It looks like it took the United Kingdom to tell us Americans what we already knew: Facebook is not your friend.
The UK Parliament’s recently-released results of an 18-month-long investigation into Facebook are very worrisome. In fact, they are downright scary.
Facebook gets you hooked by making it handy to communicate with your own social circle. They have made it so easy to send and receive pictures, videos and text from friends and family, like of my 11 (and soon to be 12) grandchildren. What’s not to like? We all blissfully emote away, pretty much oblivious to the fact that it is all basically a plot to trick us into putting all of our personal data out there for Facebook to steal and sell.
Technically, I might get an argument from Mark Zuckerberg on the word “steal.” I am sure he would point out that they do sort of warn you if you read through their long disclaimer. You know, the one where you pretty much sell your soul to the devil and give up all rights to privacy.
The Parliament’s lengthy report contained very harsh words for the social media giant, which it accused of intentionally violating privacy laws. Like a kid caught with their hand in the cookie jar, Facebook’s UK public policy manager said the company supports “effective privacy legislation that holds companies to high standards in their use of data and transparency for users,” and has already made “substantial changes” to its political advertising policies.
Problem is, their “political advertising policies” are just the tip of the iceberg. The website Mashable simplified the report in simple terms breaking it into five basic summary takeaways.
1. Facebook is acting like “digital gangsters.” The UK report says that documents it obtained raise questions about whether the company has engaged in anti-competitive behavior. The documents, which stem from a California court case involving Facebook, include private emails from top Facebook officials, including Mark Zuckerberg. The documents also detail discussions among Facebook execs on data sharing policies.
The UK wants an investigation as to whether Facebook specifically has been involved in any anti-competitive practices. This would include a review of Facebook’s business practices to determine if the company is unfairly using its dominant market position in social media to decide which businesses should succeed or fail. The report states that companies like Facebook should not be allowed to behave like “digital gangsters” in the online world, considering themselves to be above the law.
2. Zuckerberg’s contempt. Parliament had particularly scathing words for Zuckerberg himself, who showed “contempt” for their investigation by choosing not to appear before or even respond personally to their committee. Furthermore, Parliament accused the representatives which Facebook did send of giving a deliberately misleading testimony.
3. The Cambridge Analytica political scandal happened because of Facebook’s own policies. The report stated that Facebook built its company in a way that made data abuses easy.
4. ”Facebook continues to choose profit over data security.” The company was seen as being willing to take risks with people’s data in order to make money from using it.
5. Questioning Facebook’s business model. Simply put, the report finds that Facebook needs to significantly change its business model and its practices if it has any hope to maintain the trust required to survive as a business.
Myself, I didn’t need the UK to tell me what I already believed. How about you? The Post online reader poll for the week asks “Do you agree with the finding in the UK labeling Facebook and its execs as ‘digital gangsters?’”
This is not the first time I have written about the Evil Empire, er, I mean Facebook. But so many people that I know are hooked on their candy that I used to feel that I was distinctly in the minority. Not anymore. The immediate early voting results to this poll question as my column was going to press indicates that I am in the minority no longer. An astonishing 83.9 percent were voting that they agreed with the UK findings. You have until Tuesday each week to get your own vote in and see the updated results.
Speaking of clear majorities, last week 70.5 percent of our readers said that they were not confident that our country was united enough to properly defend ourselves in the event of an attack or crisis. As my Managing Editor David Sickels responded, “Yikes!”