Facebook Could Be A Threat To Democracy If Not ‘Controlled,’ Says Former British Spy Chief

The former chief of Britain's domestic intelligence agency GCHQ said Facebook was profiting from every drop of its users' data.

A woman looks into the smartphone in front of Facebook logo.
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The former chief of Britain's domestic intelligence agency GCHQ said Facebook was profiting from every drop of its users' data.

The accusations against Facebook selling its users’ data to third-party buyers have cast long aspersions about the tech giant’s motivations, and now almost every week we hear stories of its chiefs, including Mark Zuckerberg, indulging in practices which cannot be deemed altogether fair.

Earlier this week, some of Zuckerberg’s personal emails were exposed by British MPs, reportedly showing the social network giving some favored apps access to users’ friends’ data after a cut-off point that was supposed to protect its members’ privacy, as reported by the BBC. These allegations, in addition to the ones already holding Facebook culpable for the disinformation campaign waged by Russia during the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, have led to the former head of Britain’s domestic intelligence agency GCHQ, Robert Hannigan, calling Facebook a “threat to democracy,” according to Business Insider.

During an appearance on BBC’s Today program, Hannigan said it was clear Facebook’s only intention was to milk as much profit as it could from the personal data of its users.

“This isn’t a kind of fluffy charity providing free services,” Hannigan said.

“It’s is a very hard-headed international business and these big tech companies are essentially the world’s biggest global advertisers, that’s where they make their billions.

“So in return for the service that you find useful they take your data… and squeeze every drop of profit out of it.”

Warning that Facebook could run riot with personal data unless it was regulated from the outside, Hannigan called it a potential threat to democracy. So far the lack of clear cyber laws in relation to data protection has allowed tech giants like Facebook to regulate themselves, but Hannigan said that was simply a way of letting companies like Facebook get away with practices that would otherwise be deemed wrong.

“These big companies, particularly where there are monopolies, can’t frankly reform themselves. It will have to come from outside,” he said.

Facebook has found itself in trouble with the development of an all-profit, anti-users narrative that has been building about the company in intelligence circles. Although the tech giant prides itself as a force of good with nearly 2 billion people of the world’s population reportedly on the network, governments are becoming increasingly worried about trade practices it has employed over the last few years. Earlier this year, the UN ruled Facebook to have played a “determining role” in the fake disinformation campaign that led to the persecution of Rohingya minority Muslims in Myanmar. In addition, its role in spreading false information during the 2o16 U.S. presidential elections has been well-documented, per the Guardian.