Sandy Parakilas warned them.

Back in 2011 and 2012, while the Lewiston native was working as an operations manager for Facebook, he warned his supervisors that the company was not doing enough to protect the data of its users.

Turns out his observations were right on the money, and if Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had listened to that advice, he might have saved himself a whole lot of trouble.

Zuckerberg has been providing testimony this week to three congressional committees, addressing the manner in which Facebook’s user data was improperly accessed by Cambridge Analytica.

Over two days, Zuckerberg was grilled by dozens of lawmakers, answering nearly a thousand questions about the handling of user information.

Parakilas, now working for a team that promotes the humane use of technology, saw it coming.

“I was part of a team that was handling data protection issues on the Facebook platform,” he said, “like what happened with Cambridge Analytica.”

While he was working on that team, Parakilas discovered issues that put data belonging to Facebook users at risk.

“It was possible for developers to pass people’s private Facebook data to other parties in ways that were not allowed,” he said.

“I spent some of my time with the company raising awareness about that vulnerability. I think the company was appreciative that I was raising awareness about it, but they ultimately didn’t make enough changes to close the vulnerabilities, which would have prevented Cambridge Analytica from happening.”

The congressional hearings this week followed revelations that Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm, had improperly harvested the data of up to 87 million Facebook users.

The revelation was not surprising to Parakilas. After all, Facebook has no real incentive to look after the data of its users, since those data are so valuable to companies around the globe. It’s data that made Zuckerberg a billionaire.

“He has a real problem with his business model,” Parakilas said. “They make almost all of their money selling advertisements.

“The reason that they collect so much data from people –from surveilling people, so to speak – is because they use that data to help advertisers target those people in very, very specific, personalized ways. … Their main business incentive is not to protect their users, it’s to help their advertisers to influence those users. And that’s a real problem.”

The problem is not helped any, Parakilas said, by the fact that in the United States, there is no legislation aimed at protecting data, as there is in Europe.

It’s no coincidence that Parakilas has been speaking out about the issue since the matter of user data on Facebook came to light. These days, the Lewiston High School grad is working for a small, nonprofit company called The Center for Humane Technology, which focuses on privacy issues and the idea that many social media platforms and other online services are designed to be addicting.

“We are working to advocate technology,” Parakilas said, “that aligns with humanity’s best interest.”

Parakilas graduated in 1997 from Lewiston High School and later from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. A jazz drummer, he ultimately realized he would not make any money in music, so he moved on to technology, going on to work for both Facebook and Amazon.

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