I use Facebook frequently (as I’ve written about before). It is a valuable tool for me for staying connected to friends. I have learned many interesting things – read about news and events that I otherwise would be unaware of. I’ve been entertained, moved, challenged by post from friends and strangers.
I’ve been on Facebook for more than 10 years. I have been aware from the beginning that there is a cost to me for using this service. Facebook doesn’t charge me money. What it requires in exchange for all of the above it to keep track of what I’m doing – what I like, when I’m here, things I look at. Sometimes this helps it help me. I directs me to things I might like (which is how I ended up with a Superbrella). Sometimes it distracts me with important philosophical questions “what type of sandwich are you?”, and then offers me a quiz to help me find out.
It also gives me some control over what and how much is shared. There are settings that I can adjust that determine who will see posts like this (and even who can’t). I can switch to English (pirate) and scour fer mateys or hoist sail to spy on me own wee vault.
Facebook is taking the rap now for doing pretty much what it said it would – provide a no-charge platform for anyone in the world to use, in almost any language, on any device, as much or as little as you like. Share with everyone, share with a select few – you choose. They are clear about privacy:
We give you the power to share as part of our mission to make the world more open and connected. This policy describes what information we collect and how it is used and shared.
Not “if we collect it” – what they collect and how it’s used. Their reach and their algorithms are likely cleverer than most, but they really don’t do anything different than any other site does.
Don’t believe me? Go and visit the website of your favourite shop. Browse around a bit. Maybe search for something. Or go to the site of your favourite charity. Check out the events, maybe read an article. Then go to your favourite news site. What ads do you see? Do they look familiar? It may take a while, but that lawnmower you were just looking at will start to appear on the side or right up front.
ALL websites do that. Whether it is in-your-face marketing or behind-the-scenes “data scraping” – the sites you visit collect your information and use it ON YOU. And remember all those quizzes you took about your favourite foods or places in the world? Yeah…restaurants and airlines thank you for your cooperation.
Yes, Facebook is bigger than Canadian Tire. And yes, the nefarious use of data being reported of late should not have happened. IMHO the blame and outrage being directed at Facebook is allowing the real perpetrators off the hook – the ones who misrepresented themselves to get the data, and then used it in an attempt to influence people. But really – while it is much more sophisticated, is it that much different from sponsored attack ads and celebrity endorsements and pancake breakfasts that organizations and politicians have always used to sway voters? The scouring of the voter lists and the robocalls during elections?
I value Facebook for allowing me to connect with friends, colleagues, and groups that would otherwise be distant and disconnected. I recognize that the price of that – the responsibility that accompanies that right of connection – is to give some information to Facebook and its advertisers. I try to be mindful about posting personal information – mine and others. I check my settings and my friends lists regularly and edit according to my own personal requirements for security and discretion. For those who choose to have 2,000 friends, make all their postings public, share family pictures, link to Instagram, play games and click on links at random – those are your choices. But then please don’t get indignant at Facebook for violating your privacy when you clearly don’t value it yourself.