Facebook is no stranger to controversy. Now, Mark Zuckerberg is under fire yet again after it’s been revealed that Facebook contractors have been listening in on user’s private audio recordings. Zuckerberg raised even more clamor with his excuse that other tech companies spy on their users too. True enough, Bloomberg reported earlier this year that Amazon has been using its Alexa devices to eavesdrop on its users. Sadly, Zuckerberg is actually right.
What does this mean?
This audio recording scandal sheds light on how much of our attitudes towards tech are still in flux. On one hand, people everywhere are growing increasingly aware of just how much information we share online. This means, however, that people are also aware of just how vulnerable they are. Special Counsel’s report on cybersecurity in 2019 shows that data breaches continue to spread, causing companies to ramp up their cybersecurity protocol and training. The affected sectors range from municipal governments to the Administrative Office of the Georgia Courts, proving that it isn’t just tech companies who are the targets.
We want our businesses to be secure — in fact, legal firms, hospitals, and organizations can face class-action lawsuits if their data privacy regulations aren’t stringent enough. The question is, do we expect the same security from big tech companies?
How do we see big tech companies?
The shock over the latest Facebook scandal eventually subsided. After all, this isn’t the first time the social media platform has come under fire regarding user information. The Cambridge Analytica scandal was much bigger, but Facebook didn’t take that much of a hit (at the time of writing, Facebook stocks are up by 1.15%).
All in all, it seems that we’ve become apathetic when it comes to these big companies and our data. We joke about the fact that companies like Facebook and Amazon are always listening in, almost as if we take it as a given. Perhaps part of the reason for this lax attitude is the lack of official governance surrounding data privacy. CPO Magazine claims that there are state laws that deal with data privacy, but emphasizes that a federal approach is still far off.
Where does this leave the end-user?
We’re slowly realizing just how fallible these big tech companies are. For one, Google recently reported that many Android phones were released with malware built in, affecting over 700,000 users. In a world where technology advances with every passing minute, it seems as though user privacy and safety has gone by the wayside. Rather than creating technology that protects and safeguards the end-user, these tech companies run after every innovation even at the risk of their users.
What this recent Facebook audio recording scandal shows is that at the end of the day, tech companies are businesses who are out to protect their own interests. This puts end-users at an uneasy impasse: it seems like we can’t live with these companies, but we can’t live without them either. This recent scandal tells us less about the tech and more about the social forces surrounding it, asking us to take a hard look at how these businesses see their users.