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Podcast: The Computer Weekly Downtime Upload – Episode 26

In this special edition of the Computer Weekly Downtime Upload, Brian McKenna and Caroline Donnelly are joined by Bill Goodwin and Sebastian Klovig Skelton to dig into the pair's recent run of in-depth investigative articles on Facebook and its privacy practices

In this week’s episode of the Computer Weekly Downtime Upload Podcast, Brian McKenna and Caroline Donnelly are joined by the publication’s investigations editor Bill Goodwin and reporter Sebastian Klovig Skelton to discuss their recent run of exposés on social networking giant Facebook.

Their pair have worked closely with long-time Computer Weekly contributor Duncan Campbell on the articles, which have been picked up by national newspapers in the UK, including The Observer, and overseas too.

  • Bill kicks off the discussion by talking about the origins of their joint investigation, which stemmed from the disclosure of thousands of highly confidential legal documents pertaining to Facebook after legal action was brought against the firm by app maker Six4Three.
  • The documents have led to a string of revelations about how the social networking giant’s use of the data it holds on its user base across the world has altered over the years in the face of growing commercial and regulatory pressures – and not always for the better.
  • The pair share numerous examples on the podcast of changes the company has introduced to the site over the years (that are not always well publicised) that it has then had to withdraw on the grounds that they may infringe its users’ privacy.  
  • Caroline quizzes the pair on how their involvement in the investigation, and the information they have uncovered through it, has affected their attitudes towards using Facebook and changed the way they use the site. Both Bill and Sebastian reveal details of the extra steps they now take to safeguard their own privacy when using Facebook.  
  • Digging into the investigation a little more, Brian ponders how things at Facebook, which set out with the lofty goal of wanting to simply connect people across the world, have seemingly gone so awry in recent years.
  • This, in turn, prompts Sebastian to make the point that privacy U-turns have occurred at Facebook almost since its inception, while Bill is of the view that – with the firm coming under increased media and regulatory scrutiny – Facebook could end up being broken up.

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