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I'm somewhat surprised by the amount of criticism levied at Facebook here. Consider the following:

1) Both Android and iOS allow apps to access your contacts, which in aggregate is more or less the same kind of social graph that Facebook has. If you happen to be in someone else's contacts, you don't get a say here either. I suppose Facebook's data is richer in some ways, but not in other ways.

2) When Twitter removed API access for 3rd parties, there was an uproar in the developer community about how evil this is and so on. There's a trade-off here - openness at the platform level necessarily means less privacy for users.

3) A lot of the criticism Facebook has received in the past (both here and elsewhere) had to do with not allowing 3rd party developers to do more and hoarding user data, which is not theirs, for monetization. Here Facebook was explicitly giving the app owner and the user the power to decide - the app owner could ask and the user could either accept or decline. You could argue that this isn't adequate protection, but consider how this works for other platforms such as Windows, Mac OS, iOS and Android. Apps can access more or less everything and permission dialogs, even where they do exist, aren't taken seriously by the user.

4) Most publishers that are currently publishing these articles criticizing Facebook are also selling everything they know about you to marketers, often more explicitly for the purposes of targeting. The "scandal" here is that a third-party app gathered personal information that wasn't supposed to be used for targeting and the data ended up being used for targeted political ads. Most publishers have no problem explicitly selling whatever data they can get on you to these centralized data brokers who will sell that data to anyone.

5) All this talk about privacy and data aside, the motivation seems to be that the wrong guy won the presidential election - I don't see anyone whose personal data was supposedly used in this manner being upset nor anyone owning up to the fact that they were falsely manipulated into voting for Trump or not voting. It seems to be mainly Clinton supporters being upset that other people were manipulated into voting for the wrong guy, amplified by the same concern about privacy and social graph data ownership issue we've always had.

6) If we accept that it's the presidential election result that most people are upset about here, the media is even more culpable, both from creating this false narrative that it was not a close election and prematurely taking the moral high ground against the potential Clinton administration by focusing on the irrelevant stuff (emails, etc). And that's just the "mainstream" media, before we get to Fox News, etc.




> The "scandal" here is that a third-party app gathered personal information that wasn't supposed to be used for targeting and the data ended up being used for targeted political ads.

The scandal is that an organization impersonated a health care research entity and knowingly collected PII for use in political actions. Not only is this awful in itself, but it undermines public health by making people distrust legitimate data collection projects for beneficial health purposes. It's similar to when the CIA used a vaccination effort to locate Bin Laden, and now those aid personnel are routinely attacked and not trusted by locals which makes it more difficult to eradicate disease. If you are representing yourself as a health care entity and collecting PII for stated purposes of public health, you are likely bound by HIPAA, and I would like to see people go after this company for HIPAA violations as well as fraud.




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