connectVideoHoward Kurtz: Why Facebook has finally gone too far
‘MediaBuzz’ host Howard Kurtz weighs in on the New York Times expose, which revealed how much information is personal information that Facebook allegedly shared with other companies like Netflix and Spotify.
The latest Facebook mess feels different.
The company is the target of so much control, so many studies, that it is difficult for everyone to keep track of.
And we have all become accustomed, perhaps inured, to all the explanations, justification, and belated apologies of Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg.
But an investigative piece yesterday in the New York Times is going to be a very different kind of ethical violation — one that critics say increases to overt treason.
Facebook is merchandising access to your private messages.
That is like a gut-punch — the one area on the post-all-site, where more than 2 billion users felt assured they had absolute privacy.
And yet, documents obtained by the Times show the company granted Netflix and Spotify have the ability to read confidential messages.
Never mind that you might have to write about sensitive financial issues or emotional issues, or do not want someone to know about your relationship with that person. Facebook didn’t care.
Zuckerberg and company have “allowed Spotify, Netflix and the Royal Bank of Canada to read, write, and delete of users’ private messages, and to all the participants on a thread privileges which appeared to go beyond what the companies on the integration of Facebook in their systems … Spokespeople for Spotify and Netflix says that these companies were not aware of the broad powers that Facebook had granted.”
Facebook privacy chief Steve Satterfield is quoted as saying the company is not in breach of anyone’s privacy. He admitted that “we know that we have work to do to regain the trust of people.”
But no apology from Zuckerberg, Sandberg or the company itself.
Other offers: Facebook allows Microsoft’s Bing search engine you will see the names of almost all the Facebook users’ friends without their permission. Yahoo was allowed to “view the streams of friends’ posts since this summer, despite the declarations of the government that stopped it was with that type of share a year earlier.”
Even the newspaper itself: “The Time — one of the nine media companies named in the documents — had access to the users’ buddy lists for an article-sharing application that it had stopped in 2011.”
Experts, including a former Federal Trade Commission, said the deals proved the violation of a consent decree signed by Facebook after a privacy grab by the agency.
This comes on the heels of the Senate a report charging that Facebook (along with Twitter and Google) withheld information from the government about the extent of Russian infiltration.
Given the endless waves of Russian propaganda and disinformation, perhaps there was a bit of the sympathy of the audience for the challenge to the police such a huge operation.
But the Facebook privacy breaches are a self-inflicted wound. They reflect an insatiable drive for profit that goes beyond the event that we all make in allowing public information to be sold to advertisers.
It is a bargain, that a number of prominent people, are now deserted. Walt Mossberg, the breakthrough technology journalist for the Wall Street Journal, Recode and the Verge, says that he was leaving the site.
“I am to do this, after being on Facebook for almost 12 years — since my own values and policies and the actions of Facebook have diverged to the point where I no longer comfortable here.”
MSNBC anchor Cabinet Hunt said yesterday that they also buy on Facebook.
I am not suggesting this is a giant wave. But Facebook needs to decide on the back of the user’s expectations will end up costing the company more friends than they can afford.