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How Facebook's privacy woes might change the rules of the road in 2019

Following a string of data privacy and protection missteps, Facebook faces potential backlash from legislators and consumers that could affect all companies that process consumer data.

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The past year has been nightmare for Facebook, breaking a decade-long streak of seemingly boundless growth that placed the internet giant at the center of social, political and commercial activities of billions of people around the globe. Facebook began its precipitous downhill turn in March when a whistleblower uncovered Facebook’s role in helping political consultancy Cambridge Analytica harvest and use the personal data of tens of millions of users without their permission.

The company was rocked by a scandal or controversy every month thereafter, not all of which were privacy related. Emerging from these scandals was a portrait of a company with a voracious appetite for monetizing users’ detailed data and sloppy management in protecting the privacy and security of that data. How the company and its regulators react to these events could have a lasting impact on how all companies manage and protect consumer data.

Facebook’s data protection fails

In June, Facebook confirmed it had data-sharing arrangements with over 60 device makers, including Chinese manufacturers Huawei, Lenovo and Oppo, giving special API access to the companies at a time when intel agencies around the world were ringing the alarm bells about the security threats Chinese tech companies pose.

In September, Facebook announced a security weakness related to user access tokens that could have exposed tens of millions of users’ personal information, including email addresses, phone numbers, genders, locations, birth dates and recent search histories. In early December, Facebook disclosed a bug that may have exposed the photos of up to 6.8 million users to developers for a 12-day period in September.

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