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A hot potato: Executives at Facebook do not like that a significant number of recent leaks have exposed the company's activities. Several controversies have put the social platform under a negative light. Most of the information has come from documents landing in pressrooms and multiple whistleblowers going public with damaging allegations of potentially illegal activity.
Facebook is probably one of the most notorious companies when it comes to respecting people's privacy. Plenty of examples exist showing the company's controversial stance, including Cambridge Analytica, WhatsApp forced data sharing, and its efforts to spy on encrypted data without breaking encryption.
Ironically, recent internal leaks, primarily from a whistleblower, have the social media giant battening down the hatches. Now, Facebook is making efforts to stem leaks by making particularly "sensitive" internal groups private. This internal policy change has already leaked to the press, adding to the situational irony.
The New York Times notes that before whistleblower Frances Haugen spoke out about controversial Facebook policies and issues, it had a relatively open workplace culture. Employees were encouraged to share their ideas on various matters involving the company. This relaxed atmosphere is how Haugen allegedly obtained documents, including internal research on the mental effects of social media on teens, policies allowing "VIPs" to break the rules, and other sensitive issues.
I provided detailed documentation regarding potential criminal violations to a U.S. law enforcement agency. My understanding is that the investigation is still ongoing.— Sophie Zhang（张学菲） (@szhang_ds) October 10, 2021
I just didn't choose to blast it across the front pages.
Why does that make me less of a whistleblower? https://t.co/tizQwetrsN
It's worth noting that a former Facebook data scientist came out earlier this week saying that she has filed a criminal complaint against the company with the SEC. She has previously leaked information regarding how Facebook handles misinformation.
Employees and execs readily shared much of this information on Facebook's internal messaging platform "Workplace." The company is now closing off access to specific groups within Workplace and removing employees from them "whose work isn't related to safety and security."
"As everyone is likely aware, we've seen an increase in the number of Integrity-related leaks in recent months," the company informed employees in a memo obtained by The NY Times. "These leaks aren't representative of the nuances and complexities involved in our work and are often taken out of context, leading to our work being mischaracterized externally. Sensitive Integrity discussions will happen in closed, curated forums in the future."
Facebook is no stranger to regulatory investigations. The company was the subject of a Federal Trade Commission privacy probe in 2018 that resulted in a $5 billion fine. The recent leaking of internal mental health research led to Facebook putting an "Instagram for Kids" app on hold, which prompted Congress to demand the project be abandoned entirely. Congress then ordered execs from Facebook and Instagram to testify on the matter.