By, Sindhu Krishnamurthy
Earlier this month, Facebook was discovered to be sharing the data of over 50 million Facebook users without their permission–a shocking violation of its 2011 agreement with the US Federal Trade Commission.
Tech companies’ possession of personal information has been the subject of public scrutiny and fear for years. When people use the internet and social media, they give tech companies their personal information, and they are supposed to gain more accurate recommendations and better targeted services in return. It is not uncommon for companies to sell users’ information for profit without permission and violate the rules of this “exchange;” however, the fact that a company as large as Facebook has made such a large breach of its users’ information is mind boggling.
Also shocking is the way that Facebook has used this information. The company gave the information to Cambridge Analytica, a data firm involved in political advertising for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Thus, Facebook’s transgression not only resulted in Facebook’s commercial gain, but also potentially affected the 2016 Presidential election—an incredibly uncomfortable reality. While this is definitely not the first time Facebook has made mistakes with data privacy, this breach has proved especially horrifying to the public because of its link to Donald Trump, who barely won the presidency. And indeed, in response to these discoveries, many Facebook users have rechecked their privacy settings or even deleted their Facebook accounts entirely in favor of Instagram.
Meanwhile, Facebook has struggled to respond to the public backlash. Mark Zuckerberg has apologized for the breach. “We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you,” he stated during an interview with CNN. However, anger at Facebook has only become more inflamed with a recently found memo by Facebook vice president Andrew Bosworth. The memo explains the importance of making connections on Facebook and how “that’s why all the work we do in growth is justified. All the questionable contact importing practices. All the subtle language that helps people stay searchable by friends. All of the work we do to bring more communication in.” Indeed, the language of the memo demonstrates both a deliberateness in Facebook’s choices to share information and a clear prioritization of encouraging “connections” over the user’s own wishes—a deeply problematic mindset.
Ultimately, Facebook’s security breach affects all, even the Winsor community. Facebook has been a space for Winsor students to share aspects of their lives with each other, be a part of the school community online, and stay in touch with alumnae; however, now, the social media site we use everyday is no longer keeping our information safe.