Facebook, Foreign Investment and The Value of User Data

in Facebook

so-do-you-think-facebook-w-_12433944058382According to reports in the mainstream press and across the internetz, Facebook has taken on another round of financing. Back in October 2007, TechCrunch reported that Microsoft, the company everyone loves to hate, invested $240 million dollars in Facebook. Based on that solitary investment, business pundits everywhere suggested that Facebook was valued at 15 billion dollars.  Most rational observers were skeptical of such an absurd valuation. “How could a company with a few hundred million in annual revenue possibly be worth 15 billion dollars?”, many wondered.

Yesterday, the folks at Facebook announced that Digital Sky Technologies, a relatively unknown Russian company, invested upwards of $200 million dollars in their company. Business Week did an excellent summary of the news in a piece entitled, “From Russia With Love: Facebook Lands $200 Million.” Surprisingly, there was little mention of what this investment might mean for the security of your personal data.

When Microsoft bought into Facebook, some people had concerns about privacy, data security, and information sharing between the two companies.  Facebook and Microsoft are both massive global brands, but they are also American companies subject to American laws.  For this reason, I think most people felt comfortable with their partnership.  This latest investment, however, gives much cause for concern.  Digital Sky Technologies is a foreign corporation, and it’s debatable whether they are subject to domestic laws regarding privacy and user data security.

This investment becomes even more concerning when we explore some of the individuals involved with DST.  The Financial Times published a piece on DST CEO and Founder Yuri Milner back in 2000, that provides us with some important background information.  A cursory search at Google leads us to a document stating that Mr. Milner has held senior roles at the World Bank, in addition to working with various Russian government agencies.  Needless to say, Mr. Milner is highly connected in global political and financial circles.

Another interesting individual associated with DST is a fellow named Alisher Usmanov.  According to this article from MarketWatch.com, Mr. Usmanov is listed on Forbes as the world’s 450th-richest individual with a net worth estimated at $1.6 billion.  He has an ownership stake in British football club Arsenal, in addition to interests “in iron ore and steel producer Metalloinvest, telecommunications company Megafon and daily business publication Kommersant.”

Even more alarming than anything stated above, are the claims made by former British diplomat and Scottish human rights activist, Craig Murray.  According to his recent post, “Alisher Usmanov was jailed in the Soviet Union when he finally overreached himself and attempted to blackmail a Jewish KGB officer.”  At one time, Mr. Murray was the British Ambassador to Uzbekistan.  So confident is he in his claims about Mr. Usmanov, Mr. Murray has stated that he will “swear to these facts on oath before any court.”

This is truly scary stuff.  All of your personal data, as published on Facebook, may now be in the hands of individuals with suggested ties to international organized crime and foreign intelligence agencies.  It’s one thing to speculate on whether our domestic intelligence agencies are actively monitoring chatter and mining social media websites.  If that is the case, we might assume that it is being done in the interests of western defence.  It’s quite another thing to consider that everything about you, everything you have ever published on Facebook, has just been handed over to a foreign corporation. What are your thoughts?  Do you approve of Facebook selling off your personal data to a foreign corporation for $200 million dollars?

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>