Ask Forgiveness, Not Permission – Or Just Do it.
Posted at 8:00h, 30 Aug 2016 in List Archive by Bonnie Halper No Comments 135 Likes Share

You’d better sit down for this one.  “Whatsapp announced it would begin sharing names and phone numbers with its parent company (Facebook), to allow its more than 1 billion users “to communicate with businesses that matter to you too” – like notifications from airlines, delivery services or your bank, for example,” according to Gizmodo. Yes, we know that this means that Facebook is backtracking on its pledge not to use the data of the 1 billion WhatsApp users they acquired with the acquisition of the message app itself two years ago, and who would ever have suspected that Facebook would have changed its policy?

Forest through the trees: while the online world voiced its righteous indignation about the change in policy, Facebook “laid off the entire editorial staff on the Trending team—15-18 workers contracted through a third party. The Trending team will now be staffed entirely by engineers, who will work to check that topics and articles surfaced by the algorithms are newsworthy,” according to Quartz. Not that engineers are at all biased, mind you, but what do lawmakers and oversight committees know about algorithms, so quite a workaround, all things considered.

It seems to us that the one-time tech mantra of ask forgiveness, not permission, has given way to that old Nike matra: Just do it. At least, in Facebook’s case, it seems. Facebook came under scrutiny not too long ago for displaying a particularly liberal bent, to the exclusion of more conservative reporting in their trending section, but remember, In response (to the claims of bias/partisanship), Republican Senator John Thune, Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, sent a letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg demanding answers. Eager to avoid further congressional action, Facebook launched an internal investigation, which found themselves not guilty, according to a piece in Breitbart.* Nothing to see here…

As for ‘just do it,’ Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center (Epic), says that by going back on its agreement to keep WhatsApp data private, Facebook is violating an agreement reached with the FTC in 2012, according to the Gizmodo piece, and your point is… Facebook is not likely to change their practices any time soon, and as Gizmodo suggests, you can switch to more private messaging services, like Telegram or Signal, which don’t rely on an advertising-based business model.  Or, as the article goes on to say, “if that’s too much for you, you have 30 days to opt out of data sharing. WhatsApp offers instructions here.” What can we say: just do it.

Onward and forward.