Imagine how it would feel to have your personal information stolen: your email address, phone number, date of birth, relationship status, the last 10 locations you visited, etc. Not great, right? Now, imagine the company who was responsible for ensuring your privacy and the security of that data responding with a tepid: “We’re very sorry this happened.” This is exactly what happened at the end of September when Facebook realized that approximately 30 million accounts had been hacked. Users were understandably outraged.
Facebook tried to save face; in addition to apologizing, the company signed approximately 90 million users out of their accounts, just in case the scope of the attack was larger than it first seemed. Facebook also reaffirmed its pledge to privacy and promised to find out who was responsible for the hacks.
Does this egregious data breach sound familiar? Last March, news broke that Cambridge Analytica, an analytics firm specializing in election campaigns (including Trump’s), had harvested profile data from 89 million Facebook users. Unlike the most recent hack, Cambridge Analytica obtained all of its data legitimately; it took advantage of a loophole allowing software developers of third party applications to gleam the profile information of users without their explicit permission. To make matters worse, Facebook knew about this breach, and although they ordered Cambridge Analytica to destroy the data in 2015, the company never did.
Mark Zuckerberg responded to the Cambridge Analytica scandal by saying: “We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you … But we also made mistakes, there's more to do, and we need to step up and do it.” Facebook replied in a near identical way to the recent breach: they apologized and reaffirmed their pledge to protect your data.
I agree with Zuckerberg’s comment: if Facebook cannot adequately protect user’s data, then they don’t deserve to serve us. Time and time again Facebook continues to have its data leaked, hacked, or breached. Time and time again Facebook apologizes and promises they won’t let it happen again. Sorry is no longer good enough. It is clear from these repeated, empty promises that Facebook is not adequately committed to privacy, and thus does not deserve to serve us.
We must rethink how much of our personal data we allow Facebook to obtain and how much influence we allow Facebook to have in our lives. We must act sooner rather than later; the social media platform is on track to increase its influence, as Facebook recently introduced Portal, a series of smart devices that allow for video chat and the integration of other Facebook services. We can barely trust Facebook on our computers and phones; how can we trust Facebook inside the home, where it can collect data on every word we say?
Facebook’s most recent breach of data is not going to be the last. There will be many more breaches and half-hearted apologies to come. Each of us has the power to protect our own data. It's simple—stop using Facebook.