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Facebook and the Cult of Secrecy June 5, 2018

Posted by Peter Varhol in Publishing, Technology and Culture.
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I recall the worldwide controversy in 2013 surrounding National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who published secret (and above) information about the NSA listening programs to the world at large.  These revelations prompted some worldwide protests against the data collection by the NSA (and by extension GCHQ in the UK and others).

I gave the entire Snowden mess a shrug of my shoulders.  I am not a big fan of secrets, personal or institutional.  I do think that there are things in life that we justifiably attempt to keep secret, for a variety of reasons.  However, I also believe that any attempt to keep something a secret for any significant period of time is ultimately futile.  “Three people can keep a secret, if two are dead” represents my belief in the longevity of secrets.

However, I can’t help but marvel at people protesting against government data collection, yet those same people, and many more, willingly giving far more personal data to Facebook.  I simply don’t get why Facebook, which is undeniably more effective than the NSA, gets a pass on their deeper intrusions in our lives.

Facebook should have taught us that there are no secrets.  I don’t think that we’ve learned that lesson, and I certainly don’t think Facebook has.  This article notes the company’s duplicitous behavior regarding what it says and what it actually does.  In this case, it was Zuckerberg himself who told Congress that they no longer shared user and friend information with third parties.

It turns out that Facebook deliberately decided not to classify 60 (yes, 60) phone manufacturers as third parties.  Zuckerberg’s excuse: they needed to provide them with real user data in order to test the integration with the app on their devices.  Un, no.

Now, I am a tester by temperament, and know darn well that the normal practice is to munge data used for testing.  Facebook providing 60 vendors with real data is not testing, it is yet another violation of their terms of service.  Oh, but Facebook is allowed to do that as long as someone (the janitor, perhaps) apologizes and says it won’t happen again.

So here you have it – Facebook lies, and will continue lying as long as they can get away with it.  And who lets them get away with it?  You do.

Update: Facebook bug set 14 million users’ sharing settings to public.  I really don’t at all understand why people put up with this.

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