We Are Blindly Trusting Facebook, Says Cambridge Analytica Whistleblower

Journalist:
October 10, 2019

In March 2018, the Cambridge Analytica scandal erupted as whistleblower Christopher Wylie came forward with mind-blowing revelations on how the company had access to the data of 87 million Facebook users.

The calamity rocked the social media giant and led to a $123 billion loss in value, which is the biggest single-day drop in the history of any U.S.-traded company.

Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg apologized to U.S. lawmakers about Facebook’s data practices. The congressional hearings motivated the tech titan to make data privacy a priority. A year after the scandal grabbed headlines, Zuckerberg wrote an extensive document that highlights Facebook’s shift towards a “privacy-focused platform.”

Cambridge Analytica ex-employee Christopher Wylie is buying none of it. The whistleblower said,

We’re blindly trusting a company when they say ‘we’re putting in lots of resources.’ What is that?

We also asked the same question because, according to the CNBC interview, the agencies that should be monitoring Facebook are not equipped in terms of skills and resources to tackle issues such as data privacy.

Zuckerberg’s New Privacy-Centered Platform Focused on Six Data Protection Measures

Facebook is trying to alleviate the privacy concerns of its users by committing to six principles that make it a “privacy-focused messaging and social media platform.” Those principles are summarized by the following:

  • Private interactions – users have clear control over who can contact them and the assurance that no one can access the information they share.
  • Encryption – end-to-end encryption prevents anyone, including Facebook, from accessing what people share on the platform.
  • Reducing permanence – Facebook states that messages and stories won’t be stored longer than necessary.
  • Interoperability – users should be able to reach their friends across platforms securely.
  • Secure data storage – sensitive data won’t be stored in countries with weak human rights records.

Morissa Schwartz is one of the top two social media experts in New York. She thinks Facebook is trying to protect its users. She told CCN,

I do think Facebook is working hard to begin to course correct. I think privacy was once not taken too seriously but they’re improving.

The principles outlined sound promising. However, it appears they do very little in protecting your privacy. Facebook tracks your online footprint even when you’re not logged into the social media platform.

Facebook Follows You Wherever You Go Online

Zuckerberg’s employees may not see your messages or what you share on the platform but they can see almost everything that you do online. Casey Oppenheim, co-founder of data security company Disconnect, said,

Most people don’t understand that Facebook is tracking you when you’re not on the platform.

They do this through social plugins. The buttons you see on websites that allow you to like or share a post contain codes that can transmit data to Facebook regardless of whether you interact with the buttons or not.

Another way the social media giant monitors your online activity is via Facebook Pixel. In a document to advertisers, Facebook stated that the analytics tool can provide information about movement of users on a website where Pixel is installed, including pages visited and actions taken such as adding an item to a cart.

Even if you don’t have a Facebook account, the social media giant can still track your online behavior. Privacy International conducted a report that tested 34 apps on Android to see which ones transmit user data to Facebook. The study revealed that 61% of apps automatically send data to Facebook regardless of whether the user has a Facebook account or not.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. Facebook has employed other creative means to collect your data. It’s no wonder that investors were not at all troubled by Zuckerberg’s privacy-centered principles. It’s business as usual at the California-based tech firm, a company that many appears to be blindly trusting.

This article was edited by Sam Bourgi.

Last modified (UTC): October 10, 2019 15:34

Kiril Nikolaev @kirilnikk123

Kiril is a CFA Charterholder and financial professional with 5+ years of experience in financial writing, analysis and product ownership. He has a bachelor's degree with a specialty in finance and lives in Canada. Kiril’s current focus is on cryptocurrencies and funds, as he does his own crypto research and is a Product Manager at Mitre Media. He also has his personal website, InvestorAcademy.org where he teaches people about the basics of investing. He owns Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins but does not engage in short-term or day-trading. Follow the author on Twitter @kirilnikk kirilnikk123@gmail.com