Hoping to damp down the inferno of privacy controversies and the clear misuse of customer data that extends back more than a decade, the Zuck might have grabbed a bucket of gasoline rather than water this week.
In a blog, he said that Facebook will shift from a social network in which people broadcast information to large groups of people to one in which people communicate with smaller groups and their content disappears after a short period. He said the social platform would spend the coming years assuring that its WhatsApp, Instagram, Messenger, and Facebook content is encrypted so that outsiders, and even Facebook, cannot read it.
The head-scratcher is that this in no way addresses the concerns about privacy (except to surmise that if Facebook can’t read your content, it can’t use it to add to its already extensive profile of you with which it sells advertising.)
Not that most of you care, although there are some early grumblings. In a Harris Poll reputation score of 100 public companies, Facebook last year dropped from 51st to 94th. In a Pew Research Center study, a quarter of the Facebook users polled said they deleted the app from their smartphones last year, and more than half said they adjusted their privacy settings.
Meanwhile, Facebook still has 3 gazillion users who accept compromised privacy as the price of getting the app free (and posting their photos of tropical sunsets and smiling graduates).
Having text messages that can’t be read will piss off governments in every country who think they can better solve crimes with easy access to a suspect’s mobile communications activities. Not to mention significant others who count on such intelligence to confirm their suspicions.
I think we have already blown well past the Big Brother stage of compromised privacy. Now it’s only a question of how the entities who can get their mitts on your data, will use it. It seems to me that if the only use is to serve you ads more aligned with your interests and conditions (and are not made available to, say, the Russian government so they can play with your head) that is not a bad tradeoff for the wealth of content and applications that otherwise would have to charge you access fees.
We live in a funny world. Watching TV police dramas, we cheer when they use surveillance cameras to help solve a heinous crime, yet object that we might be on the tape as well. We really don’t care about the other guy’s privacy as long as “the system” and institutions respect OUR privacy. If we get caught on camera shoplifting or scratching the other guy’s door when we pull into or out of a parking space, then security surveillance has “gone too far.”
While we are all familiar with the concept of an evil force using data to identify and round up those with a “dangerous” POV or belief, it is kind of OK if that “dangerous” POV or belief is something we fear personally (like ISIS or Trump supporters). We think it would never happen to Presbyterians or Boy Scouts, only Jews and white supremacists. Or Muslims. Or mafioso. So, who really cares? And besides, what can we do about it?
Right now, you want to spank Facebook. But trust me, this is the very tip of the iceberg. What is known about you is growing exponentially each day. We are well past the point that you can either stop it or perhaps even legislate against it. It’s a byproduct of our digital lives, which we don’t plan to give up any time soon.