Facebook is dominant. Therefore, when Facebook goes off the rails, as it has again in 2018, it’s a big story that needs more definition.
Before we delve in, let’s look back a few years…
Did you know that the National Security Agency and the FBI teamed up in October 2010 to develop techniques for turning Facebook into a surveillance tool?
The platform’s privacy violations are in place by design.
Documents released alongside security journalist Glenn Greenwald’s new book, “No Place To Hide,” reveal the NSA and FBI partnership, in which the two agencies developed techniques for exploiting Facebook chats, capturing private photos, collecting IP addresses, and gathering private profile data.
Marketers want your data. The national security apparatus has your data.
Exodus of Jah People
According to The Verge, the movement away from Facebook seems to be generational: 44 percent of users between 18 and 29 told Pew they deleted Facebook’s app this year, versus the 20 percent of people aged 50–64 who did so. For users over 65, that number dropped to 12 percent. Over half of the respondents said they’ve adjusted their privacy settings in the past 12 months.
It leads one to ask, what is Facebook’s deal?
Here’s one answer: Facebook is a natural monopoly.
An Unregulated Natural Monopoly
The New York Times points out that Facebook’s executive team has zero checks on their conduct, at least domestically.
Almost alone among industrialized nations, the United States has no basic consumer privacy law. The F.T.C. serves as the country’s de facto privacy regulator, relying on more limited rules against deceptive trade practices to investigate Google, Twitter and other tech firms accused of misleading people about how their information is used.
But many in Washington view the agency as a watchdog that too rarely bites. In more than 40 interviews, former and current F.T.C. officials, lawmakers, Capitol Hill staff members, and consumer advocates said that as evidence of abuses has piled up against tech companies, the F.T.C. has been too cautious.
Because there’s no regulation and no oversight, Facebook is wide open to black hat hackers (and executive mismanagement). For instance, during the runup to the 2016 election, Cambridge Analytica harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission. The breach allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump’s campaign in 2016.
Cambridge Analytica was funded by Robert Mercer, who has since walked away from the company and media attention.
Yet, We Persist
Last March, after watching several episodes of “Black Mirror” on Netflix, I wrote this:
How long before the American government wants to implement a social scoring system like China’s? Some would argue that we have it now thanks to Facebook. One thing is for sure, we do already have a credit score that determines what kind of car you drive and what kind of home you live in. Adding a social scoring system to existing points-based awards programs would allow good citizens to downgrade people like me, who point to societal problems and fixate on the solutions. What an ingenious and insidious way to further isolate dissidents, activists, artists, and intellectuals.
Yet, we persist. Aside from personal use, I use Facebook to promote Adpulp, and I recently added a closed group on Facebook to the mix (if you’re so inclined, click the link and ask to join).
What makes Facebook so incredibly sticky? For some users, Facebook is the defacto Internet. These digital visitors don’t read blogs or Twitter. They send email, click a few links, and then lurk on Facebook because that’s where their people are. Minus the multitude of quitters.
Facebook-Enabled Comments: A Proper Form of Online Regulation
No one comments on blogs anymore, and come to think of it, blogs are dusty relics, mere digidebris tumbling down lonely server corridors.
BULLSHIT. You are here right now and you’re reading. Why not take a moment to savor your participation in this ongoing discussion about media, marketing and advertising? Reflect on your place in this industry and when you’re ready to speak up, we’ll be here to hear you, specifically via our comments, on Facebook and via pitches and article submissions.
Please note that we have Facebook-enabled comments in place because attaching your name to your opinion does wonders for the quality of the commentary. We want to know what you have to say and that means getting to know you too. #ContextMatters
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