Facebook admits it did not read terms of the app that harvested data of 87 million

From CNBC:

Facebook did not read the terms and services of the app that improperly shared user data with Cambridge Analytica, the company’s chief technology officer said Thursday.

“We require that people have a terms and conditions and we have an automated check there at the time — this was in 2014, maybe earlier,” Mike Schroepfer told U.K. lawmakers at a parliamentary committee hearing. “We did not read all of the terms and conditions.”

Aleksandr Kogan, a Cambridge University researcher, created an app that collected data on millions of Facebook users. Kogan’s company, Global Science Research, then shared that data with political analytics firm Cambridge Analytica.

. . . .

Kogan said on Tuesday that Facebook did not pull it up on its terms of services until after The Guardian newspaper reported early informationabout it harvesting user data.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told U.S. lawmakers earlier this month that Kogan was “in violation” of his agreement with the platform and that this was a “big issue.” But the data scientist hit back at the company’s boss, arguing that tens of thousands of other developers were employing similar practices to his app.

Link to the rest at CNBC

PG has lost track of the number of Terms of Service, Terms and Conditions, Terms of Use, etc.,  documents he has read or reviewed or written since the lovely little contracts started popping up online over thirty years ago. Had he known where the internet would go, he would have counted.

Apples iTunes’ TOS reportedly runs to over 20,000 words.

A website called TermsFeed provides both free and “premium” terms of service you can just copy and paste into your online business’s website. It has a nice article about “I agree to” Checkboxes so you can appreciate the full range of possibilities.

PG is certain Facebook’s “automated check” is an interesting program, but PG suggests it will require the highest form of artificial intelligence to avoid being fooled by the lengthy and impossibly dense language contained in a great many TOS documents.

Unfortunately, TOS documents are legally binding – sort of, maybe, up to a point.

Legally binding or not, when people depend upon a company for a significant portion of their income (like KDP) and KDP receives the money and passes some of it through to those people, the TOU document can be rather important, particularly when the violation of its terms can stop the money flowing.

PG just checked KDP’s Terms and Conditions, which Amazon helpfully indicates were last updated in September 2016. Since he has looked at them since September, 2016, he doesn’t have to look at them. No, PG is not aware of any case involving a modification of a TOU where someone forgot to update the “date last modified” information. He is certain this mistake has occurred on at least a few occasions, however.

(Legal minutia tip – If you want to know what changes from revision to revision, save a copy somewhere on your computer that you’re not using for something more useful and do an MS Word document comparison with the prior TOU when a new TOU shows up. If you have your own website with your own TOU, keep the old ones somewhere. If you don’t, you’ll be embarrassed like the Facebook guy if anyone claims they didn’t violate the old ones and you improperly changed them.)


2 thoughts on “Facebook admits it did not read terms of the app that harvested data of 87 million”

  1. I’ve lost count of all the ToS I’ve ‘agreed’ to in the last 15 years. Most have to do with games that I play, and none are intelligible.

    I’d love to see a ToA [Terms of Acceptance] that details how the user cannot misuse the Company’s product [which is what most users /expect/ it to be] AND clauses that detail all the ways the Company can’t misuse User’s data.

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