Facebook’s Top Five Fails of 2018

Facebook's Zuckerberg agrees closed-door talks with MEPs
LUCAS NOLAN

2018 was not an easy year for Facebook due to a number of data hacks and company scandals. As the year draws to an end, Breitbart News would like to highlight some of the company’s biggest mistakes.

Breitbart News has chosen to outline just a few of Facebook’s biggest mistakes and scandals over the course of 2018. Due to the company’s practices in recent months, there has been many stories to choose from but here are five of the biggest situations that Facebook faced this year:

1: The Cambridge Analytica User Data Breach

Perhaps the most widely reported and most well known of the company’s data breaches this year has been the one involving the British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. The firm gained access to the personal details of 87 million Facebook users via a quiz app which required certain permissions from users, providing the firm with access to users personal data. Even more worrying is that the political consulting firm could still have access to this data as Breitbart reported in March:

Cambridge Analytica may still be in possession of the user data of Faceook, despite their claims of deleting data when requested by Facebook in 2015. A report from Channel 4 News claims that some of the data may not have been deleted and that they have directly seen data troves that date back to 2014.

Paul Grewal, Facebook’s vice president and deputy general counsel, also commented on the fact that Cambridge Analytica may not have deleted all of the user data saying:

“Two weeks ago, we received reports from media, including Channel 4, that, contrary to the certifications we were given, not all data was deleted. Cambridge Analytica have confirmed publicly that they no longer have the data, others are challenging this, we are determined to find out the facts. The ICO has launched an investigation into Cambridge Analytica and we are assisting with this. We want to assure people that we have suspended Cambridge Analytica from Facebook.”

Shortly after the announcement of the data breach, the Federal Trade Commission began a probe into Facebook, they were later joined in this investigation by the  FBI, SEC, and the Justice Department. According to the Washington Postthe probe focuses on what Facebook knew in 2015 after they learned that Cambridge Analytica had accessed personal user details without user consent. Facebook reportedly did not publicly discuss the issue until March of this year despite having knowledge of the incident for some time.

2: Zuckerberg’s Testimony Before Congress

In an effort to appease government officials, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg agreed to appear before Congress to answer questions relating to Facebook, with a heavy focus on user data privacy and Cambridge Analytica. However, Zuckerberg’s awkward answers, blank expression and decision to sit on a padded leather cushion during the hearing resulted in widespread ridicule of the CEO.

Following the hearing, questions remained around whether or not Zuckerberg had been entirely honest with Congress; the fact that the CEO was not under oath during the hearing fuelled these worries. The Facebook founder also appeared to contradict himself on a number of topics, two months before Facebook began publishing exclusive content from establishment media outlets, Zuckerberg was assuring Congress that the social media platform was not a publisher.

Zuckerberg’s exchange at the time with Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) was as follows:

[Sen. Sullivan:] “So — which are you? Are you a tech company, or are you the world’s largest publisher? Because I think that goes to a really important question on what form of regulation or government action, if any, we would take.”

Zuckerberg gave a mealy-mouthed response, saying he “views [Facebook] as a tech company, because the primary thing we do is build technology and products”

Sullivan interjected: “But you said you’re responsible for your content. Which makes you kind of a publisher, right?”

Zuckerberg’s response: “I agree that we’re responsible for the content, but we don’t produce the content. I think that when people ask us whether we’re a media company or a publisher, my understanding of the heart of what they’re getting at is, do we feel responsibility for the content that’s on our platform.”

“The answer to that I think is clearly yes, but I don’t think that’s incompatible with [what’s] fundamentally at our core, being a technology company where the main thing that we do is have engineers and build products.”

Two months later, Facebook announced a deal with multiple establishment left-leaning news outlets to publish exclusive content. Since then, Facebook has argued in court against the startup company Six4Three that they are, in fact, a publisher. Facebook’s flip-flopping and bending of the truth was not a good look for the company or Zuckerberg as he appeared before Congress. The memes also didn’t help:

3: Accusations of Unhealthy Psychological Effects

In recent months, Facebook has been accused of having negative psychological effects on users, with some claiming that the site is designed to keep users returning. Many have claimed that Facebook can cause addiction-like symptoms in some users, something which the company encourages as it ensures a returning user base.

Facebook’s former company President and Napster co-founder, Sean Parker, claimed in an interview that Facebook was “exploiting” human psychology. Parker discussed the possible negative psychological effects of social media in an interview with Axios. Parker, the Founder and Chair of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, spoke at an Axios event at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, where he discussed social media. Parker described himself as  “something of a conscientious objector” to social media in general.

Parker discussed the number of people that were against social media when Facebook first started, telling Parker that they’d never join the online world as they valued intimacy and living in the moment. Parker was quite confident that before long they’d be scrolling through a newsfeed like two billion other Facebook users:

When Facebook was getting going, I had these people who would come up to me and they would say, ‘I’m not on social media.’ And I would say, ‘OK. You know, you will be. And then they would say, ‘No, no, no. I value my real-life interactions. I value the moment. I value presence. I value intimacy.’ And I would say, … ‘We’ll get you eventually.’

Parker discussed the possible psychological effects of social media and Facebook in particular, especially for children who are now growing up in a digitally connected age:

I don’t know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying, because [of] the unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or 2 billion people and … it literally changes your relationship with society, with each other … It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.

Comments such as this from Facebook former President, combined with Facebook’s mishandling of user data, has led to a greater level of distrust around the company. What was previously seen as just a website by many users was becoming better known as a data collection company.

4: Internal Documents Show Facebook Gave 60+ Companies Access to User Data — Including Foreign State-Linked Firms

recent report from the New York Times reveals that Facebook formed “data partnerships” with companies such as Microsoft, Netflix, Amazon, Spotify, and Yahoo, granting these companies access to vast amounts of user data. The report claimed that:

Facebook allowed Microsoft’s Bing search engine to see the names of virtually all Facebook users’ friends without consent, the records show, and gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read Facebook users’ private messages.

The social network permitted Amazon to obtain users’ names and contact information through their friends, and it let Yahoo view streams of friends’ posts as recently as this summer, despite public statements that it had stopped that type of sharing years earlier.

Interestingly, The New York Times itself was one of the companies allegedly given access to private user data:

Spotify, which could view messages of more than 70 million users a month, still offers the option to share music through Facebook Messenger. But Netflix and the Canadian bank no longer needed access to messages because they had deactivated features that incorporated it.

These were not the only companies that had special access longer than they needed it. Yahoo, The Times and others could still get Facebook users’ personal information in 2017.

Yahoo could view real-time feeds of friends’ posts for a feature that the company had ended in 2011. A Yahoo spokesman declined to discuss the partnership in detail but said the company did not use the information for advertising. The Times — one of nine media companies named in the documents — had access to users’ friend lists for an article-sharing application it also had discontinued in 2011. A spokeswoman for the news organization said it was not obtaining any data. [emphasis ours]

What the report from the New York Times further revealed was that Facebook also used data collected by companies such as Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei for their own products and features. The Times report reveals that Facebook used user data from Amazon, Yahoo and Huawei for their “People You May Know” feature:

The Times reviewed more than 270 pages of reports generated by the system — records that reflect just a portion of Facebook’s wide-ranging deals. Among the revelations was that Facebook obtained data from multiple partners for a controversial friend-suggestion tool called “People You May Know.”

The feature, introduced in 2008, continues even though some Facebook users have objected to it, unsettled by its knowledge of their real-world relationships. Gizmodo and other news outlets have reported cases of the tool’s recommending friend connections between patients of the same psychiatrist, estranged family members, and a harasser and his victim.

Facebook, in turn, used contact lists from the partners, including Amazon, Yahoo and the Chinese company Huawei — which has been flagged as a security threat by American intelligence officials — to gain deeper insight into people’s relationships and suggest more connections, the records show.

In February, the heads of six major intelligence organizations issued a warning in relation to Chinese technology manufacturer Huawei and telecom company  ZTE. The heads of the CIA, FBI, NSA and the director of national intelligence all made a recommendation against using products produced by the tech companies at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.

5: Data Leaks, Data Leaks, Data Leaks
While the Cambridge Analytica leak was the biggest leak for Facebook this year, it was far from the only one. Over the past few months, it appears as if Facebook has been announcing a new leak of user information every few weeks. The company claimed that one of the most recent data breaches in October was “nearly undetectable” which should worry many Facebook users.

During an Advertising Week panel in October Facebook’s vice president of global marketing solutions, Carolyn Everson, explained that the company’s latest user data breach which affected the accounts of 50 million people was a “sophisticated attack.” Everson stated: “This was an attack, an attack that would require people to understand three different bugs.”

Everson further said that the attackers were like an “odorless, weightless intruder that walked in” that could only be detected by Facebook “once they made a certain move.” The security bug reportedly related to a vulnerability in Facebook’s “view as” feature which allowed users to see what their own Facebook profile would look like to someone else. This bug allowed hackers to steal the security tokens of other users accounts and use these to then access that user’s account. These security tokens are like digital keys which keep users logged into Facebook so they don’t have to re-login every time they visit the website.

It later came to light that the same security tokens could be used to access accounts of websites that use the “Facebook Login” feature. This means that any third-party app that uses the “Facebook Login” feature could be at risk, including apps such as Instagram, Tinder, Airbnb and many others. Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president of product management, stated in the blog post revealing the bug: “The vulnerability was on Facebook, but these access tokens enabled someone to use the account as if they were the account-holder themselves.”

In December, the company announced that a photo sharing bug may have affected 6.8 million users. A post on the company’s developer blog states: “Our internal team discovered a photo API bug that may have affected people who used Facebook Login and granted permission to third-party apps to access their photos. We have fixed the issue but, because of this bug, some third-party apps may have had access to a broader set of photos than usual for 12 days between September 13 to September 25, 2018.”

The post further explains the situation stating: “When someone gives permission for an app to access their photos on Facebook, we usually only grant the app access to photos people share on their timeline. In this case, the bug potentially gave developers access to other photos, such as those shared on Marketplace or Facebook Stories. The bug also impacted photos that people uploaded to Facebook but chose not to post. For example, if someone uploads a photo to Facebook but doesn’t finish posting it — maybe because they’ve lost reception or walked into a meeting — we store a copy of that photo so the person has it when they come back to the app to complete their post.”

These are just some of Facebook’s biggest fails throughout 2018. As 2019 approaches, Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg should consider a new year’s resolution: Respect user’s privacy, stop censoring the platform, and stop selling their data to large corporations.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan_ or email him at lnolan@breitbart.com

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