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article imageOp-Ed: A look back at the year of the Facebook scandals

By Tim Sandle     Dec 21, 2018 in Technology
Facebook has not had a good year, and least from the perspective of its users and the public at large. Crowning this was the involvement with Cambridge Analytica, but there have been other data privacy issues too.
Facebook remains the biggest social media site on the planet; however, a series of issues reported during 2018 have rocked public trust and raised issues about the power of technology companies in general and social media providers in particular. These issues relate to how your data is used. We take a look at some of the main scandals that have affected Facebook during 2018.
Cambridge Analytica
In March 2018, it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica harvested the data of millions of Facebook users without their consent for political purposes. The New York Times reported that dataset has included information on 50 million Facebook users. This issue forced, as Digital Journal reported, Facebook to send a notification to 2.2 billion users called "Protecting Your Information". The message contained a link that allows users of the world's biggest social network site to check apps they have used and what information they have, most likely inadvertently, shared with these apps.
Political tool
Facebook continues to be accused as being a vehicle for influencing political outcomes. Although centered on the 2016 U.S. presidential election, 2018 saw considerable criticism, as Digital Journal reported, of Facebook's involvement for allowing "fake news" to spread through its network.
Sharing medical data
During April 2018, news broke that Facebook was in discussions with hospitals to get them to share patients’ private medical data. According to CNBC, the aim was to build profiles of people that included their medical conditions, information that health systems have, as well as social and economic factors gleaned from Facebook. With the news breaking, the project was placed on hold.
Open for hacking
During September, news broke that hackers gained access to around 30 million Facebook accounts. According to Facebook: "We discovered that attackers had exploited a vulnerability caused by the complex interaction of three bugs in our system to obtain access tokens. Tokens can be used, like a digital key, to request certain information through our platform. "
Taking your data
According to The Guardian, 2018 also revealed that Microsoft, Sony and Amazon were given the ability to obtain email addresses of their users’ friends during 2017. Furthermore, Facebook is said to have granted device manufacturers like Apple the ability to build special features that plugged into the social network.
Myanmar scandal
In November, Facebook admitted, following political pressure, that it did not act quickly enough to prevent its platform being used as a tool to incite genocidal violence in Myanmar. According to a New York Times report, Facebook initially engaged a public relations company to try and discredit critics over its Myanmar policy, claiming that the detractors were simply supporters of financier George Soros.
Deleting your private messages
An inquiry by the New York Times, posted in December, has found that Facebook provided Netflix, Spotify and the Royal Bank of Canada with the ability to read, write and delete users’ private messages.
Labor disputes
Facebook has also seen labor disputes. In December, 20 Facebook subcontractors demanded better working conditions, they were told to accept a counter-offer from their company by Friday afternoon – or lose their jobs. This, according to The Guardian, has led to sympathy 'action' from direct employees at Facebook. Employees have been posting on the situation on the company’s internal version of Facebook, called Workplace.
What do these various 'scandals' signify? Outside of the general issue about Facebook's practices, they exemplify how personal data has become the most prized commodity of the digital age. Data — including your data — continues to be traded on a massive scale by and between the most powerful technology companies.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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