WTF, Facebook?

Ken AshfordSocial Media & NetworkingLeave a Comment

Mark Zuckerberg only had to learn one line: “We are aware of the [whatever problem]. It is a serious problem and we are taking every step to ensure that it never happens.”

Seriously, how many times has he said something like this to Congress and the public?  And then he does NOTHING?

NY Times:

For years, Facebook gave some of the world’s largest technology companies more intrusive access to users’ personal data than it has disclosed, effectively exempting those business partners from its usual privacy rules, according to internal records and interviews.

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.

The exchange was intended to benefit everyone. Pushing for explosive growth, Facebook got more users, lifting its advertising revenue. Partner companies acquired features to make their products more attractive. Facebook users connected with friends across different devices and websites. But Facebook also assumed extraordinary power over the personal information of its 2.2 billion users — control it has wielded with little transparency or outside oversight.

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.

\The social network permitted Amazon to obtain users’ names and contact information through their friends, and it let Yahoo view streams of friends’ posts as recently as this summer, despite public statements that it had stopped that type of sharing years earlier.

Facebook has been reeling from a series of privacy scandals, set off by revelations in March that a political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, improperly used Facebook data to build tools that aided President Trump’s 2016 campaign. Acknowledging that it had breached users’ trust, Facebook insisted that it had instituted stricter privacy protections long ago. Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive, assured lawmakers in April that people “have complete control” over everything they share on Facebook.

But the documents, as well as interviews with about 50 former employees of Facebook and its corporate partners, reveal that Facebook allowed certain companies access to data despite those protections. They also raise questions about whether Facebook ran afoul of a 2011 consent agreement with the Federal Trade Commission that barred the social network from sharing user data without explicit permission.

In all, the deals described in the documents benefited more than 150 companies — most of them tech businesses, including online retailers and entertainment sites, but also automakers and media organizations. Their applications sought the data of hundreds of millions of people a month, the records show. The deals, the oldest of which date to 2010, were all active in 2017. Some were still in effect this year.

We have to remember that from Facebook’s perspective, we are the PRODUCT, not the consumer.

And I don’t mind that much. If it means the ads are get on Facebook or elsewhere are more relevant to me, great.

But I am a smart consumer (and not very swayed by ads either). What troubles me is when privacy data is used to manipulate people for monetary — or worse, political — ends.

And I also don’t like lying. Facebook has lied to everyone about what they are sharing about your data with others. That’s horrible.

UPDATE from Politico:

The D.C. attorney general today filed a lawsuit against Facebook for failing to protect user data and allowing political data firm Cambridge Analytica to access personal information, marking the first move by U.S. enforcers to punish the social media giant over the flap.

The lawsuit, filed in D.C. Superior Court, also accuses Facebook of violating D.C.’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act by misleading users on data security, failing to properly monitor third-party apps and failing to disclose the Cambridge Analytica breach, among other issues.

D.C. also aims to make new revelations, made public in a New York Times report last night, that Facebook shared user data with a multitude of other technology companies sometimes without users’ knowledge, part of the lawsuit, Attorney General Karl Racine said on a press call today.

Racine has spoken with his counterparts in a number of states who are interested in probing the same Facebook data concerns, he added, though he couldn’t say whether the legal battle would become a multi-state effort.

“Facebook failed to protect the privacy of its users and deceived them about who had access to their data and how it was used,” Racine said in a statement.

Facebook is already facing federal scrutiny, including an FTC investigation, after reports emerged that Cambridge Analytica, which did work for President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, improperly obtained information on as many as 87 million Facebook users.