if all of these are flagged, many will be duplicates of cases that have already been actioned. Understanding whether an image is a duplicate or a new photo – which would require a new response from law enforcement – is difficult as such images are hard to track.
Previously, traffickers wanting to proliferate an image could make small tweaks to it, such as adding marks or a resizing the photo. This creates a distinct image, making it impossible to trace back altered duplicates using traditional methods.
Now, technologies are being used to outsmart traffickers and distinguish new and existing images faster. For example, Microsoft PhotoDNA imposes a fine grid over an image and assigns a numerical value to each square, representing the “hash” – like a DNA signature for the image. Rather than scanning for whole images, the program matches a numerical hash against a database of known illegal images to match duplicate images instantly.
To help law enforcement turn this innovation into positive action, Thorn – a tech start-up founded by Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore to fight child sexual abuse and trafficking – has partnered with Microsoft to allow organisations to add to and access a centralised hash sharing database. New images that have not been hashed are reported as belonging to a new victim – meaning law enforcement is alerted to a new victim sooner. This accelerates victim discovery and therefore, hopefully, rescue.
Preventing victim entrapment
Many perpetrators of modern day slavery use contract substitution to entrap their victims. Recruiters offer a lucrative contract to lure individuals abroad, but this is then reworded – often in a language the victim does not understand. Innovators are hoping that blockchain technology may soon help prevent this deception, if governments were to only issue visas when signed contracts are confirmed by the blockchain as matching those originally provided to the individual.
Traffickers can use technology to obscure their activity, but technology is also revolutionising the way officials are finding criminal networks. The key is joining the dots of information from NGOs, news sources, databases of known traffickers and details available to institutions such as banks.
Traditional human intelligence is gathered on the ground in a particular country by charities, looking at news sources, hearsay and other resources at their disposal. With many charities operating within one country alone, and much trafficking happening between countries, this information often then needs to be shared with governmental and intra-governmental organisations to compile a profile of a trafficker or activity more broadly. This traditional intelligence, however, is usually not enough to rapidly identify a network of traffickers.
Now, institutions like banks are helping combine this human intelligence with innovative technologies which joins the dots of information from these organisations with the bank’s own internal data and other third party sources. Using big data, artificial intelligence software is able to find links between individuals and their transactions, addresses, associates and company ties, alongside a mass of other relevant information which may suggest nefarious activity when seen in its proper context. By resolving these separate entities, AI tech can build a detailed picture of a criminal’s network, putting an individual transaction or relationship in its wider context. Using a combination of human intelligence and digitally compiled insight, organisations can identify traffickers and their connections.
While some technologies are accelerating trafficking, others are vital in tackling against this devastating crime. The combination of human intelligence, artificial intelligence and the sharing of information is starting to pay dividends.
Whether helping to identify victims, preventing them being ensnared or detecting traffickers themselves, innovative technology is helping at every stage of the fight against trafficking, enhancing processes to make every effort more efficient, effective and accurate – and, ultimately, life-saving.
Side note to this article/report by Alexon Bell: I will be following up on the human trafficking issue in the near future with a Commentary. It will include key links to Fact Sheets, Quantexa’s specific involvement, including other organizations on the front lines. You may consider becoming involved (directly, donations to key organizations, etc.), and those sources will be added as well.