Social media spying
It’s nice to see those social media vacation pictures from your Facebook friends, maybe to talk back and forth through the messaging function about your boss, and just generally live the electronic life, right?
Well, maybe not.
The New York Times, among others - including a British parliamentary committee - are digging deep into the social media giant’s behaviour, and every passing day is a little bit darker. The simple message? You may have Facebook friends, but Facebook is not one of them.
Facebook is in the business of selling your data. Through a wild interpretation of how it was keeping your information within the company, Facebook apparently determined that sharing information with its corporate “partners” was no different from keeping that information in-house.
Here’s the latest piece of what the New York Times found after analyzing a trove of internal Facebook documents from 2017: “Facebook allowed Microsoft’s Bing search engine to see the names of virtually all Facebook users’ friends without consent, the records show, and gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read Facebook users’ private messages. The social network permitted Amazon to obtain users’ names and contact information through their friends, and it let Yahoo view streams of friends’ posts as recently as this summer, despite public statements that it had stopped that type of sharing years earlier.”
More than 150 “partners” - online retailers, car companies, tech firms, entertainment sites - sought and received data about hundreds of millions of people a month.
It is a breathtaking abuse of privacy - one that Facebook downplays, arguing that the partners have to agree to use the information while following Facebook policies.
There are people who believe that Facebook is even more insidious than that: they claim that the social media giant is using other technological tricks, like randomly turning on and off the microphone in your computer and listening in on your conversations to fine-tune targeted advertising.
Facebook has denied that outright, saying this in June 2016: “Facebook does not use your phone’s microphone to inform ads or to change what you see in News Feed. Some recent articles have suggested that we must be listening to people’s conversations in order to show them relevant ads. This is not true. We show ads based on people’s interests and other profile information - not what you’re talking out loud about.”
Now here’s a question: after everything else that’s cropped up about what the social media giant is doing, do you believe them anymore? (We’re only half-kidding when we say that maybe you shouldn’t answer that question out loud in front of your computer.)
Every now and then, legislators around the world get together to restrict the actions of a rogue state.
Maybe it’s time we started a discussion about the kind of united front that should start addressing abuses by a rogue company.