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American Internet Giants in the Crosshairs for Alleged Privacy Violations

Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook has been in the crosshairs for regulators and the broad internet community alike. Mark Zuckerberg testified on the issue on the Capitol Hill in April 2018, but two months later the company got into nearly the same trouble again, this time because of sharing user data with over 60 device manufacturers. Yet, the streak of problems doesn’t seem to end for Facebook with that.

New Trouble for Facebook

The Department of Justice, the FBI, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) now aim at expanding the investigation regarding the Cambridge Analytica scandal, as well as to continue the examination of the social network itself, the Washington Post reported.

The fact that the Justice Department, the FBI, the SEC and the FTC are sitting down together does raise serious concerns,” David Vladeck, former director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection told the publication.

Up to June 2nd, 2018 the investigators scrutinized only Cambridge Analytica, yet now they want to probe the tech giant’s team once again in order to find out for sure if Facebook was saying the truth during the probe. Additionally, the entire social network’s data policy got into the crosshairs of the investigation, which seems to be particularly interested in the collection and further use of user info.

In particular, the investigation seeks to find out whether Facebook has violated the 2011 consent decree on its privacy practices. The FTC, which is the authority supervising consumer privacy, may impose a fine of billions of dollars on Facebook if the allegations prove correct.

The wider community seemed to enjoy the trouble Facebook got into. Thus, the CEO of Gerber Kawasaki Ross Gerber said in his tweet that Facebook colluded with the dark, and now has to pay the price.

Ironically, even Anonymous seems to be on the same page with him.

Et Tu, Google?

Still, it wouldn’t be fair to blame every privacy issue on Facebook. Thus, The Wall Street Journal has recently reported that Google in fact allows third party vendors to directly read the letters of Gmail users.

While Google itself has claimed a while ago that it no longer scans user mail, it has not prohibited app developers from doing so. It seems that many of them do enjoy this opportunity, and it’s not about just automatic scanning. The user agreement that most of us have accepted while signing up for Gmail without reading has a clause somewhere in its depth that entitles the employees of third party app developer companies to read our mail. Yes, they’re living people that we gave the right to do that.

While it’s all technically legal, it still looks terribly wrong. While Google has no right to tell other companies what to do, it still failed to inform its users of this situation, which seems ethically questionable at the very least, especially given the extent of privacy-related concerns these days. Such a situation has the potential to give rise to another Cambridge Analytica-like scandal.


It may seem that deleting Facebook is a good idea. But, according to the same logic, we will also have to delete Gmail, never use Google, and, which is even safer, just keep away from the internet altogether. Eventually, most of those problems come down to the permits we give tech companies without knowing that, just because nobody in their right mind would read a sixty-pages long user agreement just to sign up for a mail service.

It may look like now it’s time to tough it out and start reading those.

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