Facebook Frenzy

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Facebook Frenzy

Mark Zuckerberg appearing in front of Congress (photo via businessinsider.com)

Mark Zuckerberg appearing in front of Congress (photo via businessinsider.com)

Mark Zuckerberg appearing in front of Congress (photo via businessinsider.com)

Mark Zuckerberg appearing in front of Congress (photo via businessinsider.com)

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What’s going on with Facebook?

It’s a long story.

It started when the security breach where data-collecting agency Cambridge Analytica took information from over 50 million Facebook profiles without the social network alerting users, receiving huge backlash from the American and British governments. Cambridge Analytica’s goal was to develop methods that could identify and influence American voters based on analysis of their personalities–through Facebook. Reportedly, the breach occurred in 2016 and has potential connections to President (then Candidate) Trump’s campaign. 

How’d this happen?

Turns out that, while users can “delete” their own posts, the actual advertising profile Facebook builds about them, including posts that have been removed, cannot be deletedEssentially, Facebook has created a backup Cloud of everything users have ever posted.

And the data-collectors were able to access it. That’s right; a company stole data from Facebook, data originally taken from unwitting users for years.

What information does Facebook collect, exactly? According to Techcrunch.com, an online technology news network, they can access the following after their security update:

  • “Device attributes: information such as the operating system, hardware and software versions, battery level, signal strength, available storage space, browser type, app and file names and types, and plugins.
  • “Device operations: information about operations and behaviors performed on the device, such as whether a window is foregrounded or backgrounded, or mouse movements (which can help distinguish humans from bots).
  • “Identifiers: unique identifiers, device IDs, and other identifiers, such as from games, apps or accounts you use, and Family Device IDs (or other identifiers unique to associated with the same device or account).
  • “Device signals: Bluetooth signals, and information about nearby Wi-Fi access points, beacons, and cell towers.
  • “Data from device settings: information [users] allow [Facebook] to receive through device settings [they] turn on, such as access to [their] GPS location, camera or photos.
  • “Network and connections: information such as the name of [users’] mobile operator or ISP, language, time zone, mobile phone number, IP address, connection speed and, in some cases, information about other devices that are nearby or on [their] network[s], so [Facebook] can do things like help [users] stream a video from [their] phone[s] to [their] TV[s].
  • “Cookie data: data from cookies stored on . . . devices, including cookie IDs and settings. Learn more about how [Facebook] use[s] cookies in the Facebook Cookies Policy and Instagram Cookies Policy.”

Cambridge Analytica was able to access all of that information with ease.

Once Congress and the House of Representatives set out to reap justice for Facebook users’ stolen information, their first target was clear:

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and creator of Facebook.

Many found Zuckerberg’s behavior during the conference as concerning. Nervous throughout the hearing, Zuckerberg stutters, pauses frequently, and seems uncertain in many of his answers, especially concerning Facebook users’ rights to privacy.

He points out that users have the option and the right to disable data collecting services, remove posts, and even delete their accounts safely and permanently; however, the profile Facebook builds about those users won’t be deleted with the individual posts.

To find out exactly what else Facebook can take, I logged on to my years-old account. It was created around 2010, so the first thing I see is a small notification notifying me of security policy updates (see list above). I head over to my settings to check out what else Facebook can now access.

Although I never enable location on my phone, the website somehow knew both my (approximate) location and the location of the other device I’m logged in to. None of my security permissions allowed this, but the new policy states that GPS is “information you allow us to receive through device settings you turn on.” Not only do I keep my GPS turned off, I also never allow apps to access my location. The worst part? There is no way to turn this off.


Using my name, email address, or phone number, people can find me. Since I haven’t used Facebook in so long, many of the new criteria that have been added (like those in the photo) are listed as being available to “everyone.” That means “everyone” can find out about my online life at a click of a button. Creepy, much?

Needless to say, I changed my security settings where I could. Although I didn’t delete my account (it’s notoriously hard to do), I’m seriously considering it.

So why (and how) has this happened for so long without our knowledge? The Cambridge Analytica incident occurred in 2016, but Facebook has been silently collecting users’ data since its creation. Plus, it’s not the only social media platform to do this.

Instagram, Snapchat (which essentially owns everything users upload), and Twitter (to name the most popular) all do the same sort of thing Facebook is being criticized for.

This is an issue that many say has gone unnoticed and unannounced for too long. Critics question the morality of social media platforms that take users’ information and, in many cases, profit off of it. Much of that data, they say, is being taken without users’ knowledge or informed consent.

The questions surrounding social media and civil liberties like privacy are seemingly endless. Will anything be changed? How long will applications like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram be allowed free range of users’ personal information?

In the coming weeks, several more inquiries will be brought forward and scrutinized by both citizens and the government. Stay tuned.

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