Facebook’s misery amid the Cambridge Analytica scandal has opened up a Pandora’s Box of issues for not only its’ users, but the media and world governments. From swaying elections to links with shady billionaires, it is truly captivating to watch unfold.
Okay, captivating and deeply concerning. These are issues and stories that could define the future of social media, data privacy and politics, so keep watching, keep listening, and keep asking questions.
The last week has seen a few more stories on both sides of the Atlantic, so here’s a run down of all your Facebook woe.
Facebook Suspends Data Firm Used by Leave Campaign
A Canadian data analytics firm, AggregateIQ, has been suspended amid claims it had improperly received and used users’ data.
During the run up to the Brexit referendum, it is claimed that Vote Leave paid AIQ £2.7 million for services. Vote Leave was not alone in paying for AIQ services, as the firm received donations from the DUP and Veterans for Britain; totalling £3.5 million in payments by Brexit campaign groups.
The Canadian firm, which Facebook believes has links to Cambridge Analytica and its parent company, SCL, has denied accessing or using users’ data, as well as outright denying links to the infamous analytics firms. In a message on its’ website, AIQ said: “Aggregate IQ has never managed, nor did we ever have access to, any Facebook data or database allegedly obtained improperly by Cambridge Analytica.”
Christopher Wylie insists that the firm does have links to CA and SCL
Facebook Plans to Let You ‘Unsend’ Messages
Mark Zuckerberg faced another furore last week after it was revealed the firm allowed him to retract previously sent messages; something that your ordinary Facebook user cannot do.
In an apparent attempt to soften the backlash from these revelations, Facebook has announced that users will soon be able to ‘unsend’ messages, and until that is rolled out, the firm says it won’t unsend or retract any more of Zuckerberg’s messages.
This all unfolded after it was discovered that people who had previously received messages from the Facebook CEO were unable to locate them; indicating that they had been removed. For many, this signalled an immense breach of trust – How can Zuckerberg or other company high flyers have access to functions that regular users do not?
Facebook insisted that this was for security reasons, and that a message retention period had been put in place to prevent any breaches of security. When the unsend feature – of which not a lot is currently known – is unveiled, it may help to alleviate the pressure on the firm and allow users the same functionality that they expect.
Global GDPR Compliance
When GDPR is implemented the way in which EU citizens’ data is handled will fundamentally change. Every single EU citizen is legally entitled to a greater deal of protection, transparency of process and accountability than ever before. For non-EU Facebook users, however, there are concerns.
Like many companies across Europe – and the world, as multinational corporations are obliged to comply – Facebook will be complying with GDPR.
It seems hard to believe that a company with such an insatiable need for your personal data will comply with rules that prevent it from using it willy nilly. However comply it must; or else risk an unspeakable wrath (or indeed 4% of global turnover).
It makes sense that to comply with this though, as the last thing that the beleaguered firm wants now is another damning story on not only its inability to handle your data, but also on its ability to comply with regulations to ensure it’s done responsibly.
The issue here, however, is whether or not users across the globe will experience the same protections as their European counterparts. As such, consumer groups have urged Facebook to make GDPR data protection regulations the “baseline standard for all Facebook services”.
The Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue – a coalition of both US and EU-based consumer groups – has called on the Facebook CEO to adopt the EU legislation to govern the entire platform’s operations. Zuckerberg has previously commented on the issue of GDPR – causing confusion in the process – and insisted that the social media giant will comply with the regulation, however he could not commit to a single format due to the multitude of different legal systems that his firm has to traverse.
When Zuckerberg spoke on GDPR compliance previously, he concerned many North American-based users as the possibility of them experiencing less data security than their European counterparts could become a reality.
In the letter sent by the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue told Zuckerberg “there is simply no reason for your company to provide less than the best legal standards currently available to protect the privacy of Facebook users.”
The letter also compelled Zuckerberg to publicly express his commitment to “global compliance with GDPR” and also asked him to “provide specific details on how the company plans to implement these changes”
US Senators Threaten to ‘Break Up’ Facebook
In the run up to his Senate appearance, Zuckerberg has been warned by US senators to get his house in order, or else watch his company be broken up. Oregon senator Ron Wyden issued the warning to the social media giant and implored the firm to shape up.
Speaking last week, Wyden said: “There are going to be people who are going to say ought to be broken up. There have been a number of proposals and ideas for doing it and I think unless [Zuckerberg] finds a way to honour the promise he made several years ago, he’s gonna have a law on his hands.”
Imagine your favourite toy as a child, and how you’d feel having it taken away from you – That would suck.
Now imagine you’re Mark Zuckerberg and your toy is a highly intrusive, unregulated social media giant harvesting the data of millions of people and passing it on to analytics companies to misuse and abuse and its making you billions of dollars – Boy oh boy that would suck.
Could it happen though? Well, there is precedent for this…sort of.
In 2000 another massive, multinational corporation was on the verge of being broken up; Microsoft.
A federal Judge, Thomas P. Jackson ruled in the early months of the new millennium that Microsoft were to be broken up into two separate companies as punishment for ‘monopolistic business practices’. During the trial process, Jackson compared Microsoft executives to “drug traffickers” and “gangland killers” – controversial comparisons, but spoke volumes of the judge’s belief that the company was acting nefariously in the marketplace.
In 2001 the ruling was overturned by a federal appeals court; the panel deemed that his comments during the trial proved he displayed a visible bias against Microsoft. It did not, however, explore the findings of the case that pointed toward the firm abusing its dominant market position.
Even though Microsoft avoided being cut in half, the possibility that Facebook – providing it does not change its’ ways – meeting this fate could become a reality. Facebook is a massive social media firm and holds an enormous grip on the daily lives of millions around the globe. For a firm so large to act in such an unscrupulous manner thus far could be reason enough among many to consider this option.