Except for a very brief time early on, I have never been a member of Facebook, so I don’t really write as a “user”, neither have I been “used”, so I only have a couple of independent observations to make about the revelation involving the use or abuse of data from 87 million users by Cambridge Analytics on behalf of the Trump presidential campaign. In Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony, he repeatedly apologized for any privacy lapses and promised to do better, but his testimony exposed elements of his business model that are counterintuitive with that pledge. In the first place, his user/members and the data they supply freely are his inventory, the marketing of which gives the company its value to be mined by advertisers, who want all the information they can get for highly targeted use. This has all been sold as a kind of public service to users for “networking” and other human social connection, community organizing, etc. Many now believe that Facebook should be regulated as a public utility, but there is nothing about the service it provides that fits the public need of a regulated utility. And as for the privacy concerns, that’s simple: no one who subscribes as a member or user should have any expectation of privacy of personal data submitted; you can’t have it both ways with this model–it turns out that even innocent voyeurism is not free after all. That doesn’t mean that Facebook should not do a much better job of policing content, nor should anyone be surprised when the government overreaches with attempts to regulate it, which will be the beginning of the end for the Facebook model as we have known it.
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