Misplaced faith in Facebook

It’s hard to understand how society in general trusts Mark Zuckerman, Facebook’s CEO, more than their democratic government.

It wasn’t that many years ago when then-Prime Minister Harper started dismantling the credibility of data collected by Statistics Canada by weakening sample sizes.

He argued long forms shouldn’t be mandatory because governments can’t be trusted with our personal data. Statistics Canada at that time had a worldwide reputation for quality data.

It had a proven track record for producing objective data through excellent sampling techniques and analyses.

Objective statistical information is vital to an open and democratic society.

Statistics Canada provides the most accurate data available to aid elected officials in estimating expected expenditures and revenues and developing sound budgets for its citizens.

Then there’s Zuckerman who uses our personal data for personal profit.

Facebook’s whole profit model is to modify our behaviours so that we give away our most personal of information.

His algorithms, designed by man, knowingly share personal data with third party profiteers and influence peddlers.

Should we not feel violated when Cambridge Analytica and Aggregate IQ, a Canadian company, were able to mine the personal data of approximately 600,000 Canadians through a third party app?

Just because someone on Facebook took the bait and downloaded the app, “This is Your Digital Life”, it allowed these third party operatives to access the downloader’s personal information and that of all his Facebook friends without any of their knowledge or consent.

For all those who were outraged that the government collects significant information via a mandatory census every 10 years, few even bothered to ask their Facebook friends whether they had downloaded this third party app.

It just seems counter intuitive to trust private for-profit over government for public good.

A recent report by the federal and BC privacy commissioners found that through AggregateIQ and Cambridge Analytica, Facebook had engaged in serious privacy violations including not receiving consent from Canadians to use their personal data.

In Canada, we have the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).

The law states that any commercial operation (e.g. Facebook) must obtain consent for the collection, use and disclosure of personal information.

Facebook’s response to these findings was essentially, “we don’t agree” or “stop us if you can”.

They know it will take a protracted court case to find them guilty and since they have more money and influence than our government, they can litigate forever.

Like drug and tobacco companies, they too, have a multi-billion dollar contingency fund set aside to pay fines—an acceptable cost of doing business when industry effectively controls much of the public and the politicians.

When we, as a collective society, are no longer able to discern between those who we vote to help us (e.g. governments) versus those who are out to profit from us (e.g. Facebook), it is no wonder that democracies are in decline worldwide and democratic institutions are under attack on every front.

 

Brenda Schimke

ECA Review

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