Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg penned an op-ed, “The Facts About Facebook”, that appeared on the Wall Street Journal. The fact that it appeared on WSJ means that it’s aimed to reassure investors that they can still trust him to run Facebook. However, since mainstream media picked it up already, perhaps it is time to dissect it a bit, and learn about the facts that Zuckerberg is hiding.
Right off the bat, Zuckerberg states:
“So I built a service people could use to connect and learn about each other. Over the years, billions have found this useful, and we’ve built more services that people around the world love and use every day.”
Such a noble purpose, right? The hidden messages are:
- Facebook will learn about you and your connections, and use this to generate money for them.
- Users are such “dumb F*s” for sharing personal information, Zuckerberg’s term, not mine.
- Facebook made sure that it is addictive.
Zuckerberg continues to explain the need to have ads to generate revenue to keep Facebook running and providing the services for free. I have mentioned before that there is nothing wrong with having ads. As he mentioned, targeted or personalized ads are more useful to users (and advertisers). However, to personalize an ad, means knowing the user, which means collecting user data.
“Sometimes this means people assume we do things that we don’t do. For example, we don’t sell people’s data, even though it’s often reported that we do. In fact, selling people’s information to advertisers would be counter to our business interests, because it would reduce the unique value of our service to advertisers. We have a strong incentive to protect people’s information from being accessed by anyone else.”
This is fact! However, what Zuckerberg did not say that Facebook did not sell people’s data to advertisers, but gave them away to developers. Facebook did not only give away user’s data, but the data of every connection/friend the user made. The incentive to protect the data must have been weak, since we have seen how Facebook leaked users’ data.
“We’re very focused on helping people share and connect more, because the purpose of our service is to help people stay in touch with family, friends and communities. But from a business perspective, it’s important that their time is well spent, or they won’t use our services as much over the long term. Clickbait and other junk may drive engagement in the near term, but it would be foolish for us to show this intentionally, because it’s not what people want. Another question is whether we leave harmful or divisive content up because it drives engagement. We don’t.”
Zuckerberg is right — people do not want clickbait and other junk, but this is what is happening, and Facebook is happy with every cent it generates from these. Zuckerberg refused to admit that Facebook promotes anything (fake news, political ads, hate speech, you name it) that will keep users on Facebook — even to the extent of manipulating their emotions — but blames it on artificial intelligence. Note, users are such “dumb F*s”, as per Zuckerberg.
“There’s no question that we collect some information for ads — but that information is generally important for security and operating our services as well. For example, companies often put code in their apps and websites so when a person checks out an item, they later send a reminder to complete the purchase. But this type of signal can also be important for detecting fraud or fake accounts.
We give people complete control over whether we use this information for ads, but we don’t let them control how we use it for security or operating our services.”
Zuckerberg gives an example that barely explains how Facebook collects data, on their site and beyond. He hides behind “security and operating our services” to justify why they track users beyond Facebook, and its other companies. He uses the same excuse to justify their dealings with data brokers, to create shadow profiles from those who don’t use Facebook. Security, such a convenient term to shield any and all questionable behavior.
“Ultimately, I believe the most important principles around data are transparency, choice and control. We need to be clear about the ways we’re using information, and people need to have clear choices about how their information is used. We believe regulation that codifies these principles across the internet would be good for everyone.”
Zuckerberg, again, deflects! He transfers responsibility to nations for regulations, instead of doing what is right right now. He claims transparency is important, but there is nothing transparent as to how Facebook collects user data.
Choice? Do non-Facebook users have a choice to opt out of Facebook’s data collection and creation of shadow profiles? Do users have a choice on what data they want Facebook to keep and use?
Control? Since when did Facebook give users complete control of their data? Request for a copy of your data, and you will get data you volunteered, but not data Facebook derived or data Facebook collected about you from data brokers.
“For us, technology has always been about putting power in the hands of as many people as possible. If you believe in a world where everyone gets an opportunity to use their voice and an equal chance to be heard, where anyone can start a business from scratch, then it’s important to build technology that serves everyone. That’s the world we’re building for every day, and our business model makes it possible.”
Zuckerberg pitching this op-ed on WSJ to encourage readers, mostly investors, to join him and his crew in having power in their hands. Facebook is not a platform of equals — it is a platform dominated by those who can pay, pay for ads that manipulate users, ads that polarize groups. It is a platform where businesses that exploit data can start from scratch, in exchange for their customers’ data being collected by Facebook. Lastly, Facebook only serves Zuckerberg, his friends and family, and its investors. Do not believe that it exists for users .
So what are you waiting for? Delete Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — each service collects your personal information and uses it to earn them money, while keeping you addicted, eventually ruining your mental well-being. Believe me, it is not worth it.