Facebook Shares User Data With Tech Giants Despite The Law
Zuckerberg’s giant company has been in a lot of trouble ever since the world discovered their partnerships with organizations like Cambridge Analytica, for example, and how the information they shared was monetized.
Facebook and many other social media platforms have been collecting our data un an unprecedented scale, and truthfully, the laws are just starting to catch up.
When the Cambridge Analytics scandal first broke, the company faced fierce criticism from both the public and elected officials.
The European Union Was The First To Tackle The Problem
As a result of the scandal, the European Union is the first government entity to crack down on them with a new batch of laws called the General Data Protection Regulations.
For the most part, the regulations are meant to target gigantic corporations like Google and Facebook, and the average consumer or internet marketer shouldn’t worry too much about it.
The regulation will tax the company either $10 million or 4% of their annual income if they violate any of the laws, whichever sum is bigger.
These Companies Have More Money Than The US Government
It’s worth noting that these companies are making so much money that the EU has to make it either 4% or $10 million, because to an organization like Apple, $10 million is basically a drop in the bucket. In fact, Apple has $160 billion in cash just sitting in a bank account for a rainy day.
They’re Not Holding Up Their Side Of The Bargain
During his visit to the House Of Representatives back in March of this year, Mark Zuckerberg – while appearing noticeably nervous – emphasized privacy concerns for its users, something which is a “priority” to them.
Mark said Facebook users own the content they share on Facebook, and they control how it’s shared.
However, this contradicts their actions in the last few years, because as the company has been trying to become the world’s biggest social media service, they came to agreements regarding the usage of their users’ data with phone companies.
The Facebook Application We Use On Our Phones Is A Part Of The Problem
Facebook has reached agreements with over sixty companies, including Apple, Amazon, Blackberry, Microsoft, and Samsung. This all began over ten years ago before Facebook apps were even available on smartphones.
Facebook had to come to an agreement with these companies in order to install the application on the phones.
It’s the reason why our phones now have the option to download the Facebook messenger app. In order for such a technology to be possible, Facebook and companies like Samsung came to agreements about what kind of users’ data they would share with each other, and how to monetize it.
Despite their intention to no longer share information with companies without their users’ consent, it’s precisely what they’ve been doing.
And their practices may be in violation of the 2011 agreement with the Federal Trade Commission.
Companies Like Apple and Samsung Gather Info About Your Friends
Some phone-makers are able to pull information from a user’s Facebook friends, a practice that was supposed to be against the law.
In other words, they can gather information about your Facebook friends, even if your friends aren’t using the same phone as you.
Most of these partnerships have begun to decrease in their implementation following his appearance before Congress in March, but they still exist.
And following the Cambridge Analytica outrage, Facebook announced they would no longer allow companies such as CA gather information and monetize it in such a way.
But they didn’t reveal if they would restrict phone companies from doing the same thing.
A man who used to work for Facebook, and is now a vocal opponent, Mr. Parakilas, claimed “it’s shocking” that their data sharing amongst tech companies like Amazon and Apple is still ongoing even though they testified in Congress that it had stopped.
Facebook Doesn’t Disclose Precisely How They’re Sharing Data
In May, Facebook had to submit documents to lawmakers in Germany and in those documents, they briefly mentioned partnerships with other companies. Primarily, they provided details regarding how they work with BlackBerry.
Interestingly, they gave information on a phone that was popular ten years ago, and not the iPhone that everyone uses now.
According to the New York Times, in April, during a European court hearing, Elisabeth Winkelmeier-Becker, said they’ve been hoping to expose if Facebook has been handing over data to other companies without the users’ consent.
She said that people who use Blackberry became “data-dealers” without even knowing it.
Both Amazon and Samsung refused to answer questions about contracts with Facebook.
A spokesperson for Blackberry, Usher Lieberman, said their company didn’t collect Facebook data from their users. As a company, they’re trying to protect their customers’ information, rather than make money off of it.
Microsoft, as well, claimed when they entered into a deal with Facebook ten years ago, the agreement would be to store data locally on the phone and the information wouldn’t be sent to Microsoft’s servers.
The contract between the social media company and Microsoft allowed users of Microsoft products to add contacts, friends, and receive notifications.
Essentially, the social media platform and phone company gather our activity online as data for the sake of monetization.
A good example of this, is the Facebook personality quizzes, one of the primary ways Cambridge Analytica collected data.
How Cambridge Analytics Collected And Used Facebook Personal Information
What made the Cambridge Analytica scandal so controversial is that it revealed how Facebook has been so reckless and incautious in how they go about collecting and sharing data with other organizations.
For example, a Cambridge contractor used a quiz distributed to 300,000 Facebook users to gather information on the profiles of nearly 87 million of those users’ friends.
In addition to it being a violation of privacy, it is also a lie and a violation of previous laws, including the 2011 consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission.
We’ve Already Dealt With This Problem Before
The Commission barred Facebook from overriding their users’ privacy settings without getting their permission. The law came about because an investigation revealed Facebook was allowing application developers to collect personal data both to the user of the application as well as their friends.
And it didn’t even matter if those Facebook users asked for the information to remain private. They would share the information with developers anyway.
After the Cambridge Analytica scandal went down, the FTC conducted another investigation into their practices, to figure out if Facebook deserves punishment and fines.
Through Semantics And Wordplay, They’ve Used Exceptions To Overpower The Rule
But it turns out that Facebook figured out a legal loophole so they could 1) share the information, and 2) avoid fines.
Representatives for Facebook said they did not violate the decree because the company viewed their developer partnerships as “service providers.”
According to the decree, Facebook doesn’t need to get more permission if they share the data with service providers. Essentially, they’ve engaged in wordplay and semantics in order to avoid breaking the law.
One official for Facebook said, “these contracts and partnerships are entirely consistent with Facebook’s FTC consent decree.”
However, Jessica Rich, who used to work for the FTC, and crafted the decree to govern the social media company’s behavior, said the “exception swallows the rule.”