Gabriella Pinos/Staff Writer
When I made my Facebook account at the age of 13, my mother was reluctant to let me input my personal information. She was afraid that my birthday, friends, likes and dislikes would be easily accessed by the platform.
At the time, I thought her fears were irrational; there was no way that Facebook could retrieve my personal information without my permission.
But now, her warnings resonate more than ever.
Earlier this month, Facebook went under fire for allowing device makers such as Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Samsung access user information, according to the New York Times.
The news comes only months after CEO Mark Zuckerberg attended a congressional hearing in response to third party access of information from 87 million users. Zuckerberg called the leak a misstep in Facebook’s practices and vowed that it would never happen again.
In reality, Facebook had been breaking that promise thanks to a loophole.
Restrictions to information access, according to a mandate from the Federal Trade Commission, don’t apply to hardware companies like Apple or Samsung, who are viewed as service providers to Facebook.
As a result, Facebook continued to give device makers data on users, even if they did not allow the platform to share their information. A simple search through a user’s profile could give them information on hundreds, if not thousands, of their friends.
It all shows how Zuckerberg’s claims in front of Congress last April were all a ploy for publicity. Instead of reinforcing its main goal as a social network, Facebook has been spreading mistrust and lies to over two billion users for years.
What’s more concerning is the implications this has on a user’s privacy.
Some device makers, such as BlackBerry, can override the restrictions a user places to prevent data retrieval. So even if you set your sharing settings to private, companies can have a first-row seat to your personal life.
The reach Facebook has on the internet also poses questions on the security of personal information on other platforms. Nowadays, everything is connected through the social network, and many websites and apps allow people to sign up with their Facebook login, connecting their accounts through a single username and password.
If the information of a Facebook user can be accessed, it’s unsure if a Spotify account connected to their Facebook login would also be at risk. It’s even unsure how data on Instagram and WhatsApp, which Facebook own, is shared between platforms, according to the New York Post.
The fact that a user’s personal information can be seen without explicit permission is not only unethical, it shines a spotlight on Facebook’s incompetence when it comes to user safety.
So, even though it sounded extreme when I was 13, I now heed my mother’s advice on Facebook.
Until actual restrictions against third parties are put in place, users should review their data settings to keep their information safe. If anything, Facebook’s constant failings serve as a lesson on drawing the line between sharing public and private information on social media.
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