Pierson: “Facebook’s latest scandal proves we can’t trust big tech”

By Katrina Pierson

The same tech companies that swear up and down that they don’t censor and deplatform conservative voices also claim they keep your private info private — even when they get caught.

The New York Times recently caught social media giant Facebook in its biggest lie yet. After Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told the world his company doesn’t “sell data to advertisers” and told Congress that users have “complete control” over their data, internal documents and whistleblowers revealed that Facebook has allowed companies like Spotify, Netflix, and the Royal Bank of Canada to read and even edit your private personal messages.

Even after being caught red-handed, Facebook argues that this gross violation of privacy isn’t a problem, claiming that users consented to let other companies read their private messages by agreeing to Facebook’s terms of use.

I don’t know about you, but when I clicked “agree” after scrolling through those seemingly endless reams of legal jargon, I never imagined that I might also be giving Canadian bankers permission to hijack my messages.

It’s not just users who are being subjected to Facebook’s chicanery; the company’s executives seem to think they’re pulling the wool over federal regulators’ eyes, too. Facebook was already subject to a consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission in order to settle charges that it deceived customers about the privacy of their data. This latest scandal may well run afoul of that agreement.

David Vladeck, former head of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, certainly thinks it does.

“This is just giving third parties permission to harvest data without you being informed of it or giving consent to it,” he told The New York Times. “I don’t understand how this unconsented-to data harvesting can at all be justified under the consent decree.”

This is not the first time — not even close. Facebook has been caught time and again playing fast and loose with your privacy. Instead of facing the music, their first instinct is to lie and obfuscate. Zuckerberg, COO Sheryl Sandberg and other Big Tech royalty apparently assume that we non-techie peasants, our elected representatives and the regulatory agencies we rely on to protect us are too stupid to see what’s really going on.

For example, we now know that when people raised a stink about Facebook’s practices in 2017, Sandberg’s reaction was to hire “Never Trump” Jeb Bush spokesman Tim Miller to convince people that opposition to Facebook was being organized by left-wing billionaire George Soros.

It would be one thing if this kind of arrogance and dishonesty were confined to Facebook, but it’s not; it’s pervasive among Silicon Valley’s would-be aristocrats. Just this past September, Google — Facebook’s biggest rival in the internet advertisement game — got caught letting other tech giants into customers’ Gmail accounts.

Google has the same instincts under pressure as Facebook. Like Facebook, the search giant’s strategy is to lie about and obscure practices that they know Americans are uncomfortable with. Then, when they get caught, they act as if we’re too stupid and ignorant about their technology to notice, like Google CEO Sundar Pichai did in his testimony before Congress.

The same games that Big Tech companies play with our privacy, they also play with our political system.

Zuckerberg swears up and down that there is no bias against conservatives at Facebook — even after being caught changing algorithms in ways that transfer ad revenue from conservatives to liberals, repeatedly banning popular pro-Trump pages, and, in the crucial weeks before the midterm elections, pulling Republicans’ campaign ads without warning.

Similarly, Pichai claimed, under oath, that Google operates “without political bias” — even after leaked emails showed Google employees calling Republican Senate candidate Martha Blackburn a “terrorist” and a “violent thug” as justification for censoring her ads, bragging about manipulating searches to boost Hispanic turnout for Hillary Clinton in swing states in 2016, and discussing how best to alter algorithms to punish the conservative outlets that were breaking these stories about their bias.

Luckily for Big Tech executives, they can rely on Democrats like incoming House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler to provide cover for their deceptions. Nadler, whose biggest campaign donor is Google parent Alphabetcalls anti-conservative bias a “right-wing conspiracy theory.”

The fact is, we can’t trust Big Tech or their Democratic allies — not on privacy and not on bias. We need impartial FTC investigations to hold tech companies to the promises they’ve made to consumers. The proof is more conclusive than ever that we need action to protect consumers from these suppressive and remorseless internet companies.

Katrina Pierson is a senior adviser for Donald J. Trump for President Inc.