New Orleans With Facebook and most of the other tech conglomerates it really is no longer a question of adults not being in charge. They are in fact in charge, but they are irresponsible in caring for their consumers and customers, blinded by greed, self-interest, and self-aggrandizement. Let’s stop pretending these international, 100 billion dollars plus conglomerates are “doing good,” rather than being profit maximizing companies that warrant the same kind of full-throated regulation and supervision that other powerful economic and social actors should receive in order to protect the community and their consumers.
In the latest in a long running series of disclosures Facebook withheld information that Cambridge Analytics had scrubbed the usage data and information from 50 million users at the service of rightwing political campaigns run by Texas Senator Ted Cruz and current President Donald Trump. It is impossible that this theft, likely violating a number of state and federal consumer protection laws, as well as a 2011 consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission swearing Facebook to protect users’ privacy, did not have an impact on the 2016 election for president. Reports by both the Observer in the Great Britain and The New York Times uncovered this, but also have reported that Facebook knew about this breach for the last two years without saying one solitary word to its customers.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Cambridge Analytics was just another data shop and they all do it. This was the adopted child of Stephen Bannon and billionaire Rebecca Mercer, who invested millions in the company. Reports from Channel 4 in the UK, based on a sting where they seemed to be seeking business, has the CEO of this outfit suggesting dirty tricks were readily available from the company including his suggestion that Cambridge would arrange for beautiful Ukrainian sex workers to seduce opposition candidates and secure compromising video. This rightwing darling was amoral at best.
Additional reports indicate that the head of security at Facebook who until recently ran a 150 plus group to assure user safety had his team shrunk to three people and is now being forced out. He had lost an argument within the company over the last several years by advocating early on that the Russian interference be exposed publicly to other executives on the business side that wanted the information silenced and have continued to do so even as the scandal has exploded over them and other tech companies for their lack of candor.
Their obsession with protecting the public reputation of Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg trumps their responsibility to customers and shareholders as self-interest triumphs. The basic algorithm at Facebook seems to be that another dollar comes first in their equation and users come last.
Move fast and break this Facebook thing so that it finally puts the users at the top of their concerns.