By Dave B.
It’s funny to me that people are freaking out now about Facebook’s use of personal data. There are people who rail against corporations all day, but who are now acting like Facebook betrayed their deepest trust, slept with their spouse, and burned down their home. Come on now.
As adults, there are some things that we all know, but apparently need to bring to our conscious awareness once in a while. For example:
Privacy, as we traditionally conceive of it, is a thing of the past unless someone can isolate themselves from modern conveniences. And if you are reading this, it’s unlikely that you’re either rich enough, poor enough, or inclined enough to actually do so. But there is little need to freak out about this stuff. Nearly nobody cares what we like and do as individuals. They care about what people with our demographic characteristics like and do, in aggregate. So you can relax, a bit.
Personally, what I really want is a world in which my data is sufficiently anonymized so as to be untraceable directly to me or my contacts, but still useful enough for targeted advertising (because it’s convenient and I understand that Facebook is a business). Barring that, I think I should get paid something for all use of my data. I can’t see social media companies paying me for my data anytime in the near future. And I know that there are limits to anonymization, especially when a company’s business model relies upon targeted advertising. Further, if someone is willing to throw enough resources into finding out who someone is, they can do so. Therefore, I accept the potential consequences inherent in the modern technology that I choose to use. There are risks associated with everything. If someone can’t accept that, they’re likely in for a lot of disappointments in life.
What I DO think is worth getting angry about is Facebook’s constant lies, omissions, and lack of concern for their users. I’m not going to advocate for personal responsibility without also advocating for corporate responsibility. If I make a mistake, I need to own up to it, apologize if necessary, and do my best to make sure that that mistake (and other foreseeable mistakes) don’t happen again. Ideally, that’s what we would all do and that includes Facebook. And leaving some types of sensitive data vulnerable by default is just disgusting.
Facebook is certainly guilty of cowardice and greed, but I’m not going to get angry at Facebook for being a social media company. We all know what social media companies are, what they do, and the risks of participating in any online interactions. To pretend otherwise is to attempt to deny ourselves our own agency.