Facebook’s troubles were to be expected. The company’s main ambition has always been to harvest, use and even, in some self-confessed instances, manipulate information about people based on finding out and studying their emotions. To achieve this, it would even turn down business from people who do not want to share their personal details with it.
I speak from experience. I do not have a personal Facebook account, but I had a “business” page – facebook.com.marketmoving.info – which I used to be able to access by simply using my email address and a password.
I was using it to post links to articles and it was a means for people interested in Marketmoving.info to connect to the website via their Facebook feed. I even paid Facebook small amounts of money a few times for promoting the links to the articles, to see if it was worth reaching a wider audience. So, for Facebook, there were only advantages, no disadvantage from doing this.
However, about a year ago, Facebook informed me that unless I had a personal account on the social network, I would lose access to my business page. The company basically wanted to force me to create a Facebook account and log into my business page from there, rather than externally.
I have asked them why they needed me to open a personal account to continue to use my business page, and their reply was that this was the new Facebook policy. I tried to explain to them that they would be losing business this way, but they were adamant that this was the only way for me to continue to be able to access my business page.
In other words, Facebook was happy to lose a paying customer (admittedly, one who was paying very little, but still) if that customer refused to hand over their personal details.
So in May last year, I lost access to my business page on Facebook. It is still out there, with all the old links still active, but I can no longer access it with my old email and password. I cannot even close it down. Or, I probably can — if I first create a personal Facebook account.
This episode confirmed that my biggest worry about Facebook is legitimate: if the company is ready to lose business in order to force as many people as it can to open personal accounts, it means the personal information that people willingly surrender for access is worth much more than we are led to believe.
The Cambridge Analytica saga only proves my point. Not only the data of individuals whose accounts were taken was used, but the data of their “friends” as well. And not just names and dates of birth; thoughts and emotions were exploited, too.
I have spoken about the danger that big social media companies present for democracy in a previous article, there is no point repeating those ideas here.
On an individual level, perhaps it’s time for people to realise one thing: if you really care about your friends, do not connect with them on Facebook. Even with the best intentions, at some point you’ll be making them victims of indiscretion. When your account is hacked, their information, thoughts, ideas, dreams and emotions will be stolen along with yours.
Mark Zuckerberg said that the company had already introduced measures to protect people from data breaches: “the most important actions to prevent this from happening again today we have already taken years ago.”
To this, I say: Dude. You’re turning down business unless people agree to surrender their personal details and those of their friends to your company. Why should I trust you, when your whole business model revolves around making use of my personal information? That is the issue you need to address — and you haven’t.