By Vijay Darda | 26-03-2018
Mere apology will not do, for data theft from Facebook is indicative of the beginning of an unforeseen threat to the whole world
Whenever you visit someplace, you waste no time updating your Facebook status and uploading your new photographs. Normally too, you keep sharing your thoughts on this platform. You keep counting how many likes you got and how many comments came in reply to your posts. You chat too on this same Facebook and share many things. You believe that your photographs and your personal information will be limited to Facebook only, but one fine day you suddenly come to know that another company has stolen all this information or data. This raises a million dollar question: Is it possible without the knowledge of Facebook? After the data theft comes to light, the Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologises for it saying it is his fault as he could not secure the data!
This raises some questions: Should Zuckerberg be pardoned? And, is it a normal negligence? Before considering these two questions, just imagine why Facebook is providing you free platform? Even a mobile phone company charges you for the service it gives. Why then Facebook is not charging a fee? The Facebook platform is not part of a social service that some noble soul chose to serve you with by spending out of his pocket! Actually, most people have never thought about this issue! Those who thought arrived at a conclusion that this is a matter related to the property called data. The more the users of the Facebook, the greater will be the quantum of data. In this era of technology, especially information technology, data is really a big asset. Zuckerberg has become a billionaire only due to this data property. He earns approximately Rs. 26 crore per day. The secret of this earning lies in the fact that 58 per cent of the world’s adults and 81 per cent of the adults in the US have a Facebook account.
Let’s talk about the US first because the case of data theft from Facebook has emerged in a more serious way there. There is a company named Cambridge Analytica. This company faces more serious allegation of stealing data from Facebook through an app and misusing personal information of nearly 5 crore users of Facebook to influence voters in favour of Donald Trump in the US presidential election. Trump’s supporters have, however, denied that they used the information of Cambridge Analytica. In fact, an undercover reporter of a British news channel captured the CEO of Cambridge Analytica Alexander Nix while admitting this fact on camera. This news channel has aired this video in which Nix is seen revealing that his company has played a major role in the victory of Trump in the 2016 presidential election. In the video, Nix is also disclosing that the company used ‘self-erasing’ e-mails so that there is no evidence left. Meanwhile, the Board of Directors of the company has suspended Nix.
In this case, Facebook’s responsibility is clear and direct because the app that stole the data was allowed on its platform by Facebook itself. Nearly 2.70 lakh people downloaded this app and expressed their views on different issues related to elections. Data containing people’s ideas was sold later. It was expected that Zuckerberg would make the world aware of the fact as soon as the matter came out, but he kept quiet.
He actually broke his silence only when the matter suddenly reached a flashpoint in India. Union information technology and law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad broached the subject warning that if any effort is made to influence voters from Facebook data in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in India, strict action will be taken. Looking at the number of users, India is very important for Facebook. For, there are about 20 crore users here. If Facebook is banned here, it will be catastrophic for the social networking company. That is why Zuckerberg had to come forward and apologise saying that if any data leaks from Facebook, it is his responsibility as the company’s founder and CEO. He apologised to the world for theft of data. But his problems are far from over. An investigation has already been initiated in the US to find out what role Cambridge Analytica played in Trump’s election campaign?
We should definitely learn from this data theft case. We should not give any information that we need not necessarily share with others. We liberally share information as a result of which people are still falling prey to cyber frauds. Many people lose their bank deposits. Cyber law is so lax and technological backup needed to investigate such cases is so less that it becomes very difficult to catch the culprits of such cyber crimes. Therefore, it is necessary that we exercise caution. Already, the right to privacy is being violated in India. The government has already collected information of every individual in the name of Aadhaar. The controversy over the issue has still not died down. On the other hand, the news of tapping people’s telephones keep coming in too. There have been instances of detection of bugs from ministers and senior leaders’ offices. Such a situation is not good. The intellectuals should raise their voice against it to create pressure on the powers-that-be and people’s representatives to support the right to privacy. For, if this does not happen, it would not augur well for the democracy.
Before I conclude…
Last week a bad news came in from Uganda that the world’s last male northern white rhino has died. Only two females are left now. That means the extinction of this species is certain. This news of an animal species getting extinct from the earth is very disheartening. I hope that the veterinarians would have preserved sperm of this last male northern white rhino to save this species from extinction. However, there is some good news too! At least 80 baby Olive Ridley turtles were spotted at Versova beach almost after 20 years. Social worker Afroz Shah and his team cleaned up the beach for 127 weeks. And the result is that the Olive Ridley turtles have come back to Versova beach. These turtles are very sensitive. Due to pollution and dirt, they had stopped coming to Versova beach.
After the Facebook data theft or breach came to fore, its founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has apologised. But is this apology sufficient? More than 200 crore users are active on Facebook every month. It is a serious offence to pass on personal data of these users to someone else and Mark Zuckerberg is guilty of this grave offence. Right to privacy is a fundamental right and it should be protected at any cost.