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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

Four App Startups Sue Social Media Giant Facebook For Anti-Competitive Behaviour

The documents was obtained by NBC News and international journalistic partners

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Facebook
Facebook replied to the lawsuit, saying it has no legal basis. Pixabay

Blaming Facebook of anti-competitive behaviour, four app startups have sued the social networking giant, alleging that it inappropriately revoked developer access to its platform in order to harm competitors.

The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California on Thursday, is based on more than 7,000 pages leaked last year “from an ongoing lawsuit brought by another defunct startup known as Six4Three, which made a short-lived app known as Pikinis”.

The documents was obtained by NBC News and international journalistic partners.

The documents showed that CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook officials used their market position to squeeze potential rivals and competitors from 2011 through 2015.

“This action seeks to halt the most brazen, willful anticompetitive scheme in a generation — a scheme that verges on final, irreparable completion as of the date of this Complaint,” the complaint alleged in the class-action lawsuit.

“Facebook stands today as a paragon of unbridled market power”, said the lawsuit filed by The lawsuit was filed by LikeBright, Lenddol, Cir.cl Inc and Beehive Biometric Inc.

Facebook
Blaming Facebook of anti-competitive behaviour, four app startups have sued the social networking giant, alleging that it inappropriately revoked developer access to its platform in order to harm competitors. Pixabay

Facebook replied to the lawsuit, saying it has no legal basis.

ALSO READ: “I feel that I still have to do a lot of work,” Says Veteran Writer-Lyricist Javed Akhtar

“We operate in a competitive environment where people and advertisers have many choices. In the current environment, where plaintiffs’ attorneys see financial opportunities, claims like this aren’t unexpected but they are without merit,” a company spokesperson was quoted as saying. (IANS)