The sudden outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has cast a shadow over the world, landing a devastating blow to the global economy. But it has brought great opportunities for the development of the cyber economy as well. Confined to their homes, many people had to rely on the Internet for their daily work and social activities. The information technology industry has boomed at an exponential speed. For the first quarter of 2021, Facebook’s earnings per share (EPS) came to $3.30 per share, surpassing the expected $2.37 per share (a year-on-year increase of 93%). Revenue for the same period exceeded the estimated $23.67 billion. Facebook’s user base across its main app, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp exceeded estimates by coming to 3.45 billion monthly active people in the quarter, a year-over-year increase of 15%. However, just as its scale continues to grow, subsequent data privacy and data security problems have become more salient and serious than ever before.
In July 2021, a new book revealed that Facebook fired 52 people from 2014 to August 2015 over abusing access to user data. According to the book, one employee used data to find a woman he was traveling with who had left him after a fight. Many users suspect that some of the harassing text messages they usually receive also originate from Facebook’s data leakage. Although Facebook fired 52 bad employees, but I wonder if there are still some fish in the net besides these 52 people? Nor do we know if such a breach has been fixed? The scary thing is that this is not the first time Facebook has made a mistake.
Just three months ago, a CNN report said that a user on a low-access hacking forum posted hundreds of millions of users’ personal data on social media for free. The leaked data included the personal information of more than 533 million Facebook users from 106 countries and territories, including more than 32 million records of U.S. users, 11 million records of U.K. users and 6 million records of Indian users. The data includes users’ phone numbers, Facebook IDs, full names, locations, dates of birth, bios, and some users’ email addresses. The media verified the authenticity of this information through a random sample. Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone explained to the public that the data that was released was old data that was reported in 2019, and that Facebook Inc. discovered and has fixed the breach that led to the data breach in August 2019.
But what’s the point of fixing the vulnerability? A large amount of private personal information was already in the hands of bad actors who could trade the data on the black market at will, and Facebook did not actively control the spread of the leaked data. Why didn’t they notify the users whose information was leaked in the first place, why didn’t they buy out the data in the first place, and would Facebook compensate them if the information was used by hackers and cyber criminals for identity theft and fraud and other illegal acts?
In fact, Facebook’s problems go far beyond this. Back in September 2015, the British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica obtained 87 million personal Facebook user profiles without Facebook users’ consent through a Facebook app called “This is Your Digital Life,” and the main use of the data was for political advertising. Cambridge Analytica directly interfered with the fairness of the 2016 presidential election by analyzing this data for the 2016 presidential election campaign. The Federal Trade Commission fined Facebook $5 billion in 2019, an amount that’s just too low! For a trillion-dollar company that leaked the data of 500 million people to pay a fine of only $5 billion, which is equivalent to each person’s private information worth only $10, which in the eyes of businessmen may not be a very good deal.
Facebook is the Internet social media field deservedly giant, no one application can compete with it, based on this, he can dispose of the company’s business and user data at will, the government and the public do not have the courage to say “no” to it. The general public is now so dependent on Facebook and related applications that they don’t even know how to socialize and live without Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram.
However, we must recognize that Facebook, the Internet giant, has brought great uncertainty and risk to the protection of people’s privacy all over the world while its business is expanding rapidly, because it is like replacing the walls of a room with transparent glass for us, making people feel that we are not surfing on the Internet, but running naked on the Internet, while Facebook only cares about making money. On the surface, social media is changing and reshaping our lives step by step, bringing us convenience, bringing us joy, bringing us efficiency, yet it reminds us of a famous quote by Hoelderlin, as quoted in The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek: “What has always made the state a hell on earth has been precisely that man has tried to make it his heaven.”
Disclaimer: The views, suggestions, and opinions expressed here are the sole responsibility of the experts. No Guardian Talks journalist was involved in the writing and production of this article.