Facebook’s former VP of ads has weighed in on the ongoing disaster involving his company’s apparent negligence in allowing data on as many as 50 million users to be used for nefarious purposes by Cambridge Analytica. In a post on (what else) Facebook, Andrew “Boz” Bosworth gave variations on the line we’ve come to expect from tech in these situations: They’re not supposed to do that, and anyway how could we have known?
“This is the opposite of our business model,” he wrote. “Our interests are aligned with users when it comes to protecting data.” What reason could you possibly have to be skeptical of this declamation?
He said much more than that, of course, and very earnestly indeed, but if you cut through the prevarication here’s the simplified timeline:
- Facebook deliberately allows developers to collect a bunch of data from users who authorize it, plus a bunch of their friends. (But developers have to promise they won’t use it in certain ways.)
Shady people take advantage of this choice and collect as much data as possible for use off the Facebook network in ways Facebook can’t predict or control. (The quiz app in question is surely just one of many — this was an incredible opportunity for data snatchers.)
Facebook fails to predict or control use of the data it released, and fails to protect users who never even knew their data had been released. (It also fails to learn that it has failed to control it.)
The rest is noise, as far as I’m concerned. Even if anyone really believes that sharing data about users is not the Facebook business model, who cares what its business model is? Whatever plausible sounding business model it had before didn’t protect anyone, and didn’t stop these characters from collecting and using data in all sorts of shady ways.
Of course there’s the strong possibility that Cambridge Analytica and others misused the data, didn’t delete it as promised, performed unsanctioned analyses on it. Oh no! Who would have thought someone would do that? The real question was what was Facebook expecting when it handed out data on millions essentially on the honor system?
Facebook’s business model is monetizing your data (the data you give it, it must be said), one way or the other. It used to be one way, now it’s the other. Soon it’ll be yet another — but don’t ever doubt that’s at the core of every decision the company makes.