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Microsoft Has Your Facebook and Twitter Data, Tightens Relationship With Those Companies

Steve Ballmer as a bird



Summary: The access to data in high traffic sites such as Facebook and Twitter enables Microsoft to suppress opposition and inject its points of view, products, formats, etc.

MICROSOFT is an unpopular company. Its bad reputation is well deserved and earned. About a week ago, people complained in Twitter that Microsoft was harassing them even in their own houses. It was causing a lot of noise and there are other recent incidents we could cite (like trashing/polluting the streets with promotional "MSN" butterflies -- a case in which the local authorities were also called to intervene).



Office drones around Soho's Golden Square have complained to the council about the racket caused by Microsoft's ongoing attempt to attract more users to Hotmail through the medium of dance.


Hotmail is dying, but that's not today's subject.

Back in the old days, controlling the press was easy because the number of channels/newspapers was limited and there was an editorial hierarchy for each publisher. Then came the Internet and blogs. Microsoft has realised that taking down other people's blog posts is something it can manage to do in order to guard a reputation, but keeping track of billions of short messages is nearly impossible. That would be microblogging. So Microsoft signed some deals with Twitter and Twitter's CEO came over to Microsoft a couple of weeks ago. As part of Microsoft's AstroTurfing efforts, its PR department had developed some tools with which to spy on people and observe trends in Twitter. That was a year ago. Microsoft uses Twitter for its AstroTurfing, as we demonstrated in some of the following posts:



Microsoft Nick says that Microsoft has gone further. It developed more tools for use in Twitter:

Microsoft announced the alpha preview of a social-networking initiative, Project Emporia, being developed through its FUSE Labs. The application gives users the ability to browse information on Twitter most relevant to their needs, and refine their experience through a “like/dislike” recommender system. Since its inception in October 2009, FUSE Labs has pursued the development of social connectivity, real-time experiences and rich media software and services.


Another area where Microsoft wants and needs to control minds would be Facebook.

"Facebook Obliterates Rivals in Google List of Top Sites," says one headline from IDG and there are other signs that there is still "mindshare" in that site. To quote Microsoft on "mindshare":

"Mind Control: To control mental output you have to control mental input. Take control of the channels by which developers receive information, then they can only think about the things you tell them. Thus, you control mindshare!"

--Microsoft, internal document [PDF]



Microsoft has already attempted to acquire Facebook. At the moment, Facebook and Microsoft seem to be allies and it's possible that Microsoft will borrow more money and attempt to buy Facebook again.

Zuckerberg already helps Microsoft in many ways (giving them data, Office market share, spreading Silver Lie, etc.) and some days ago we found this new article:

Ballmer on Facebook privacy: Zuckerberg one of 'good guys'



Google and Facebook are the ones grappling with high-profile security and privacy problems these days, but Microsoft has been there before, many times, and the issues were clearly on Steve Ballmer's mind during a talk this past week on the company's Redmond campus.


Of course Microsoft takes Facebook's side. Microsoft too is in the business of profiling people [1, 2, 3]. Facebook has not really changed anything or even apologised since the controversy began. Microsoft supports Facebook's position probably because it continues to receive copies of Facebook's data (the more the merrier -- the same data which made people furious). To quote an article from last week, with emphasis added: "CEO Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook fixing privacy tools"

The latest flap came last month, when Facebook announced new features that send user profile information in bulk to companies such as Microsoft, Yelp and Pandora. That prompted four U.S. senators - led by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. - to demand Facebook pass along data only if users agree to it.


The original article had the title "Facebook simplifies its privacy controls" (but does not actually resolve the issue).

In the case of Twitter, there is a Bing deal that gives Microsoft the company's whole data feed. These companies share their databases. See this recently-leaked Microsoft handbook to find out how it facilitates compliance with government requests for personal data (snoops).

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