Facebook: The New Broken Faucet?

Mark Zuckerberg has a devilish tendency to tiptoe on the lines of legality.

Alexander Yagoda

Mark Zuckerberg has a devilish tendency to tiptoe on the lines of legality.

Alexander Yagoda, Staff Writer

Facebook is a company that is almost always facing some kind of criticism, like that the sole purpose of their platform is to make people addicted to it for profit. Nonetheless, the social media giant is facing trouble of another kind this time, related to the integrity of the company. Information has come out that a British political consulting firm called Cambridge Analytica (CA) has obtained personal user data from millions of Facebook users, and then used that information to try to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Due to this, and the fact that Facebook allowed this to happen, many people are very upset with Facebook. Despite the general consensus being that the blame lies entirely on Facebook, many have been debating over who is actually to blame over the breach.

While the blame is more or less evenly split publicly between Facebook and CA, this should not be the case. CA was legally and contractually allowed to do what they did, which was purchasing an academic license to obtain Facebook’s data and then using it for academic purposes. Then, CA breached that contract and used the data for commercial purposes, namely creating and targeting a survey application to obtain more Facebook user data, and then selling that data for profit. Consequently, in 2015, Facebook became aware of CA’s actions, and asked them to stop; CA then claimed to have deleted all information obtained illegally in an official statement to Facebook. Therefore, one can easily see that Facebook itself cannot take the blame for the data being stolen and the use of it later in the 2016 presidential election, when CA was hired by the Trump campaign to help with getting more voters.

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Facebook has a tendency to always be on the wrong side of every privacy issue anywhere in the internet, so it’s funny that someone was able to beat them in a head-to-head fight over privacy rights where Facebook was defending privacy.

— sophomore Aleksander Aguilar

While Facebook as an entity can be separated from this mess, which is odd due to their long and troubled past in the department of user privacy, its CEO cannot. Shortly before the decline of the value of Facebook’s stock value, which was sure to happen after this whole situation got blown open, Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, sold 5.4 million shares of his company, as one might do to make some money once the stock price bounces back.  This is very likely an example of “insider trading,” the illegal buying and selling of securities based on information that has not been made available to the general public, especially when considering that Zuckerberg has inside access to all knowledge of anything regarding Facebook.

Some may say that Facebook is to blame for the whole situation because of their blind faith in CA. This is valid in the sense that people always have a distrust of companies that profit from selling user data, especially to companies who manipulate people using that data. Despite that, most of today’s society is not built on a basis of mistrust and suspicion, but rather of logical trust. If a company stands to make money off the continued success of another, it is expected they would support the other company however they could. Therefore, Facebook understood that CA’s income was significantly reliant on Facebook and the information it provided, and in order to keep getting that information and revenue, Facebook must be kept healthy. Facebook (wrongly) assumed CA was telling the truth, which would have put both of them in a more favorable position. Instead, CA got greedy and sold their services (Facebook’s data that they claimed not to have), which was the root problem of this whole issue, and caused Facebook to suffer. It makes sense in retrospect for Facebook to have investigated more thoroughly CA’s claim that they deleted all the user data. However, it really would not have made much sense to have done so at the time, given that up until that point, CA was just another political consulting firm.

“To be honest, there’s only so much blame you can take away from Facebook for this, but Zuckerberg is for sure still doing wrong to people,” sophomore Adrian Vidal said.

To conclude, while most people are pegging the blame on Facebook for this whole fiasco, that blame is misdirected. A better place for that blame would be at CA, for causing the problem, and then Zuckerberg, for attempting to profit from the problem instead of fixing it. This is an overall poor situation for the Facebook user, stock, company and Zuckerburg.