Facebook Privacy

Guest Post from TechWarn

With most of us spending all our time at home, it’s tempting to sit on the couch, hit up our screens and scroll more. If you’re a blogger or writer, you may find yourself joining more groups or even creating a Facebook Page for yourself, and it’s worth taking a bit of time double-checking your security settings, seeing which companies are sharing information on you back to Facebook and what information is out there about you.

The world’s most used social network has also been an increasingly popular platform for writers to publish their work and interact with readers. Many bloggers also join writers clubs on Facebook to find inspiration and exchange ideas with fellow writers. 

However, not a lot of people are aware of the privacy risks that come with convenience. Facebook has a long track record of incidences that highlight inadequate measures to protect user data. Violations, ranging from misinformation campaigns to election interference, span Facebook’s short existence. Facebook has consistently demonstrated that it’s incapable of ensuring privacy for user data, all the while making supernormal profits and racking up more than 2 billion users. 

While millions of people use Facebook regularly, many have no clue what information they are putting out there in so doing. Hackers, businesses, and other parties are eager to land personal data on their hands. Governments too can be after people’s data, especially in light of the increasing internet censorship around the world. Below, we take a look at Facebook’s major privacy issues in the recent past and their impact on the state of social media privacy. 

Facebook’s ‘Shadow Profiles’ 

In June 2013, Facebook disclosed details about a bug that exposed the private contact information of Facebook users. Due to this bug, a Facebook user would obtain the phone numbers and email addresses of their friends on top of his or her address book. This included the information of people who didn’t have Facebook accounts at the time, hence the term ‘shadow profiles.’ 

Europe’s Data Protection Law

EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) controls how companies store user data and compel them to report data breaches within 72 hours. Facebook, like any other company providing services to users in EU countries, is bound by the European data protection law. In compliance with the GDPR, Facebook put forth a set of principles explaining how users can take control of their data in January 2018. 

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Belgian Court Orders Facebook to Stop Collecting Personal Information

In February 2018, a Belgian court told Facebook to stop collecting the private information of Belgian internet users. Facebook was collecting the information of Belgians via browser cookies, even those who weren’t even on Facebook as long as they landed on a Facebook page. The social media company was facing a fine of 100 million euros if it failed to abide by this directive. Facebook appealed this ruling, citing compliance with the GDPR. 

Cambridge Analytica Scandal

Going way back to 2014, the Cambridge Analytica scandal is perhaps the most prominent data privacy crisis Facebook has ever faced to date. In February 2014, a portion of Facebook users agreed to participate in a survey in exchange for money. The participants were required to install an app that would access their Facebook accounts and download some of their data. In December 2015, Facebook learned that the data collected via the app was shared with Cambridge Analytica. 

Facebook privacy incidents

In August 2016, Facebook took legal action against Cambridge Analytica for acquiring data illegally. The New York Times and The Guardian published an exposé claiming that the data collected from the app was sold to Cambridge Analytica and used to harvest user data of 50 million Facebook profiles and target users with pro-Trump advertising. Facebook later disclosed that the Cambridge Analytica scandal affected up to 87 million Facebook users. 

A Sad State 

For a long time, the relationship between social media and online privacy has been highly controversial. The overall increase in the things we share online, the ever-changing privacy settings, and recent privacy breaches on social media platforms have only made things more complicated. Consumers, regulators, governments, and the media are constantly grappling with online privacy issues in an increasingly social world, but nothing’s changed. It’s a sad state of affairs. 

Social media companies such as Facebook don’t seem to care about the privacy of their users. Even though we continue to interact and share personal information via social media platforms, most people don’t trust social media companies such as Facebook. The vast majority of social media users have experienced an online breach of privacy on social media platforms in recent years. The cascade of Facebook’s data privacy issues makes privacy on social media look like an oxymoron.

Thanks, TechWarn! – off now to check my Facebook settings!