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Faceoff: Facebook

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Faceoff: Facebook

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Facebook: An Evil Entity

By: Sophia Berkofsky

 

Cambridge Analytica, the political consulting firm that worked on behalf of the Trump campaign in 2016, had gained access to the private information of about 50 million Facebook users. Following reports of this breach from The New York Times and other newspapers, Facebook suspended the controversial data firm. Earlier this month, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced Senate in a two day Congressional hearing called “Facebook, Social Media Privacy, and the Use and Abuse of Data.” In his testimony, Zuckerberg attempted to justify his company’s not disclosing Cambridge Analytica’s activities to users. While Cambridge Analytica denies any data mining, more menacing claims come to light. The prospect that the Trump campaign could have used Facebook to suppress African-American voter turnout. In the days leading up to the election, a senior official with the Trump campaign spoke to Bloomberg reporters about the campaign tactics, mentioned that “We have three major voter suppression operations underway.” The article described this operation as targeting “idealistic white liberals, young women, and African-Americans, ”by using dark ad posts showing and animation Hillary Clinton expressing racist sentiments.” The Trump campaign’s head of digital advertising suggested that these “dark posts” were used in hopes to discourage certain demographics from voting, quoted in the same article saying “only the people we want to see it, see it.” Facebook refuses to release these dark posts, citing the privacy of its advertisers.

 

There was a flippant belief among executives like Zuckerberg and major corporations, that privacy is secondary to consumers- no longer a main concern, no longer a social requirement. Facebook is prioritizing the right to privacy of its advertisers over the privacy of its users. This attitude is constantly downplayed and their actions minimized by Facebook and its supporters. Zuckerberg issued full page apologies in several newspapers after the company’s value plummeted by almost $50 billion, where he meekly promises to “do better.”

 

Many claim that these tools of accessing profiles and private data isn’t a secret at all. Alex Stamos, Facebook’s chief security officer, argued on Twitter that “the access to the data in question here is pretty common among these platforms,” and saying that there is an unfair double standard for these companies, if sharing this data is a breach of trust, and if in not sharing this data they may “have been criticized as monopolists.” Many mock the idea that this data was used maliciously at all- that it’s ridiculous for Cambridge Analytica to have been able to use these profiles to target and sway voters.

 

The truth is that corporations use fine print and loopholes to bypass long standing rules and regulation. This is not exclusive to Facebook, and their misuse of consumer trust is indicative of a much larger problem. Facebook promises to simplify privacy settings, to allow users to have more control over what information is shared. This is a deficient solution to a mere fraction of the whole evil. Consumers should call for more comprehensive privacy laws across all platforms, as company-specific regulations will be insufficient.

Facebook Deserves a Pass

By: Bobby Taylor

 

Recently there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the business practices of Facebook. The main issue is Facebook’s relationship with the firm Cambridge Analytica, which, depending on who you ask, either collected people’s data without asking Facebook, or collected the data with Facebook’s permission. Throughout the investigation that followed the fallout of people finding out that Facebook misused data, the main question surrounding the possible guilt of Facebook is whether or not it knew. The answer to that question is that they did not. Now why might I say that? Two reasons. First, Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress saying that he did not know that Cambridge Analytica was collecting data. Now, I know what you are thinking: he was lying. While there is no surefire way to prove that he knew or didn’t know, the second reason is a pretty good reason for why he did not know: the supposed ad buys during and after the 2016 election. While it is still debatable whether or not those ads were bought by the Russians, there was an investigation that followed. During that investigation, Facebook was basically given a microphone, and everyone was skeptical of Facebook. During this time, if Facebook knew that it was sharing people’s data, it could have copped out and said “Oh yeah we noticed there is a data firm stealing our data”, and it would not have surprised anyone and it would have come out in the wash with all the controversy surrounding “Russian meddling” at the time. However, Facebook did not use that opportunity, and to me that makes it clear that Facebook is either stupid, which I know it is not, or it did not know about the ways in which data firms were using customer’s data. So, to conclude, Facebook should not solely blamed for the issues surrounding Cambridge Analytica, as it likely did not know what the firm was doing. While ignorance should not be an excuse for crimes, at this point Facebook should be given a pass, as it was known previous to this revelation that Facebook was having privacy issues.

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Faceoff: Facebook