Former GCHQ Chief Warns Of Threat To Democracy Because Of Facebook

According to the former head of intelligence agency GCHQ, if there is no proper regulation, it is possible that the social media platform Facebook could turn out to be a threat to democracy.

In an interview with BBC, Robert Hannigan said rather than “protecting your privacy” and data, the interest of the social media giant was to make profits from user data.

Earlier in the week, UK MPs alleged hat Facebook was using user data to strike secret deals.

Facebook has also been accused of not being able to effectively control spread of fake news on its platform.

“This isn’t a kind of fluffy charity providing free services. It’s is a very hard-headed international business and these big tech companies are essentially the world’s biggest global advertisers, that’s where they make their billions. So in return for the service that you find useful they take your data… and squeeze every drop of profit out of it,” said Hannigan in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Hannigan said: “Potentially yes. I think it is if it isn’t controlled and regulated,” when he was asked whether Facebook was turning out to be a threat to democracy

.”But these big companies, particularly where there are monopolies, can’t frankly reform themselves. It will have to come from outside,” he added.

MPs alleged earlier this week that the fact that Facebook had struck secret deals which allowed the firm to grant special access to user data for some app developers while others were denied access is evident from emails written by Facebook’s chief and his deputies.

As a part of its inquiry into fake news, a number of internal documents were published online by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the UK.

Facebook had also made a very deliberate attempt to make it “as hard as possible” for users to be know and understand of any changes to privacy to its Android app which has been revealed in the files, it also said.

The documents required additional context and had been presented in a “very misleading manner”, said Facebook.

Concerns and worries about the Chinese telecoms company Huawei were also downplayed by Hannigan following the arrest of the chief financial officer this week in Canada. It is believed ha the arrest was in connection to the suspected violation of US sanctions on Iran by the Chinese company, even though Canadian authorities have not clear the reason for the arrest.

But there are some concerns among some countries about the use of the equipment supplied by Huawei being used for spying purposes by China and as a consequence, a number of countries, including the US, Australia and New Zealand, have banned the company from participating in bids for supplying equipment for construction of their 5G mobile networks.

“My worry is there is a sort of hysteria growing at the moment about Chinese technology in general, and Huawei in particular, which is driven by all sorts of things but not by understanding the technology or the possible threat. And we do need a calmer and more dispassionate approach here,” Hannigan said.

“The idea… that we can cut ourselves off from all Chinese technology in the future, which is not just going to be the cheapest – which it has been in the past – but in many areas the best, is frankly crazy,” he added.

(Adapted from


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