Facebook should face new laws over its 'deliberate failure to protect children's personal data, safety and mental health', says ex operations manager Sandy Parakilas | Secretgist

Facebook should face new laws over its deliberate failure to protect children, according to the social media giant’s ex-operations manager.

Sandy Parakilas, who worked at the firm between 2011 and 2012, said Facebook’s content and product design was driven by algorithms that maximised the number of users, irrespective of whether it caused addiction, or promoted inflammatory, disturbing or threatening material.

The company repeatedly ignored his warnings about the way it handled the data and health of younger users, he told the Telegraph.

This ‘deliberate failure’ allowed for the spread of problems such as social media addiction, anxiety or depression.

The prominent Facebook critic argues that a duty of care to users must be imposed on tech firms to protect people from the harms of social media.

New laws that force companies to safeguard the personal data, safety and mental health of users are needed to ensure people’s safety, he said.

He claimed the company was run like a ‘personality cult’ centred around CEO Mark Zuckerberg, with no dissent or constructive internal criticism of policies.

‘Businesses have a duty to do certain kinds of things,’ Mr Parakilas said.

‘While any law might not regulate at a hyper-specific feature level, you can say that companies have a duty not to addict their users.

‘Where a company takes explicit steps that violate that duty, there should be some punishment.’

Mr Parakilas is now chief strategy officer at the Center for Humane Technology, a group of former Silicon Insiders aiming to change our relationship with technology.

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER SANDY PARAKILAS?

Sandy Parakilas worked as Facebook’s operations manager at its Menlo Park campus in California between 2011 and 2012.

He has since become a prominent critic of the social media site, and says he will continue until it does more to protect elections.

The whistleblower warned in late 2017 that Facebook could not be trusted to regulate itself.

He described the company as a ‘living, breathing crime scene’ for its role in the 2016 election.

Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal in March, Mr Parakilas said CEO Mark Zuckerberg knew the potential for such a breach as far back as 2010.

He gave evidence to Congress, UK MPs and MEPs in Brussels during investigations of the scandal.

Mr Parakilas has claimed Facebook repeatedly ignored his warnings over misuse of the personal data of younger users.

He is now chief strategy officer at the Center for Humane Technology, a group of former Silicon Insiders aiming to change our relationship with technology.

He has repeatedly spoken out against the practices of Facebook, where he worked for two years at its Menlo Park headquarters in California.

Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal in March – in which it was revealed Facebook shared the data of 87 million users with a British political consultancy firm – Mr Parakilas claimed the company could have avoided the controversy.

He told MPs that CEO Mark Zuckerberg would have known about concerns of data breaches at Facebook as early as 2010, in which ‘highly personal’ data on its users was handed over to app developers.

But once the information was handed over the company had no way of keeping track of it – meaning it could be harvested and used by firms like Cambridge Analytica.

Mr Parakilas said he gave top executives a briefing on the dangers that data could be breached.

But Facebook effectively turned a blind eye to these concerns and did not carry out audits of where the data was going.

He said Facebook’s obsession with growth but lax privacy controls was like the ‘Wild West’ of America. 

WHAT IS THE CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA SCANDAL?

Communications firm Cambridge Analytica has offices in London, New York, Washington, as well as Brazil and Malaysia.

The company boasts it can ‘find your voters and move them to action’ through data-driven campaigns and a team that includes data scientists and behavioural psychologists.

‘Within the United States alone, we have played a pivotal role in winning presidential races as well as congressional and state elections,’ with data on more than 230 million American voters, Cambridge Analytica claims on its website.

The company profited from a feature that meant apps could ask for permission to access your own data as well as the data of all your Facebook friends.

This meant the company was able to mine the information of 87 million Facebook users even though just 270,000 people gave them permission to do so.

This was designed to help them create software that can predict and influence voters’ choices at the ballot box.

The data firm suspended its chief executive, Alexander Nix, after recordings emerged of him making a series of controversial claims, including boasts that Cambridge Analytica had a pivotal role in the election of Donald Trump.

This information is said to have been used to help the Brexit campaign in the UK.

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