Facebook Zuckerberg Boardedelmanwired: It is hard to imagine how much easier it can possibly be, until the power and influence of platforms such as Facebook start to become truly felt. The criticism that has been directed at Zuckerberg by professionals and internet privacy advocates alike has led to Facebook (and other social networks) moving into full transparency mode where users can have a say on what happens within their social media space.
The popular social network has also taken to listening to the feedback from its critics. For example, in response to criticism that its browser-based Messenger app violated user privacy by allowing third parties access to user information, Facebook tweaked its policy. Now when users make their presence on Facebook known through Messenger, they are explicitly informed of how their data will be used. While some may think this falls short of ensuring full transparency and privacy, it is a step in the right direction. This is an amazing development considering that Facebook has only recently become a platform worthy of criticism.
Facebook is not even a decade old, having been founded in 2004 by Zuckerberg and classmates at Harvard. Yet the company has grown to have a user base of over one billion people with more than $3.7 billion in revenue and nearly $2 billion in profit this year alone. But, as Facebook’s figures reveal, its growth has not been without its problems.
The criticism has ranged from the site’s failure to acknowledge how its product would impact young users and allow the manipulation of society through envy, to the privacy issues that inevitably come with social media. The latter concern is based on Facebook’s tendency to perform poorly in privacy regulation and enforcement. The FTC has several times investigated Facebook for various breaches of user trust, but rarely found evidence of substantial wrongdoing, leading privacy advocates to suggest a strengthening in privacy law.
For example, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a complaint with the FTC in 2009 that Facebook was “deceiving users and [engaging] in unfair and deceptive trade practices by failing to make public the extent of personal data collection and disclosure.” And although Facebook deleted more than 70 data categories from its API, privacy advocates have continued to call for more transparency based on the inaccuracies of what Facebook reports it collects. For example, this summer the FTC had to force Facebook to come clean on its data collection policies after it was discovered that Facebook was tracking users even after they logged out of the site.
More recently, a report from a 14-year-old Irish schoolgirl brought Facebook into the public spotlight when she revealed that she could retrieve personal information on anyone registered on the network. All that was required was a name. The report resulted in numerous inquiries from European privacy regulators and resulted in an FTC investigation.