'Utterly horrifying': ex-Facebook insider says covert data harvesting was routine
Sandy Parakilas says numerous companies deployed these techniques – likely affecting hundreds of millions of users – and that Facebook looked the other way
Hundreds of millions of Facebook users are likely to have had their private information harvested by companies that exploited the same terms as the firm that collected data and passed it on to Cambridge Analytica, according to a new whistleblower.
Sandy Parakilas, the platform operations manager at Facebook responsible for policing data breaches by third-party software developers between 2011 and 2012, told the Guardian he warned senior executives at the company that its lax approach to data protection risked a major breach.
“My concerns were that all of the data that left Facebook servers to developers could not be monitored by Facebook, so we had no idea what developers were doing with the data,” he said.
Parakilas said Facebook had terms of service and settings that “people didn’t read or understand” and the company did not use its enforcement mechanisms, including audits of external developers, to ensure data was not being misused.
Parakilas, whose job was to investigate data breaches by developers similar to the one later suspected of Global Science Research, which harvested tens of millions of Facebook profiles and provided the data to Cambridge Analytica, said the slew of recent disclosures had left him disappointed with his superiors for not heeding his warnings.
“It has been painful watching,” he said, “because I know that they could have prevented it.”
Most consultants know they should have a website. But I get asked all the time by those new to consulting whether or not they should have a blog.
My answer is yes, but with a couple of caveats.
If you’re going to start a blog make sure you have something to say. And be sure you can keep it up.
This advice goes for all companies…
There’s nothing worse than setting up a blog, connecting it to your website, posting a couple of articles…and then months go by and there’s no new content.
Certainly it’s not good for your image. Imagine a prospective client checking out your website, clicking on ‘Blog’ and then seeing that your last post was 6 months ago.
Ouch! That aint pretty.
Aight, so now we’ve explored the dark side of blogs and what you should consider before starting one.
But how about the positives, you ask? There are many:
1. Search Engine Love – Search engines such as Google love content from blogs. Especially when it comes out consistently. If you put up even a short post every couple of days or weeks your blog and therefore website traffic will climb.
2. You The Expert – You’re a pro right? Of course you are. Writing about your experience, sharing stories, consulting case studies, etc is a great way to demonstrate your expertise and become known as an authority.
3. Get Found – As you publish your posts you’ll start being found in the search engines by people looking for information on the topic you’ve written on. This is a great way to get contacted by potential consulting clients.
4. Easy to Get Started – Setting up a blog is eeeaasssy! Seriously. Even if you don’t have one technical bone in your body, you can pay someone through a service like Elance or oDesk to help you setup your blog. Yeah, it might cost you $100 but it’s worth it. You can also look at services like WordPress.org, WordPress.com and Posterous – which all make getting a blog setup a real snap.
5. No Genius Required – There’s a myth out there that you need to be a talented and prolific writer to have a blog. That’s definitely not the case. I was nowhere near an A+ student in writing during my school days. That didn’t stop me from writing advertisements and direct mail copy for billion dollar companies and that certainly hasn’t stopped me from blogging and writing for you.
As long as you can devout some time each week or so to writing a post for your blog the benefits far outweigh the risks.
If you’d like more information about blogs and blogging ask us in the comments below.