Why I can’t muster any rage over the Facebook data scandal
THE whole Facebook data thing has left me feeling like an absolutely filthy hypocrite.
This is mainly because, as much as I want to, I just can’t bring myself to actually care.
Just 10 years ago I would deride and ridicule my poor mum about having a Tesco Clubcard.
“You know they will know everything about you?” I would smugly point out to her.
“What if that data fell into the wrong hands,” I chided while missing the hypocrisy that I was happy for her to pay for my food shop every time she visited me at university.
As a student I had just finished reading 1984 and I was ever vigilant for the creeping Big Brother state that I could foresee.
And yet here was my mother, callously encouraging the surveillance society for a 10p discount voucher on a tin of beans.
Now Facebook is hoovering up data like a brand new Dyson vac.
The meagre Tesco Clubcard is a 10-year-old Henry cleaner by comparison.
And yet I can’t even stir any outrage at all.
Just to put this into context – I get annoyed by virtually everything. I have lost hours of sleep in just the last week because someone was cycling in a pedestrianised zone.
So why can I not stir myself beyond general apathy when it comes Facebook using and selling people’s (and possibly my own) data?
I have been racking my brain trying to work out why I feel this way (maybe I should just ask Facebook). I think there are a few reasons. Firstly, it is because I find the whole thing utterly unsurprising. Of course they have been doing this. Every time I killed time at work by finding out which Disney princess I was, I knew full well that this data was now out in the world.
It would have been naive to think otherwise.
For those of you who are interested, I was Belle from Beauty and the Beast.
This actually annoyed me more than the personal data as she is, technically, not a princess.
I am sure some people genuinely didn’t realise this data may have gone further, but this is not a new thing.
Sure, Facebook is a whole new digital world to some people, but they have got store cards, have hired cars or signed a mobile phone contract.
You only have to not tick the “do not share this information” box once and it’s out in the world.
Another reason I have a Catherine Tate-style “am I bothered?” approach to the Facebook data thing is because I think there are much bigger issues with social media.
I think the societal impact of us interacting behind a screen could be far more damaging than political parties exploiting your rightleaning tendencies.
The consensus seems to be that Cambridge Analytica wasn’t essential to Trump’s victory anyway.
However, the idea that social media companies are financially rewarded for how long you are on their site, and not the quality of experience on it, is a real issue.
This creates the drive to create an addictive platform not a useful one.
I do not have the space here to fully articulate the impact social media has on normal social interaction, especially in the young. However, it is well documented and you should Google it (what irony). Another side of this, and a key pillar of my apathy, is the fact that largescale data harvesting is not just in the purview of profit-making companies. The whole Edward Snowden leak showed the astronomical amount of data that the UK and US governments were sucking in.
At least with a private company I know the driver is making cash.
As a journalist I feel a huge distrust bordering on revulsion at a government doing it without restraint.
Please don’t get me wrong – I think the whole Cambridge Analytica thing is very disconcerting.
Of course, it is natural to feel uncomfortable that Facebook can see what I am doing when I scroll up and down my feed (I was only lingering on my ex’s profile to check that she is happy, honest).
But there are so many issues that are so wide-ranging that I can’t move myself to the rage others seem capable of over the issue.