Facebook’s foothold as the world’s social network first appeared in 2004. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder, chief executive officer, and chairman of Facebook founded the company in his Harvard dorm room with one of his roommates. His aim while developing Facebook was to create a universal website that could connect people in his university.However, due to recent events, it has become evident that their aim of connecting people has become unimportant because of the exploitation of user’s data.
Is user data privacy an apple of discord?
In 2016, a British political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, shed light on the safety concerns of its users through its app, “This Is Your Digital Life.” This later became known as, “The Cambridge Analytica-Facebook scandal.” The app contained a series of questions to build psychological profiles on users and collected the personal data of the users’ Facebook friends using Facebook’s Open Graph platform. The app collected data of over 87 million Facebook users’. Cambridge Analytica used the data to contribute analytical assistance to the 2016 presidential campaigns of Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. On the 10th of April 2018, Mark Zuckerberg then appeared for his Congress Testimony and apologized for not taking enough action to prevent Facebook from being used for harm by foreign groups and firms like Cambridge Analytica. He further ate humble pie publicly for the breach of private user data in the following words: “It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.“
Mark Zuckerberg during his congressional testimony.
The Cambridge Analytica issue isn’t only problematic because the firm gathered information from users who chose to take “personality tests” on the social platform. Facebook users have also regularly been granting third-party services access to their profiles in return for certain benefits, for example, Friendly and Metal which provide a better Facebook experience. Users who didn’t allow Cambridge Analytica permission to review their information were unaware of their data being collected until news reports detailed the organisation’s actions.
Facebook purchased WhatsApp in February 2014 for an approximate total of $16 billion.
Whatsapp’s new update is inflicting users to agree to new privacy rules or else their account will be deactivated. The new announcement has renewed privacy fears as users’ information will not be kept confidential. Instead, it will be shared with Facebook.
This data includes account registration information, like your phone number, transaction data, service-related information, information regarding your interaction with others (including businesses.) When using Facebook and Whatsapp services, mobile device information, your device IP address, application logins, Whatsapp status messages, profile name, profile picture and location-related information. According to Facebook, all the data collected is used to enhance users’ experience while using the application.
Whatsapp faced severe backlash when reports outlining this update went public and decided to postpone it. Many users shifted to apps like Telegram and Signal which ensure user privacy. Telegram gained 25 million users whereas Signal gained 7.5 million users globally after Whatsapp calamity. However, Whatsapp still ensures that there will be end-to-end encryption for chats and that the tech giant would not be able to read the chats of its users.
Apple, unlike Facebook is widely believed to be the shining knight when it comes to users’ privacy collection. Its business model is different from those of Facebook and Google, which gives it ground to claim a higher fortress around the users’ data. Apple insists that it “doesn’t gather your personal information to sell to advertisers or other organizations.”
Apple’s tracking-optional mobile operating system update will be launching on iPhones in the Spring of 2021 , and the new privacy-preserving features will give users the ability to opt-out of being followed around the internet via trackers in their apps. Facebook, on the other hand, makes the vast majority of its money from data collected through those trackers and isn’t a big fan of Apple’s progressive privacy policies.
Late January this year saw the latest exchange of verbal blows between two Silicon Valley powerhouses in the traditional tussle that had existed between them for a long time. Mark Zuckerberg in a quarterly earnings call said that “we progressively consider Apple to be perhaps the greatest competitor,” blaming Apple for utilizing its “predominant stage position” to push its applications while meddling with Facebook’s. Zuckerberg added that Apple may outline this as a security administration to its users, however, it’s only in Apple’s own best anti-competitive interests. The next morning, the reports announced that Facebook was setting up an antitrust suit against Apple over its App Store rules.
Apple CEO Tim Cook delivered remarks at Computers, Privacy & Data Protection Conference:
However, Apple isn’t withdrawing. The day after Facebook’s earnings call, CEO Tim Cook talked at the Computers, Privacy and Data Protection gathering in Brussels. In his keynote address, Cook never referenced Facebook by name, but the target of his pointed remarks about data and advertising was self-evident.
Facebook and Apple are two of the biggest tech companies on the planet, with altogether different perspectives about user privacy data protection. Apple has made user data security part of its business model, even engaging in public feuds with the Department of Justice to protect it. Apple deals in products and services, not data, and positions itself as the more private and secure. Facebook was also built on user data, so fights with the Department of Justice have been over user privacy violations.
Overall, the fight Apple and Cook are pursuing with Facebook and Zuckerberg is a fight for public opinion and sentiment. Facebook, which had started with dreams and aims of connecting people online globally, now struggles to ensure that they stay dominant among the tech giants and Silicon Valley.