Can Facebook change for the better?
Facebook’s run of bad press isn’t slowing down. Just days ago, the BBC’s media editor was slamming photos of self harm in front of a Facebook exec on TV, after the issue of teenagers’ safety on Instagram became news in the UK. Now TechCrunch has unveiled a user surveillance programme that paid $20 per month to users to track detailed data about how they used their devices.
The programme targeted users aged 13 to 35. Due to the way the surveillance app was installed, Facebook was able to track a level of device usage usually unavailable to iOS developers. Data included “private messages in social media apps, chats… in instant messaging apps – including photos/videos sent to others, emails, web searches, web browsing activity, and even ongoing location information,” TechCrunch reports
On one hand, the users were being paid to take part in a research project, but on the other, if you were 13 and offered $20 per month to do nothing (and could easily fake parental consent due to the way the application form worked), you’d probably do it without thinking deeply at all.
The practice was definitely against Apple’s terms, and within hours Facebook said it would stop the practice on iOS. The speed with which this happened shows how sensitive Facebook is right now. Every week seems to bring another scandal, and while some are overblown by journalists desperate to get a hit in, many of them are fully justified.
Former UK deputy prime minister Nick Clegg got in front of the cameras as a Facebook representative for the first time this week. He had a refreshingly open-minded line on tax and regulation, two topics that will be increasingly problematic for Facebook this year.
that global companies weren’t being taxed properly, and that tech companies should have to accept more regulation. Given the level of hostility to Facebook at the moment, what else could he do? The company can’t just continue to give bland non-answers to politicians’ questions forever.
If we do see a Facebook more open to change this year, that can only be a good thing, but it will take a long time to wipe clean the stains from its years of practices most people find distasteful to say the least.