AOC quits Facebook, Facebook quits privacy
18 Apr 2019
Oh, you’re not on Facebook? I’m too busy to indulge you about why that is right now…
The other day, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez decided to quit Facebook. You may ask, “why is this any different to any other person who decides to stop using Facebook?” Duh, because she’s a politician. And as non-politicians, we are meant to keep detailed notes on everything the politicians do.
The reason I linked the above blog post specifically is because it notes that the media assumed AOC’s reasons for doing this were about data privacy. As much as I consider the media to be terrible, it was fair for them to assume that. Facebook have done nothing to convince us that they are looking after our data. That, coupled with their terrifying power and influence has made this whole ‘data privacy thing’ (a basic right) into a politicised issue (fun game for powerful adults).
AOC quit Facebook because she just doesn’t like it - it’s actually nothing to do with politics this time. Except it is, and it always will be as long as Facebook have this much power.
Lyft attempt to check some boxes; achieve bare minimum
Recently the cab service Lyft have been applying restrictions to how their employees access customer data. Sounds great, considering the kinds of data a cab company is likely to collect are ride history (such as, you know, to your home), and phone numbers. Cool, yeah, restrict the shit out of how much access is granted to that data, thanks. The measures Lyft have taken so far:
- Restrict this data to those who actually ‘need’ it in their day-to-day work
- Give new (only new) employees formalised privacy training
- Issue warnings to employees who access customer data, saying that their actions are being logged and can be audited
I hope I’m not the only one who feels those measures are… flimsy. Seems like the idea to control and restrict this data is there, but nothing is really enforced. So there’s still not much from stopping a Lyft employee from say, stalking their ex or checking in on Beyonce’s movements.
Facebook: we ‘accidentally coded something’ and then ‘accidentally forget to fix it’ for three years.
I’m not going to anoint this latest piece of Facebook nonsense with more colourful language than it deserves, so here’s a break down of what happened, in order:
- It turns out that some people were asked to provide their email passwords when signing up to Facebook, to verify their identities (seems grossly un-legit already)
- This made it possible for Facebook to access your email contacts, and use those for things like friend recommendations and so on
- In 2016, Facebook ‘changed this feature’ so that if you did provide your email password, Facebook would still access your contacts in the exact same way, but would just neglect to tell you about it
- Present day: the public finds out that this was happening, Facebook spokesperson says the uploading of email contacts was ‘unintentional’. Another spokesperson says that the reason behind it was to ‘improve ads’
Help me out here… is it really possible to ‘unintentionally’ write a piece of code that harvests the email contacts of 1.5 million users, and also improves ads? What expert levels of negligence do you have to reach before you’re capable of that? I’ve gone so far beyond ‘shocked and appalled’ that I’m now on ‘confused and impressed’.