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It Gives Me No Pleasure to Say “I Told You So” March 21, 2018

Posted by Peter Varhol in Technology and Culture.
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Well, maybe it does.  It feels like this is the beginning of the end for Facebook.  More so than Facebook simply can’t keep the promises made in its users, and it’s not at all clear that it even wants to.

So Facebook lets third parties mine its data.  That should surprise no one; that is the business they are in.  If you don’t know what the product is, then you are the product.

But when that data is passed on to others, there is a problem.  And when Facebook knows that has occurred, and doesn’t do anything about it, that is a bigger problem.  And not just a PR problem, but a legal problem too.  To make no mention of already facing class action lawsuits.

In the past, users have not been troubled by information like this.  We have implicitly accepted the fact that Facebook is mining our data, and personalizing its responses, and we seem to believe that this applies to everyone but us.

This feels different.  Facebook always says “trust us”, and users have either taken that at face value or ignored the implications entirely.  Now we seem to realize that Facebook lies to us every chance that it gets.

Let there be no mistake here: Facebook is in the business of monetizing your data.  And the ways that it does that are pretty darned intrusive, if you stopped to think about it.  Personalization in advertising is sometimes nearly indistinguishable from surveillance, and Facebook has mastered surveillance.

But it is sad, in that we have let Facebook get that far.  And you might certainly say the multi-billion dollar companies simply don’t go away.  There will always be hardcore users worldwide, who let their emotions swing like leaves in a breeze at what they see on Facebook.  Even honest users who use Facebook as a shortcut for keeping in touch with people have to be horrified at the way their data is being use.

It may seem like I am obsessed with Facebook, given the things I have written.  In fact, I’m not at all.  I have never used Facebook, and have no desire to do so.  But I am offended at how it influences people’s behavior, often negatively.  And how it uses that information against people.

Update:  Zuckerberg has finally spoken.  And not only did he imply it was an engineering problem, he came right out and said it was actually fixed years ago.  I wish I had that kind of chutzpah.

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