For millennia now humans have known that a leopard cannot change its spots and a tiger cannot change its stripes. The same holds true when it comes to corporate behavior. . .Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) just can’t stop giving away your personal data for profit. Not surprising considering its corporate culture was laid down by Mark Zuckerberg, whose past was a preview to the present.
Even at Harvard, Zuckerberg was in the middle of a privacy scandal when he developed a “hot or not” app. Zuckerberg was called before Harvard’s administrative body in 2003 to face allegations he had violated other students’ privacy and made unauthorized use of photos. He agreed to take down “Facemash” and thereby avoided penalties that could have forced him to leave Harvard. If you’re interested, here’s a link to the 2003 story in the school newspaper, The Crimson: Facemash Creator Survives Ad Board.
Jump ahead to 2004 and you have this instant message he sent to a friend: “THEY ‘trust me’…dumb f***s,” after boasting that he had personal data, including photos, e-mails and addresses, of some 4,000 of his social network’s users. He offered to share whatever information his friend wanted to see.
That willful disregard for people’s data and privacy continues at Facebook with even more scandals. Here are the details. . . . .
Facebook Follies Continue
Facebook is under fire again for another instance of sharing personal data of users with more than 60 device-makers that had permission to make Facebook-branded apps. The users, of course, had no knowledge of this and did not give permission to use their data.
Many of these multiple data-sharing partnerships with dozens of device makers, such as Samsung, go back as far as 2010. These firms were given access to detailed data about Facebook users and all their friends including information on their work history, personal relationships and religious affiliations.
These deals (because they continued onward) seem to be in direct violation of Facebook’s 2011 agreement with the Federal Trade Commission in which it promised not to share users’ personal data with outside partners. But what makes this worse in the government’s eyes is the fact that four of these firms were Chinese and included Huawei Technologies that U.S. intelligence consider to be a security risk.
The worst thing though about this latest Facebook scandal about its poor stewardship of people’s personal information is that it seems that it never learns from its own mistakes. . .it doesn’t change its stripes/spots.
As usual, when give the chance to be open and transparent, Facebook goes down the path of obfuscation. When the Cambridge Analytica story broke, Facebook did a lot of verbal gymnastics while pointing the finger at Cambridge, ignoring that it had left a whole series of data ‘barn’ doors wide open.
And that continues today. . .Facebook’s response to the data-sharing partnerships focused on the past. . .these relationships were set up years ago, blah, blah. But it does not explain why it did not end or even revise these data-sharing partnerships with smartphone manufacturers.
The company’s latest response to criticism tells me Facebook still isn’t interested in having the public understand exactly what it does. And it’s definitely not interested in becoming more transparent and holding itself accountable. For me, that makes Facebook rather repugnant and not a stock I would ever one. Instead, I would rather own a company that values privacy more highly – Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL).
Apple Goes After Facebook
In fact, Apple seems to be going after Facebook lately.
At the Apple developer conference, Apple unveiled iPhone, iPad and MAC software updates that will limit Facebook’s data collection. Apple’s default Safari browser will show a pop-up window asking users for permission before loading share buttons from social networks like Facebook and Twitter. This will give the user the power to decide whether to share web browser data with Facebook and others.
To give you some sense of the importance of this move, let me explain how the web works. Let’s say your at website Z, saw a story you liked and wanted to share it. Those website icons that allow to share that story are also part of Facebook’s massive data-harvesting system. When websites have those icons, they send information about people’s web activity back to Facebook, which uses the information to fill out the personal digital dossiers they have on billions of people in order to improve how it tailors the advertisements Facebook sells. Many Facebook users aren’t aware that it collects data about non-Facebook websites that people visit, even if they don’t click on any of those “like” or “share” buttons. This data harvesting unfortunately is standard internet practice.
Apple also showed off a new system that makes it more difficult to gather information about its users as they browse across the web. When people visit sites, the characteristics of their device can be used by advertisers to create a “fingerprint” to track them. Safari will share only a “simplified” profile to thwart this tracking. Last year, Apple also launched its ‘Intelligent Tracking System’ that made its more difficult for advertisers to follow users around the web.
Another step in its privacy ‘war’ with Facebook occurred earlier this year when Apple added a new privacy panel to its operating systems. That panel explained in plain language why, how, and what data is collected from Apple devices and by specific applications.
Add up all these measures and we’re talking about throwing a major wrench into the data gathering and harvesting for big profits machine that is Facebook today!
There a lot of reasons for liking Apple’s stock, but these moves regarding privacy is just one more in reason to own it.
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