August 14, 2020

Social Media Giants Must Prioritize Privacy

posted on: Thursday April 19, 2018

Facebook creator and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before the Senate on April 10. Photo courtesy of Andrew Harnik/AP.

When Facebook was founded in 2004, no one could predict the impact it would have on life in the 21st century.  Despite its ability to help people connect and share ideas around the world, its disadvantages have become glaringly apparent in recent years. 

The most dangerous problem to arise has been the recent security breach with Cambridge Analytica.  This recent controversy has caused people to consider Facebook’s role in protecting its users’ privacy and the role of propaganda in the media. 

In March 2018, the Federal Trade Commission launched an investigation into how Cambridge Analytica, a right-wing voter profiling firm, accessed Facebook users’ information in order to inform their operations. The company harvested its information through an app called “This is Your Digital Life” and was able to obtain personal information from over 87 million Facebook users. 

The data collected by Cambridge Analytica is thought to have been used in efforts to support the presidential campaign of Donald Trump and Brexit.  Many were angry at Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, for allowing the security breach to occur. 

On April 10, Zuckerberg was questioned in front of the Senate, and on April 11, he was questioned in front of the House Energy and Commerce Commission.  In his prepared remarks, Zuckerberg took responsibility for not protecting his users’ privacy. 

Zuckerberg said that Facebook will be taking measures to ensure that their users’ privacy is more protected in the future, including actions such as investigating third party apps and increasing transparency. 

While Zuckerberg’s intentions moving forward seem to have users’ best interests in mind, they cannot erase the damage that has been done.  People using Facebook place their trust in the company. 

Now that this trust has been broken, it will be very difficult for Facebook to defend its credibility as a brand that prioritizes the safety of its users.  When a tool as simple as an app can be used to access personal information, there is no way of knowing who will take advantage of this opportunity and potentially use the information collected for insidious means.

In addition to raising concerns about the right to privacy, the Cambridge Analytica scandal arouses concerns regarding political freedom.  At the Senate hearing, Zuckerberg acknowledged the fact that Facebook did not take appropriate action to curb Russian interference during the election on their site. 

Since individuals’ personal information was harvested to benefit a political machine, there is concern that Facebook and other social media sites will be further used as tools to influence users and spread propaganda.  These concerns threaten not only individual liberties, but the integrity of democracy in the United States. 

While social media has the power to facilitate amazing connections, there is ample opportunity for its capabilities to be used in improper ways.  If social media is going to continue to exist in society, giants of the industry such as Zuckerberg and Facebook must take the necessary steps to ensure that their products are not doing more harm than good. 

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