Facebook data row rumbles on during another intense week

by Shane Dillon

Another week, and another seven long days of an intense firestorm surrounding Facebook, with allegations and intense interest whirling like harpies around the tech titan.

If anyone thought that last week’s spectacularly explosive revelations about data mining and potential political interference would quietly slip away into the night … brother, how wrong you were.

If anything, matters have escalated, with all kinds of people and groups deleting their Facebook profiles and accounts in protest, with SpaceX and Tesla billionaire Elon Musk among the high-profile names abandoning Facebook in the past week.

The SpaceX and Tesla Facebook pages disappeared mere minutes after Musk tweeted: “It’s not a political statement and I didn’t do this because someone dared me to do it. Just don’t like Facebook. Gives me the willies. Sorry.”

When you’re a billionaire tech titan yourself, it’s easy to decide to abruptly sever your companies’ Facebook presence, but in this Musk wasn’t alone – lots of people have jumped on board the #DeleteFacebook boycott movement, in protest at the data of more than 50 million Facebook users being data mined by an external company, potentially exponentially giving access to many more people, and used for political purposes.

Cross-Atlantic anger hasn’t abated, with watchdogs and politicians practically brandishing pitchforks, chair legs and burning torches at the mere mention of Facebook with, at the time of writing, Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg prompting intense criticism from British politicians.

With the Cambridge Analytics data harvesting row gaining legs, as they say, sending Facebook’s value tumbling, Zuckerberg has agreed to appear before US Congress to testify – but has declined to appear before members of parliament in Britain, with his stance blasted as “absolutely astonishing” by an irate committee chair there, who had some sharp words about Zuckerberg’s reluctance to appear.

There’s great anger on both sides of the Atlantic at how loopholes and exploits seemingly left Facebook user data exposed for third parties to exploit, trawl through and repurpose – with Facebook’s defense that such data mining chinks in user data armor were sealed off some years ago, when discovered, doing little to abate the criticism and political pressure.

Adding fuel to the fire, there’ve also been several widespread media articles over the past week about people requesting to see the data Facebook holds or records about them, and then being shocked by the amount and breadth of data noted, from the major to the minor points of their lives.

As I wrote last week, this is not only the biggest tech story of the year so far, by far, but also one of the biggest news stories of the year, too.

With an entire week doing little to dampen down the flames, I suspect there’s plenty more still to come as the Facebook-Cambridge Analytics row blazes on.

If there’s one good point to emerge from this spectacular row, it’s this: the Facebook row should act as a clarion call for any and all social media users, on any platform, to ask and note what data is being stored about them, and what data they’re providing to the platforms.

To be crystal clear: I’m not saying to delete your Facebook account, or Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, or whatever.

(As a disclaimer, I’m currently mulling over whether or not to also delete my own profile.)
But if, like most of us, you have absolutely no idea what data is being stored about you, now’s a good time to try to find out, and then decide whether or not you’re happy.

Best of luck finding out how much others may know about you – or how little you know they know…

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