How a cow-clicking parody game harvested Facebook user data

Back in 2010, the video-game designer and scholar Ian Bogost created Cow Clicker, a withering satire of Farmville and other clicker games that were, at the time, wildly popular on Facebook. (Wired wrote an excellent story about it, worth reading.)

As he developed Cow Clicker, Bogost quickly discovered something: Facebook gave app developers a lot of data about users. He was able to get each user's unique Facebook ID (Zuckerberg's is"4", as it turns out); and without even him asking for it, Facebook sent him "affiliation" info about users' schools, workplaces, and other organizations they belonged to.

In essence, Facebook at that time outgassed info so readily that it was almost hard to avoid building profiles of people. But of course, it made it insanely easy for something like Cambridge Analytica to happen, as Bogost notes.

He wrote an engrossing piece for the Atlantic about the experience, and it's the best thing I've yet read that walks you through how Cambridge Analytica got its hands on so much data. You hear phrases like "50 million Facebook profiles", but it can seem awfully abstract. When Bogost describes precisely what Facebook offered him as he developed his Facebook game, you understand much more deeply what's at stake.

And of course, as he notes, a) there were oodles of people developing apps and games at that point for Facebook, and b) they probably all still have that data, as he does:

But because I stored the numerical identifiers for user affiliations, I still have them.

Read the rest

Hatred of cowbells is grounds for denial of Swiss passports

Nancy Holten moved to Switzerland 34 years ago as a child, but she's just been denied a Swiss passport because her campaign to end the tradition of Swiss cowbells is "too annoying." Read the rest

This farm animal sanctuary's rotating cow brush is a huge hit

Cows love to rub stuff with their faces and bodies, so lots of farms like the Hof Butenland Foundation install these rotating cow brushes. Rescue cow Paul is no exception. Read the rest