Facebook is dropping another bombshell. Or rather, they’ve covered something up and now we are finding out about it. It’s kind of a bombshell, but Facebook themselves isn’t dropping it. They claim that they cut off developer access to their user data back in 2015, however, the Wall Street Journal has discovered otherwise. In fact, they have discovered that Facebook is still allowing third-party companies to continue doing this. Like right now. In 2018. Three years after they said they stopped. These deals are known as “whitelists”, and they enable other companies to see user’s friend lists, including the person’s phone number as well as any other metrics that measure how close the user is to their online contacts.
This literally makes my skin crawl. We already know that Facebook was giving data to 60 organizations that make hardware, so it makes me wonder what is going on. I mean, I don’t understand this practice. Sure, there is this whole idea that companies like Facebook, Instagram or Google can identify the things that you’re looking at when it comes to your search terms, but this is next level. Facebook claims, that they’ve only given this data to third party companies who use it to “improve user experience”. I mean, I’m not exactly sure that I buy this. And by this, I mean, I’m not surprised that this is how they’re selling this. No pun intended.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by this, but I kind of am. Maybe I think that social networking platforms should protect its users to some degree. Not sell their data randomly to any third-party who is interested in buying it. And there are a lot of companies out there that want your data. It’s a great marketing tool. You now know all about people in order to be able to then create ways to target your products. This is what happened during the 2016 Presidential campaign, and well, we know how that turned out. #fakenews
Regardless, I’m honestly shocked that Facebook is still doing this. Especially after testifying before Congress and being raked over the coals for looking and sounding like an awkward robot. You might remember one member of Congress asked Zuckerberg to provide the name of the hotel that he had planned to stay at that night. Zuckerberg obviously knew this question was being asked in jest, but Congress had a point. If you don’t want your data to be shared with people, why do you think it’s ok to share everyone else’s? Sure, what Facebook was sharing wasn’t necessarily for public consumption, but does that make a difference?
Further to providing data to third-parties to help with user experience, Facebook also provided data to companies who were helping them to test new features. But that doesn’t make it ok. None of this is ok. In fact, Congress needs to get on this and find out why it’s still happening. If there wasn’t a good enough reason before, I think that this might be the straw to break the camel’s back to begin regulating Facebook. Normally, I wouldn’t be on board with this kind of regulation, but they keep proving over and over again, they can’t be trusted with user’s data.