Facebook is denying that it contributed to destroying the life of a closeted gay teen from England. Privacy International, who refers to the teen only as ‘David’, “defends the right to privacy across the world and fights surveillance and other intrusions into private life by governments and corporations,” according to their website.
As the story goes, one day David forgot to close his Facebook page. When his parents discovered it open, what they beheld so shocked their sensibilities that they felt compelled to banish David from the family home.
What they discovered was ‘incriminating’ evidence, in their opinion, that their son was gay. What was this evidence? On David’s Facebook page were targeted advertisements suggesting the recipient might be homosexual. The ads were not placed on his page in an intentional way, but were generated based on David’s user activities and relationships.
As the site Privacy International reports, “He never mentioned anywhere on his profile that he was gay, and was not openly involved in any online gay groups. For David, living in a closed-minded community and with homophobic parents, such revelations would be disastrous.”
The report continues:
The company placed that material on his page without notification, without his consent and in violation of every principle of care that the company claims to stand for…David knew the ads were displayed on his profile, but could do nothing to remove them no matter how hard he tried. They just kept coming back. On this occasion he made the mistake of leaving his computer screen on while going to the shop, unaware that his parents were to return earlier than expected to the house.
Facebook, while expressing sympathy for David’s plight, denies any wrongdoing. “This case is about appalling discrimination and unauthorized access to a person’s account, not advertising. Our ads are only shown to people based on the information they have chosen to post or add to their profile — the same information that would have been visible as a result of the unauthorized access.”
Unfortunately, at press time Facebook does absolutely nothing to correct this issue so it doesn’t happen again. They don’t fix it so that people can ‘EASILY’ choose what kinds of advertising they want and how. Facebook has been made difficult to navigate through as it is with no real help desk. Facebook should be accountable. An apology is not good enough.