An anonymous Facebook engineer is going viral in all the wrong ways after a writer accused him of calling users’ concerns over privacy “stupid” and saying that since they checked a box allowing the social media giant to use the data, they oughtn’t to be annoyed that the data was sold to third parties.
The email was put up on social media by Tom Warren, a senior editor at The Verge, a tech publication. Warren recently wrote an article which dealt with Android users’ phone histories being stored by Facebook.
“Facebook has been collecting call records and SMS data from Android devices for years,” Warren wrote.
“Several Twitter users have reported finding months or years of call history data in their downloadable Facebook data file. A number of Facebook users have been spooked by the recent Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal, prompting them to download all the data that Facebook stores on their account.”
Warren also noted that users “found a similar pattern where it appears close contacts, like family members, are the only ones tracked in Facebook’s call records.”
He noted that iOS devices appear to be unaffected.
While outrage grew on social media, some wondered what all the fuss was about — like Facebook software engineers.
“Your post of fb collecting call history and sms text is pretty dirty,” the engineer supposedly told Warren
“You’re turning a messenger/fb feature into a smear campaign. The app clearly ask (sic) for permission to read these data. Your article takes stupid audience reaction and spin it as a controversy. I think that’s pretty messed up. That’s like people freaking over what they signed in an App EULA and making a big deal about it later. I am a huge fan of the verge but this article is a low blow to fb and you know it. I expected better from you.”
A Facebook software engineer just emailed me. It's clear even Facebook employees don't understand why people are surprised the company even needs to collect call history and SMS data (mobile friendly version of tweet) pic.twitter.com/Hk4PnzXGMa
— Tom Warren (@tomwarren) March 25, 2018
An EULA, for those who aren’t familiar with the parlance of the tech industry, is the “end user license agreement.” That’s the process by which you check a box at the end of a long list of legalese essentially agreeing to the terms that the app or product sets out in said list.
As we all know, everyone reads those terms very carefully and can understand them — right?
“It’s clear even Facebook employees don’t understand why people are surprised the company even needs to collect call history and SMS data,” Watson wrote.
This is the problem when the cloistered environment of Silicon Valley meets the kind of product that Facebook is providing. As has been made clear a million times, when it comes to Facebook, you are the product. You create reams of data and can be marketed to. That’s how Facebook stays in business.
Cambridge Analytica may have put a spotlight on this, but the fact is that the social media giant has apparently been abusing this trust for quite some time now.
There is a delicate balance for any social media product like this: to remain free, it must have some way to sustain itself, and that will usually involve marketing or sharing of data. The point is for the product to remain trustworthy and upfront about its motives.
Facebook has not passed this test — and this software engineer just proved why in a major way.
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