Facebook Is a Problem. The System It Feeds Is a Bigger One.

Alarm over a new report shouldn’t stop at the social network

Damon Beres
OneZero
Published in
4 min readDec 19, 2018

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Credit: JamesBrey/E+/Getty

It’s easy, at this point, to see any Facebook scandal as more white noise; a few million people betrayed by the social network, an egregious overreach into a user’s personal data — another day online. But you shouldn’t sleep on a fresh New York Times report about the company’s dealings with other tech behemoths, like Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Spotify, Microsoft, Russia’s Yandex, and even, curiously, the Royal Bank of Canada. It follows similar reporting from the Wall Street Journal earlier this year and a related document dump from U.K. parliament just this month, but adds significantly more context to the well-established narrative that Facebook has repeatedly violated the trust of its 2.27 billion monthly users in pursuit of growth and profit.

Don’t miss the forest for the trees, though. If it’s easy to ignore the ceaseless drone of ethical violations from the social network, turn your attention instead to the companies who happily shared in the harvesting of your personal data to bolster their own products — without clear disclosures or any consent whatsoever. Facebook is a problem, but the online economy that trades on your data is a bigger one.

Consider: Though Apple CEO Tim Cook has offered withering criticism of the social network this year in pursuit of stronger privacy regulations, his own company reportedly enjoyed special access “to the contact numbers and calendar entries of people who had changed their account settings to disable all sharing” from Facebook. Apple didn’t deny the claim, and the report alleges further that the company received special power from Facebook to “hide” from users that their iPhones were requesting data from the social network.

You can see how the exchange was mutually beneficial. People who bought iPhones now had an easier way to access information about their friends — or, you know, random acquaintances they were connected to on Facebook — entrenching the social network as an indispensable part of modern life.

The nature of the business was decided before anyone thought to create an ethical framework for it.

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Damon Beres
OneZero

Co-Founder and Former Editor in Chief, OneZero at Medium