Short stories and essays by Shaun Costello, as well as excerpts from manuscripts in progress.

HUFFINGTON POST’S INFO GRAB CONTINUES

 

AriannaMark

LIKE TWO PEAS IN A POD

Like Bogart and Bacall. Like Gable and Lombard.

Like Madonna and the NBA.

Arianna and Mark – together at last. And the cash keeps flowing.

As a long time reader and commenter on Huffington Post, I was surprised when, in December of 2013, my comments were no longer welcome. Instead, I was told that I needed to sign back in to my Huffington Post account through Facebook. The reason given was that Huff Post needed to verify my identity. After several years as a commenter, Huff Post needed to know who I was. Of course the stench of this deceit was obvious to anyone with any sense at all. Huffington Post had gone into the information business – mine, yours, anyone’s.

By signing in to Huff Post through Facebook, all of the personal information stored in my Facebook account would now be available to Huff Post. Included in this information of course, would be all the personal information stored in the accounts of all those who are on my Facebook friends list. Your Facebook account, in terms of the personal information stored in it, is like a little Ponzi Scheme, with you at the top of the pyramid, and the rest of the structure built from the information about all those on your FB friends list. This pyramid of personal data is available to any opportunistic FB advertiser whose despicable but effective method includes: Click “Like” if you like kittens. Of course, naïve Facebook members who click “Like” are now going to be hounded by the advertiser, who, if they had looked closely enough, turns out to be a pet food and services company who now has, not only all the personal information in their FB account, but all the personal information from all the people on their FB friends list. This is why Mark Zuckerberg is a billionaire, folks. And why YOU are NOT.

OK, back to my battle with Huff Post. Feeling a sense of righteous indignation, I contacted Huffington Post to complain about my dilemma, and their preposterous info grab. I sent off two emails, one to the normal channels for reader complaint, and the other to Arianna Huffington directly. Arianna, to her credit, has responded in the past to my emails. Not this time – there was no response. After a week or so of Huff Post’s silence, I noticed an additional possibility to address my frustration. Listed among contact possibilities was DIRECTOR OF COMMUNITY. So I sent off an email to this personage, and got a response that very day.

His name was Tim McDonald, Huffington Post’s Director of Community. He seemed reasonable enough, even though he vehemently denied that Huff Post was collecting personal information through Facebook that it would later market in the great, world-wide, internet information bazaar. For the purpose of full disclosure dear reader, I am going to paste in here, my entire correspondence with Mr. McDonald – from my very first plea for reinstatement, to our dubious final agreement that Mr. McDonald himself would personally see to my identity verification without going through the farce of the Facebook revelation which, of course, he never really did. As I assemble this chronicle of complaint, it is Wednesday January 15th, and I still can not comment on Huffington Post. I am no longer a welcome participant in Huff Post’s public dialogue. No, I am cast out into the darkness, a leper without portfolio, because I dared to suggest that Huffington Post was selling information it collects through the naiveté of it’s readership. So here is my correspondence with Mr. McDonald. You, dear reader, should judge this farce for yourselves. You, members of Arianna Huffington’s wretched refuse, are a jury of peers. Read, and judge accordingly:   

     

Shaun Costello

Shaun Costello

December 16,2013

I am a long-time reader and commenter on Huffpost, but can no longer comment and refuse to give up the personal information of many people who have trusted me with it. You can no longer comment on an article on Huffpost unless you verify your ID through Facebook, which automatically releases all the personal information stored in your Facebook account to Huffpost. In so doing you are also releasing to Huffpost all of the personal information of everyone on your Facebook friends list. This is just an attempt by Huffpost to create a bigger archive of personal informarion which Huffpost has every intention of marketing. I lodged a complaint with Huffpost, and CC’d the complaint to Arianna huffington by email. She has responded to my emails in the past. Let’s see what happens. Huffpost used to be the good guys, but they are quickly becoming internet Nazis. It’s been a week now, and no response from Huffpost.

Tim McDonald

Tim McDonald

December 16, 2013
Shaun,

I understand your concerns with privacy and want to assure you that at HuffPost we are just as committed as ever to protect it. Nothing in our privacy agreement has changed. The message you see about access to friends lists, etc., is something we are required to disclose by Facebook. The information we use (Name and verified account token) comes from accessing their data that contains the rest. We don’t pull this other information into our database and we do not disclose any information other than your name (first and last or first and last initial).
I hope you see we are just as concerned with your privacy as you are.
Tim McDonald
Director of Community
Shaun Costello

Shaun Costello

December 16, 2013
Tim,
Are you telling me that no personal information acquired by Huffpost from Facebook in the verification process, other than my first and last name, will be used, disseminated, sold, marketed, used in marketing studies, used to test trends, used in media traffic studies, or used in or sold to any media now known or later to be discovered, now or at any time in the future? Do you take personal responsibility in guaranteeing Huffington Post’s adherence to that guarantee? Will you actually sign your name to it?
Tim McDonald

Tim McDonald

December 16, 2013
Shaun,
I can not promise that. One, I am not in a position to do so and two, because we would never say at any time in the future.
Shaun Costello

Shaun Costello

December 16, 2013
Tim,
On one hand you’re firmly asserting that Huffington Post does not upload any of the peripheral information made available by Facebook, such as personal information about me or anyone on my Facebook friends list. Yet, on the other hand, you can not guarantee what Huffington Post might do with this information in the future. Of course you’re in no position to guarantee Huffington Post’s policies or agenda. I think I can safely assume that you are not a majority share holder. But it IS your responsibility as Huffington Post’s Director of Community, to assuage the fears that might exist in the minds of Huffington Post’s readers, regarding their privacy. Your initial response to my questions regarding the Facebook verification process was that Huffington Post does not actually upload the peripheral information provided by Facebook, only the first and last name and possible middle initial, yet when pressed to guarantee that Huffington Post would not use that peripheral information to some purpose in the future, you could make no such guarantee. This suggests that this peripheral information, while not initially used by Huffington Post, is stored in some way for possible use at some time in the future. This is hardly a guarantee of privacy. Based on what you have said, I can only suggest that I would like to continue to comment on Huffington Post’s articles, as I have done for years, but I can not, in good conscience, release to Huffington Post information now stored on Facebook’s data base, that Huffington Post might put to some purpose, at some time in the future. The ball, as they say Tim, is in your court.
Best regards,
Shaun Costello
Tim McDonald

Tim McDonald

December 16, 2013
Shaun,
If you give me (not our tech team) a link to  your account and your name matches Shaun Costello and you are ok with displaying Shaun C. next to your comments, I can have it done manually, but it may take some time. I can personally guarantee that I will not share your Facebook account with anyone but will keep a link on file. We will not have access to any information that you do not make public on FB.
Shaun Costello

Shaun Costello

December 16, 2013
Tim,
I will give you this link in good faith:
https://www.facebook.com/XXXXXXXXXX (I assume this is the link that you need)
But my main concern is the information that Huffington Post will receive from every person on my Facebook friends list. This was the diabolical genius of Mark Zuckerberg that made him a billionaire, the information flow through friends and “likes” that his codes provided to naive users, most of whom still remain ignorant of what happens when they click “Like”. I’m grateful for your efforts on my behalf, but still concerned about what will happen eventually with all of this information.
Tim McDonald

Tim McDonald

December 16, 2013
Shaun,
That’s all I need. Are you OK with having Shaun C. displayed next to you user name? What is your current HP username? And lastly, is this the email you use to login to HP?  Nothing will change on your account except the addition of your name, and the ability to comment. We will access no information from FB about you or your friends.

Shaun Costello

Shaun Costello

December 16, 2013
My user name is Shaun Costello. I have never hidden behind an alias. Thanks Tim
I hope Arianna knows and appreciates your value.
Tim McDonald

Tim McDonald

December 16, 2013
Thank you. Do you want first and last name or just first and last initial?

This may take a while with many of our tech team on holiday until the new year. I’ll see how fast I can get it done.
Shaun Costello

Shaun Costello

December 16, 2013
First and last name please. Thanks Tim
Tim McDonald

Tim McDonald

December 16, 2013
Thank you. Appreciate you reaching out.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
So, that’s it – the correspondence in it’s entirety. As of today, Wednesday January 15, 2014, my situation with Huffington Post remains the same. I remain an outcast. I can not comment. I am one of Arianna’s UNPERSONS.  Do I think Mr. McDonald was devious? No, I believe he was well-intentioned. If I were to venture a guess, I would suggest that Mr. McDonald, while attempting to rectify my dilemma, brushed sleeves with members of Huffington Post’s legal team, who promptly admonished his sincere attempt to help a reader, rapped him on the knuckles, told him to never correspond with this ungrateful slob again, and sent him back to his office, having been properly corrected.
And so it goes. My faith in Arianna Huffington and her once-extraordinary web post is tarnished, at best. Like Google, and other web venues, whose success has turned their once-great and probably still-valued services into nothing more than greedy info-merchants, Huffington Post joins the phalanx of internet bottom feeders, who prey on the naiveté and ignorance of world-wide web users. Mark Zuckerberg’s Ponzi stratagem has made him a Billionaire many times over. And Arianna Huffington, who once seemed to stand for something admirable,  is instead well on her way to that cozy oceanfront  abode in The Hamptons, that will be built, brick by brick, on information bought and sold, and, on advice of counsel, eternally denied.

Keep SHAUN COSTELLO’S BLOG up and running.
Creating and maintaining this BLOG is time
consuming. If you like what you’ve been reading,
please help me keep it going.
DONATE ANY AMOUNT Through PAYPAL at:
*

8 responses

  1. Shaun,
    We ended up encountering this to be a being tech fix than expected. We are still working on it but I don’t have a scheduled time yet. You have given us what we need and will be one of the ones approved once we are able to do so. Thanks for your patience.

    January 15, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    • Tim, do you really think that I believe your email to be purely coincidental, having one hour ago posted my response to my treatment by Huffpost on my Blog? As John McEnroe has said so often, “You can’t be serious.”

      January 15, 2014 at 12:59 pm

  2. Steve Kauffman

    Way to go Shaun! People talk about this issue all the time, but at least you tried to fight back!

    Best.

    Steven Kauffman, Esq., CPA Kauffmansports.com 310-804-8677 cell

    >

    January 15, 2014 at 1:14 pm

  3. Spy Games, soon you need to report and share your underwear size to get anywhere.

    January 16, 2014 at 1:22 pm

  4. I too have been exiled and like you I used my real name already. My sin is I don’t have or want a Facebook account. When did AOL become a Facebook property and if they didn’t how can they require affiliation with a non AOL entity to use there content? Perhaps Facebook pays them by the head. I deleted my account and moved on, I hope many others do the same. Goodbye HUFF.

    January 18, 2014 at 7:38 pm

  5. Absurdist

    I got pissy about it myself, but mostly because I wasn’t on Facebook to begin with, so I just said fuck it and let Arianna do what she wanted to do. I am not getting sucked into facebook just to comment at HuffPo (or anywhere else that’s switched to facebook commenting walls).

    January 23, 2014 at 2:58 am

  6. My spouse and I stumbled over here by a different web address and thought I might check
    things out. I like what I see so now i am following you.
    Look forward to finding out about your web page again.

    August 3, 2014 at 6:19 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 592 other followers