Situation a lot trickier than a decade ago

Sushil Kutty

Mark Zuckerberg must not like the New York Times anymore. The clean-cut CEO of Facebook, social media where friends serenade friends and get high on ‘likes’, was just getting over the profligacy of Cambridge Analytica when the NYT comes out with this report that Facebook had parted with extensive user information to phone makers, from Apple to Samsung to Blackberry, a total of 60 device makers including Amazon. Poor stinking-rich Zuckerberg must maybe now order another suit to go with another tie and shirt. You can’t expect a billionaire to appear at Senate and Congress in the same suit and tie he wore last time, can you?
There’s this FB friend ‘Kay N’. He is no mark on Zuckerberg but his Facebook experience is the stuff of legend. ‘Kay N’ once had hair reaching down to his shoulder-blades but doesn’t go to the barber anymore because he’s lost his head of hair to time and tide, which everybody knows wait for none, as Mark’s learning to his discomfiture. ‘Kay N’ last week posted that he notched 200,000 ‘likes’ to FB posts of over a couple of years. That fetched him another half a thousand ‘likes’. Little did ‘Kay N’ know that his private info, including which God he prayed to and his wife was devotee of, were shipped by phones he used, and some he never bought, to phone companies Facebook struck a deal with a decade ago!
Now, Zuckerberg is not happy with the revelation. He is fighting back, denying everything the NYT published, pushing back, but unable to get out of the fix he’s landed in so soon after he had to sit before Senate and Congress in suit & tie, not his normal everyday grey t-shirt and jeans, to claim innocence in the Cambridge Analytica data-mining scam that allegedly won Donald Trump the US Presidency. Zuckerberg confirmed that Cambridge Anaytica harvested private info of 87 million Facebook users, i.e., one-third of America on Facebook.
Mindboggling! But Senate and Congress took Mark on his word not to ever let such a thing happen again and that it was the first-time ever that FB was in a jam and that too not of its own making. But here we have Mark caught in a prison he made a decade ago. Who to believe, young Mark Zuckerberg or Trump’s bete noire, the four-times-older-than-Mark, NYT? Ask the hoi polloi on Facebook who to haul and they will say Mark the Zuckerberg, and this time make it stick! Sure, most Indians on Facebook wouldn’t even notice that Zuckerberg is in some sort of crap and, those who know, wouldn’t split hair or cry spilt milk, like ‘Kay N’.
The day after NYT let Zuckerberg’s cat out of the bag, a top Facebook official wrote in a blog post that “Facebook has maintained tight control over the technology, known as application programming interfaces, or APIs, and that it is not aware of any abuse by the companies that it teamed with.” The New York Times report had claimed otherwise. It said FB allowed phone device makers access to data of “friends” and, hold the breath, to that of “friends of friends” without anybody’s explicit consent. Now, Zuckerberg had told Congress and Senate that FB had never done such a thing nor will it ever, so cross my heart and…
Seems like Zuckerberg has no heart or, if he has one, it must be a cold one to go with his aftershave. In fact, the NYT report said the phone device-makers could get their hands on “personal information from those friends who were under the impression that they had barred any sharing of their data.” Cambridge Analytica no longer exists. The company was dissolved. And Zuckerberg, for all the world knew, was shucking his “bad-boy” image and acquiring a new face to the fresh-faced one he had till a few months ago.
All said and done, things have gotten trickier for Zuckerberg and Facebook. For the last few days, Facebook has been announcing on every FB friend’s wall that it would soon do away with the “trending feature”. But Monday one of the top-trending news on Facebook was that Facebook was up the creek without a paddle because of the NYT report! Doesn’t matter to FB friends whether FB carries “trending” or not because everybody knows that most of the trending action is on twitter! Just the same it is an irony that not many missed. Mark, it seems, boarded candid-jet a little too late in the day – the times they are not the best Mr Zuckerberg.
The New York Times reporter who wrote the report that nailed Facebook logged into Facebook with a 2013 Blackberry device and using a FB account with “roughly 550 friends” requested and received data of the 550. Then, going forward, he widened the circle to “friends of friends”, going into the personal details of a total of 295,000 of them, a piece of cake if ever there was one. But it’s a variety of the black-forest that Mark and his FB team don’t like one little bit, used they have been to plum for so long a time that Mark must be remembering his Harvard dorm days with nostalgia, when life was simple yet rewarding – nobody was after his hide because there was nothing to hide! (IPA)

Saturday, 9 June, 2018