Facebook's sweatshop moment

Facebook's sweatshop moment
Photo by Marc Schäfer

Facebook is once again in the news. This latest scandal adds to the mounting evidence that the company lacks all sense of ethics and morality.

Here's a quick recap. Apple's Developer Enterprise Program allows companies to, among other things, deploy in-house apps to employees that bypass the App Store. It gives companies enormous flexibility as they can ship apps to a select group of people and circumvent the App Store approval process.

Deploy In-House Apps with Apple's Developer Enterprise Program

Earlier this week, TechCrunch reported that Facebook used this power to distribute a “research” app to regular users. This prompted Apple to revoke Facebook's Enterprise certificate on the basis that they violated the terms of service by deploying the app to non-employees.

Big corporation violates terms of service of other big corporation. Not a big deal, right? Most of us are guilty of that. Say you're sorry, life goes on.

But here's the thing.

  1. The app installed a VPN on users' phones which gave Facebook complete access to all network traffic. This includes browsing, instant messaging and social media use.
  2. Though its partners, Facebook paid users $20 per month in gift cards in exchange for their data and an extra $20 for referrals.
  3. The app was promoted in ads on Instagram and Snapchat, and sign-up pages made little to no mention of its affiliation to Facebook.
  4. And the coup de grâce, the ads were targeted specifically to people age 13 to 17.

Facebook is using circumventive and deceptive tactics to buy data from children. This is surveillance capitalism at its best.

Those who continue to use Facebook despite the data collection scandals may argue that they have nothing to hide to justify their consent to exploitation. I believe it is a dangerous and misinformed point of view, but as a grown adult, one can make that decision.

However, collectively overlooking the use of coercion and deception to exploit children signals approval of this behavior. Much like people boycotted clothing companies in the 90's for exploiting children, I believe it is our responsibility as a society to voice our outrage. This is Facebook's sweatshop moment.

Let Facebook know you condemn dishonest and unethical behavior. Close your Facebook account.

Photo by Marc Schäfer / Unsplash



Host of The Interop and Epicenter. Founder of Interop Ventures.