A former Facebook employee is calling for the company to be strictly regulated to prevent it from abusing the mass amounts of user data it handles.
Sandy Parakilas, a former platform operations manager for Facebook, wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times on Sunday that the company’s attitude toward its users’ data made it a ripe target for a Russian troll farm pushing a disinformation campaign in the U.S.
“The fact that Facebook prioritized data collection over user protection and regulatory compliance is precisely what made it so attractive,” Parakilas wrote. “Now the company is arguing that it should be allowed to regulate itself to prevent this from happening again. My experience shows that it should not.”
“At a company that was deeply concerned about protecting its users, this situation would have been met with a robust effort to cut off developers who were making questionable use of data,” his op-ed reads. “But when I was at Facebook, the typical reaction I recall looked like this: try to put any negative press coverage to bed as quickly as possible, with no sincere efforts to put safeguards in place or to identify and stop abusive developers.”
Congress is investigating how Facebook and other tech giants were co-opted by the Kremlin in an effort to sway voters during last year’s presidential campaign and in the months after the election. Social media platforms have been roundly criticized for not discovering the influence operations until pressed by the House and Senate Intelligence committees, and Parakilas argues that Facebook is not up to the task of preventing abuses of its own platform.
“Facebook needs to be regulated more tightly, or broken up so that no single entity controls all of its data,” he wrote. “The company won’t protect us by itself, and nothing less than our democracy is at stake.”