In a video announcing the new Internet.org platform, Mark Zuckerberg’s eyes beam straight through your soul, while he tells you dryly how Facebook is going to fix the internet. “Facebook is watching you…” his eyes say silently. Internet.org, it turns out, is a privacy nightmare.
The new Internet.org platform will let any developer create services to be delivered through Facebook’s free but stripped-down version of the internet. In other words, the internet access Facebook is bringing to developing parts of the world will no longer consist solely of services cherrypicked for inclusion by some overpaid Facebook employees.
Of course, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. There are still some glaring issues with Internet.org, some of which were exposed in the fine print of the new platform’s guidelines.
Anyone can build an app for Internet.org, but they must be approved by Facebook before people can use them. Even then, a telecom company can decide not to offer the service, and even then, the service must allow Facebook to track users and share that data with telecom companies and the government.
Like some sick slap in the face, the Internet.org platform also won’t support encryption, so it’s easier for everyone to snoop on the poor users.
This is all ironic, because Mark Zuckerberg and friends are trying to do a nice thing. They’re also trying to save face a little too. The push for a more transparent Internet.org comes just days after Facebook and Zuckerberg himself came under fire for trampling all over net neutrality principles with Internet.org’s lack of openness. And while this new platform seems like an apparent attempt to smooth out that controversy, it almost makes it worse.
Not only do we know that Internet.org isn’t open. Now, we also know that it tramples all over users’ privacy. We should expect as much from Facebook at this point. We really should.