Facebook Doesn’t Care About You

Scandal after scandal won’t change user behavior — and the company knows it

Trevor Timm
Published in
4 min readFeb 1, 2019
Photo: Christophe Morin/IP3/Getty

New Facebook controversies sprouted up so fast this week it was hard to keep track of them. The social media giant managed to hit the digital scandal trifecta: allegedly exploiting children for money, curtailing transparency, and encroaching on user privacy. All while posting record profits.

First up, last Thursday Reveal reported that “Facebook orchestrated a multiyear effort that duped children and their parents out of money, in some cases hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and then often refused to give the money back.” Essentially, “Facebook encouraged game developers to let children spend money without their parents’ permission — something the social media giant described internally as ‘friendly fraud’ — in an effort to maximize revenues, according to a document detailing the company’s game strategy.”

Then on Monday, ProPublica revealed that Facebook was cutting off its journalists from a tool ProPublica itself had built that allowed the public to better see who is paying for the vast amount of political advertising on Facebook. ProPublica’s searchable database was created in the wake of the massive controversy over how ads on Facebook can influence voters and potentially tilt an election. (It’s also not the first time Facebook has tried to cut off journalists from using tools to understand Facebook’s opaque operations.)

The next day, TechCrunch reported that Facebook was quietly paying people — including teenagers as young as 13 — $20 a month to install a VPN app that would track almost everything those users do on their phones, including calls, texts, and website visits.

Facebook initially claimed it was pulling the app voluntarily. “There was nothing ‘secret’ about this,” the company said in its defense. “It wasn’t ‘spying’ as all of the people who signed up to participate went through a clear on-boarding process asking for their permission and were paid to participate.”

As it turned out, the program violated Apple’s developer rules for iPhones, and Apple itself removed the app. Apple also took the extraordinary step of cutting off Facebook’s access to its developer…



Trevor Timm
Writer for

Trevor Timm is the executive director of Freedom of the Press Foundation. His writing has appeared the New York Times, the Guardian, and the Intercept.