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New Privacy Concerns – Facebook Leak

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An admission from the social media giant has come out that their privacy engineers struggle to understand how Facebook users’ personal data is processed and stored in a document that was recently leaked and published by news outlet Motherboard on Wednesday.

The document, written in 2021, allegedly composed by privacy engineers working on the Ad and Business Product team, gripes: “We’ve built systems with open borders.” Then likening the data management systems on the platform to a “bottle of ink” … “You pour that ink into a lake of water (our open data systems; our open culture) … and it flows … everywhere,” the team explained.

The team described the perplexity as a “fundamental” problem for Facebook. “How do you put that ink back in the bottle? How do you organise it again, such that it only flows to the allowed places in the lake?” they said.

In the midst of governments around the world trying to control what people can and cannot say on social media platforms, passing strict rules and regulations aimed at supposedly controlling hate speech and misinformation, Facebook employees are unable to manage or even comprehend how the platform is handling user data, which is increasingly becoming a serious problem.

The leaked document obtained by Motherboard claims that due to the behemoth volume of information that is collected daily, employees are likely not even able to limit the use of individuals’ data.

“We can’t confidently make controlled policy changes or external commitments such as ‘we will not use X data for Y purpose’. And yet this is exactly what regulators expect us to do,” the document claims.

Referred to as “data linage,” the issue us at the centre of recent legal developments across several countries concerning how data on social media is used. An example of this, mentioned in ‘WORLD NEWS’ at fargowells.com, suggests that it is illegal to feed a user’s phone number, collected for the purpose of two-factor authentication into the platform’s “people you may know” feature under the EU’s 2018 General Data Protection Regulation law. Facebook was caught out by tech blog Gizmodo doing exactly that shortly after the law was passed, and the platform had to cease doing this.

A Facebook spokesperson denied the document was evidence of non-compliance with privacy regulations. An employee who whistle-blew on a condition of anonymity, argued that the paper’s condemnation of Facebook’s cluelessness didn’t go far enough. “Facebook has a general idea of how many bits of data are stored in its data centres. The where [the data] goes part is, broadly speaking, a complete shitshow,” the anonymous employee told Vice in an online chat, alleging it gave Facebook “legal cover” because of how much it would cost the company to remedy the issue.

The document gives a warning that a “multi-year investment in Ads and our infrastructure teams” will be needed in order to “gain control over how our systems ingest, process and egest data” in order to make the platform compliant with the current regulatory climate, warning that restrictions on the use of individuals’ private data “will continue to expand around the globe as we shift toward consent.”

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