March 23, 2019

Barry Lewis: Facebook and the illusion of privacy

16 April 2018, 10:03 | Devin Moran

Facebook is Profiting from Illegal Wildlife Traffickers tweet

Facebook is Profiting from Illegal Wildlife Traffickers

Zuckerberg has defended the company in the past by insisting that Facebook is a platform and not a media company. One of such accusations was the information that Facebook and related companies violate user privacy and listening to conversations, collect all available data about the person.

Because after watching lawmakers fumble their way through the questions they posed to Zuckerberg, who'd swapped his customary hoodie for what appeared to be his dad's suit, it's not clear the majority of them possess the baseline understanding of what Facebook does to responsibly regulate it.

Yet the idea that surveillance is the price we pay for safety has become so commonplace, that most of us hardly think about how that compromises our privacy. Facebook's chief technology officer, Michael Schroepfer, said in an interview on April 5 that pending the results of investigations, "we don't know exactly what they have". The social media company also acknowledged that "malicious actors" scraped information from the public profiles of practically its entire base - more than 2 billion users.

But, ever since the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal surfaced, we were taken into a shock.

The Guardian pointed out the absurdity this way: "Two tweets, one each from Sens".

The Guardian continued: "The pair of Democrats were among the sharpest questioners of Zuckerberg on a day that was long on political theatrics and short on new information". Mr Cole said the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which takes effect in May, will solve some of the problems the Facebook situation revealed. Facebook is simply the one among many companies that follow the similar strategy of tracking the users.

The takeaway buzzword in the hearings, however, was "regulation".

The Moldovan-born Kogan, whose academic career included a stint as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Toronto, later went on to work for Cambridge Analytica, but he told the Times that the information he shared with the controversial data mining firm only comprised names, birthdays, locations and likes - not direct messages. In a rocky interview with Savannah Guthrie of the "Today" show last week, Sheryl Sandberg was asked what product Facebook sells.

But Blumenthal wasn't buying it.

What else are we to think when the terms of service for using Facebook is to hand over your data?

Consumers can strike back at Facebook by simply not using it, which is the case with Susan Sarandon and Will Ferrell, who have joined other celebrities in a growing movement called #DeleteFacebook.

Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, recently noted that the public scrutiny of Facebook is "very much overdue", declaring that "it's shocking to me that they didn't have to answer more of these questions earlier on".

His comment, "It was my mistake, and I'm sorry". But he also dodged some important queries by invoking "his team". The US is still far away from any comprehensive regulation; and with Zuckerberg wriggling out, we will probably have to bear FB for some more time in its present form. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak did that in response to reports that third parties like Cambridge Analytica had picked up data from millions of FB users, and used that to target them for certain political ads. How many fake accounts have been removed? And that means the consent of Facebook users is not informed.

"If you don't want any data to be collected around advertising, you can turn that off and we won't do it", Zuckerberg reiterated.

The bill also received support from Twitter Tuesday, just hours ahead of Zuckerberg's testimony before members of Congress. Google was also asked to support the legislation but has not yet offered an endorsement.

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