Lawmakers in the UK have released a damning report on Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, calling them “digital gangsters.”
The report refers to Facebook’s deliberate violation of privacy laws and its role in spreading “fake news” and disinformation. It’s another shot fired at tech companies for abuse of personal data.
But, as usual, it’s unlikely to have an effect on the company.
Today we’ve published our final report on Disinformation and ‘fake news.’
We believe the UK can be a world leader in content regulation.
Here’s how.https://t.co/Dtf7L3mePS@damiancollins#fakenews pic.twitter.com/8RcQpJduiI
— Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (@CommonsCMS) February 18, 2019
Despite repeated privacy violations, Facebook has seen no noticeable decrease in user numbers. In the wake of the #deletefacebook campaign, Zuckerberg said advertisers were still throwing money at Facebook.
In our modern digital world, we happily turn a blind eye to privacy invasion to use our everyday apps.
“Facebook Continues to Choose Profit over Data Security”
The report claims that Facebook overrides its users’ privacy settings to give app developers access to restricted data. Facebook reportedly charges high prices for deeper access to this personal information.
Other developers have reported being “starved” of information when they fail to pay up. One leaked email showed that Facebook considered blocking apps that didn’t pay “at least $250k a year to maintain access to the data.”
Our final @CommonsCMS report on disinformation and fake news has now been published and can be found here on the committee website. We make a large number of recommendations including statutory regulation for social media to protect users from online harms https://t.co/9qlRsY9G03
— Damian Collins (@DamianCollins) February 18, 2019
The parliamentary report, released by the UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee concludes that Facebook should be subject to stricter statutory regulation. As CCN previously reported, regulators have considered heavy fines for Facebook’s data breaches.
#DeleteFacebook Had No Effect
This latest report doesn’t come as a great shock. Facebook hit the headlines last year for the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It emerged that UK company Cambridge Analytica harvested private data from 50 million Facebook users.
Cambridge Analytica then reportedly sold that data to political entities who used it to influence the US presidential election and Britain’s EU referendum.
I admire the #DeleteFacebook impulse. But it takes so much coordination and scale to work, and most users are not American. And it also owns WhatsApp and Instagram.
It’s too much to take on as consumers.
This is why we have governments.
— Anand Giridharadas (@AnandWrites) December 19, 2018
Despite this huge breach of data and trust, the subsequent #deletefacebook campaign had no effect. Facebook stock even increased by 3% as Zuckerberg told investors that advertiser money was still pouring in.
You Won’t Quit Facebook
We are all aware of Facebook’s violation of personal data, but we turn a blind eye.
Facebook is simply too ingrained in our daily lives. The platform now has 2.2 billion users and it’s a central part of our social lives. Giving up Facebook also means giving up WhatsApp and Instagram, two of the biggest communication apps on the planet.
Then there are third-party services that require a Facebook account. Until recently, you needed a Facebook account to use Tinder. Facebook has weaved its way into every aspect of your digital life. Many of us are even required to use Facebook for work or to promote our services.
What would happen if Facebook was turned off? https://t.co/UUn7F1c24g
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) February 17, 2019
We know the privacy violation is ethically wrong, but we tolerate it for easy access to our everyday apps.
There’s another reason too. Research by the Open University suggests we have a morbid fascination in watching and judging our circle of friends. We can’t quit Facebook because we’d fear missing out or silently watching our peers. It’s a psychological compulsion.
Lawmakers Are Clueless
Despite the latest report, we’re unlikely to see any meaningful legislation to rein in the tech giants. Both the UK and US governments have shown a clear lack of understanding.
When Zuckerberg appeared in front of Congress last year, Senator Orrin Hatch asked the painfully ignorant question: “how do you make money?”
Lawmakers don’t understand how Facebook operates, let alone how to legislate against them.
If governments are clueless and the rest of us aren’t willing to #DeleteFacebook, there’s no end in sight to Zuckerberg’s privacy violations.
The UK Parliament Report Explained
The parliamentary report takes Facebook to task on a number of issues. It claims that Facebook:
- Intentionally violated privacy laws.
- Violated anti-competition laws by creating a monopoly and crushing competitors.
- Facilitated the spread of “fake news” and disinformation that influenced major political events including the US presidential election and Britain’s EU referendum.
- Charged a premium to developers in order to override personal privacy settings.
- Held UK parliament in contempt for sending junior employees, rather than Mark Zuckerberg, to give evidence when requested.
- Should be subject to a strict code of ethics and regulations.
- Should be forced to take down harmful content and disinformation.
At the time of writing, Facebook has issued a muted response, claiming:
“We are open to meaningful regulation and support the committee’s recommendation for electoral law reform.”