Trust us, Facebook says

Trust us, Facebook says

Trust us, Facebook says

Poor Facebook. The social media giant can’t seem to stay out of hot water these days.Once again FB is making headlines and not in a good way. In the latest of a long line of complaints against the company, FB allegedly shared much more user data with companies like Spotify and Netflix than previously admitted. Despite all this, wunderkind Mark Zuckerberg keeps telling us we have nothing to worry about where his platform is concerned. Riiiight.

Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, Director of Developer Platforms and Programs for Facebook, penned a blog post yesterday trying to “clear up a few things”.  Specifically, this was FB’s attempt to respond to a New York Times article detailing how FB allowed its so-called partners access to user personal information. Remember, this was after Zuckerberg and others assured not only FB users but Congress that it was not trying to silence conservative voices on the platform or violating privacy rights of its users.

According to the Times:

The special arrangements are detailed in hundreds of pages of Facebook documents obtained by The New York Times. The records, generated in 2017 by the company’s internal system for tracking partnerships, provide the most complete picture yet of the social network’s data-sharing practices. They also underscore how personal data has become the most prized commodity of the digital age, traded on a vast scale by some of the most powerful companies in Silicon Valley and beyond. . .

Facebook allowed Microsoft’s Bing search engine to see the names of virtually all Facebook users’ friends without consent, the records show, and gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read Facebook users’ private messages.”

Think about that for a moment. A search engine could not only see your FB data but that of your friends. Other companies, and who knows how many, had the ability to read our private messages. It is one thing for the government to be able to access that information by getting the appropriate warrants. But for a company to have access to that information and without any sort of oversight is chilling. If it isn’t, it should be.

Remember, Zuckerberg told Congress earlier this year that Facebook doesn’t “sell” user data. The New York Times notes that, while technically true, “for years it has struck deals to share the information with dozens of Silicon Valley companies.” Deals. Hmm, wanna bet there wasn’t one form of compensation exchanged between the parties?

Other highlights from the NYT article include:

  1. Facebook’s largest partners got far more access than Cambridge Analytica did–“The Times’s investigation reveals that Facebook continued to give huge tech companies, including Microsoft and Amazon, access to much more: the data of hundreds of millions of people a month, including email addresses and phone numbers — without users’ knowledge or consent.”
  2. Facebook never directly told users that it was sharing this data–or that it was doing so with more than 150 companies. “While Facebook users can control what data they share with most of the thousands of apps on Facebook’s platform, some companies had access to users’ data even if they had disabled all sharing.”
  3. Facebook was sloppy–In other words, FB allowed these companies access to our private data and then did little, if anything, to keep track of how that data was being used. They didn’t care, not as long as it benefitted the company.
  4. Regulators let it happen–this despite the fact FTC regulations would have invalidated many, if not all, of the data sharing agreements. FB, of course, says there was an exception to the rules that allowed this action.

Even as it admits to giving companies access to our private data, Facebook isn’t apologizing. Which brings us back to the blog post by Papamiltiadis.

To put it simply, this work was about helping people do two things. First, people could access their Facebook accounts or specific Facebook features on devices and platforms built by other companies like Apple, Amazon, Blackberry and Yahoo. These are known as integration partners. Second, people could have more social experiences – like seeing recommendations from their Facebook friends – on other popular apps and websites, like Netflix, The New York Times, Pandora and Spotify.

To be clear: none of these partnerships or features gave companies access to information without people’s permission, nor did they violate our 2012 settlement with the FTC.”

See what he did there. Not only did he deny any responsibility by FB, he put the blame on not only the companies it worked with but on FB users themselves. We didn’t do it. YOU gave permission to THEM. Except he seems to forget that FB had to offer, or at least agree, to giving them the access before the agreements between the companies were signed. As my grandfather from Oklahoma would say, “that dog don’t hunt.” You can’t pass the blame when you were one of the originators of the plan to data mine our information.

Oh, he does his best to put a good spin on what happened. Good spin for FB, that is. If you read the post, you can see how it went through the lawyers as well, just to make sure FB is covered. No matter how you spin it, it comes down to one simple thing. FB put expansion and profits over customer security yet again. It would do much better by simply admitting it screwed up. Instead, we once more have Zuckerberg and his employees doing their song-and-dance of non-apology and blame passing.

How long can this continue? How long will the Feds, not to mention FB’s users, allow it to continue? This is far from the first time FB has found itself in hot water. Just this year, we’ve had the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress, Sandberg’s congressional testimony, a security breach in September that impacted as many as 30 million users, and much more.

Yet we are supposed to trust FB to police itself and accept its assurances that it isn’t trying to mute, if not completely silence, conservative voices on its platform. This despite “Facebook’s efforts to control public dialogue around the numerous problems on its social network.” Remember, they will give others access to your data but heaven forbid you see or read something they don’t deem proper.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, does tell us the company must do more to protect its users. But, upon closer examination, it isn’t to protect us against abuses by her own company. Oh no, it is going to protect us from disinformation.

Facebook is committed to working with leading U.S. civil rights organizations to strengthen and advance civil rights on our service,” Sandberg wrote on her Facebook page. “They’ve raised a number of important concerns, and I’m grateful for their candor and guidance. We know that we need to do more: to listen, look deeper and take action to respect fundamental rights.”

I guess she doesn’t include privacy as one of those fundamental rights, at least not when it comes to her employer. But then, that probably doesn’t worry them nearly as much as the calls coming from various civil rights organizations for Zuckerberg, Sandberg and the entire board to step down.

The time has come for Facebook users to not only think carefully before hitting the enter button on status updates and even private messages but to carefully read the terms of use, community standards and every thing else that deals with the company. Remember, even if you have your security set for no sharing, FB can and does override it.

Facebook needs oversight. Until that happens, we must take any and all steps possible to protect our privacy and our data. For now, Facebook gets an “F” for customer protection.

 

Featured image via Pixabay under Creative Commons licensing.

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2 Comments
  • GWB says:

    In the latest of a long line of complaints against the company, FB allegedly shared much more user data with companies like Spotify and Netflix than previously admitted.
    This is why I don’t log into anything using FB credentials. (I do have an account, inactive, for a virtual world presence I had. I don’t have one for me. And I only ever logged into FB in a “private” browser window.)

    And I will agree with Papa Matilda on one thing: the users HAVE done it to themselves.
    If you give it more than 5 minutes critical thought, it’s obvious that you’ll be giving up a lot of your personal information when signing up for social media. It relies on it. And you’re not paying anything – how is it supposed to pay for all the electrons you’re burning through?

    But people simply jumped on the bandwagon and away they went, throwing out their personal information like they were beads at Mardi Gras. *smh*

    Oh, and people LOVE logging into totally unrelated sites with their FB credentials. Did you seriously think FB was not watching everything you did on that site?

    None of that makes the snake oil salesmen less fraudulent. But only the high level of gullibility in our current society make them viable.

  • Scott says:

    Facebook was started as a way to rate women on a college campus, Zuckerberg has been just that kind of scum since day one, anyone who is on facebook, by default supports the leftist agenda, and encourages this kind of dissemination of personal info. If you care at all about this country, and your own security, DO NOT USE Facebook!

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