Facebook’s using you
It’s something everyone should have realized a long time ago: despite all its cheap talk about friends and friendship, Facebook is not your friend. It never was.
It’s a business that only really exists because you’ve agreed to share a whole bunch of private information with it. Its business is selling access — to you.
Even if Facebook wasn’t selling your information to people with even sleazier morals, it was using it for its own ends. What Facebook is being chastised for now — allowing outside app users to “scrape” its data so that they can tailor advertising and fake news to the credulous — is something it does every single day.
And you agreed to it. That is the nub of your business relationship — not your friendship — with Facebook. They provide their platform free of charge, but they exact a price.
Most people might not even think about how extensively Facebook is collecting information — it’s all in black and white on their website, but few people probably take time to see what they’ve agreed to.
From Facebook’s data policy: “We collect the content, communications and other information you provide when you use our products, including when you sign up for an account, create or share content and message or communicate with others. This can include information in or about the content that you provide (e.g. metadata), such as the location of a photo or the date a file was created. It can also include what you see through features that we provide, such as our camera, so we can do things such as suggest masks and filters that you might like, or give you tips on using camera formats. Our systems automatically process content and communications that you and others provide to analyze context and what’s in them…”
That’s the tip of the iceberg. You can choose to give more: “You can choose to provide information in your Facebook profile fields, or life events about your religious views, political views, who you are ‘interested in’ or your health.”
Thought you might not realize what you’ve agreed to.
“To create personalized Products that are unique and relevant to you, we use your connections, preferences, interests and activities based on the data that we collect and learn from you and others (including any data with special protections you choose to provide); how you use and interact with our Products; and the people, places or things that you’re connected to and interested in on and off our Products.”
Think about that: the things you’re interested in or connected to on and off our products. Whether you’re on Facebook, or not.
You’ve invited a nosy guest into your house, so don’t be surprised that they’re rooting through your medicine cabinet.
And if any of their nosy friends come over, they’re probably going through your medicine cabinet, too.
“Advertisers, app developers and publishers can send us information through Facebook Business Tools, that they use, including our social plug-ins (such as the Like button), Facebook Login, our APIS and SDKs, or the Facebook pixel. These partners provide information about your activities off Facebook – including information about your device, websites you visit, purchases you make, the ads you see and how you use their services – whether or not you have a Facebook account or are logged in to Facebook.”
That last sentence is priceless: Facebook may be looking in your medicine cabinet even if you haven’t agreed to let them into your house. Even if you’re not a Facebook user.
There have been recent stories of people outraged about the fact that, after writing private emails about the health of family members, they’ve turned on their Facebook accounts and found the advertising spaces filled with ads for funeral homes.
No one should be. You’re using Facebook’s big machine every single day for free — and what you are trading for that access is the very information people seem to be so startled others are using now.
You are the product and you agreed to that. Don’t ever be surprised about how you are being sold.