Five times Facebook has made headlines for all the wrong reasons

15 August 2019 - 07:44 By Cebelihle Bhengu
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg.
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg.
Image: REUTERS/Stephen Lam

A recent report by Bloomberg, which revealed that Facebook hired hundreds of private contractors to secretly listen to messages shared between the app's users, has seen the company receive major backlash from the public. 

According to the report, Facebook listened to messages whose users had "agreed", through their settings, to have their messages transcribed to test the company's artificial intelligence. 

Here are four other times the company made headlines for all the wrong reasons:

Competitors' data

In January, an investigation by TechCrunch revealed that Facebook paid teenagers and young adults to install a Facebook Research VPN, which gave the company unlimited access to the user's phone data.

The report stated that the company did this to obtain data on its competitors, the VPN allowing Facebook to gather their web activity. Further, the company asked its users to share screen shots of their Amazon order history.

Facebook user complaint

Mirror UK reported that Facebook user and journalist Tyler Mears accused the company of spying on her after she received two adverts which coincided with a conversation between her and a friend via the app. 

Asked about this, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg denied they spied on users through phone microphones to obtain information they then used to target users with adverts.

Manipulation of user feeds

In 2014, Forbes reported that Facebook conducted research on more than 689,000 users by manipulating what appeared in their news feeds to provoke emotions.

This, according to the report, meant the company had the power to make users of its app feel good or bad.

A Facebook scientist and two academics found that when they manipulated user timelines to produce less positive content, this influenced the user's emotions, seeing him or her produce less positive content. 

Facebook can get into your account

Facebook used to have a Master password, which allowed the company's employees to access users' accounts. Although this no longer exists, because some employees abused the privilege, users' accounts can still be accessed, provided the Facebook employee gives a sound reason for this.