Facebook Shared Our Data: What Does This Actually Mean?


Facebook Shared Our Data: What Does This Actually Mean?

Illustration: Akshita Monga

Facebook has attracted controversy of late the way Taimur Ali Khan attracts journalists and photographers. It has been less than three months since the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal broke out, where personally identifiable information of up to 87 million people was used to attempt to influence voter opinion. Journalists wrote scathing articles, shared them on Facebook, Zuckerberg testified before Congress, and Facebook’s stock started to tank.

However, it is not water under the bridge for the social media company, as fresh reports emerged earlier this week, from The New York Times that Facebook had given at least 60 device makers “deep access” to data of users and their friends, without obtaining their explicit consent. In some cases the details were stored on the firm’s own servers. For once, even Mark wishes there was a dislike button.

During the Congressional hearing, he had testified, “Every piece of content that you share on Facebook, you own. You have complete control over who sees it and how you share it.” It now seems that Zuckerberg might have lied to Congress, or spread, as it is called these days, FAKE NEWS. Facebook seems to have shared our data much like the guy who distributes flyers at railway stations. It would perhaps make more sense for Facebook to release a list of companies they haven’t shared data with.

Facebook had entered into data sharing deals with 60 phone manufacturers from across the world, including Lenovo, Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Blackberry OPPO and TCL. A lot of people were shocked to hear that there are still people out there who use Blackberrys. But the fact that Facebook provided data access to Huawei, a Chinese smartphone maker that US intelligence agencies described as a security threat, has drawn sharp criticism. Oh Mark, the one thing you simply do not do is piss off US intelligence. Just ask Edward Snowden.

Facebook seems to have shared our data much like the guy who distributes flyers at railway stations.

How much information was shared? Do these companies know about my dank memes page? Do they have access to the nudes I send on Messenger? Apparently Facebook entered these data-sharing deals to help “improve the Facebook experience”. The “like” and “share” buttons were integrated into the operating systems of these devices, so you didn’t have to separately open the Facebook app to like or share something. Your user data, such as your relationship status, religious background, location, political leaning, and events you attend could technically be pulled by these companies. It is said that in certain instances, they could pull up data of one of your Facebook friends without asking them for consent. Invading my privacy at every opportunity you get, Facebook, are you a social media platform or my mom?

Facebook first denied the reports, and later confirmed parts of it. In Indian politics, we call this performing a U-turn. Facebook stated that these partnerships were made public a while ago in a blog post. Jeez Mark, who reads blog posts anymore? Tell us through GIFs and memes. Meanwhile, Facebook started winding down many of these partnerships in April, already having ended more than 30, including the one with Huawei.

Well that’s all fine and dandy, but as an Indian, has my data been compromised? It is a question that the Government of India has also asked Facebook. “The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has sought an explanation from Facebook seeking a detailed factual report on the issue. Facebook has been asked to respond by June 20,” the statement said.

As grey clouds cover parts of India, rough weather is also expected at the Facebook headquarters in California. Another Congressional hearing seems to be on the cards for Mark Zuckerberg. Maybe this time around, tougher questions will be posed to the Facebook CEO, such as, “How do I untag myself from family photos? How do I block Candy Crush notifications forever? What does a bobs and vagene mean?