It was recently found that Facebook collected the information regarding the email contacts of 1.5 million users without their insight or permission. The data collected was used to construct a web of their social associations.
It was confirmed by reports that the data collection began far back in May 2016. When users made a new account on this social networking site, the information related to their contacts was stored. Users, however, were not notified where this information was being used until the whole matter was later exposed when Facebook was held responsible for breaching the privacy of its users.
This is not the first time that a privacy blunder by Facebook was exposed. This has been happening for quite some time now. For example, It was reported in March that the account passwords of around 200 to 600 Facebook users were probably accessible to 20,000 Facebook employees as these passwords were stored in plain text in a database. As Facebook also owns Instagram, some Instagram passwords were included in the database as well.
In addition to this, not long ago it was also reported that cybersecurity specialists had found a huge number of Facebook records freely available on Amazon’s cloud servers after the information was transferred by outsider parties that work with Facebook. This was obviously a huge concern for users worldwide since Facebook is the most popular social media networking site.
After this, a 4000-page archive from 2011 to 2015 was leaked. It provided insight into how Facebook exploited client data while openly claiming to do the exact opposite: ensure the protection of user’s sensitive data.
How it began
The collection of data began when Facebook started offering users verification through email passwords as a choice to affirm their identity when joining Facebook. This is a procedure comprehensively condemned by security authorities. Once in a while if users entered their passwords, a pop-up message would be seen saying that that it was ‘acquiring’ their contacts, without ensuring their assent or permission.
These contacts were then stored into the database systems of Facebook and a map of social associations of users was built, which would notify recommended friends on Facebook. It’s uncertain whether the data was also used for promotion and ad targeting purposes at the time or not.
According to security specialists, this gave Facebook access to a huge amount of user personal data. The practice was considered to be beyond sketchy and might have caused have the users to adopt unsafe practices around password confidentiality. At the time, Facebook confirmed that the information regarding the email passwords was not stored yet said nothing regarding other data gathered during the process. It was revealed afterwards that Facebook was also extracting contact details.
So even though it was reported that only 1.5 million users of Facebook were affected by this privacy breach, there is a possibility that the contact information of hundreds of millions of other users might have been collected as well, completely without their permission.
Protection advocates have marked the most recent disclosures a noteworthy infringement on the digital rights of users, with some saying that Facebook should further face legal actions.
Friendly data trading
In a different disclosure, it emerged that Facebook had been utilizing user information as a currency. Several leaked documents show that the organization was set up to exchange user information when it saw that it could be a business advantage. The image painted is of a system of inviting tech monsters, thinking about approaches to popularize the data gathered from clients via social networking sites in a completely non-transparent way. This was even more aggravated since “at the same time, Facebook was planning a methodology to publicly frame these moves as a method for securing client privacy.”
Amazon was cited as an example by the NBC investigation where access to user data was provided by Facebook in return for advertising dollars on its platforms. In contrast with Facebook’s public statements, different ways were tried by the company to gather third-party applications to remunerate Facebook for collecting information regarding user data such as advertising spending. data-sharing and direct payment. Facebook additionally looked at limiting access to information for organizations it thought of as a competitive threat.
Is regulation enough for protecting user data?
Recently the UK proposed extreme new measures to guarantee that the UK is the most secure place in the world to be online. The proposal guarantees these measures to be the world’s first online safety laws. The proposals included free guidelines with enforcement powers and fundamentally, the possibility for both social media and their executives to be held accountable.
As data breach after information abuse after privacy scandal keeps hitting the news, it has to be considered whether the regulations are even sufficient. It is not difficult to say that misuse of data and data harvesting has become so common these days that severely drastic actions need to be taken in order to stop this. Whether that implies changing authority and possession structures or mandating break-ups is open to debate.
It was recently reported by the LA Times that Facebook’s shareholders are getting fed up with Mark Zuckerberg but there’s nothing that they can do about it. The principle issue is that Zuckerberg isn’t liable to administer the best practices at his organization since the social networking site essentially operates as how it is today. Hence, the main concern is whether or not there will come a time when Facebook opens itself up to genuine change. If not, then regulators and governments may need to do more than command moderation of content.