This is some serious potential evil from Buzzfeed. Collecting lists of rape victims, ppl with eating disorders, etc. http://t.co/fp3pR0BMBU
— Matt Stoller (@matthewstoller) June 26, 2014
The NSA are not the only ones violating people’s rights online. Both Facebook and BuzzFeed have been recently caught engaging in transgressive conduct regarding users’ privacy.Treating their users with incredible disrespect and secretly exploiting those that use their products.
Facebook decided, without asking for permission, to exploit their users for a “Mood Manipulation Experiment.” According to a report from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Facebook engineers altered 700,000 people’s news feeds with either more positive or negative content to see if they could make certain emotions “go viral.”
Yes, there was/is a group of Facebook data scientists in a room somewhere trying to think of ways to upset their own users by screwing with their news feeds. A million lab rats isn’t cool, you know what’s cool? A billion lab rats.
Then there is BuzzFeed’s amazingly gross data harvesting from sexual abuse victims. For those unaware, one of BuzzFeed’s more used programs is the online quiz and BuzzFeed’s business model is to take as much data from those that visit the site as they can. Put the two together and, according to Dan Barker, things get creepy:
Most websites record some information. BuzzFeed record a whole ton. I’ll start with the fairly mundane stuff, and then move on to one example of some slightly more scary stuff…
[I]f I had access to the BuzzFeed Google Analytics data, I could query data for people who got to the end of the quiz & indicated – by not checking that particular answer – that they have had an eating disorder. Or that they have tried to change their gender. Or I could run a query along the following lines if I wished: Show me all the data for anyone who answered the “Check Your Privilege” quiz but did not check “I have never taken medication for my mental health”.
Other questions on the “Check Your Privilege” quiz include “I have never been raped” and “I have never been sexually harassed or assaulted.” If one were doing the quiz honestly and left those blank because such horrors had befallen them, that data would be recorded and someone with access to it would be able to learn that the quiz taker had been sexually assaulted.
At this point it is rather obvious that Facebook and BuzzFeed are shameless immoral companies that can only be reined in by the use of state power in the form of regulation. That’s a long term fight. In the short term, users need to be aware of how malevolent these companies are with user data. Tell your friends, make it viral.