Newly Public Documents Paint Picture Of Facebook’s Ruthlessness

from Axios

Facebook documents released Wednesday portray the social giant as considering aggressive routes to squeeze more revenue out of user data, giving major companies extra access to data and undermining competitors.

Why it matters: While much of what’s in the documents was already reported, together they provide a rare window into one of the world’s most influential companies and reveal how Facebook’s executives were ruthlessly focused on growing their service — while downplaying risks to user privacy.

More here.

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3 Responses to Newly Public Documents Paint Picture Of Facebook’s Ruthlessness

  1. Robert Musantry December 7, 2018 at 5:25 pm #

    Facebook is in the news again, and once again it is in a decidedly negative light. According to new documents released in the past week, Facebook has used some very aggressive tactics to get the most profit out of the user data collected from their website and partners.
    After many complaints and lawsuits, Facebook had been thought to be rolling back how much information was available about users and who could get access to this. It turns out this may have been true, except that Facebook was making deals with other major companies to provide data. Examples mentioned in the article include Netflix, Lyft, and Airbnb. These major companies had access to special data through Facebook, and these types of deals look shady from the outside, to say the very least.
    Another issue revealed from these documents is that Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook knew about “data leaking” or the fact that data was getting into the wrong hands, and were not all to concerned with this idea. Even though publicly they said they were working to fix this, it does not seem as though it was that much of a priority.
    Facebook also tried to use their power over consumer data to negatively affect other competitors, an example leaked in the documents shows that Facebook began limiting what data access was given to Vine. Apparently, the motive here was that since Vine was owned by Twitter, a major competitor of Facebook’s, the company decided to not help them out at all and instead restrict access. From a customer standpoint, this may have actually been a positive move, as their data was not being thrown around recklessly, and from a business standpoint, it was obviously a positive to not be helping competitors out.
    So where did this all come from, and what does Facebook have to say. First of all, the documents were released in a sort of retaliation by British lawmakers after Zuckerberg refused to testify in front of one of their committees. Facebook has said that this reports only show a narrow part of their business model, which may be true, but just because only a small part of their company is abusing consumer data does not make it any less of an issue for the greater public.

  2. Yash Wagle December 7, 2018 at 8:06 pm #

    “Bring the world closer together”

    The above quote is Facebook’s mission statement. Since the creation of Facebook they have always promoted themselves as a do-gooder enterprise. Even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg calls the social media network a “revolutionary force for good”. Yet, after reading this article, and understanding the contents of the internal emails and documents that were made public by British Parliament show that Facebook’s positive image is nothing but a mirage. The author of this article was apt in calling the actions that were described in these leaked documents as “ruthless”. I would even go as far to say that these documents show Facebook exhibits predatory behavior. Simply putting it Facebook’s goal is to squeeze as much data as they can from their user, and receive a hefty profit from doing it.
    The first point of the article wrote about how Facebook was creating special partnership with other developers, most notably Lyft, Netflix, and Airbnb. Previously, facebook cut of access for developers to receive data from their API. However, the company continued to choose partners that they believed to be beneficial for their profit making motives.

    The second point made in the Axios article regards Facebook’s lack of worry about user data leaking. I truly believe that the company does not care about user privacy. The fact that 50 million users were recently hacked. Really shows the gross negligence of the company.
    The third point made in this article is the one I found most interesting. This point regards to Facebook trying, and even effectively “boxing” out its competitors. Vine, which was another social media network, and a subsidiary of Twitter was once using Facebook’s API. Vine used Facebook’s API to create a feature that would present an option for a recently signed up Vine user to follow their Facebook friends on the Vine app. Facebook eventually shutdown Vine’s access to the API. It is known that even Zuckerberg himself authorized this shutdown. To further hurt their competitor, Facebook added a 5 second video feature on Instagram that was striking similar to the Vine app. All of this contributed to Vine ceasing operations in 2016
    A NYT article also presents some other ways that Facebook was involved in “boxing out” their competitors. The article writes about Onavo, an Israeli analytics company Facebook bought in 2013. Onavo also owned app called Onavo protect. This was an app that was billed to keep user’s internet browsing private. This app was actually used by Facebook to gain more information about the user. The information that Facebook was specifically interested in was the other apps the user was using. According to the released documents “Facebook executives received reports about the performance of rival apps, using data obtained through Onavo.” This in my opinion is truly predatory behavior. The NYT article explains that data Facebook garnered from this Onavo app was quite substantial. By using the Onavo Facebook was actually able to find out that the Whatsapp was becoming extremely popular. This is significant because months after learning this Whatsapp was actually bought by Facebook. Just this August, Apple pulled the Onavo app from the app store after it was understood to violate privacy rules.

    I believe that these recently released documents further show how Facebook has overstepped their boundaries, and has hurt privacy. I also think Facebook’s response to this document release in saying that these documents don’t portray accurate picture is despicable. The company should be held more accountable for their actions, and I believe should be regulated.

  3. Petar Micevski December 7, 2018 at 8:14 pm #

    As we improve our technology, companies have found amazing ways to keep us in the dark about their true intentions on their users. Facebook is the prime example of such an occurrence. However, I do think that there is a credible reason why companies like Facebook stress so much about user tracking and information collecting. Due to the increase in technology, we have allowed mass customization, which allows us to insert amazing details about ourselves on the web without molds (like the ones in factories). This means that businesses would be able to fit specific needs that were dreamed about 10 years ago. But in order for such a level to be accomplished, there needs to be some sort of information about the consumer online. That is where the user tracking comes in.
    In a tech-savvy world, information is much more valuable than material things. With the digitalization and constant improvement of technology, more and more continues to become a mystery to the public and keeps them in the dark about technology’s full potential. In reality, newer technology is terrifying with its capabilities. With the addition of global interconnectivity, this technology is able to hit just about anyone that walks, breathes, or blinks. Facebook even makes shadow profiles of people that don’t use Facebook in the name of information. With this information, Facebook has become a gold mine for other companies to take information on people in order to properly adapt to the future that involves the newer technology. With that reputation, it also becomes a target for others to gain information on others. As we head into a world where technology allows companies like Facebook to reign over the public, we also lose our basic human rights according to the Fourth Amendment. Since nobody listens, however, businesses and governments are developing a toxic relationship to the government because information on users is more valuable than the currency in today’s world. With the inclusion of everyday tech devices comes everyday tracking on users. The government and businesses would be able to know everything about anything that goes on in your life. Your health, your financial status, how much milk you have left in the fridge, and even how much sleep you got last night. There comes a point where tech has passed a couple of lines and then passed a couple more of them, and the public simply stands around twiddling their thumbs when they should be the ones driving at the fact that their privacy is being breached. I, for one, have merely scratched the surface in understanding these issues today, and I’m terrified already. This terror comes with a drive: a drive to do something right. In order to adapt to the modern world, we must get used to this mass customization, and prove to the government and businesses that we will not just stand back and do nothing while they use their toys on collecting information about us.

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