Yes, There’s Yet Another Story About Facebook and Privacy

Ron Sachs/CNP/ZUMA Wire

Last night I read a story at TechCrunch about a research project run by Facebook. Long story short, they used an Apple program that allows unapproved iPhone apps to be released internally to employees, and instead used it to release an app to regular users. The app asks for root level access to your phone and gives Facebook access to pretty much every single thing you do: email, messaging, shopping, location, etc. The research program was aimed at both adults and teens (with parental consent).

Today, Facebook announced that it was halting the iPhone version of its program, but before they could shut it down Apple blocked it. Facebook naturally issued a statement saying it had done nothing wrong but…well, you know. They value the privacy of their customers above all else blah blah blah.

Only the Apple version of the app has been banned, since Apple controls app installations on iPhones with an iron fist. They don’t like Facebook’s research program, so out it goes. There’s no such control over Android apps, however, so the Android app is still out there. And I imagine it will stay out there until there’s a bunch of public pressure to kill it, at which time Mark Zuckerberg will tearfully admit that they’ve made a mistake, but they’ve learned from it and they value the privacy of their customers above all else blah blah blah.

Mark Zuckerberg believes in his heart of hearts that an obsession with privacy is bad for the world, and his goal is to help humanity by getting us all comfortable with the idea of our personal information being shared with everyone. He believes in this religiously, which means he’s simply never going to stop pushing the boundaries of privacy as far as he can. There’s no reason to think that he will ever voluntarily turn Facebook into a good actor.