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A Pox On Both Their Houses

April 6, 2018

I’m going to quit using facebook. The lack of privacy is too much. I’m going to switch to Google.

That wasn’t said by me. That was one of my facebook friend’s reaction to the recent revelations about Facebook’s “data breaches.” Except they weren’t data breaches. Not really. They are pretty much what’s allowed in their User License Agreement.

About once per year we get treated to a Facebook fad where people post personal “disclaimers” denying Facebook the ability to use any of their pictures or posts. It’s a waste of time, of course. People don’t understand that the decision on that has already been made. It wasn’t made by Facebook, it was made by us. You, me, my friend wanting to bail.

Facebook is not the public square. It’s also not your house. It’s Mark Zuckerberg’s house. And just as if you went to a party at his place, you wouldn’t be able to say,

Mark, you are not allowed to tell anyone I was here. All of the conversations I have here are considered privileged. And any pictures I take in here are also strictly mine.

Zuckerberg would probably tell you, “Hey, enjoy the party. Free drinks. Free food. Stay as long as you like. Invite as many friends as you want.”

Because, that’s what he did. But, it’s still his house. Like the Miranda rights, “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say, can and will. . be used by Facebook for marketing purposes.”

But, don’t think too poorly of Zuckerberg. He’s hosting this really awesome online party and you’re invited. All your friends are there. It’s free. As in free. But, who pays for that? Well, the advertisers. The servers that Facebook uses aren’t free. The programmers at Facebook get paid. Where’s the money come from?

If a company doesn’t sell a product, the product is YOU

There’s a line in the wonderful baseball movie “A League Of Their Own” where the league attorney explains that the owners are thinking of shutting down the league. The players are horrified, of course and insist, “They can’t shut US down!”

Of course they could. They players are the product. The product doesn’t tell the manufacturer what to do. When you signed up for Facebook, you agreed to let them use your data. You can go and check on what data Facebook actually has about you. It’s pretty impressive, or horrifying.

Personally, I haven’t done it. I’ve been involved with online communities for a long time. I was at Microsoft when the interent took off. I’ve was part of CompuServe. I used to log into bulliten board systems. I’ve always assumed that whatever I type online is visible to everyone and will exist forever.

It’s partly why you won’t find my birthday on my Facebook page. Oh sure, Facebook itself knows what it is, you have to enter that to set up an account. But, I’m not sharing it any wider than I need to.

The internet used to be anonymous. Not anymore. Social media, like the Pleasure Island that Pinocchio travels to where the boys get turned into donkeys, has seduced us into trading our anonymity for access to the online goodies in Zuckerberg’s house.

But, for my friend who has decided he’s had enough and he’s going to Google instead? Yeah, he might want to read that User License Agreement before he clicks OK.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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