Facebook lost its case against the bulk search warrants in the NewYork court of appeals after a protracted legal battle. Facebook was arguing that it can appeal against data requests from law enforcement agencies, where it felt that the request was excessive.
The news looks pretty harmless. I mean when we all signed up for facebook, we all knew that facebook had the data, and was even using it to target ads. Meh..
What was not known was
- The real loss of anonymity: The way Trump was able to use Cambridge Analytica to literally map every single voter’s preference in the country and deliver tailor-made advertisements to it. The recent Buzzfeed article on how this targeting can actually shape your thought without you knowing it. Fake news is one very publicized aspect of it.
- Actual Impact of Bulk Search Warrants: The worrying part is that there is no scope. Period. If the US government is not asking for all the Facebook Data Dump in one go, then they are just being nice. In Short, facebook is now just a repository which manages data, and with minimal effort, US government can ask it. And combine that with (1) above, you see where is it going.
- It is only going to spread further: One good or bad thing about governments is that they learn from each other very quickly. There is already a petition in Indian Supreme Court on Whatsapp sharing data with facebook and its prevention, where facebook has tried to downplay it by saying it’s a contract issue, and supreme court is adamant on a 5 judge bench. So the NewYork ruling can just change the Tide. What is stopping China or India or Russia or Brazil from holding Facebook ransom and asking the same thing? Earlier, there might have been an argument put forward that facebook reserves the rights, now that cover is blown.
The only feasible solution that seems possible is for facebook to create country level servers and segregate the information geographically as well as prevent complete censoring of data from crossing geopolitical boundaries. Any other argument has been substantially weakened.
Views expressed here are my own and don’t reflect the views of any of my employers, present or past.