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Facebook and the endless string of worst-case scenarios

Facebook and the endless string of worst-case scenarios
From TechCrunch - March 18, 2018

Facebook has naively put its faith in humanity and repeatedly been abused, exploited, and proven either negligent or complicit. The company routinely ignores or downplays the worst-case scenarios, idealistically building products without the necessary safeguards, and then drags its feet to admit the extent of the problems.

This approach, willful or not, has led to its latest scandal, where a previously available API for app developers was harnessed by Trump and Brexit Leave campaign technology provider Cambridge Analyticato pull not just the profile data of 270,000 app users who gave express permission, but of 50 million of those peoples unwitting friends.

Facebookfamously changed its motto in 2014 from Move fast and break things to Move fast with stable infra aka infrastructure. But all thats meant is that Facebooks products function as coded even at enormous scale, not that theyre built any slower or with more caution for how they could be weaponized. Facebooks platform iconography above captures how it only sees the wrench, then gets shocked by the lightning on the other end.

Sometimes the abuse is natural and emergent, as when people grow envious and insecure from following the highlights of their peers lives through the News Feed that was meant to bring people together. Sometimes the abuse is malicious and opportunistic, as it was when Cambridge Analytica used an API designed to help people recommend relevant job openings to friends to purposefully harvest data that populated psychographic profiles of voters so they could be swayed with targeted messaging.

Whether it doesnt see the disasters coming, makes a calculated gamble that the growth or mission benefits of something will far outweigh the risks, or purposefully makes a dangerous decision while obscuring the consequences, Facebook isresponsible for its significant shortcomings.The company has historically cut corners in pursuit of ubiquity that left it, potentially knowingly, vulnerable to exploitation.

And increasingly, Facebook is going to lengths to fight the news cycle surrounding its controversies instead of owning up early and getting to work. Facebook knew about Cambridge Analyticas data policy violations since at least August 2016, but did nothing but send a legal notice to delete the information.It only suspended the Facebook accounts of Cambridge Analytica and other guilty parties and announced the move this week in hopes of muting forthcoming New York Times and Guardian articles about the issue (articles which it also tried to prevent from running via legal threats.) And since, representatives of the company have quibbled with reporters over Twitter, describing the data misuse as a breach instead explaining why it didnt inform the public about it for years.

I have more fear in my life that we arent going to maximize the opportunity that we have than that we mess something up Zuckerberg said at a Facebooks Social Good Forum event in November. Perhaps its time for that fear to shift towards what could go wrong, not just for Zuck, but the leaders of all of todays tech titans.

An Abridged List Of Facebooks Unforeseen Consequences

Heres an incomplete list of the massive negative consequences and specific abuses that stem from Facebooks idealistic product development process:

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