Facebook Violating Your Privacy Is Nothing New


Mark Zuckerberg


Facebook is under heavy scrutiny after reports surfaced that user data had been compromised and used by Cambridge Analytica to target and attempt to influence American voters at the behest of the Trump campaign. But the social media giant has been involved in numerous scandals over the years, and the fact that your data is being sold for political purposes should not be news.

Facebook has been under scrutiny many times over the years. Back in 2011, the FTC and Facebook settled after the commission contended that Facebook, without warning its users or seeking consent, made information public that users had deemed to be private on their Facebook pages. They also accused the company of allowing advertisers to scrape personally identifying information when a user clicked on an advertisement. They accused Facebook of sharing user information with outside developers and retaining user's data, such as photos and videos, even after a user has deleted their account.

The FTC did not levy any fines or accuse Facebook of breaking any laws at the time, and it seems that the agreement had little impact, and nothing changed internally at Facebook.

It has also been revealed since the Cambridge Analytica news broke that in 2012, Facebook allowed the Obama campaign to access the personal data of users because they “supported the Democratic candidate”.

Carol Davidsen, who worked as the media director at Obama for America and has spoken about this in the past, explained on Twitter that she and her team were able to ingest massive amounts of information from the social network after getting permission from Facebook users to access their list of friends.

‘Facebook was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn’t stop us once they realized that was what we were doing,’ wrote Davidsen.

She wrote that, not only did Facebook not try to stop them, but the company said they’d made a special exception for them. ‘They came to office in the days following election recruiting & were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side,’ she tweeted.

The campaign reportedly mined data from 15 million Facebook users, which triggered alarms at the social media giant, but the company always decided that the campaign had not violated its privacy and data rules.

The doublespeak at play here and the just sheer nativity of people is astonishing. What world did you think we live in, where information like this wouldn’t be used in such corrupt ways? One where that much information was being used exclusively for “advertising” and nothing else? And at the time, it was perfectly OK for the Obama campaign to use data mined from social media accounts to target voters. They were open and frank about it. But now that it has been revealed that Trump used similar tactics, people are in an uproar.

Even Elon Musk has gotten in on the action, saying that Facebook gives him “the willies”.

And it gets worse. In 2012, Facebook patented a method of credit assessment that could consider the credit scores of people in your network. The patent describes a tool that arrives at an average credit score for your friends and rejects a loan application if that average is below a certain minimum. The company has since revised its platform policies to prohibit outside lenders from using Facebook data to determine credit eligibility. This is remarkably similar to the technology that is being used in China to develop a “social credit score”.

The real lesson here is that your information should be private. Analyzing your habits while engaging social media and selling that data for profit should be deemed unconstitutional, as it warrants a possible entryway towards violating your fourth and fifth amendment rights. Until that day, guard your information diligently, and pay careful attention to what those “opt-in” checkboxes mean before you blindly click “ok”.

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