Facebook doesn’t really know where all your data goes, leak suggests

A leaked document written by Facebook’s advertising engineers discusses in candid terms the data management issues facing the social network.

Obtained by Motherboard, the document describes a “fundamental” problem: the company cannot keep track of all the data generated on its platform, which is worrying in the face of GDPR and other regulations.

“We built systems with open boundaries,” the document says. “We do not have an adequate level of control and explainability over how our systems use data, and therefore cannot confidently make controlled policy changes or external commitments such as ‘we don’t will not use X data for Y purposes”. And yet, this is exactly what regulators expect of us, increasing our risk of errors and misrepresentations.”

It’s a very interesting – and rather disturbing – admission from the company, which has been plagued by scandals in recent years, including the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook Files incidents.

Failing to keep track of sensitive data could prove to be a problem for Facebook and parent company Meta, especially given the aggressive stance taken by the EU in its upcoming Digital Services Act.

“Because this document does not describe our extensive processes and controls for complying with privacy regulations, it is simply inaccurate to conclude that it demonstrates non-compliance,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

“New privacy regulations around the world are introducing different requirements and this document reflects the technical solutions we are building to evolve the current measures we have in place to manage data and meet our obligations.”

A business on the sidelines

Meta, the holding company of Facebook and Instagram, is a company on the eve of a transition to the “metaverse” – an idea still very much in the making.

Despite all the various scandals, Meta’s core business (selling ads) remains strong. The company yesterday reported first-quarter revenue of $27.9 billion, up 7% year-over-year, and a staggering profit of $7.5 billion, down 21% year over year.

The reason for the drop in profits is the large amount of capital spent building the metaverse, a place that Mark Zuckerberg envisions to be a hub for social and business interactions.

Given the extraordinary resilience of Meta’s business in the face of regulation, fines, general distrust of the media, and the rise of TikTok, living our future in the metaverse may well become a reality over the course of of the next decade.

Through the motherboard

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