Mark Zuckerberg, creator, founder and CEO of Facebook, has spent the past week apologizing and basically following a PR-spin script to deal with the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytics revelation around Facebook, user data, and the business model Facebook uses to please their stockholders. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, joined him on the interview circuit today, basically apologizing for not having better control of data mined from the profiles of Facebook users.
Amongst all these apologies and explanations, please note Facebook has chosen to exempt North American users from stricter privacy laws being implemented on services like Facebook in Europe.
One interesting thing that Sheryl mentioned during her interviews today is that users would have to pay a subscription fee to have the data they choose to share on Facebook not shared with advertisers. Yes! Please!
I still have not deleted my Facebook profile but I have ramped back my usage of the platform. A lot. My usage has dropped by nearly 90% over the past two weeks. The only reason I haven’t cancelled my account completely is because for many people in our friends and family circle, Facebook is the only way to maintain contact with them. They don’t really exchange email, there’s not really a lot going on in the way of iMessage or text messaging, and some groups and organizations I belong to have chosen to use ONLY Facebook as a way of communicating.
This is a very bad thing.
I have said this repeatedly but I will say it again. The vast majority of “free” services on the Internet are supported by ad revenue. A majority of those services make your data available in some fashion in order to target you with specific ads. I know, you’ll say that you have nothing to hide, but it’s not the data that you’re providing that makes this dangerous. It’s the ability for unrelated companies to independently gather data about you and then connect the dots when they find a common denominator, for example, your circle of friends, your spending habits, or your browsing habits.
In our elementary school years we were threatened from time to time that a bad decision would go down on our “permanent record”. Everything on the Internet is permanent. Once it’s out there, it’s out there forever.
Do you really want Facebook to be handling your “permanent record”?
I hate sounding cynical, but Mark and Sheryl are out there spinning these interviews so they can maintain a revenue stream and please their stockholders. Notice they’re not talking about changing the business model. Notice how dismissive they are about offering a subscription option. They don’t want that. They would lose some control of your data.
Controlling your data is what’s making them rich.