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Facebook whistleblower Francis Haugen: No accountability for privacy features implemented to protect young people

Facebook whistleblower on new book
Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen on book, "The Power of One," and impacts of social media 06:51

Former Facebook data scientist Francis Haugen anonymously leaked thousands of pages of research in 2021, revealing potential risks linked to the company's algorithms. Haugen later disclosed her identity on "60 Minutes."  

Her revelations shed light on the dark side of social media algorithms and emphasized the urgent need for transparency and accountability in the industry. Haugen's new book, "The Power of One: How I Found the Strength to Tell the Truth and Why I Blew the Whistle on Facebook," highlights the importance of addressing the lack of accountability in the powerful but opaque social media industry.  

Haugen's book release earlier this month came just weeks after U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy warned about the detrimental effects of social media on young people's mental health.

Meta declined to comment on Haugen's memoir or the surgeon general's advisory but provided CBS News with a list of tools and privacy features they've implemented to protect young people, including age verification technology to ensure that teenagers have age-appropriate experiences on the platform. The company also said it automatically sets teens accounts to private and implemented measures to prevent unwanted interactions with unknown adults.

However, Haugen said some features were already in progress before her revelations, and their effectiveness remains unaccountable. 

"Those features, we don't have any accountability on them, like, researchers don't get to study the effectiveness. Facebook just gets to use them as PR marketing stunts," she said. 

She criticized Facebook for preventing researchers from studying its operations and even resorting to legal action against those who exposed the truth. 

"They've sued researchers who caught them with egg on their face. Companies that are opaque can cut corners at the public expense and there's no consequences," she said. 

As concerned parents struggle to monitor their children's social media usage, Haugen called for action through elected representatives. She said pending legislation, such as the Platform Accountability and Transparency Act, is working to protect children's privacy online but that more needs to be done. 

"You know, we haven't updated our privacy laws for kids online since the 90s. Like, think of how much the internet has changed since then," she said. "You can do a lot as a parent. But these companies have hundreds of employees that are trying to make their apps stickier. You're fighting an impossible fight." 

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