Saturday, May 7, 2022

Facebook has lost control of user data, leaked documents claim

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Facebook doesn’t know how to use the massive amounts of data it collects, a new leaked document claims.

“We built systems with open borders…imagine you are holding a bottle of ink. This ink bottle is a mix of all sorts of user data,” said an internal report from the company leaked to Motherboard.

“You pour that ink into a lake of water (our open data systems; our open culture)… and it goes… everywhere. How do you put the ink back in the bottle? How do you reorganize it so that it only flows in the permitted places in the lake?”

The document, written last year by Facebook’s privacy engineers on the Ads and Business Products team, says Facebook “do[es] do not have an adequate level of control and accountability over how our systems use data”.

It continues: “As a result, we cannot confidently make controlled policy changes or external commitments such as ‘We will not use X data for Y purposes.’ Yet that is what regulators expect of us, increasing our risk of error and misstatement.”

A meta spokesman said LatestPageNews that the document “does not describe our comprehensive processes and controls for data protection compliance” and that “to conclude that it demonstrates non-compliance is simply incorrect. New data protection regulations around the world result in different requirements, and this document reflects the technical solutions we are developing to scale the current measures we have in place to manage data and meet our obligations.

Regarding the sea analogy, the spokesperson said it “lacks context that we actually have extensive processes and controls in place to manage data and comply with privacy regulations.” A lack of context in Facebook’s internal reports is also why Instagram sought to mitigate damning reports of the damage it is doing to young people with body image issues in September last year, following the various revelations by whistleblower Frances Haugen.

The document suggests that within Facebook “there is data that is free for all and that the company has no control whatsoever over the data it owns,” said Johnny Ryan, privacy activist and senior fellow at the Irish Council for Civil Liberties .

Facebook is reportedly trying to stay ahead of privacy laws and build infrastructure to meet the requirements, but significant investments would need to be made. This is obviously a priority for the company.

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