Facebook ceded control of a critical pillar of the company’s personal data collection tools to artificial intelligence after it became too large for employees to manage, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
The Silicon Valley company began forming data partnerships with the likes of Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo. The tool allowed Facebook to adhere itself to multiple social media platforms while insulating itself from competition, but by 2013 the program became too unwieldy for mid-level employees to govern, so the company resorted to putting it on autopilot.
Two former employees with the company told NYT employees on condition of anonymity that the company was forced to build a tool that did the technical work of turning data access on and off. The company also kept tabs on what it calls special privileges that allows companies access to Facebook’s giant trove of information, often without permission.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg created the partnerships to stave off obsolescence and insulate the massive company from competition. Every corporate partner added helped drive the platform’s expansion and yoke people deeper into Facebook’s universe while growing advertisement.
Facebook used contact lists from the partners, including Chinese company Huawei, which American officials consider a security threat because of its connections to China — to gain deeper insight into people’s relationships, TheNYT’s report notes, citing internal company records. House lawmakers grilled Zuckerberg in April about the company’s data mining capabilities.
Zuckerberg and fellow executive Sheryl Sandberg often signed off on the program, the report noted. Company spokeswoman Katy Dormer directed The Daily Caller News Foundation to comments Steve Satterfield, director of privacy and public policy at Facebook, made Tuesday addressing the report.
“Protecting people’s information requires stronger teams, better technology, and clearer policies, and that’s where we’ve been focused for most of 2018. Partnerships are one area of focus and, as we’ve said, we’re winding down the integration partnerships that were built to help people access Facebook,” he said. Dormer did not address questions pertaining to the company’s inability to govern partnerships.
The report comes amid a hectic time for Zuckerberg’s empire. Facebook revealed in September that hackers had taken advantage of a piece of code allowing them to take over users’ accounts. The company forced more than 90 million users to sign out to return the accounts to their creators.
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