Tech giants promise not to build a Muslim registry, but it appears at least one already has.
During the time leading up to the US election, there was talk of a controversial registry. Depending on what side you’re on, this translated into either a registry for immigrants from countries known to have terrorist ties, or a registry for Muslims in the US. Needless to say, it turned into a hot topic. Now, people in the tech industry are talking about it. Now we’re not here to talk about politics. In fact, the crew here at UTB Blogs have a very wide range of political beliefs. We do share a common interest in privacy though. And that is the focus of this post.
Engadget reports that Google, Apple, and Uber have all publicly stated that they would not take part in the creation of a Muslim registry. These three companies are the latest to make the vow, days after Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter made the same promise. We can all be happy these tech giants are looking out for user’s privacy.
Wait… did we say Facebook? Well there’s a problem. You see, Facebook has already compiled a list. How do we know this? Because of a little lawsuit that was filed just last month.
Facebook is being sued for allowing companies to exclude certain groups from advertising. This lawsuit is based on an advertisement a news organization made to test a theory. They created a Facebook advertisement for house hunters, and utilized a Facebook advertising tool to prevent the advertisement from being shown to African American, Hispanic, and Asian users. This of course, flies in the face of the Fair Housing Act. I wonder if any laws would have been broke if this was an advertisement for say, a fast food restaurant as opposed to housing? Sadly, I get the feeling it wouldn’t.
Regardless of the outcome of this lawsuit, we discovered something very interesting about Facebook. Through the tools of their advertising program, we’ve learned how Facebook categorizes it’s users. Included in the lawsuit, is a graphic, seen below, that shows the characteristics that advertisers are allowed to use to hide ads from. You will notice the headings of Race, Sex, Familial Status, Religion, and National Origin. You will notice under Religion, Islam, Sunni Islam, and Shia Islam. It seems that Facebook has already formed their own Muslim registry doesn’t it. In fact, it appears that they’ve formed their own registry of just about any type of category you, the reader, might fall in to.
I suppose that Facebook may just say that this is for internal use only, but does that really make it any better? Not to me it doesn’t. With the recent hacks that we have seen, none of us can be sure that our information is truly safe with these companies. In the case of Facebook, when the founder himself is so untrusting of his company’s security measures that he tapes over his own laptop’s camera and mic, why should you trust it?
Furthermore, should we really believe that Facebook is the only company to categorize their users this way? Of course not. It’s the nature of the game. Google deals in advertising as much or more so than Facebook. It’s the nature of the business to be able to pin point those that you are wishing to advertise to. Companies like Apple and Microsoft also go to great extents to know their customers.
This is yet another case where the public has very strong opinions over if governments should have what most consider private information on the people which reside in the country. It truly is something which needs to be looked at very seriously. Unfortunately, those same people do not seem to care that these for-profit commercial entities already have this information. This is something which I believe people should be extremely concerned with.