After five long days in hiding, Mark Zuckerberg finally makes a public statement regarding the privacy violations of tens of millions of Facebook users data, that was then used to psychologically manipulate them. The information he expounded to us was done via a Facebook status update, no press conferences, no interviews, no articles….a status update.
He begins his Facebook status by claiming that most of the steps Facebook can take to address the situation were already taken years ago. But after all of this, how much can we really believe?
“We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you.” “But we also made mistakes, there’s more to do, and we need to step up and do it.” If Facebook stood idly by and watched troves of data leaving their platform for years, what would make us think they are suddenly trustworthy? They don’t deserve you or your data.
The platform operations manager at Facebook from 2011 to 2012, Sandy Parakilas, was responsible for securing the platform and preventing data breaches. According to him, the breach of Facebook data was “routine,” but when he warned Facebook executives about his concerns, they weren’t taken seriously. Parakilas says that he always assumed there was something of a “black market” for Facebook data.
Over the Weekend, the Guardian published a bombshell report, detailing that the Trump Campaign, headed by Steve Bannon, utilized a company called Cambridge Analytica. CA, for short, allegedly stole the profile data of roughly fifty to sixty million American Facebook profiles. After which psychologists analyzed the data to craft a personal campaign for Donald Trump that was impactful to the individual voter.
The Guardian, as detailed in the leak by Christopher Wylie, reported that Dr. Kogan, a Psychologist from Cambridge University, used applications that gave the developer access to their Facebook profile data. It goes further, Facebook granted organizations with the credentials access not only to their respective profile but the entirety of each individual friend of the target’s Facebook profile data as well.
“Facebook could see it was happening,” says Wylie. “Their security protocols were triggered because Kogan’s apps were pulling this enormous amount of data, but apparently Kogan told them it was for academic use. So they were like, ‘Fine’.”
Zuckerberg gives a brief outline of events, one point being “In 2015, we learned from journalists at The Guardian that Kogan had shared data from his app with Cambridge Analytica. It is against our policies for developers to share data without people’s consent, so we immediately banned Kogan’s app from our platform, and demanded that Kogan and Cambridge Analytica formally certify that they had deleted all improperly acquired data. They provided these certifications.”
“Last week, we learned from The Guardian, The New York Times and Channel 4 that Cambridge Analytica may not have deleted the data as they had certified. We immediately banned them from using any of our services. Cambridge Analytica claims they have already deleted the data and has agreed to a forensic audit by a firm we hired to confirm this” the Facebook CEO says.
While it’s great that the data Cambridge Analytica had was deleted and prevented from being further sold out to the highest bidder, what about all of the other apps that had the same permissions and abused it in the same way CA did? Just because it wasn’t released publicly like Kogan’s supposedly “academic” research was doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
Zuckerberg openly admits that this was “a breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us and expect us to protect it. We need to fix that.”
In his plan to halt future abuse Zuckerberg says,
“First, we will investigate all apps that had access to large amounts of information before we changed our platform to dramatically reduce data access in 2014, and we will conduct a full audit of any app with suspicious activity. We will ban any developer from our platform that does not agree to a thorough audit. And if we find developers that misused personally identifiable information, we will ban them and tell everyone affected by those apps. That includes people whose data Kogan misused here as well.
Second, we will restrict developers’ data access even further to prevent other kinds of abuse. For example, we will remove developers’ access to your data if you haven’t used their app in 3 months. We will reduce the data you give an app when you sign in — to only your name, profile photo, and email address. We’ll require developers to not only get approval but also sign a contract in order to ask anyone for access to their posts or other private data. And we’ll have more changes to share in the next few days.
Third, we want to make sure you understand which apps you’ve allowed to access your data. In the next month, we will show everyone a tool at the top of your News Feed with the apps you’ve used and an easy way to revoke those apps’ permissions to your data. We already have a tool to do this in your privacy settings, and now we will put this tool at the top of your News Feed to make sure everyone sees it.”
By doing this Zuckerberg believes he will have created an online Fort Knox for you and your data, but in a world where cyber warfare is constantly rising, and privacy violations are becoming the norm, it makes you wonder if we are living in the same world as the social media billionaire. All the more concerning, according to Newsweek, last year Facebook trialed a system to “prevent revenge porn” by asking users to send in their nude photos and videos so that they could build a database to block from future upload, was that data kept safe?
He continues, “I started Facebook, and at the end of the day, I’m responsible for what happens on our platform. I’m serious about doing what it takes to protect our community.” Nothing can be done to turn back time and restore the user data that has already been hijacked and used against the populace for consumer ads, political agendas, and cultural phenomenon. Who is with the What’s App co-founder Brian Acton who proclaimed via Twitter “It is time. #deletefacebook!”
Mark Zuckerberg. “Update on Cambridge Analytica.” Facebook Status. . (): . . http://bit.ly/2u84ahD
Anthony Cuthbertson . “Why Does Facebook Want Your Nude Photos?” Newsweek. . (2017): . . http://bit.ly/2GPQWsG