Use Facebook At Your Own Risk: The Message Is Loud And Clear

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What do you get from allowing the world’s largest social network to police itself? A fiasco.

Problems for Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) users seem to be escalating unceasingly. Amidst Facebook data breach debacle, Mark Zuckerberg has dropped another bombshell by saying that most of its 2.13 billion users’ data could be under threat, in a data harvest operation entirely separate from the Cambridge Analytica issue.

On Wednesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed that users who had the specific search setting turned on can ‘assume’ that their public profile has been scraped by third-party apps. For all the Facebook users the setting is ON by default though.

Until Wednesday, Users could look up any Facebook profile by entering an e-mail or phone number. Mishandling of the information shared on a Facebook profile can make that user prone to cyber attacks and whatnot. Company’s CTO Mike Schroepfer said

Malicious actors have also abused these features to scrape public profile information by submitting phone numbers or email addresses they already have through search and account recovery. Given the scale and sophistication of the activity we’ve seen, we believe most people on Facebook could have had their public profile scraped in this way.

The new revelation has come at a time when Mark Zuckerberg and team is facing criticism from all the sides for not taking precautionary measures well in time. As of December 2017, Facebook had 2.13 billion monthly active users on the platform, and the recent revelation is being considered as a serious threat to all of its users.

Mark Zuckerberg has not shunned the situation and held nobody but himself responsible for the mistakes. He did apologize ‘second time’ to its users and told that the company had immediately disabled the feature.

The revelations have once again underlined the failure of social media giant in protecting user’s privacy. If people’s information can be used to manipulate elections, it surely can be misused for a whole bunch of unethical activities that can cause discomfort to the user.

Facebook capitalizes on the gathered data as users’ personal information and usage behaviour does help in showing targeted ads and determining what’s trending according to their preferences. More posts related to the likes and dislikes of the user increases the probability of them being more clickable.

Zuckerberg defended gathering user data by arguing that if people are going to see ads, they demand it to be good.

On one hand people want relevant experiences, and on the other hand there is some discomfort about how data is used,” says Zuckerberg.

This firmly implies that a good user experience cannot be guaranteed without acquiring any user data.

Mark Zuckerberg has been facing a lot of heat from federal regulators and consumer watchdogs to which he has come out strongly. In the wake of the circumstances, Facebook has made its terms of data policy clearer. They have worked on their plans to restrict data access on Facebook.

Facebook Third-Party Apps: Threat To Privacy

Data brokers have been known to build profiles of their customers’ tastes by accessing information about their education, work history, religious or political views, relationship status, interests, hobbies, etc via apps. A user is just required to give permission to these third-party apps to squeeze their own data.

Among all the ways third-party apps gain access to users’ personal data, social login is the most popular practice. Arguably, most of the internet users don’t like to maintain tens of login credentials for each of tools, apps or website they use on a regular basis. Facebook is the most popular among all the networks people use to get a pass. More 56% of social login sessions in Q4 2017 is authorised through Facebook, according to Janrain – a company known for digital identity management and tracking.

It’s no one but Facebook which has more accurate data about the usage of any third-party apps. By the recent statement of Facebook, it’s clear that every user has used one or multiple third-party apps for some reason at least once, which makes all users more vulnerable.

Facebook is now restricting such third-party apps. The company will also roll out a new feature on Monday, in a bid to protect user information, that will let the user know how he is affected by the Cambridge Analytica data leak.

Experts and lawmakers are calling for proper regulation in this matter and have suggested some reforms that are likely to fix Facebook and assuage its users a little. It is worth considering for some –

  • Impose fines for data breaches.
  • Police political advertising
  • Make tech companies liable for objectionable content
  • Install ethics review boards.

The epicentre of the solution lies in the hands of users who are having a little say in the whole scenario. People have entrusted Facebook with their sensitive personal information since its inception. If Facebook fails to maintain their confidentiality they may not want to think twice before ditching the network forever.

But more than how Facebook is affected it’s important to think about the privacy and security of your personal data and preferences you have been revealing to Facebook on a daily basis. The message is indirect though, it is loud and clear – use Facebook at your own risk, and just don’t blame Facebook in the future for your data privacy. It’s absolutely correct; in the ear of internet privacy is dead, and no one should talk about or be blamed for it.

After all the allegations, criticism, clarifications, and debates, it is hard to say how many users will really take a stock of the situation and may start avoiding facebook. But one thing is certain – despite all the groundbreaking reforms made by Facebook for data privacy, users will use the platform with more scepticism or not use at all. That’s all!


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