According to a video report from the satirical tabloid and website The Onion, Mark Zuckerberg is an American CIA agent codenamed “The Overlord” and the director of the CIA’s “Facebook Program”. The report also confirms Zuckerberg’s receiving a “Medal of Intelligence Commendation” for his extraordinary work with the Facebook program.
The report further gimmicks the reasons behind several other popular social media tools such as:
- Twitter (useless as far as data gathering goes)
- Farmville (responsible for pacifying 85 million people after unemployment rates rose)
Although The Onion only published a satirical report, there are several other instances where similar serious allegations have been made against Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg. Let’s take a look at them:
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in an interview with Russia Today called Facebook:
“the most appalling spy machine that has ever been invented.”
Facebook users willingly give out all their information to the site without ever knowing that this information ultimately lands in the hands of the CIA. As per Assange, Facebook is not CIA-funded but Facebook does provide a secret interface for the CIA which allows the agency to collect information about any registered individual.
The information not only includes name, address, connections, pictures, places checked in, phone numbers, and workplaces but also helps the agency to understand the personality of the user by analyzing his or her shared material, joined groups, liked pages, etc.
Tracking of Users
Facebook has also been accused previously of saving certain tracking cookies on the user’s PC to track the sites they visit. This can be confirmed by logging into two unrelated Facebook accounts one after the other. Despite no relation between the two accounts, Facebook will show friend recommendations to the second logged-in account which will have various friends of the first logged-in account. This happens because of those saved tracking cookies that Facebook quietly injects into the user’s PC.
After extensive privacy options were rolled out by Apple in iOS 14, a lot of eyebrows were raised when users found out that the Facebook mobile app accesses the local network of all users whether someone uses the app for screencasting on a smart TV or not.
The Expansion of Facebook
Facebook’s subsequent acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram have put it in an extremely strong position when it comes to the online social media space and allow it to gather an even greater volume of data related to its users.
In 2018, WhatsApp co-founder, Brian Acton, publicly asked everyone to delete Facebook in a tweet due to Facebook’s suspicious data gathering.
In 2021, Facebook’s introduction of Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses received mixed reactions despite its emphasis on privacy features. Due to the massive trust deficit built over the years, a significant number of users expressed their concerns over the introduction of yet another surveillance tool from Facebook.
Leaks From Facebook Whistleblower Frances Haugen
In 2021, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen alleged that the company prioritizes profit over the safety of its users. In one of the shocking revelations, she shared that Facebook gave a free hand to several Indian BJP politicians, who openly without any fear of consequences, used the platform to call for the genocide of Muslims in India. She further stated:
“there is no will at the top to make sure these systems are run in an adequately safe way. Until we bring in a counterweight, these things will be operated for the shareholders’ interest and not the public interest.”
She also alleged that Instagram is not safe for teens and despite the presence of convincing research-based evidence that Facebook already has related to the matter, it chose not to do anything about it at all.
2021 was so far been the toughest year for Facebook when it comes to privacy-related controversies and not so surprisingly it severely affected its user growth. The slowdown in Facebook’s user growth led to one of the biggest tech stock crash in history when Meta (Facebook’s parent company) lost 25% of its stock value in Feb 2022, losing $230 billion in the process. Since 2021, Meta so far has fired more than 21,000 of its employees.
Facebook now is mainly betting its future on the Metaverse (VR-powered world), but that too has its own usability, health, and privacy-related concerns. Tesla CEO Elon Musk even went to the extent of calling the Metaverse a dumb idea, stating:
“strapping a frigging screen to their face all day and not wanting to ever leave. That seems… no way, it gets uncomfortable to have this thing strapped to your head the whole time, I think we’re far from disappearing into the metaverse.”
Whether an intelligence tool or not, Facebook has always been known for its shortcomings when it comes to data privacy and there doesn’t seem to be any serious change over the horizon related to privacy in the future as well. Mark Zuckerberg needs to up his game when it comes to making amends regarding privacy, misinformation, and mental health of the users of his products instead of pleasing the investors.