A recent CNBC article pointed out that Facebook "now offering some mobile app users a wireless-networking app without first disclosing that it's owned by Facebook, or that it collects information for the social networking company."
Moreover, the app, called Onavo, can unsurprisingly track you and share that data with Facebook. They tell you this, of course, in their privacy policies they hope you won't read. In fact, Facebook makes it as hard as possible for you to read it. As CNBC continues, "...a user would have to go to the Onavo website, or expand the "description" link on the Apple App Store and read all the way to the bottom, in order to learn that it's owned by Facebook and shares data with its parent company."
And while TechCrunch suggests that since the option is only on iOS that it might still be "more of a test than a full rollout," the fact they're even testing it should bring up large red flags. Just a few years ago, the argument might have been "what's the big deal, who cares about photos of your cat?" But as more people become aware of exactly what data is comprised of, and how much influence a tech company has over our lives, that false narrative has shifted.
Wired points out that Facebook's hellish two years have largely come from PR blunders and the notion that despite the cheery veneer the company is largely cutthroat, anti-conservative and run by a narcissist who at one point contemplated "whether he had created something that did more harm than good." Throw in the idea that somehow a giant company influenced the election by allowing Russian bot propaganda and Facebook has gone from being a necessary evil to evil. At least for some people like Jim Carrey, who not only deleted his account but even sold his shares of stock. I guess Carrey was fine with Facebook was invading our privacy. But when 50,000 bots showed up, which is.0025% of Facebook's two billion users, that was the straw that broke the camel's back.
Back in 2017, in an effort stymie the ever-growing PR problem, Mark Zuckerberg went on a roundly mocked "listening to America," tour as a way of understanding the little people he profits off of, which is ironic considering the amount of data he's collected on us. Last year the little people were upset with the government, Hollywood, police, Starbucks and basically everything. But one thing of note which did change was that Americans were upset they didn't have control in the privacy of their personal data.
In other words, it's bad enough that Facebook is collecting data on its desktop site, and mobile apps, but when it's founder came out to "collect data," on so-called ordinary Americans, it might have been a bridge too far. Does this mean Zuck and Co. will stop collecting data? Hardly. But with fewer people, especially teens ditching it, there will hopefully be less data for it to collect. This might be a simultaneous occurrence. Teens are organically just getting turned off by Facebook and ditching. And adults getting fed up enough with the company's shady data tracking habits to turn it off, log off for good and delete their account. The result is the same: the websites you liked via Facebook, but off of Facebook, suddenly disappear. Data gets lost, for you, but not for Facebook. "Why do they get all my data, but I don't?" is a very good question today. Why is Facebook in control, instead of you?
It's been apparent for years that data is the new oil, a resource that can be refined in so many ways by companies who then turn a profit of the results. Facebook is by no means the only sinner, when Google's browser, operating system and gadgets in your home know more about you than your spouse. On that last point, it was one thing to justify data collection when the service is free to use. But it's quite another thing to give up your data when you are purchasing a product.
Perhaps 2018 might finally be the year we start taking back our privacy we willingly gave to companies for "free."