A whole timeline’s worth of Facebook scandals is hitting the fan as you read this, so let’s sum them up: 1) California's attorney general is suing for Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg’s emails, 2) recently announced Facebook privacy upgrades were a self-named “Switcharoo” that only applied to competitors, 3) NBC News dropped 4,000 pages of damning internal Facebook documents, and 4) app developers have been able to access your personal data, because they’re app developers.
There’s a good reason that Zuckerberg’s public pronouncements on privacy changes are gobbledygook public relations word salad — they are absolute baloney meant to obfuscate the truth. You’ll find more honest assessments of Facebook security practices in leaked secret internal emails and documents, about 4,000 pages of which NBC News published a few hours ago. (We’re still going through them, but you can find them here, here, here, and here.)
People speak more clearly inside Facebook, as the Guardian reports recent Facebook privacy changes were internally called the “Switcharoo Plan.” Switcharoo as in: the public was told these moves were privacy upgrades, but they only applied to companies Facebook wanted to squeeze for more advertising dollars, or whom they saw as competitors. According to documents obtained by Reuters, Facebook advertisers were separated into “three buckets: existing competitors, possible future competitors, [or] developers that we have alignment with on business models.” As you can imagine, those who fell into their third “bucket” were treated to more of your personal data.
As NBC News explains, “Facebook gave Amazon special access to user data because it was spending money on Facebook advertising. In another case the messaging app MessageMe was cut off from access to data because it had grown too popular and could compete with Facebook.”
“All the while, Facebook planned to publicly frame these moves as a way to protect user privacy,” NBC News says, hence the nickname “Switcharoo Plan.”
Get ready for more similarly embarrassing revelations about internal Facebook shammery, as the New York Times reports that California attorney general Xavier Becerra has sued Facebook to obtain emails and documents, including emails from Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. That 44-page lawsuit called Facebook’s responses to Cambridge Analytica subpoenas to be “patently defincient.”
“We have since spring of 2018 been looking into allegations that Facebook violated California law by among other things deceiving users and misrepresenting its privacy practices,” Becerra said at a news conference. “Those are serious allegations.”
Only last week, the Times was wondering aloud why Bacerra wasn't one of 47 attorneys general across the country joining in a probe into Facebook's antitrust and data-privacy dealings. Well, now we know that California's probe is already 18 months old.
And in a whole other scandal reported by Ars Technica, Facebook admitted yesterday that app developers are once again getting more of your personal data than they’re supposed to. “We know at least 11 partners accessed group members’ information in the last 60 days,” Facbook admitted in a blog post. “Although we’ve seen no evidence of abuse, we will ask them to delete any member data,” because that strategy worked so well with Cambridge Analytica.
This entire constellation of Facebook wrongdoings will play out in the days and weeks to come, but they all point to the fundamental lie of “we don’t sell your data to third parties.” They rent your data to third parties, probably in downloadable fashion, and how much the third parties get depends on how much they spend on Facebook advertising.
Image: Anthony Quintano via Flickr