BOSTON (CBS) — Another day, another rash of stories about security issues involving some of the world’s most popular social media services.
The internet and smartphones have profoundly changed the way we interact with each other and the world, and nothing that’s happening now is going to reverse that. But the growing uproar over the downside of these products may have done permanent damage to high-tech’s once-rosy image.
Remember the original vision of the tech revolution, captured in the memorable 1984 Apple Super Bowl ad featuring a female hammer-thrower shattering the Orwellian image of a future Big Brother spewing dogma to the oppressed masses? Message: high-tech will free us from exploitative conformity and usher in a new era of freedom and positive social interaction. “Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh, and you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984,” was the tagline.
Fast forward 34 years to the image of an annoyed Mark Zuckerberg on CNN, grudgingly conceding that “we were not as on top of a number of issues as we should have.” What an understatement.
Facebook is facing withering criticism for security breaches that allowed a sleazy research firm to funnel the personal data of millions into the hands of political campaigns. On Wednesday, they’re touting the consolidation of privacy tools onto a single page for easier customer use, and allowing consumers to choose which apps can access their data, simple steps that could have been taken long ago.
Meanwhile, Facebook is being sued by fair housing advocates who claim they reneged on promises to stop allowing discriminatory ad targeting. And they’re not the only tech giants on the hot seat; Twitter and Google are also under fire for the way they harvest and store personal data from unwitting consumers.
And if you still buy the long-ago branding of tech as a purely liberating force, tell it to people in Atlanta who can’t do government business right now because hackers are holding their city hostage.
Zuckerberg has reportedly agreed to testify in person before Congress about these issues. But he will find an audience there and around the world that has never been more skeptical of what he’s selling.