More than meets the eye in the FB data privacy abuse

By Malou Guanzon Apalisok April 16,2018

Malou Apalisok

Supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte are mad at Facebook for tapping Vera Files and Rappler as third-party fact checkers that will review news stories possibly containing false information.

The FB vote of confidence for Presidential pet peeves, Maria Ressa and Ellen Tordesillas made Duterte diehard supporters DDS so upset that they’re about to migrate to the Russian Facebook VKontak.

In order to force FB to cancel its engagement with Vera Files and Rappler, Duterte supporters launched an online petition but if the idea is to decapitate the social media giant commercially, I don’t think the strategy will work.

PH regulatory measures governing digital businesses are not yet in place. Moreover, our lawmakers much like US legislators are not in step with digital technology.

In any case, it will be well worth for Congress to set its priorities aright and prosecute those who ran afoul with the Philippine Data Privacy Act of 2012.

As we know, social media titan Mark Zuckerberg is in the middle of a controversy involving private data abuse collected through a Facebook app originally gathered by a certain Professor Alexander Kogan of the University of Cambridge in 2015 supposedly for research purposes.

Some 27,000 people were paid to take a personality quiz and download it. Together with the respondents own private data, they also shared personal information of friends and their friends’ friends until some 50 million profiles were collected through the Facebook app, “thisisyourdigitalife”.

Much later, the data was passed on to a political consulting firm named Cambridge Analytica, said to be funded by Robert Mercer, a wealthy US Republican donor.

The data mining activity is considered a breach of privacy because people were unaware about the exercise and neither did they agree to have their data shared for whatever purpose.

Political analysts believe the data which was later used by the Republican party to target 87 million American voters was a huge factor in the outcomes of both the 2016 Brexit poll and the American presidential election that catapulted Donald Trump to the White House.

During the Senate committee hearings last week, Zuckerberg zeroed in on the power of social media to keep people connected with each other, even as he owned up to the failure of FB to protect users from the unauthorized use of their private data.

I understand the Philippine privacy watchdog is opening an investigation into the data privacy abuse by asking FB to shed light on reports that some 1.18 million Filipino FB users were also affected by the massive data leak to Cambridge Analytica.

The National Privacy Commission should pursue this move because abuse of personal data is not an ordinary issue.

One of the highlights of the US Senate hearings last week was when Mr. Zuckerberg was asked if he can share the name of the hotel he was staying prior to his appearance in Congress.

The FB mogul answered a big “No!”

This could well be a test case since US authorities and their counterparts in Australia are studying the possibility of bringing class action suits that carry heavy fines against the Zuckerberg empire valued at US$500 billion.

Interestingly, Zuckerberg has also remarked during the US Senate hearings that in the context of hijacking collected data for partisan ends and Russian meddling in the US 2016 elections, there’s more to the CA fiasco than meets the eye, indicating that the threat of a digital war looms large. But that is another story.

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