A former top Facebook employee is sounding the alarm about the social media company’s efforts to gather up endless amounts of user data with little regard for how the billions of people using the social network will be affected.
Sandy Parakilas, a former platform operations manager for Facebook, portrays the social network as a dystopian corporate data farm which views users as product in a recent op-ed published by The New York Times.
Facebook knows what you look like, your location, who your friends are, your interests, if you’re in a relationship or not, and what other pages you look at on the web. This data allows advertisers to target the more than one billion Facebook visitors a day. It’s no wonder the company has ballooned in size to a $500 billion behemoth in the five years since its I.P.O.
The more data it has on offer, the more value it creates for advertisers. That means it has no incentive to police the collection or use of that data — except when negative press or regulators are involved. Facebook is free to do almost whatever it wants with your personal information, and has no reason to put safeguards in place.
And, according to Parakilas, if Facebook is handing your personal information over to bad actors, you aren’t likely to know. That’s because the social media platform is the primary source of news information for millions of its users– and it controls what news is allowed to spread on the platform.
At a company that was deeply concerned about protecting its users, this situation would have been met with a robust effort to cut off developers who were making questionable use of data. But when I was at Facebook, the typical reaction I recall looked like this: try to put any negative press coverage to bed as quickly as possible, with no sincere efforts to put safeguards in place or to identify and stop abusive developers. When I proposed a deeper audit of developers’ use of Facebook’s data, one executive asked me, “Do you really want to see what you’ll find?”
The message was clear: The company just wanted negative stories to stop. It didn’t really care how the data was used.
The former Facebook insider says the social media company “needs to be regulated more tightly, or broken up so that no single entity controls all of its data.”
This is the second warning about Facebook’s major threat to privacy to come from a former company insider in recent weeks.
Former Facebook executive Sean Parker, warned that social media companies invest major resources into making their platforms as addictive as possible for users.
In an interview with Axios, Parker, the founding president of Facebook, said the top concern of social network design is determining: “How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’”
“I don’t know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying, because [of] the unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or 2 billion people and … it literally changes your relationship with society, with each other … It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains,” he told the website.