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The Biggest Lesson For Facebook Is That Users Are Not Guinea Pigs

Facebook has promptly introduced changes to its privacy policy

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Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO reaches out to Microsoft President for help: Report. Flickr

A couple of months back, when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was asked if users data on his platform was at risk, he unambiguously said ‘No, adding that there was no way the data of his users could be breached or “improperly shared” on a massive scale.

The Cambridge Analytica data scandal proved him wrong — and then, under intense media scrutiny, a couple of late admissions about users’ personal data being accessed by third parties revealed that all was not well behind the firewalls and Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven systems at Facebook.

Fresh reports surfaced last week that Facebook provided select companies “customised data-sharing deals” that let them gain “special access to user records”.

Another media report exposed how the social network allowed about 60 device makers, including Chinese smartphone players, access personal information of users and their friends. Facebook later admitted sharing users’ data with Chinese company Huawei, along with three other China-based smartphone makers — Lenovo, OPPO and TCL.

The bare fact is that the 2.19 billion monthly active users (217 million in India) on Facebook constitute the world’s biggest marketplace and the mining of personal data drives profits for both the social media giant and its advertisers.

In 2017, the social media network’s advertising revenue grew strongly at 49 per cent to reach $39.9 billion.

Facebook’s mobile advertising revenue represented approximately 91 per cent of advertising revenue for the first quarter of 2018 — up from approximately 85 per cent of advertising revenue in the first quarter of 2017.

The plain truth is that advertisers need a constant flow of data for a targeted, customised approach to reach a bigger audience. Facebook has a vast pool of data that, when curated into specific data sets, helps push ads according to various age and other groups.

Last year, a confidential 23-page Facebook document prepared by the company’s two top Australian executives outlined how the social network can target “moments when young people need a confidence boost” in pinpoint detail.

Facebook mobile app
Facebook mobile app, Pixabay

Facebook collected the information on a person’s moods — including feeling “worthless”, “overwhelmed” and “nervous” — and then divulged the same to advertisers who used it to target them.

The company later admitted it was wrong to target children and apologised. “We have opened an investigation to understand the process failure and improve our oversight. We will undertake disciplinary and other processes as appropriate,” a Facebook spokeswoman told The Australian newspaper.

It will, thus, be naïve to think that Facebook was completely caught off-guard when it came to knowing about users’ data being used for various purposes, including political gain during elections.

All is not, however, yet lost for Facebook when it comes to showing respect for the humongous data it has.

While apologies are being written every other day – including “we are learning from our mistakes” – a humble admission that every bit of users’ data was sacrosanct, was not up for sale or to be shared with third parties should have come first.

Then comes the second part: Looking at how other tech companies like Microsoft or Apple are holding their forte when it comes to data security, shun arrogance and forge strategic alliances to gain deeper insights.

The third and final part is to abide by the law of the land, irrespective of the country.

“Persons or organisations which collect and manage your personal information must protect it from misuse and must respect certain rights of the data owners which are guaranteed by EU law,” says the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that came into force on May 25.

Facebook has promptly introduced changes to its privacy policy regarding GDPR but the effort has to be done across the board for all countries.

Before Zuckerberg hires 20,000 people to secure his users’ data by the end of this year — as he promised the US Senate and EU lawmakers — the biggest lesson for Facebook in 2018 is that users are not guinea pigs and their online expressions must be kept encrypted, in safe lockers somewhere on Cloud.

Also read: Facebook kept sharing users friend data in special deals report says

Taking users’ personal space for granted cannot go on for long, especially at a time when millennials are becoming more aware of their digital rights and governments the world over are busy drafting laws to deal with the new social media reality. (IANS)

Next Story

Social Networking Giant Facebook Interested in Blockchain-based Authentication, Says Mark Zuckerberg

According to The Verge, the risk of further data-sharing scandals is one of the main reasons why Facebook is wary of implementing the change

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Facebook
Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg. VOA

You may soon login to Facebook with Blockchain-based authentication, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has indicated.

In a public interview with Harvard Law professor Jonathan Zittrain late on Wednesday, Zuckerberg said he is “potentially interested” in putting the Facebook login on the Blockchain technology.

“I’m thinking about going back to decentralised or Blockchain authentication. Although I haven’t figured out a way to make this work out but this is around authentication and basically granting access to your information and to different services,” Mark Zuckerberg told Zittrain.

According to him, Blockchain could give users more powers when granting data access to third-party apps.

Facebook last year promoted one of its senior engineers Evan Cheng as the Director of Engineering at its recently launched Blockchain division.

Earlier in May, Facebook set up a group within the company to explore Blockchain technology and its potential use for the platform, headed by Messenger chief David Marcus.

Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a joint hearing of the Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees on Capitol Hill in Washington. VOA

Media reports also said Facebook was exploring to develop its own cryptocurrency.

Facebook has over 2.3 billion users globally and launching cryptocurrency will allow them make payments using a virtual currency like Bitcoin.

In a statement, Facebook said: “Like many other companies, Facebook is exploring ways to leverage the power of Blockchain technology”.

Also Read- Whatsapp Security Bug Allows iPhone Users Bypass Security Controls

According to The Verge, the risk of further data-sharing scandals is one of the main reasons why Facebook is wary of implementing the change.

“You basically take your information, you store it on some decentralised system and you have the choice of whether to log in different places and you’re not going through an intermediary. There’s a lot of things that I think would be quite attractive about that,” said Mark Zuckerberg. (IANS)