A former Facebook employee who monitored data breaches has spoken about how Facebook handles user data, calling its practices 'utterly shocking and horrifying'

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  • Facebook is dealing with an investigation and a lot of consumer outrage after Christopher Wylie – the founder of data analytics company Cambridge Analytica – told the Guardian that his company used data from 50 million Facebook profiles to target voters.
  • Wylie said Facebook had sent Cambridge Analytica a letter back in 2015 asking it to delete the data, but that it never followed up; many are calling this irresponsible on Facebook’s part.
  • Now, Sandy Parakilas, an ex-Facebook employee who worked on the very team that monitored data breaches back when Facebook’s policy let outside apps scrape the data themselves, is coming forward to say that he warned executives about this – and that he was ignored.

Another person has come forward to call Facebook on its lack of precautions in handling shared data. This time, it’s an ex-employee who says he worked close enough to the matter to warn Facebook executives about it back in 2012, according to reporting done by Paul Lewis from the Guardian.

Sandy Parakilas was a platform operations manager, responsible for monitoring data breaches by the Facebook’s third-party software developers, a couple of years before Facebook changed its policy to make third-party apps buy access to target specific sets of people. At that time, outside apps could scrape Facebook’s data.

Parakilas told The Guardian that he had a feeling there was a black market for the information Facebook was gathering, but his suggestion to “audit developers directly and see what’s going on with the data” was discouraged. One executive even asked him, “Do you really want to see what you’ll find?”

It turns out that Parakilas was right to be worried. His story came a couple of days after the first whistleblower, Cambridge Analytics founder Christopher Wylie, told The Guardian that his company had been hired by the Trump campaign during the 2016 election and used data from 50 million Facebook profiles to target voters.

Facebook knew that Cambridge Analytica had the data back in 2015 soon after the new policy was in place. Facebook lawyers asked Cambridge Analytica to delete the information at that time, but never followed up to make sure the deed was done. It only suspended Cambridge Analytica’s account on March 16, more than two years after the fact and just days after The New York Times and The Guardian reached out for comment.

“They felt that it was better not to know,” Parakilas said about Facebook executives at the time. “I found that utterly shocking and horrifying.” Parakilas left out of frustration in 2012, and recently penned an opinion article for the New York Times called “We Can’t Trust Facebook to Regulate Itself.” Today, he’s a product manager at Uber – a company that’s had its own share of consumer backlash, and a similar hashtag created against it in protest.

More extensive reporting about Sandy Parakilas and his history with Facebook can be found on The Guardian.

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