This week, WIRED published a 10,000-word report detailing the last 15 tumultuous months inside the walls of Facebook as the company struggled to deal with the fallout from its many self-inflicted data and privacy scandals.
One of the report’s many revelations was that, at least initially, Facebook’s leadership didn’t believe the Cambridge Analytica data scandal would make much of an impact on the public. The word “breach” was often used to describe what had occurred, though the social media giant’s leadership believed that was misleading. Instead, they argued, an academic had downloaded user data with permission, and then passed it to other parties unethically. Many inside of Facebook also believed it would become evident that the user information leaked by Cambridge Analytica was useless.
“You can just buy all this fucking stuff, all this data, from the third-party ad networks that are tracking you all over the planet,” one anonymous Facebook executive told WIRED. “You can get way, way, way more privacy-violating data from all these data brokers than you could by stealing it from Facebook.”
However, these distinctions didn’t matter to users, and a massive scandal was born. From one perspective, it’s easy to understand why Facebook didn’t believe this problem would blow up the way it did. After all, it was the first major data controversy the company had ever faced. But Facebook’s lackadaisical attitude also reflects a troubling casualness with data and security that’s still haunting the company to this day.
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