A Brief History of Facebook’s Privacy Issues

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Privacy is dead
Privacy is dead, and social media holds the smoking gun.

If you’re on our site, chances are you don’t have a lot of trust in Facebook and the way they handle your information. Today, we’re going to talk about why you’re completely entitled to that opinion. Facebook is no stranger to controversy, and we could write 100 pages detailing all the shady practices that they’ve been called out on, not even mentioning the ones that haven’t come to light yet. So without further ado, here is a summarized history of Facebook’s most egregious trespasses against their own users.  

Firstly we’re going to look at an incident that occurred in 2007. Facebook launched a new feature called Beacon. The supposed intention was to give users the option to share information about themselves that wasn’t on Facebook, in this case their shopping habits. Now I can’t speak for everyone, but personally I don’t want all of my online purchases made public without my knowledge or consent. It wasn’t until later in the year that Mark Zuckerberg apologized and gave users the choice to opt out of this if they so wish. There is definitely a trend here of Facebook doing shady things and then waiting until there is outrage about it to issue any kind of fix/apology.

  Up next is a big one that occurred in 2011. Facebook once again decided to misuse and spread user information without people’s consent, this time through third-party software. See, if you’ve ever used an app or game within Facebook, you’ll get a warning that that service needs to access some features of your account, whether it’s access to posting so your friends know how your Farmville game is going or your birthday so it can tell you something about your astrological sign, nothing was ever supposed to be access that wasn’t expressly listed and agreed to by the user. Instead, third-party apps were able to access pretty much everything about a user, agreed to our not. Crazy enough, even if you were just friends with someone who had this happen to you, you were also vulnerable. This is obviously an insane security risk, and now as a result, Facebook is required to undergo an independent privacy evaluation every other year. Makes you think that things might have started changing for the better right?

They absolutely did not. This one is a real doozy. In 2014, Facebook’s data scientists decided to randomly select half a million users for a “mood-manipulation” experiment. Basically, they would alter the news feed of these users to be either more positive or negative than usual. Their goal was to see just how much they could change the feelings of a person using their service. I know it goes without saying, but this raises a million different ethical issues and led to an incredible amount of backlash, eventually taking the study offline.

Finally, let’s talk about the year 2018, when Facebook was finally held accountable for years of data theft and misuse. Basically, the issues from 2011 persisted until 2014 when Facebook claimed to have fixed the problem. What was not publicly known at the time was that Facebook knew that they hadn’t fixed the problem, and all the data taken up that point was still floating around and being used by third-parties. Fast forward to 2018 and this information finally comes to light. What came of that was a lot of apologizing and the first real steps toward letting people have any degree of control over their data, which is what you can see now under your privacy settings.

  So why is this all important? Well, these examples among the many others that we didn’t talk about here today go to show just how little Facebook cares about you and the security of your information. Even with improvements in recent years, it is unacceptable for users to have so little control over how their data is used and that has to change. We hope to be on the forefront of that change, and we hope you’ll stick around to see our journey and get something out of it yourself. Also, feel free to check out our article about what you can do now to minimize how much information Facebook takes from you here: https://unveil-data.com/2021/07/10/what-can-you-do/

We’ll be back next week with more information and until then take care.

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