A video from Andew Keen on CNN, author of “Digital vertigo”, has been buzzing today and kept popping up on my LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook with that dramatic title “Opinion: Facebook threatens to ‘Zuck up’ the human race”. Wow. With such a title, you can only click the link, read the article and watch the video (over here)
In my opinion, Andew Keen does have a good point (many actually), particularly when he says that we live in an era of digital narcissism, but also when he says that we all became the products of social platforms. He puts in those words: ”Networks like Facebook have turned us into products in which their only economic value is our personal data.”
That’s undeniable. Facebook might be the big bad guy, the devil, blabla, and it’s your right to think that as many of the self-called experts as well as journalists like to think and like you to think. I have no real opinion on that. Facebook is a company and like all businesses it needs some kind of income, a product, other than investors injecting money in it. Since Facebook does not offer any paying membership, which could be a consequent revenue source, they have to “sell” something else. It makes sense in a way, a business has got to earn something to keep existing, right?
So, well, here’s my view on that, something I have in mind constanly when I hear people whining about what a devil facebook is selling our data (yet those are the same people who are all day long on it and sharing everything they do by the minute): you are responsible for what you put online. Nobody forces you to put pictures of you in a bikini on Facebook. Nobody forces you to give your home address and personal phone numbers to Facebook. Just because there’s some not mandatory field to fill, you don’t have to fill it. YOU put that data in there, so if you don’t want it to be used, then don’t put it in the first place.
But here’s the bad news for those who scream that Facebook has their home address (they gave it to facebook themselves, remember?) – you can erase it from your facebook profile, you can even dactivate your account, your data will not show anymore but Facebook does keep it in store. Everything you ever posted, wrote and deleted, remains.
So in my humble opinion, the issue here is not that Facebook sells our personal data to advertisers. Google does it. Many others do it. Did you ever book a flight online, let’s say to London, and noticed in the days afterwards that on any website with ads you’d visit (online dictionaries or whatever), you’d see ads about cheap flights to London? There you go. See, Facebook are not the only ones… and those are in my eyes somehow freakier, because that means The Internet God knows exactly what I do, what I search, when and where without me even knowing nor asking for it. I just booked a flight to London, damn! While on Facebook, again, YOU chose to enter your personal information on your own.
Nope, I think the issue is multiple. Facebook should inform its users about it, clearly and plainly, that’s a first point. Facebook should also inform us plainly and clearly that whet we think we erase from our profile remains stored in the Facebook attics for God knows how long. And the third issue is ourselves, and this is where I agree with Andrew Keen: digital narcissism. We don’t have to share everything we’re doing. We don’t have to post everything we think. We don’t have to. We don’t need to. Nobody forces us to share this and that and everything on Facebook or Twitter or whatever.
So don’t do it. There’s not much more to say to it. Use your common sense. Be a grown-up. We are all responsible for ourselves.