Facebook Is Not Your Friend

15 | 2018 was a banner year for data breaches and 2019 is already off to a great start. At the center of privacy scandals last year, was Facebook. It seemed like every other week there was a hacking issue or ethical misconduct around their user data. So, does this mean that Facebook usage is on the decline? In a word, no. Despite all the data drama, Facebook is doing all right. So, what does it all mean for user privacy on Facebook and other tech companies with millions of users? I discuss that and something far more concerning than hackers stealing your data, predictive analytics. Tune in to find out what I mean. | Click here for information on protecting your privacy on Facebook.  And please support my Starbucks habit by dropping something in my virtual tip jar. Thank you.

Subscribe to this podcast via your favorite podcast platform!

About the host:

Over the past decade, Jim Stroud has built an expertise in sourcing and recruiting strategy, public speaking, lead generation, video production, podcasting, online research, competitive intelligence, online community management and training. He has consulted for such companies as Microsoft, Google, MCI, Siemens, Bernard Hodes Group and a host of startup companies. During his tenure with Randstad Sourceright, he alleviated the recruitment headaches of their clients worldwide as their Global Head of Sourcing and Recruiting Strategy. His career highlights can be viewed on his website at www.JimStroud.com.


Hi, I’m Jim Stroud and this is my podcast.

Well, we are in the 2nd month of 2019 and already there have been a number of data breeches. Among them, a security flaw in the online video game – Fortnite, made its 200 million users worldwide vulnerable to such hacks as taking over a gamer’s account, purchasing game currency in the user’s name and eavesdropping on game chatter. If you do an online search for “data breaches in 2018,” no doubt you would discover a seemingly endless list of search results where users’ privacy and data had been hacked or exploited in some way. So, what does that mean for the bottom line of tech companies, especially those with millions and millions and millions of active users – like Facebook? Surprisingly, nothing much. I’ll explain after this message.

To fully understand the privacy of Facebook and how it’s likely to evolve, you need to understand one thing…Facebook executives want everyone to be public. As the service evolves, executives tend to favor our open access to information, meaning information you think is private will slowly become public, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be private if you want to. Facebook gives its users the option to lock things down, but users need to be aware of their controls, how to use them and how to prepare for future Facebook privacy changes. Facebook has not and will not make information obvious, and that’s where my special offer comes in. Go to JimStroud.com/free and download “The Very Unofficial Facebook Privacy Manual.” That’s JimStroud.com/free to download your free copy of “The Very Unofficial Facebook Privacy Manual.” One last time, download it now at JimStroud.com/free Operators are standing by.

In 2018, Facebook was the poster child for data breeches. It seemed like there was a data breech or privacy related scandal every week. Here are just a few of them, in no particular order.

  • Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, brought to light that Facebook advertising was used in Russian schemes; albeit to minimal effect on the election, some would say. Said Facebook ads violated the prohibition on foreign spending, as well as requirements mandating the disclosure of campaign spending. End result, 13 Russian indictments. Scandalous!
  • Facebook partnered with at least 60 device makers — including Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Samsung and gave them access to the friend’s of Facebook users without their explicit consent; even after Facebook had promised to stop. Scandalous!
  • A serious security flaw gave hackers access to 50 million Facebook accounts, allowing them to control those accounts. Uh oh! Here’s another whoops…
  • It was reported that third party developers were able to see the photos of 6.8 million Facebook users; even if those photos were marked private and not intended for public view. Yikes! And finally…
  • Internal documents, discovered by the NY Times, revealed that Facebook gave Microsoft, Amazon, Spotify and others far greater access to people’s data than it had publicly disclosed; effectively exempting those business partners from its usual privacy rules.

So, with all of that drama, and even more drama I did not mention (for the sake of time), you would think that Facebook was on the decline. But, not so. Facebook is doing alright. Here’s a quote from a recent CNBC article.

This week, Facebook pleased investors by reporting a strong quarter of earnings led by impressive statistics on user activity for the fourth quarter of 2018.

In light of the social network’s recent controversies, there were a few surprises in the figures: The number of monthly Facebook users was steady in the U.S., with spikes in the Asia-Pacific region. Perhaps most surprisingly, they also rose in the European Union — where the company has endured the brunt of criticism over privacy related to the Cambridge Analytica scandal and uncertainty over General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR.

Facebook’s success in courting users so quickly could have far-reaching impact, as other tech companies seek to understand the true consumer appetite for personal privacy.

I have to admit. I was surprised and concerned. I know people like free. I can hear them say, “Free, free, free, is good to me.” Even if it means that there is a chance, a very good chance, that your information will be hacked, already has been hacked and/or will be used to some nefarious end. So, what’s the solution? Delete Facebook? Delete Instagram? Stop using WhatsApp? Hah! No, you’re not going to do that. You might consider using false personal information on social media. I mean, what will happen to you if you if you shave 5 years off your birthdate or mention that you live in a different zip code of your city? Probably nothing, but the reality of it all is, 15 minutes from now it won’t matter. Why? Two words. Predictive analytics. I’ll explain.

NBC News shed light on something recently that I think is a thousand times more alarming than a hacker stealing your data. As of now, Facebook doesn’t need your personal information to determine exactly who you are or what you’ll do next. Every time you watch a video, like something, leave a comment, interact with a webpage that has a Facebook like button or, engage with an app that is in partnership with Facebook, Facebook is building a profile of you; but it doesn’t stop there. Facebook looks at the behavior of other users who are similar to you in terms of online behavior, demographics and merges your data with the collected data of others who act like you online. With that information they build a virtual version of you, then test that virtual version of you in a number of ways. How would this virtual version of you react to this video, react to this article, react to this photograph or, react to this political message?

Now, wrap your mind around this. Facebook’s mastery of data enables it to produce results much more powerful than traditional advertising. Here’ a quote from NBC NEWS…

… Facebook offers the chance to pay not just for a certain audience size, but an actual business outcome, like a sale, an app download, or a newsletter subscription. Once upon a time advertisers paid a “CPM” — cost per thousand views — for a marketing campaign. That was just the chance to get in front of people. Now Facebook offers a rate based on “CPA,” or “cost per action,” a once-unimaginable metric offered because the company is so confident in its understanding of people and their preferences that Facebook can essentially guarantee a certain number of people will do certain things.

Remember when I told you how Facebook takes your data, combines it with other people’s data in order to build a virtual version of you? Well, Aza Raskin, co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology was interviewed in that same NBC News article I quoted earlier and in regard to the virtual version of you I was describing, he said this…

With 2.3 billion users, “Facebook has one of these models for one out of every four humans on earth. Every country, culture, behavior type, socio-economic background,” said Raskin. With those models, and endless simulations, the company can predict your interests and intentions before you even know them.

So, its that creepy? Does it feel weird to know that Facebook can reliably predict your reaction to an advertisement based on your past online actions and the collected data of users like you? Is this enough to make you want to get off Facebook? For some of you, yes. But for the majority, no. And that makes me very afraid for the future.

If you love what you heard, hate what you heard or, don’t know what you just heard, I want to know about it. You can reach me at my website – www.JimStroud.com. In addition to finding source material and related information for this podcast episode, you’ll find other goodies that I hope will make you smile. Oh, before I go, please financially support this podcast with a little somethin’-somethin’ in my virtual tip jar. (There’s a link in the podcast description.) Your generosity encourages me to keep this podcast train chugging down the track. Whoot-whoot, whoot-whoot, whoot-whoot…

Links related to this episode:

Music in this podcast

Follow me on Social Media: