Founder Mark Zuckerberg insisted the notion that people used Facebook to spread false news was “crazy” after the 2016 presidential election.
Then the company denied Russian interests used the social media platform to meddle in the election. That was before they unearthed thousands of fake accounts and over $100,000 worth of ads paid for by a shady outfit.
How come nobody at the company noticed some of those ads were paid for with rubles? “A serious oversight,” intoned a company lawyer.
Now we’re learning that Cambridge Analytica, bankrolled by conservative money bags Robert Mercer and promoted by former Trump campaign manager Steve Bannon, used data gleaned from millions of Facebook users to help guide Donald Trump’s campaign.
Like Captain Louis Renault in the movie “Casablanca,” officials at Facebook are “shocked” that such activity occurred, but Claude Rains sounded a lot more convincing than what’s coming out of Menlo Park these days.
“We are in the process of conducting a comprehensive internal and external review as we work to determine the accuracy of the claims that the Facebook data in question still exists,” a company lawyer said in a prepared statement. “That is where our focus lies as we remain committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people’s information.”
Facebook executives spent much of Saturday arguing what happened didn’t constitute a data breach, even as they acknowledge Cambridge and others used data that was provided openly to third parties.
That would include the 2012 reelection campaign of President Barack Obama, which created a voter-outreach app that plugged into the Facebook platform to find potential supporters among a user’s friends.
All of this dates back to 2007, when Facebook decided to give outsiders access to friend lists, interests and likes that tied user together. The company reversed course in 2014 after users complained about their data being shared with outsiders without their knowledge.
The company apparently has a confused, if not cavalier, approach to protecting its own customers. But even the most innocent information posted on your Facebook page can be used against you, as a recent Wall Street Journal article about scammers targeting people looking for love online revealed.
The real question is becoming: Why would you want to use Facebook for anything as innocent as trying to connect with new and old friends? It’s appearing more and more to be a sucker’s game.