Politics & Policy

Former Facebook Employee Warned in 2012 About Privacy Threats

(Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

A former Facebook employee said he warned the company back in 2012 about privacy threats from apps accessing Facebook data.

“Frankly, the way the platform was built to begin with wasn’t built with the safety of users in mind, and that’s a huge problem,” Sandy Parakilas told “CBS This Morning” on Monday. Parakilas used to lead the data privacy violations team on Facebook’s app platform.

“They could have built it in a much different way where they had a much more limited set of features and they controlled the data, and they just allowed developers to access modules that would let you see friends and the like,” the former manager continued.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will testify in two hearings before three congressional committees this week to answer questions about how data firm Cambridge Analytica was able to improperly mine around millions of Facebook users’ data.

Facebook announced last week that 87 million users have had their data breached.

Zuckerberg is “unaccountable at the moment” and must address the corporate governance at Facebook, Parakilas said.

“He controls the company 100 percent,” he said. “No one can fire him. There is no independent board that can step in and say, ‘Mark, you’re not doing a good enough job, we need you to step aside.'”

Parakilas also explained how once a user gives an app access to data, it is difficult to follow where that data ends up.

“Once the data goes to the developer, there is no insight into what the developer is doing with the data, and there is no control by Facebook as to what they do,” the privacy specialist said. “This has been a known problem since 2010.”

Firms like Cambridge Analytica learn about users from their profile data and “they can use that information to go back into Facebook and buy ads that target you and try to manipulate you based on your personality and your voting preference,” Parakilas said.

Parakilas left Facebook in 2012 and worked for CitizenNet, which partnered closely with Facebook.

“It’s only recently that I’ve started to become really concerned about some of the implications of what this data can be used for,” he told CBS.


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