Facebook scandal: "GAFA is an absolute monarchy that threatens democracy"

Home"Anciens1"Facebook scandal: "GAFA is an absolute monarchy that threatens democracy"
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FIGAROVOX / INTERVIEW - Facebook is implicated in a data leak involving 50 million of its users. Thomas Fauré sees in this case the proof that the digital giant is endangering our freedoms, and that it would be time to finally invest in a sovereign digital economy.


Thomas Fauré is CEO and founder of Whaller.


FIGAROVOX.- The British company Cambridge Analytica is accused of having recovered, without their consent, the personal data of 50 million Facebook users. How did she get them?

Thomas FAURÉ.- In reality it is extremely simple! This company had access to the data by building a survey application, more precisely a paid questionnaire, which manually collected the information of 270 000 user profiles, that is to say people who registered on the application via their Facebook account using the application programming interface (API) of the social network. But the application also had access to the data of all the "friends" of these people, that is to say, all the people with whom they have links on the network, and who themselves never consented this data is revealed.

Facebook reacted by attacking British society directly, accusing them of having looted the data without his knowledge. This line of defense of the firm of Mark Zuckerberg does it seem credible?

No, she is not at all, because what she criticizes Cambridge Analytica is not looting or any form of piracy. Moreover, declaring himself "scandalized", Facebook would almost admit a security breach in its platform. But in this case in this case, it is not the security guaranteed by Facebook that is really in question: it is the decisions made by this digital giant in the access to data that is granted to developers, the fact that the personal data of the users' friends of the application could be accessed.

This policy of massive disclosure of our data is a deliberate choice on the part of Mark Zuckerberg.

The fact that Facebook's privacy policy does not by default protect the profiles of its users maximizes the amount of information available. That is, without specific action on their part to prevent it, users make public most of the information they put on Facebook.

Nevertheless, for the company, it remains a major crisis, and the market disappointments of the mark attest: I think Facebook had not seen such a scandal come, and above all, had not anticipated that such use of this data can be made, that is to say exploitation for political purposes by third persons. But here again, the imprudence and the lack of precautions of the company leave me stunned.

It must be said that this policy of massive disclosure of our data is a deliberate choice on the part of Mark Zuckerberg, because that is exactly what the economic model on which Facebook earns money commands. It is an economy of attention that involves the exploitation of personal data for commercial purposes, and therefore the very precise knowledge of the links between users, to allow a "buzz effect" . Facebook has an interest in the fact that there is as much traffic as possible through its network, to maximize the attention of users, which it then sells to advertisers. That's why the application programming interface of Facebook gives such wide access to data.

How could the exploitation of this data subsequently influence the US presidential campaign?

This is again quite simple. Previously, in a world where political candidates did not have access to individual voters' data, they were forced to have a unique political discourse for everyone. This allowed us to adopt a clear political line, but obviously, everyone does not recognize it. While now, if you push to the limit, the candidates have almost the opportunity to go tell everyone what she wants to hear: this is the marketing strategy applied to the political market! By knowing the preferences of users of social networks, thanks to the data, it was enough for the British company that had them in their possession to pass them on to people acting on behalf of a US presidential candidate to be able to solicit voters in the United States. targeted publications according to their profiles. There is no longer any single political line.

More generally, do you think that democracy and freedom are threatened by the digital giants' use of our personal data?

This scandal is the most complete proof. The fact that elections may have been influenced by the manipulation of data collected without the knowledge of users highlights the fragility of our democracies in front of the big digital companies. Their action is similar to a form of manipulation. In fact, it is the negation of democracy and a return to a form of absolute monarchy: by preventing any collective decision that contravenes his views and taking all the powers, Zuckerberg I is about to become the king of the world.

Zuckerberg 1st is about to become the king of the world.

The digital giants are impressive superpowers: alone, the four firms that form the acronym GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon) have a market valuation that equates to the GDP of France! With this economic power, they also have political power because they impose their decisions on the entire planet. They form almost a new form of states, the particularity of which is that they are diffuse, and not enclosed in a geographical area. These global firms have a huge economic weight but are not subject to any particular territory, which allows them to evade many national laws.

This morning, Brian Acton, the co-founder of the WhatsApp messaging application, tweeted soberly: "It's time to delete Facebook". Is not this a pious wish a little utopian?

This statement makes me laugh from someone who has earned billions by reselling its application to ... Facebook. Me too, when I'm a billionaire, I can tweet what I want, it's easy. But on the bottom of course, I endorse his message, and I hope it is a sincere realization.

A Facebook alumnus, the founder of the "like" button, also spends his time lecturing to explain that Facebook's algorithms are bad because they are designed for the sole purpose of capturing the user's attention. In fact, all this digital culture based in the heart of Silicon Valley is part of a new religion, a form of transhumanistic worship, and the people who come back from it resemble those neo-converts who abjure, but a little late, the faith that they had just kissed.

"Delete Facebook": the message itself is elitist, it is aimed at educated people who have the means to understand how Facebook threatens their freedoms, barely 1% of the world's population. But poorer people who have just accessed the Internet and digital will probably not change their behavior on social networks just because a billionaire invites them in a tweet. In short, it is good that there is an intellectual awareness, but that is not enough to reverse the course of things, and in this it is indeed a very utopian wish.

We need to build a more inclusive digital economy by encouraging French and European start-ups to collaborate.

My vision is more philosophical: we must reverse Facebook, but it will only happen through patience. Because the firms we are talking about have managed to distort time, or our perception of time. We will have to face the notion of long time. I have seen changes in our societies, and I see that politics have been taking hold of the subject for a number of months, which is excellent news.

Exactly, you must look favorably on the initiatives of the French government to increase the taxation of "GAFA". For all that, do you consider these efforts sufficient?

I actually appreciated this announcement, and I wrote to Bruno Le Maire to thank him, as a French digital entrepreneur. But the approach he is deploying is for the moment only defensive, but I remain convinced that it is also necessary to play in attack.

We need to build a more inclusive digital economy by encouraging French and European start-ups to work together to develop technologies that compete with the digital giants of the United States. A breakthrough could be, for example, to subsidize companies that choose to work together, rather than compete ruthlessly with the added weight of Silicon Valley.

We talk a lot about French Tech, but there should not be only communication: today, it does not really exist.

So of course, you have to regulate, propose an ethics of data management, but it's only a digital sovereignty policy that can move the lines. For example, let us stop accepting that our innovative companies are bought by the Americans, and have the courage of a real investment policy in our companies! I regret that these topics have not been sufficiently addressed at the time of the presidential campaign, because the French have very little awareness of these issues of sovereignty in the digital economy, and semantics scares politicians: we dare to pronounce the word "sovereignty" any more. But that's what we have to bet on if we want to defend our freedoms.


Source: © Facebook scandal: "GAFA is an absolute monarchy that threatens democracy"

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