Face­book’s us­ing you

The Beacon (Gander) - - Editorial - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky’s col­umn ap­pears in 39 SaltWire news­pa­pers and web­sites in At­lantic Canada. He can be reached at rus­sell.wanger­sky@thetele­gram.com — Twit­ter: @wanger­sky.

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.

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