A leaked document written by Facebook’s ad engineers discusses in candid terms the data management issues the social network faces.
Obtained by Motherboard, the document describes a “fundamental” problem: the company cannot keep track of all the data generated on its platform, something that is worrying in the face of GDPR and other regulations.
“We’ve built systems with open borders,” the document states. “We do not have an adequate level of control and explainability over how our systems use data, and thus we can’t confidently make controlled policy changes or external commitments such as ‘we will not use X data for Y purpose’. And yet, this is exactly what regulators expect us to do, increasing our risk of mistakes and misrepresentation.”
It’s a very interesting – and rather troubling – admission by the company, which has been beset by scandals in recent years, including the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook Files incidents.
Failing to keep track of sensitive data could prove to be an issue for Facebook, and parent company Meta, especially given the aggressive stance adopted by the EU in its forthcoming Digital Services Act.
“Considering this document does not describe our extensive processes and controls to comply with privacy regulations, it’s simply inaccurate to conclude that it demonstrates non-compliance,” said a Facebook spokesperson.
“New privacy regulations across the globe introduce different requirements and this document reflects the technical solutions we are building to scale the current measures we have in place to manage data and meet our obligations.”
A company on the edge
Meta, the holding company for Facebook and Instagram, is a company on the edge of a transition towards the “metaverse” – an idea that is still very much being built.
Despite all of the various scandals, Meta’s core business (selling ads) remains strong. Yesterday, the company reported $27.9 billion in revenue during Q1, up 7% year-over-year, and a staggering $7.5 billion in profit, down 21% year-over-year.
The reason for the profit decline is the vast amounts of capital being spent on building the metaverse, a place that Mark Zuckerberg envisions being a hub for social and business interactions.
Given the extraordinary resilience of Meta’s business in the face of regulation, fines, general distrust in the media, and the rise of TikTok, living our future in the metaverse might just become reality over the next decade.
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