Facebook Argues Why Users Should Continue Sharing Data – Confuses Data Portability with Unconsented Data Sharing


Years of controversies may have resulted in Facebook losing over $120 billion in a day, but the company continues to argue in favor of more data sharing. In a blog post last night, David Baser, Director of Product Management at Facebook, wrote that data sharing between different platforms "make our lives easier."

"Some of the world’s most popular apps have been built on the Facebook Platform - it’s helped great ideas get off the ground and simplified and streamlined people’s digital lives," he wrote. "But we know that this flow of information has the potential for abuse."

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Bad actors can gather information from people and use it in ways that they aren’t aware of and didn’t agree too, like selling personal data to marketers. Facebook has clear policies against this, but as we saw with the Cambridge Analytica situation, bad actors are more than willing to ignore these policies in pursuit of their own objectives.

Baser argues that the best response to Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal isn't to lock down Facebook as this would limit people’s ability to share information and "erase the conveniences we enjoy."

While it is unlikely if users would be happy with a complete lockdown, Baser is mixing up two different concepts - allowing its user data to be shared between apps without their explicit consent and the data portability tools like Facebook's "Download Your Information" button. The first of these has a huge potential for abuse where users have seen their data being stolen just because their friends of friends chose to use some app. On the other hand, data portability that is offered through "Download Your Data" buttons only happens after a user hits a button to download a copy of their data with their full consent.

It is incorrect to support a Cambridge Analytica-like data sharing model by bringing in data portability, which is a completely different concept.

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Facebook continues to ensure that it has limited data sharing and "unless an app has gone through a full review, it can only request your name, profile photo and email address."

But the social networking giant says that the entire tech industry has to work together as "both sides of a data-sharing handshake need to be private."

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"Nearly every day, news comes out from a different company about personal data that got into the wrong hands," Baser wrote. "Even if we’re all taking steps to shore up our privacy protections, we won’t find the answers in a silo. Companies are connected - and our technology ecosystem can’t be reversed - so we need to work together on standards and best practices to make data portability a reality while also prioritizing people’s privacy and security."

Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter signed on a new data portability project last week that will establish an easy-to-use system for people to transfer their data between different services. The project is potentially a result of a GDPR rule that requires tech companies to enable their users to take their data wherever they want.

However, these tech giants also need to understand the difference between data portability that happens with 100% informed user consent and data sharing between different apps and platforms where the user isn't always clear when, for example, Facebook decides to share their and their friends' data with a random app.