Wait, Another Facebook Privacy Breach?

June 30, 2018


Social media giant Facebook is known as an American-based social networking platform that connects users internationally. As a multi-billion dollar company, Facebook has recently become infamous for its privacy breaches with Cambridge Analytica, where Facebook sold user data to the company--a major issue that brought the attention of people all over the world. With its now-damaged reputation, Facebook is still on the verge of recovery. As one would imagine, a notorious scandal like this would be enough to break the trust of people everywhere. Yet, Facebook doesn’t seem to be respecting people’s privacy because of these secret data-sharing deals. How do we know this? Because two other major incidents happened not too long after the Cambridge Analytica debacle.


As a technology-driven society, users are often asked to click “Agree” for Terms of Use & Privacy documents in order to proceed with access to a service. However, it must be understood that these documents are impossibly long and incomprehensible to the average person, thus forcing people to avoid reading the terms of the contract and immediately make agreements that they don’t fully apprehend. Does that mean that it’s acceptable for large corporations to sell Big Data to other companies for money, and not let users know about this? Facebook’s recent actions have been publicized in the news, suggesting that Facebook thinks it’s just fine.


According to CTV, CNN, Ars Technica, and various other news sources, the spotlight is on Facebook yet again. The company has admitted to enabling 60 device makers, including Apple, Samsung, and Huawei. These companies were permitted “special access” to user data, allowing them to analyze the demographics of their target audience when marketing to potential customers. The sharing of this information was supposed to be completely cut off in 2015, but fast forward 3 years later, the history of privacy breaches has repeated itself. The exchange of this data to other companies, known as “whitelists”, now have access to additional information about a user’s Facebook friends, as well as personal details including phone numbers.


Unfortunately, the breach doesn’t stop there. For one familiar with posting on Facebook, one would know that the website offers audience settings when sharing posts--either Friends, Friends of Friends, or Public. Just a few days ago, Facebook also had a revelation where a “bug” made all of these private posts from 14 million users go public. The key here? Nobody knew a thing about it until it was too late.


So how far is Facebook allowed to go with their Terms of Use & Privacy Policies contract for users? It’s not right that a multi-billion dollar enterprise should be able to blatantly ignore the privacy of their users, and share their personal information without proper consent.


Canadians have their rights regarding media privacy protected under the law. According to Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, “an organization may collect, use, or disclose personal information only for purposes that a reasonable person would consider are appropriate in the circumstances.” In other words, companies are permitted to handle user information in whichever way they choose, however, it must be in a way that is appropriate from the point of view of an average person with normal intelligence. Therefore, if Facebook or other social networking corporations are seeking financial benefit from exploiting the information of their users, then those terms outlined in the Terms of Use & Privacy documents would not be binding under the federal law.


Facebook’s vision is “to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected,” and not simply to profit by sharing user information. However, the Internet is a big place. It’s an enormous market that business leaders are seeking opportunities in. This series of incidents serve as a warning to members of the general public to exercise caution with the use of social media, whether it be through Facebook or other modes of social networking.








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