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Facebook令人毛骨悚然,但它也很有价值

更新时间:2018-4-18 20:32:28 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Facebook Is Creepy. And Valuable.
Facebook令人毛骨悚然,但它也很有价值

One of the most telling moments in the spectacle of Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony last week was when Representative Billy Long, a Missouri Republican, warned the co-founder of Facebook of what Congress was likely to do about its multiple concerns surrounding the social network. “Congress is good at two things: doing nothing, and overreacting,” he said. After years of the former, he said, “we’re getting ready to overreact.”

上周在马克·扎克伯格(Mark Zuckerberg)出席国会作证的大场面中,最说明问题的时刻之一便是密苏里州共和党众议员比利·朗(Billy Long)警告这位Facebook的联合创始人,基于对社交网络的多重关注,国会可能会做些什么。他说:“国会擅长两件事:无所作为和反应过度。”经历了几年的无所作为,他说,“如今我们已经准备好反应过度。”

That sounds worrisome. But I sympathize. Doing nothing and overreacting make sense when you have no clue of what is going on. And we don’t. The cloud of questions aimed at Mr. Zuckerberg — Is Facebook too dominant? Does it censor information? Whom does it share our data with? Does it help sell OxyContin? — suggests that we don’t really know what the problem with Facebook is. It also suggests we don’t understand what Facebook does.

这听起来令人担忧。但我有同感。如果你完全不知道发生了什么,无所作为和过度反应都是有道理的。而我们确实什么也不知道。围绕扎克伯格的大量问题——Facebook的支配地位是否太强?它是否会审查信息?它与谁共享我们的数据?它帮助销售奥施康定(OxyContin,一种阿片类镇痛药——编注)吗?——表明我们并不真正了解Facebook到底有什么问题。也表明我们并不理解Facebook到底在做什么。

That goes for the entire data-driven ecosystem, from Google to the auto companies riddling your car with sensors that can tell where you’ve been and how fast you got there. And that puts policymakers in an uncomfortable spot.

这种情况适用于整个由数据驱动的生态系统,从谷歌到那些让传感器布满你车子的汽车企业,那些传感器可以知悉你去过哪里,以及你到达那里的速度。这一切让政策制定者感到不安。

The crucial issue for Congress, government regulators, members of the public and even Mr. Zuckerberg is how much all this data-driven stuff is worth to us. What do we stand to lose by, say, sharply limiting the data these companies can collect? What do we stand to gain?

国会、政府监管机构、公众,乃至扎克伯格本人面临的关键问题是,这些数据驱动的东西对我们来说有多么重要。如果严格限制这些公司可收集的数据,我们可能会失去什么?我们可能会获得什么?

As Alessandro Acquisti of Carnegie Mellon University and colleagues put it in a recent paper, the question is “to what extent the combination of sophisticated analytics and massive amounts of consumer data will lead to an increase in aggregate welfare, and to what extent will it lead to mere changes in the allocation of wealth?”

正如卡耐基梅隆大学(Carnegie Mellon University)的亚历山德罗·阿奎斯蒂(Alessandro Acquisti)及同事在近期一篇论文中所说的,问题是“复杂的分析与大量消费者数据的结合将在多大程度上带来总体福利的增加,以及在多大程度上仅仅导致财富分配的变化?”

We don’t know.

我们不得而知。

“We don’t understand the value to us of the new data economy nor the risks it entails,” said Leonard Nakamura, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia who has studied the economic impact of data. “We just let it rip and now are trying to catch up.” Unfortunately, we have only rudimentary tools to measure the good and the bad.

“我们并不了解新数据经济对我们的价值,也不了解它带来的风险,”费城联邦储备银行(Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia)经济学家、研究数据经济影响的莱昂纳多·中村(Leonard Nakamura)表示。“我们只是任其迅速发展,现在试图努力赶上它的步伐。”不幸的是,我们只有非常原始的工具来衡量它的优劣。

As the data-driven economy continues evolving at breakneck speed, catching up may be beyond our reach; we will build the guardrails by trial and error. The risk is that policy will be driven mostly by fear.

随着数据驱动的经济继续以惊人的速度发展,我们可能已经来不及追赶;我们将通过反复试验和出错来为自己构建护栏。风险在于政策将主要由恐惧驱动。

What is the problem with Facebook? Clearly Moscow’s use of the platform to spread fake news and warp the 2016 elections is one problem. Allowing data from tens of millions of users to flow, without their knowledge, to a political consultancy working for Donald Trump is another.

Facebook到底出了什么问题?显然,莫斯科利用这个平台传播假新闻,影响2016年大选结果是其中之一。它允许数千万用户的数据在用户本人不知情的情况下,流向一家为唐纳德·特朗普工作的政治咨询机构,这是另一个问题。

But the raw business models of the colossi of the data economy are creepy in and of themselves. Start with the sheer scale of personal data scooped up by Facebook, often without users’ knowledge. The platform not only harvests the data you share with the platform, but also collects information about you from the files of other Facebook users you know. It buys data about your offline lives from data brokers — including sensitive stuff like your income and the credit cards you own. And testifying in the House, Mr. Zuckerberg admitted that Facebook sucks up information about people who are not even on Facebook, so it can aim ads at them.

但这一数据经济巨头的原始商业模式本身就令人毛骨悚然。首先,Facebook往往在用户不知情的情况下挖掘的个人数据规模之大。该平台不仅获得你与平台共享的数据,还会从你认识的其他Facebook用户的文件中收集你的信息。它从数据掮客那里购买关于你的线下生活的数据,包括收入和你名下的信用卡等敏感信息。扎克伯格在众议院作证时承认,Facebook甚至获取了根本没有使用Facebook的人的信息,以便将广告有针对性地投放给他们。

Mr. Zuckerberg noted that this data is what makes Facebook valuable for its advertisers and its users, enabling the network to offer them only relevant ads. But it also gives it inordinate power over people’s lives. It wouldn’t be impossible, for instance, to use Facebook’s sophisticated models to send a deluge of ads for weight-loss pills to overweight teenagers with a fragile self-image. We know that Facebook can determine, and manipulate, its users’ emotional states.

扎克伯格指出,这些数据令Facebook对它的广告客户以及它的用户很有价值,使其能够只提供与他们相关的广告。但它也对人们的生活施加了过度的权力。例如,使用Facebook的复杂模型,向超重及自我感觉脆弱的青少年投放大量减肥药广告,这是有可能办到的。我们知道Facebook可以搞清并操纵用户的情绪状态。

Data can also be deployed for virtual redlining. And what about price discrimination? Amazon and others have already experimented with mining our data to charge “personalized” prices for a given item — the maximum price each of us is willing to pay — a practice that can leave many consumers worse off.

数据也可以被用来搞虚拟信贷歧视。那么差别定价呢?亚马逊和其他公司已经开始尝试挖掘我们的数据,对特定商品收取“个性化”价格——也就是我们所有人愿意支付的最高价格——这种做法可能会让许多消费者更吃亏。

But policy cannot be determined only by the potential creepiness of what corporate America might do with our data. Maybe perfect price discrimination will never take off because consumers don’t like it.

但是,政策不能仅仅由美国企业可能对我们的数据所做的潜在阴暗行为来决定。也许精确的差别定价永远不会出现,因为消费者不喜欢它。

Indeed, it is unclear to what extent consumers are repelled by any of this. Though surveys repeatedly find that Americans are concerned about their privacy, they rarely take action to stop cookies and other tools deployed to gather their data — leading scholars to coin the term “privacy paradox.” As Sinan Aral of the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has noted, “Lots of the things that depend on ads we want as public goods.”

事实上,目前还不清楚消费者对它们的排斥程度。尽管调查一再表明美国人关心自己的隐私,但他们却很少采取行动,阻止用于收集数据的cookie和其他工具——这一领域的重要学者造出“隐私悖论”这个词来描述这种现象。麻省理工学院斯隆管理学院(Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology)的斯南·阿拉尔(Sinan Aral)指出:“很多依赖于广告的东西是我们视为公共物品所需要的。”

Critically, to regulate the data-enabled world, we must first figure out what we stand to lose if the data goes uncollected. For instance, research found that privacy rules introduced by the European Union in the 1990s reduced the effectiveness of online advertising. What, then, is the social cost?

至关重要的是,为了规范由数据支持的世界,我们必须先弄清楚,如果不收集数据,我们会失去什么。例如,研究发现,欧盟在上世纪90年代实行的隐私规定降低了在线广告的有效性。那么,它的社会成本又会是什么呢?

Mr. Nakamura and two colleagues at the Bureau of Economic Analysis calculated how much of the nation’s gross domestic product came from the “free” digital economy powered by advertising that drives Facebook’s and Google’s business. From 1995 to 2005, they found, it added 0.07 percentage points to the economy’s annual growth rate. From 2005 to 2015, it added 0.11 percentage points.

中村和经济分析局(Bureau of Economic Analysis)的两名同事算出了美国的多少国内生产总值来自广告驱动的“免费”数字经济——Facebook和谷歌的运营靠的正是这些广告。他们发现,从1995年到2005年,它为美国经济的年增长率增加了0.07个百分点。从2005年到2015年,它增加了0.11个百分点。

But this must understate the data economy’s contribution to our well-being. Facebook is an immensely valuable mode of communication and interaction for two billion people around the world. The company has published in-house research suggesting that people who do lots of sharing on the social network are happier and healthier.

但这应该是低估了数据经济给我们的生活康乐做出的贡献。对世界各地的20亿人来说,Facebook是极具价值的交流和互动模式。该公司发表的内部研究表明,在社交网络上进行大量分享的人更快乐、更健康。

Facebook’s advertising tools — the ones that use your data to figure out whether you should see an ad from the small shop in Connecticut that sells organic yarn — provide mom-and-pop operations with cost-effective marketing opportunities once reserved for large corporations.

Facebook的广告工具为小本经营的商家提供了划算的营销机会,过去只有大公司才有这种机会。这些工具利用你的数据来判断你是否应该看到康涅狄格州一个卖有机纱线的小商店的广告。

More broadly, Mr. Nakamura points out, the online economy powered by data collection and advertising is improving welfare in a way not properly captured in standard measures of economic output. This includes reams of “free” music and the potential benefits from the artificial intelligence that will be trained using personal data. The consumer surplus — the benefit that we get from a good or service above and beyond the price we pay for it — is bigger than it ever was. And it will grow further.

中村指出,从更广泛的角度来看,以数据收集和广告为动力的网络经济正在改善民众的福利,而这一点在经济产出的标准衡量方式中没有得到充分体现。这包括大量的“免费”音乐以及经过个人数据训练的人工智能的潜在益处。消费者顺差指的是我们从那些实际价值超出我们支付的价格的商品或服务中获得的益处。目前的消费者顺差超过以往任何时候,而且还会进一步增长。

And yet if this sounds like an argument against touching the data-driven digital economy with even the slightest regulation, it is not. Worries that Facebook and some of its brethren may have become large enough to squelch innovation are legitimate. So are suspicions that it plays fast and loose with consumer data.

这听起来像是在主张对数据驱动的数字经济完全不加监管,但实际上不是。人们有理由担心Facebook和它的一些同行可能已经非常强大,足以压制创新。也有理由怀疑它随意处置消费者数据。

Regulations to curb the power of the digital behemoths — say, barring them from buying up rising companies like Instagram and WhatsApp that might threaten their dominance in the future — make sense. So do policies that ensure responsible stewardship of the data they gather.

我们有理由去监管、限制数字巨头们的力量,比如,禁止他们收购Instagram和WhatsApp等可能威胁它们未来主导地位的新兴公司。我们也有理由制订政策,确保它们对自己收集的数据进行负责任的管理。

”I don’t think the right policy position is to totally eliminate the business model, but instead to introduce some restraint,” said Terrell McSweeny, the lone Democrat on the Federal Trade Commission. “The idea is to give people more control over the uses of their data and ensure companies are responsible for what is happening to it.”

“我认为,正确的政策立场不应该是完全取消这种商业模式,而应该是进行一些限制,”联邦贸易委员会(Federal Trade Commission)中唯一的民主党人特雷尔·麦克斯威尼(Terrell McSweeny)说。“目的是让人们对自己数据的使用有更多的控制权,确保公司负责任地使用数据。”

Summoning Mr. Zuckerberg to testify suggests that Congress is no longer happy doing nothing. Hopefully, it can do better than simply overreact to its fears.

传唤扎克伯格作证表明,国会不再满足于什么都不做。希望它的举措不要只是对自己的恐惧做出过度反应而已。

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