Facebook fallout draws mixed reactions in UAE

Social media users question privacy protection in the wake of global Facebook scandal

By Mariam Jheran, Special to Gulf News
15:50 April 6, 2018

Dubai: Social media users living in the UAE say recent revelations that their private Facebook data may have been compromised have made them take a break and ponder over their membership in the world’s largest online personal platform.

Residents who spoke with Gulf News had mixed reactions to the recent news that private information of nearly 50 million people was sold to a data firm without consent.

Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm based in the UK, gained access to private information on millions of users, including details on their identity, their friends, their lives and their ‘likes’.

The data leak was spawned by Aleksandr Kogan, a Russian-American psychology professor who built an app in 2014 that surveyed Facebook users on their interests and preferences; only 270,000 out of the 50 million completed the survey.

Facebook chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has since apologised, banned the app and pledged to rework Facebook’s privacy policy to avoid similar data breaches.

Despite assurances from Facebook, subscribers said the fallout has made them think twice about their social media accounts.

How do UAE residents feel about all of this? Will they be deleting their profiles in the light of the controversy? Here are their reactions:

NAT Asmaa RadiAsmaa Radi, 29, day care teacher

Radi has been a loyal Facebook user for more than 10 years now and says that for the duration of the decade, she’s never felt that the site or apps related to it were invasive to her privacy.

“I think Facebook has some really good privacy settings, and being a teacher I’m already cautious with the way I use it and what I post. So I’m not very concerned.”

NAT Jinal EstimadaJinal Estimada, 20, Food vendor

Estimada says that the scope on Facebook is so large, and that having advertisements specifically catered to each individual is a good thing.

“Everyone uses Facebook, I don’t think anyone is going to want my information specifically. And as for the advertisements, I think it’s a good thing, it’s better to see things that I find interesting personally.”

NAT Elaine KayaElaine Kaya, 24

Kaya has had Facebook for about seven years but isn’t necessarily an avid user; she says that whether or not this was a breach of information or not, Facebook was never private.

“It’s the internet. Once you put something online, it’s not private anymore. I’m not going to quit it but I think everyone should just post less in general.”

NAT Mubarak Al-BadryMubarak Al Badry, 30, retail worker

Al Badry believes that all forms of social media can be an invasion of privacy if you let it be. He says that you shouldn’t put anything online that you wouldn’t be comfortable with the world seeing in the first place.

“If you’re nervous about having your information leaked, then don’t put your information out there at all. Everyone can see everything online whether it’s leaked or not.”

NAT Mohammad Al-SarjiMohammad Al Sarji, 23, event planner

Al Sarji quit Facebook years before the Cambridge Analytica controversy, but he says that if he still had Facebook account, now would be the time to delete it.

“The internet has become such a dangerous place, you really can’t trust anyone or anything with your personal information. If my info got leaked, I’d be really upset and I would deactivate my account.”