Had Enough Of Facebook’s Duplicity And Incompetence?
The fat has been in the fire since March 16, 2018, when it was revealed that Facebook allowed the private data of some 50 million Americans to fall into the hands of a British data analytics firm hired by Trump’s presidential campaign to predict how people would vote. Here are just a few highlights of the outrage that ensued and is still building…
Is Facebook Selling YOU?
Facebook’s stock price plummeted by 13 percent during the week of March 19 to 24. On Monday, the 26th, the stock price took another 6 percent nose-dive. Facebook stockholders (CEO Mark Zuckerberg chief among them) have collectively lost tens of billions of dollars as a result.
Apple CEO Tim Cook told a Chinese forum that Facebook’s data breach is “so dire” that it warrants government regulation of the entire tech community. Bloomberg reported, “Cook called for ‘well-crafted’ regulations that prevent the information of users being put together and applied in new ways without their knowledge....”
The Federal Trade Commission announced it is opening a non-public investigation to determine whether Facebook violated a consent decree that it signed with the FTC in 2011. That settlement arose from Facebook’s false and misleading statements to the public that their private data was being kept private, while at the same time Facebook changed its byzantine policies and terms of service so that less user data was private.
Part of the consent decree requires Facebook to submit to regular audits of it privacy policies and practices for the next 20 years - until 2031! But the company still managed to let one person steal the private data of 50 million.
The New York Times broke this story on Friday, March 16. The “Grey Lady” reported that one man scraped data from the profiles of millions of Facebook users without their permission. He later “sold it to upstart political intelligence research firm Cambridge Analytica, which happened to need exactly that sort of data trove to make the “psychographic” predictive software it had developed and sold to political campaigns actually work. (Whether or not it actually works is still an open question.)
Dirty Feet and a Lack of Transparency
Far from being transparent and cooperative with investigators of this international scandal, Facebook stonewalled the NYT to the bitter end, then suddenly started acting as if it had discovered the breach on its own and publicly disclosed it voluntarily; quoting the NYT:
During a week of inquiries from The Times, Facebook downplayed the scope of the leak and questioned whether any of the data still remained out of its control. But on Friday, the company posted a statement expressing alarm and promising to take action.”
That statement begins with the absurdity, “The claim that this is a data breach is completely false” and gets more surreal from there with each new defiantly self-exculpatory paragraph.
But by March 25, no doubt goaded by his plummeting net worth, Mark Zuckerberg was running a full-page ad in seven British newspapers and three American ones apologizing for the “breach of trust.” In a blatant case of throwing himself on the mercy of the court of public opinion, he wrote, “We have a responsibility to protect your information. If we can’t, we don’t deserve it.”
Newsflash, Mark: Facebook never deserved the keys to my head and never will! As Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “I will not allow anyone to walk through my mind with their dirty feet,” and Facebook’s are the filthiest of all.
The Solution is a Two-Edged Sword
The Electronic Frontier Foundation published its solution to the problem of Facebook’s muddy trampling through your secret desires and fears: effectively, a lobotomy. The EFF said first,
“The scale of this violation of user privacy reflects how Facebook's terms of service and API (Application Programming Interface) were structured at the time. Make no mistake: this was not a data breach. This was exactly how Facebook's infrastructure was designed to work.”
Then it provided step-by-step instructions for disconnecting your Facebook account from the Facebook API. That API is the software that handles requests from others’ software for information stored on Facebook’s unimaginably huge data server farm - information about you and 2 billion other users.
But cutting yourself out of the API’s realm of influence has profound effects.
First, no more data miners disguised as mindless entertaining quizzes, games, and so on. Those apps that people love to share with friends depend upon the API; they cannot touch you if you are not connected to the API.
But other parts of Facebook also depend upon the API. I tried Facebook sans API, and Facebook was infinitely more broken than usual. I switched the API back on after six hours of intense frustration.
This article from Vox explains in greater detail how the data was extracted from Facebook, and raises questions about whether the "psychographic personality modeling" powers claimed by Cambridge Analytica are science or snake oil. Regardless, it's very troubling that this trove of data collected by Facebook was so easily obtained, and so widely disseminated.
This is the devil’s bargain we have made with Zuckerberg: our fleeting, illusory pleasure in exchange for the keys to the buttons that can make us angry, sad, happy, greedy -- or more inclined to vote a certain way.
The EFF’s flawed solution is for you to stay on Facebook but make it virtually unusable. It would be far easier and less painful to simply stop using Facebook. You can stop using Facebook any time you wish, right? RIGHT? (Mark Twain is credited with saying "Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I've done it thousands of times.")
The solution tentatively broached by Tim Cook is to unbundle the pleasure from the peril, to force Facebook (and Google, and Twitter, et. al.) to let users use their services without giving up the keys to their minds, hearts, and souls. This “well crafted” regulation would have to be enforced with utmost rigor and draconian penalties for deliberate evasions. Zuckerberg’s net worth would be no more than yours or mine if every penny of Facebook’s profits were forfeited for a year with each repetition of this sordid, outrageous, disingenuous scandal.
Our dully (sic) elected lawmakers are leaning in that direction ever so slightly. I suggest that you contact your Congresscritters and give them a powerful shove. Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 27 Mar 2018
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Had Enough Of Facebook’s Duplicity And Incompetence? (Posted: 27 Mar 2018)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved