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Facebook privacy: was there really a breakthrough?

facebook privacy

While some privacy defenders have welcomed the recent changes to Facebook, as a flashing approach to encrypted messaging, others continue to fear that Zuckerberg's new privacy-focused vision leaves the company's core business (focused on targeted ads) mostly unchanged.

Is privacy on Facebook really possible? A lawyer from Facebook, discussing a lawsuit concerning the Cambridge Analytica scandal, said that the users of the platform had no expectations about privacy while using the social network.

There is no privacy violation, because there is no privacy on Facebook or any other social media site, said Orin Snyder, the company's lawyer, to the US district judge, Vince Chhabria.

The recent focus on Facebook privacy

We might be surprised by those who have followed the progressive focus on Facebook privacy by CEO Mark Zuckerberg in recent months. Zuckerberg even wrote a manifesto for a vision focused on social media privacy in March, claiming to believe that the future of communication resides in private, encrypted services.

But the line of reasoning of his lawyer in court echoes what the company and Zuckerberg himself have argued both publicly and privately in the past, and explains how Facebook has built an online advertising business that now only competes with Google.

While some privacy defenders have welcomed the recent changes to Facebook, as a flashing approach to encrypted messaging, others continue to fear that Zuckerberg's new privacy-focused vision leaves the company's core business (focused on targeted ads) mostly unchanged.

facebook privacy

The monetization of user data

Some internal corporate emails from 2011 to 2015, leaked as part of a lawsuit by a photo application developer against Facebook and previously the subject of a report by NBC News, point out the wide variety of ways in which the company initially considered monetizing user data, worrying very little about privacy. At the center of these discussions was the kind of developer who would end up landing Facebook in the midst of the Cambridge Analytic scandal, in which, as is known, an app that connected to Facebook was able to collect information from millions of people.

Some of Facebook's first ideas for making money out of data were focused on this type of app, with Zuckerberg even offering a hypothesis on how much a single person could be worth to external developers. $ 0.10 / user per year, had written in 2012.

Facebook privacy: company declarations

A Facebook spokesman responded to a request for comments by sharing a link to a Facebook post in which Zuckerberg wrote: we never sold anyone's data. The spokesperson also referred to previous company statements that defined emails leaked as specifically selected as part of the lawsuit.

The free development platform for developers, the statement reads, we explored different ways to build a sustainable business … in the end we opted for a model in which the developers didn't need to buy advertising to access the APIs.

E-mails, however, offer a rare and intimate look at how Zuckerberg and Facebook's top managers had thought how to create a profitable business thanks to user data.

Facebook as an information bank

Zuckerberg, in particular, would have launched the idea of ​​turning Facebook into a sort of information bank where developers would have accumulated a debt to Facebook based on the amount of user data they had access to, which would be paid for by purchasing advertisements.

In the messages in question, the CEO of the company also mentioned the possibility of inventing a mandate according to which the developers had to keep the data updated and update their data every month. Whenever they updated their data, Facebook could charge a figure for the amount of data.

According to another email, even the degree of proximity between different users had economic potential for marketing professionals. Internally, Facebook has defined this metric as the coefficient.

Antonio Garca Martnez, director of Facebook's Ad Exchange from 2011 to 2013, said the emails reflect the company's efforts to consider a variety of ideas in building its business. He added that emails may seem shocking to outsiders, but must be considered in context.

Plans to charge developers for costs have finally been eliminated in favor of something more profitable: the sale of ads for highly targeted mobile devices derived from user data, as well as data collected from a variety of other tools.

Ashkan Soltani, former chief technologist of the Federal Trade Commission, control lens of the US government, said that there is not much consideration for consumer data ethics, the company is exploring to create value, or the illusion of value, providing access to user data.