Facebook: Game changer or a privacy risk to its users?

In the world of multinational multi-billion corporations, the race to the top may seem like the most difficult thing, but it’s actually the fight to stay there that makes or breaks companies. More often than not, in the struggle to remain there, to retain their wealth and power, corporations inevitably cross lines that set up their users to be the victims down the road.

Facebook in recent years has come under heavy fire for the lack of data security users are subject to, from providing sensitive user information to the Civil Intelligence Agency (CIA) and National Security Agency (NSA) to the influencing of the US elections through Cambridge Analytica, in recent years people have stopped using the once game-changer that ushered in a new era for mass communication and social media upon its conception.

According to the book, "An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook's Battle for Domination", in a landmark decision, Mark Zuckerberg had decided to do away with the nuances of going through different channels to attain user data access for its engineers. In the words of the authors of the book, Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang, this effectively meant that the only thing stopping them from exploiting this immense power on their hands was their conscience. Yet some apparently didn’t have one, because according to the book between 2014 and 2015 the company fired over 50 employees for exploiting the access to data for non-business reasons.

In the majority of the cases, the employees who did this were men looking for information on the women they potentially liked. One employee went as far as to trace a woman who had left their room at the hotel after they fought while they were vacationing. After not hearing back from a woman he had gone on a date with, another employee ended up going through all her private messages, photos (deleted and otherwise), and even posts that she had clicked on.

The book goes on to mention that the chief security officer at that time, Alex Stamos brought to Zuckerberg’s attention that these exploitations were happening nearly every month and proposed that access should be reduced from 16000 employees to just 5000 and to below 100 for extremely sensitive information including but not limited to passwords. Stamos also proposed that a system of formal requests for access to private data should be introduced but other executives shut him down.

Zuckerberg asked Stamos to come up with a solution within a year considering the matter a top priority, but according to an unnamed employee, any solution that involved limiting data access to employees would be against the fundamentals and core ideas that Zuckerberg had. According to the employee, there had been innumerable opportunities over the years to limit the collection of user data but they knew beforehand that even if they took those ideas to Mark Zuckerberg, he wouldn’t consider that as an option.

Read next: Through a new feature of Facebook, group admins will be able to entitle the obliging members as subject matter specialists
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