BREAKING NEWS: Facebook does the thing it’s done for literally ever and will continue to do years to come.
I know. Shocking.
Over the past couple weeks, people—apparently for the first time ever—are waking up to the fact that Facebook stores and uses your data to sell to third-party buyers. This revelation is being billed as some kind of scandal, and people are deleting their Facebook accounts in outrage.
And, okay, fine. I get it. I was pretty freaked out, too, when I found out the scope of personal information Facebook has on me: my buying habits, my browsing history, my credit card information, details about the devices I use, my personal interests, and even milestones in my friends’ lives. Facebook’s catalogue on “Allie Stuckey” extends far past my Facebook activity; it includes everything I do on (or near) every device that is or has been connected to Facebook or a Facebook “partner” (businesses who buy our data from Facebook). Facebook can see me, hear me, and, based on the activities they’re able to track, they know me. You can read all of this on Facebook’s public Terms of Service and their Data Policy, which you agreed to when you signed up for your Facebook account.
Facebook says they collect this information to create a “personalized experience” for me, but we all know that’s not true. I hardly see any posts from pages I “like” on my timeline and instead see ads (the posts in your timeline that say “sponsored”) for products, pages and sites that Facebook thinks I like. And, you know what? I usually do! Why? Because Facebook has been getting to know me for years and knows what I’ll be into. But this isn’t for my benefit, it’s for the benefit of those who are willing to pay for an ad that targets someone like me.
Out of college, I worked as a publicist and social media strategist. I’ve made many a Facebook ad for clients. I have been the person targeting particular groups of people to ensure the ad’s effectiveness, meaning I have targeted ages, interests, incomes, browsing histories, goals, upcoming milestones, life stages, schools, sorority affiliations, you name it. Facebook allows you to narrow your target audience down to the most niche category you can think of based on a plethora of characteristics. You create the ad, choose the audience, decide how much money you want to spend, and, voila—you’ve become the reason Facebook stores user data.
Now, it’s understandable to be at least slightly peeved by—or even paranoid about—this. However, this is quite literally what we who have a Facebook account signed up for. And, if we’re honest, we probably knew we were forsaking at least some of our privacy in doing so. You thought it was just a coincidence that you were talking about Lululemon to your mom yesterday and today there was an ad on your Facebook timeline? Nope—your app has access to your microphone, they heard you, they sold that information to Lululemon, and now here you are, wondering if it really might be worth it to drop another $98 on cropped leggings (they have pockets!).
How else did you think Facebook—a FREE service—makes money? You thought Zuckerberg became a billionaire off of Farmville? No. You think they have a market cap of over 460 billion off of Facebook apps? Not even close. They make their money off of you. Not your usage, you.
And yet, here we are in 2018 acting like Facebook has been lying to us this whole time. And even Zuckerberg himself is posturing as if he doesn’t know good and well that Facebook has been storing and selling our information for years.
Why? Why, all of the sudden, are people freaking out about something that’s been happening for literally ever?
Politics. Specifically, Donald Trump.
The only reason we are having this conversation is because President Trump won the election. If Hillary Clinton were president, none of this would be making headlines. But because Trump is in office, and because the Left still must find some justification for why he won other than the fact that Americans actually wanted him to win, we are discussing the Facebook’s so-called treachery.
You will remember, just a few months ago, when Facebook was under fire for allowing fake accounts operated by Russians post on their platform. It was estimated that over 150 million users may have been subject to misinformation by these fake accounts. Most of these posts (which had typically very low engagement) were apparently designed to persuade people not to vote for Hillary Clinton. The Democrats in Congress, like Adam Schiff & Dianne Feinstein, were very upset about this and pressured Facebook to notify affected users and make sure this never happens again. In response, they developed a tool to help users detect whether or not an account is indeed a Russian bot.
And now, this month, Facebook is under scrutiny yet again because of the Cambridge Analytica “scandal,” a data brokerage firm that received data on Facebook users from an outside researcher, who received the data from Facebook. The Trump campaign used this information to target people with Facebook ads.
Zuckerberg, now, is apologizing profusely and promising that he is committed to protecting our data. He even said he’s open to being regulated! He literally bought full-page newspaper ads to express just how sorry he is.
You know what my response is to that? B freaking S. Zuckerberg knows Facebook doesn’t protect our data, nor has it ever said it would.
The only reason for his perpetual contriteness and the media’s manufactured concern is this: people are afraid conservatives, and, even worse, Trump supporters, are using social media for political purposes.
The Left believe they have a monopoly on social media, and they don’t want to see that boat rocked. We already know that Facebook, Google & Twitter have a bad habit of censoring conservative speech, and, to my knowledge, no progressive has spoken out about the danger of this kind of discrimination. The only reason liberals are now upset with social media is because they feel Zuckerberg, et. al, may not really be on their side.
What people are finding out is, at the end of the day, these tech giants are capitalists. They may not like conservatives’ views, but if said conservatives pay, they can play. In other words, Facebook may try to hide the posts of a conservative news page in a timeline, but if that news page pays for an ad, their paid-for post will still be seen. Why? Because, simply, Facebook wants the money, no matter who’s handing it over. And the more effective the ad is, i.e. the more traffic and business a company see from the ad, the more the ad-buyer will spend next time around. This is precisely why and how the whole Cambridge Analytica “scandal” happened: Facebook didn’t care who was paying, as long as they got paid. Zuckerberg and Pichai might talk like ideologues, but they don’t really care about red or blue; they care about green.
This is the sole cause of recent progressive anger. After all, Facebook allegedly freely offering data to the Obama campaign in 2012 was no problem for them. But because social media benefited Trump this time around, suddenly there’s justice to be paid. Suddenly, lawsuits and regulations and social media outrage are in order.
Like it or not, though, Facebook, according to their own terms, has done nothing wrong. Any lawsuit against them will fail, and any suggestion of regulation of the company is idiotic.
After all, we have seen how Facebook responds to governmental, and, specifically, Democratic, pressure, right? In short, it hasn’t ended well for conservatives. Any kind of regulation on Facebook will, without a doubt, disproportionately and negatively affect conservatives and conservative messages. They will do “protect” our data and filter out “fake” news in the name of integrity in the name of and “integrity,” but, in reality, will simply be discriminating against conservative viewpoints.
But, it won’t end there. If Facebook does indeed decide to even more blatantly discriminate against conservatives in regards to both unpaid and paid content, they will make up for the loss in profit somewhere: the service will likely not be “free” for long. In short, regulation will make things worse (and more expensive) for everyone.
Conservatives should be wary about buying into the current “anti-Facebook” nonsense. It’s one thing to criticize Facebook’s invasiveness and even delete your account for privacy concerns, but it’s another to demand Facebook in any way be punished for their alleged “betrayal” to its users. First, because it’s not betrayal, and second, because punishment will be regulatory. And, as we’ve already noted, regulations will not fare well for conservatives.
If Facebook needs to change their Data Policy, we users need to be the ones to pressure them, not politicians. As in nearly all things, the less government intervention, the better.