As thousands of plant pores open up to suck in the falling dew, I soak up my inbox with the setting sun. Unlike descending droplets, my messages are already fertilized with crappy content. A notable recent difference is that I now receive them on a dozen different platforms along with invitations to install apps that, allegedly, have better data encryption and denuded privacy policies.
I, amongst other millennials, grew up with Facebook and have made enough embarrassing teenage-love posts there to fill in one of those Twilight books and have spent countless of hours composing happy birthday messages, yet I am unmoved by Facebook using my data.
You’re in Control
Behind toggles, options and policies is an ability to control the amount of information you share with Facebook. And those third-party apps, like Cambridge Analytica, require separate authorization from account’s owner before social network grants them access.
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Before throwing angry emoticons at “Cambridge Analytica stole my data” posts, let’s establish that Cambridge Analytica did not hack, scrape or steal Facebook’s data. Cambridge Analytica created a personality quiz app and abused the allowance to access a friend’s network. Users willingly did a quiz to find out their personality and subsequently received targeted political ads. What were they expecting?
Firstly, I am positive that I don’t complete personality tests which are easily attributable to me or approve access to access my data for unknown applications and;
Secondly, I am comfortable with my information-based decision making processes to ensure that I don’t make significant decisions based on Facebook Ads. If someone does get me to move their way, based on a personality quiz, I consider it to be a grand marketing strategy and my fault.
Now, manipulation done on a large scale influences economies, politics, and mountains (maybe not). However, a Nash equilibrium here will be to continue using Facebook, which may not be the socially optimal outcome.
What’s wrong with having targeted ads?
In Zogby Analytics poll commissioned by the Digital Advertising Alliance, which involved 1,000 people in the US, 68% responded that they prefer to get at least some internet ads directed at their interests and 40 percent prefer to get all their ads based on their interests.
The platform naturally requires collecting individuals’ data to make targeted ads. I would rather see ads which are based on my behaviors and interests rather than some terrible generic uncreative-vomit that a medium level marketing executive has scraped a budget to make (ahem, Television). At least this way the ads can serve a purpose and get my attention.
So what if someone knows your interests?
Theoretically, no advertiser can see all data stored on an individual. However, if someone runs an ad targeting Star Wars fans with which I publicly engage, you can be confident that I like a bit of Darth Vader in my life.
What’s available on Facebook via ad targeting options is not something that I would personally attempt to hide. Even if all hell broke loose and someone leaked all Facebook’s data, I would be comfortable with strangers knowing that information about me, whether it’s my favorite movies, number of credit card transactions per month or my relationship status. Heck, even my search history would provide them with more questions than answers.
There are more efficient ways to launch a personal attack
A vast number of individuals are concerned about voice and facial recognition, location tracking, and other nifty data points. I’ve got bad news here too: Facebook has much better security than a local supermarket. Also, Joe starts telling too many stories once he’s had a few.
Comparing the security that Facebook has with the protection behind the owners of data you give out unconsciously via conversations, public cameras, cell phone, bank transactions and loyalty cards is like comparing a new SpaceX rocket to Toyota Prius.
If someone deemed me to be worthy and wanted to get all available information on me, there are way more efficient methods to extract my interests, behaviors, sleeping habits and movie choices. One glance at my shopping cart in the supermarket and you have about fifteen products through which you can plant anything inside me. Force-open my mailbox, and you have my credit card statement with all transactions in the last month. Hack my Facebook account, and you have… weird search history, tags on memes and a bunch of illiterate messages?
If someone wanted to know everything about me, it is much cheaper to go old-school than even to attempt to hack Facebook. Mail can be intercepted, phones tapped, and face-to-face conversation may be overheard. No system is perfect.
I don’t plan to #deletefacebook or somehow alter my use of it. I am comfortable with the amount of information they collect and their security system. Even if all hell broke loose, I still don’t care about people knowing that I like Star Wars.
On the other hand, I respect people who value their privacy. If I were walking those shoes, I would first evaluate my efforts to protect my data and why I am on the platform in the first instance. It’s like going to Zuck’s house for a birthday party because your friends are there and then telling Mark to burn the house once you leave. Yes, I know you had vodka, chocolate cake and perhaps should not have looked at Sheyla’s bottom the whole night, but what’s the big deal?
P.S. I don’t own Facebook’s stock, work for Facebook or know anyone who works there. Having lived abroad, I appreciate the way Facebook enabled me to stay in touch with friends and family and feel connected. I think it needs to be tamed, but it’s not time to jump ship just yet.