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Here’s An Idea: Maybe Facebook Should Consider Not Collecting So Much Personal Data In The First Place

CVS stopped selling cigarettes, Dick’s Sporting Goods stopped selling “assault-style rifles”

Just because you can do something, and it makes you money, doesn’t mean you have to.

Now we realize assiduously collecting user data, then offering that info to developers and advertisers is Facebook’s whole business. So we’re not arguing Facebook should stop collecting that data altogether, just maybe not so much of it.

Or at least that the company take a good look inward, at itself, as part of the latest of the many “fixes” it’s had to do.

Right now, it’s not.

When CEO Mark Zuckerberg made the rounds to outline his company’s response to the Cambridge Analytica debacle, it was all about data protection, and nothing to do with data collection. Here are some stories from Wired and recode.

Mostly, after saying he’s sorry an awful lot, Zuckerberg clung to the following words which he repeated almost verbatim (and are also included in his own Facebook post on the topic, which we’ve linked to at the top): “We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you”.

No mention anywhere of Facebook questioning if maybe part of the problem isn’t the unbelievable amount of detailed data it collects and keeps on its users and their friends. As if it’s not even something that’s entered Zuckerberg’s mind. Maybe it hasn’t.

And broadly, we’d agree that if you’re in Facebook’s line of work, you do need to be able to reasonably identify people’s political preferences, or religion, or even sexual orientation. But there’s a level of minutiae that goes far beyond that (as ProPublica has powerfully pointed out in the past), that we can’t imagine is much good to almost anybody.

The solution Zuckerberg discusses pretty much exclusively involves getting tough on outside developers including “full audits” and banning any developer that does not agree to an audit. And blocking developers from accessing personal data if a person hasn’t used their app in 3 months.

But of course Facebook will continue to collect and hang on to and exploit that data.

We guess you could argue Facebook’s exhaustive collecting of the habits of its users isn’t really the matter at hand. Only it kinda is, too.

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