There’s been a lot of back and forth about Facebook privacy lately, so I thought I’d add to it a little with a few thoughts on it of my own. Even though I haven’t been as outraged as some, I still find the way they choose to do things somewhat disturbing.
As I said, there’s been plenty of great write-ups about this already, which I’m sure some of you have already read and I’m not going to repeat. But here are a two things worth keeping in mind:
First, Facebook is a corporation and the sole purpose of corporations is to make its shareholders wealthy, not to keep customers happy. Of course, they sometimes go hand in hand, but not always (see health insurance companies for more details on that). If you think that Facebook “cares” about you and how you feel and think, you’re delusional. They start caring when they notice a trend that diminishes their profits.
This is what we see now with the whole privacy fiasco. They don’t care if they sell us out. If you don’t complain and notice, they’ll do it because it’s in their best interest. More money in their pockets. More profit for shareholders. This isn’t anything to be bitter or cynical about, it’s just how many companies operate. It’s capitalism in its purest form. It’s a simple fact and knowing that makes all the difference. It is also the reason they’re able to provide us with this (arguably) useful service and why we can keep uploading endless videos of dogs on skateboards for free.
Second, we’re not the customer. Let’s just make that clear. We are not Facebook’s customer. The customer is the advertiser. They are they ones paying Facebook money to be able to advertise their products to us. They are the ones that pay money to get access to information we put on Facebook to better target ads that fit our interests.
So, if we aren’t the customer, what the hell are we then? Well… we’re the product. We’re what they sell. We’re a banana. Or a piece of meat. Or a prostitute. And this pretty much makes Facebook our pimp – the middle man that sells our goods to the fat dude with the clip of cash.
This of course doesn’t only apply to Facebook. It’s how most social networks generate cash flow, and it’s up to us to choose one that we feel the most comfortable with and see being the least likely to compromise our integrity and/or privacy. Also one that doesn’t require us to do too much freaky stuff.