Recent information has come to light that Facebook planned to use its Android app to track the location of its customers. This was to allow political advertising and invites to dating sites to ‘single’ people. One would have thought (given recent events) that Facebook would have been more careful with user data privacy.
This started when the Facebook project teams developed technology which allowed the corporation to track the location of customers via their mobile phones. Documents hinted that Facebook was planning on transferring this information to companies selling dating services and political organisations.
- The specific body responsible for this is Facebook’s “Growth Team” who planned to specifically target Android users.
- Interestingly, the critical report by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has already called for an independent regulator to oversee social media companies.
- More worryingly however, these documents were a part of Ted Kramer’s legal documents in his company’s lawsuit with Facebook during the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
So, what has happened?
This was to make it easier for advertisers to target single users (those who have not indicated that they are ‘married’ or ‘in a relationship’).
This targeting capability is currently available for dating, but work is being undertaken to expand this to other data privacy verticals. This is where the political worry comes in. Questions are raised about the use of Facebook for political ends. There have already been indications that Facebook was used by Russia to attempt to influence Brexit.
Why did Facebook do it?
This so-called ‘policy relaxation’ was with the expectation of boosting revenues.
However, this is not just about dating or political views. The documents show that the team were also intending to use the Android app for competitive intelligence. This was mainly in the realm of rival firms. On Android, the use of rival app stores to google and rival apps which have similar functions to Facebook (messaging etc) were analysed.
Continuing Policy Problems
So, what are the privacy concerns here? At Serviceteam IT, we are constantly stressing the importance of securing and protecting data privacy. Serious concerns about Facebook’s privacy on their platform are rising once again.
In an email to senior executives, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined plans that would give Facebook access to customers’ data from games and apps developed by independent developers, in return for giving the developers access to data on Facebook users.
A spokesperson for Facebook said the leaked documents only told one part of the story and omitted important explanatory context.
“Like the other documents that were cherry-picked and released in violation of a court order last year, these by design tell one side of a story and omit important context. As we’ve said, these selective leaks came from a lawsuit where Six4Three, the creators of an app known as Pikinis, hoped to force Facebook to share information on friends of the app’s users. These documents have been sealed by a Californian court so we’re not able to discuss them in detail.”
Are you convinced?
Please let me know what your thoughts are below.
- Do you think this is a fair justification?
- Do you want all of the information to be released?
- How do you want your data to be used?
- Is there a way Facebook could still market to these groups without breaking data privacy?