Debating Facebook | You Should Listen To This

April 17th, 2018

Topics: Big Data / Analytics Culture Governance

Last week Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, spent two days testifying before Congress on the data privacy scandals Facebook has been dealing with since emergence of the Cambridge Analytica data leak. No doubt, if you have an active presence on social media, on any platform, you have seen and perhaps even clicked on the headlines regarding Cambridge Analytica, Data Privacy, Congressional Testimony, and Fake News. The pace at which this story has developed has made connecting the issues at hand surprisingly complex, and since 2016 Facebook has been at the center of much of the political debate surrounding the critique of fake news, targeted advertisements, Russian interference, and personal privacy failures: But what does this all mean? The following podcasts and videos summarize and contextualize Zuckerberg’s congressional hearings, and dive into the heart of the business and political issues at hand.

A few days ago tens of millions of Facebook users received a message from the administrators of the organization warning them that their personal data may have been leaked. This occurred as a result of one of your friends let an app developer access their Facebook data and the data of all their friends on the platform as well. That app then sold the data, of millions of Facebook users, only a fraction of which downloaded and used the app, to the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. Without diving too much into the political ramifications of Cambridge Analytica and the 2016 presidential election, you should be aware that this firm was hired by both republican candidates at the time to target advertisements to specific demographics during the campaign.

One of the significant inquiries raised during the congressional hearings, however, was on the subject of privacy regulation and additional restrictions. As explained by the hosts of these podcasts, what became evident as a result of this week’s testimony is how little lawmakers understand the thing that is Facebook. Soundbites and clips from the hearings vividly highlight the shortcomings of Senators’ knowledge of the social media platform and the ways by which it operates its business. The podcasts go on to debate the potential outcomes of the hearings, yet note that there wasn’t a whole lot of substantial material that emerged during the proceedings that can translate to meaningful regulation or changes. They suggest that the first step in this process is comprehensively understanding the wide range of Facebook’s scope as a business and social platform. Additionally, the hosts of the Geekwire podcast hint that government regulation of tech companies is not a new phenomenon, and that this debate reflects many of the issues of regulating or separating Microsoft 15 – 20 years ago.

You should listen to these short podcasts and videos to gain a better understanding of one of the largest political and business issues accruing today. You should take the time to pick out the soundbites brought up in these clips to save you from sifting through 9 ½ hours of congressional hearings to get everything from the bad jokes to the important questions raised by the senators. You should familiarize yourself with the ongoing questions regarding your right to privacy of your own data, and the limits to your right to privacy. You should listen to this to understand what information Facebook is collecting, who they’re sending it to, and whether they’ve asked you in advanced before they share that information. Lastly, YSLTT to know that while these debates are unfolding lawmakers and tech leaders don’t have an answer to the question of regulation, but that this has far reaching ramification for social media and the tech industry moving forward.

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