Will America Continue to Trust Facebook or Just #DeleteFacebook?

Will America Continue to Trust Facebook or Just #DeleteFacebook?


“I’m really sorry that this happened,” says Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook to an exclusive interview with CNN on Mar 21, 2018. On the same day on his Facebook page he wrote that the company made “mistakes”.

Let’s see, “mistakes” he says! If a child breaks a glass in the house, I call that a mistake. If the same child opens fire in the house (I do not want anyone getting hurt in my example so let’s just say he shoots the wall), this will not be categorized as a ‘mistake’, but will be called “irresponsible parents” and “bad parenting”. Why was that gun never kept in a safe? Let’s now take this example to the next level. What if the same parents are letting all the neighbor’s children play with their loaded firearm? I wonder what will this be called? And what if those parents are actually selling the fire-arms to the kids in the neighborhood?

Data, itself is a weapon of this time. Giving it away to the enemies of our country, whether for free or for a fee, is not just a mistake.

But wait… are we talking about Facebook giving away the user data? It is déjà vu, feels like it has happened before and promises were made.

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

How about twice, thrice and many more times? So let’s do some fact check:

Promises Were Made

In 2005, one year after Facebook was launched, Mark Zuckerberg at a Stanford University interview told us: “We’re obviously really sensitive to people’s privacy”.

2009: in an interview with BBC, Mark Zuckerberg said: “The person who is putting the content on Facebook always owns the information”. When asked if he is going to sell that information he replied: “No! of course not!”. The interviewer reiterated her question: “So just to be clear, you’re not going to sell or share, any of the information on Facebook? Zuckerberg confirmed saying “We’re not going to share people’s information”.

Jun 2013: “We will continue fighting aggressively to keep your information safe and secure”, Mark Zuckerberg About PRISM.

March 2016: “Facebook stands with many technology companies to protect you and your information.” Zuckerberg’s Facebook post.

Sept 27, 2017: Mark Zuckerberg admits he should have taken Facebook fake news and the election more seriously: “Calling that crazy was dismissive and I regret it”.

Promises Were Broken

Late 2007: Zuckerberg admitted “We’ve made a lot of mistakes” and “We simply did a bad job”, when facing the first flap after handling Beacon.

June 2009: “We’re just going to keep on moving more and more in that direction (towards openness)”, Mark Zuckerberg speaks to Wired. Already forgetting that privacy was once really sensitive to them.

Jan 2010: Privacy no longer a “social norm” said Facebook founder, talking at the Crunchie awards, and after angering many with the decision to change privacy for the 350 million users then.

Nov. 9th, 2016 Zuckerberg: “the idea that fake news on Facebook influenced the election is ‘crazy’”. Dismissing the seriousness of a real threat.

User Security vs. Privacy

Many do not understand the difference here. I am not talking about what people are posting from their private life to the public domain, or security issues like people choosing weak passwords, or someone hacking into the Facebook servers and stealing data. We are talking about data that Facebook collects on its’ users and then decides to give away to third parties. We are talking about the personal data of 50 million Facebook users shared away without their knowledge. We are talking about foreign entities improperly obtaining and exploiting personal data to use it against our nation.

Is It Fixable? And Will It Ever Be Fixed?

Anything can be fixed or rebuilt. Some things are harder to fix than others though and that is why it is better to build it correctly in the first place. Now fixing a breach of this level is very time consuming and the damage already done cannot be undone.

From Nov 9th 2016, when Zuckerberg dismissed the threat, until Sept 27, 2017 when he admitted: “This is too important an issue to be dismissive.”, almost a full year had already passed by. If it takes 1 year just to realize, how long will it take to fix it?

Another six months passed by since then, the threat is not resolved, instead yet another promise is made: “We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you” (March 21, 2018 on Facebook).

Facebook will have to take a decision whether the importance of privacy will remain only lip service or will it actually ever become an important policy for the company. History does repeat, but who is keeping track? Maybe someone is, like these guys at CNBC.

Two Interesting Facts

Young and Inexperienced

“I started this when I was so young and inexperienced,” Zuckerberg told CNN.

I have visited Facebook, Twitter and Google Campuses a few times. One thing that is of great concern for me is Zuckerberg admitting to being young and inexperienced. It is of concern because when talking to few of the software development managers in these companies I was shocked to hear that many of them only recently started at the company, some even as interns, and within couple of years they became managers! While young blood in any company is a healthy sign and beneficial for both parties, inexperienced managers, anybody with less than 7 – 10 years in their field, is a big red flag for me. As long as the trend in these big tech firms continues, I have very less hope of them building software that is reliable and planned for long term.

Put the Money Where your Mouth Is

There are reports as far back as 2015 stating that Cambridge Analytica had access to this data set. Facebook did very little to get to the bottom of it.

“We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you.” says Zuckerberg.

Nice pitch! But if it is truly a service for the public, then stop benefiting from it in ways that would hurt the public. Stop collecting user data. Stop sharing user data. Until Facebook commits to that, this system will never work because there will always be breaches and exploitation.

Governments will also be imposing tough laws on these companies in years to come. One example of this is the GDPR, the new data protection law coming into force on May 25th, 2018 in the European Union.

At this moment I only see more empty promises. At interview with CNN, Mark Zuckerberg mentions one of the thing Facebook needs for sure is that developers like Aleksandr Kogan “just don’t get access to as much information going forward”. How about no information what so ever?

Will Americans Trust Facebook?

People forget and move on! That is the sad truth and the short answer. In the current wave of #DeleteFacebook movement, a significant number of people may leave Facebook. But the ones remaining will definitely be more, people hoping that this will not happen to them, or that things will be better next time.

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