NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted Saturday that Facebook is a “surveillance company” that sells its users’ personal details, weighing in on a scandal involving a private firm that harvested data from the social media giant.
“Businesses that make money by collecting and selling detailed records of private lives were once plainly described as ‘surveillance companies,’” wrote the former National Security Agency contractor. “Their rebranding as ‘social media’ is the most successful deception since the Department of War became the Department of Defense.”
Businesses that make money by collecting and selling detailed records of private lives were once plainly described as “surveillance companies.” Their rebranding as “social media” is the most successful deception since the Department of War became the Department of Defense.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) March 17, 2018
Snowden’s sobering observation, which was retweeted more than 30,000 times, comes amid public outcry over the revelation that Cambridge Analytica, a private data analytics firm that worked with President Donald Trump’s election team, had harvested personal information of more than 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge.
Facebook suspended Cambridge Analytica’s access to the platform last week, claiming that the company and two individuals who had helped collect the massive data set had misled the social media giant.
“In light of new reports that the data was not destroyed, we are suspending these three parties from Facebook, pending further information,” the company said. “We will take whatever steps are required to see that the data in question is deleted once and for all — and take action against all offending parties.”
Commenting on a New York Times report about the unprecedented data breach, Snowden said it was Facebook, not Cambridge Analytica, that should be held responsible.
“Facebook makes their money by exploiting and selling intimate details about the private lives of millions, far beyond the scant details you voluntarily post. They are not victims. They are accomplices,” he wrote on Twitter.
Facebook insists that Cambridge Analytica’s harvesting methods did not constitute a formal data breach, because users technically consented – via the website’s labyrinthine privacy settings – to having their data mined.
Cambridge Analytica is owned by hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, and was formerly run by ex- Trump adviser Steve Bannon. The Trump campaign reportedly paid the company $5 million to help target voters.