An internal Facebook document has leaked, showing that the management of private data within the social network is very difficult to manage…
Facebook (Meta) and the private data of its users, it’s a long and rather chaotic story. We will of course remember the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018, but Mark Zuckerberg’s social network is regularly heckled on this subject, as certain practices are pointed out or the laws of different countries force Meta to more transparency or rigor.
This is also the starting point of an internal report produced in 2021 by Facebook’s privacy engineers and released today by Motherboard (Engadget).
Difficult to adapt to local laws
Increasingly, governments are passing laws to regulate the use of private data on the internet. In Europe, for example, we have the GDPR, but local constraints are multiplying: there is the Privacy Act in the United States, but also new protections that have been put in place in various Asian countries (South Korea, India, Thailand) or in South Africa or Egypt. For Facebook, this is a real ” tsunami » new constraints.
Also, the report in question sounds the alarm:we do not retain an adequate level of control and explainability over how our systems use data and therefore cannot properly effect policy changes […] such as ‘we will not use X data for Y purposes’. Yet this is exactly what regulators expect of us“. For the authors of this report,this increases the risk of errors and misrepresentations“.
A drop of ink in the ocean?
According to this report, Facebook’s main problem is the lack of compartmentalization of the various associated private data. All data indicated, whether by Facebook or by a third party and whether sensitive or not, is mixed. “If we can’t provide all the data we think about – where it is, where it goes, how it’s used – then how can we make commitments about it to the outside world?“.
In order to picture the problem, the authors of the report liken this to a bottle of ink (the private data) sent into a lake of water (the network “open data” from Facebook). “How do I put this ink back in the bottle? How to organize it again so that it only flows in authorized places in the lake?“.
In other words, Facebook will be forced, in the coming years, to completely review the operation of its architecture in order to avoid new scandals, or worse still for the company, sanctions from governments.
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