The question that we should all be asking is how Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media platform is making money, since that's pretty much the entire point of any company that exists and I'm reasonably sure that the folks running Facebook are not going without some type of paycheck.
While Facebook does sell adds that's really not the product that they are selling - the product that they are selling is access to you and access to the information about you.
If you think about it between the mobile device in your pocket and your computer Facebook, and other social platforms can get access to information about;
- Your educational information.
- Your contact information
- Your address
- Your marital status.
- A list of your friends, family, children and how they are related to you.
- Your activities, products, and things that you are interested in.
- What links you click on in your news feed.
- Your physical location, and by extension of that where you are visiting.
When you look at this information on a single person it's interesting, but when you get hundreds or thousands of folks that you can track this type of information on it makes it really easy for Facebook or others to fire off adds that are scarily relevant to things that you are actually interested in. Where this gets really interesting is when you start mining this data to look for ways to try to influence that group of people. And this is where things start getting really kind of creepy.
As stated earlier Facebook is a company, but that company is a group of people trying to run things in a way to put money in their pockets. I would fully expect the data that I provide to Facebook to be used to do things that would make more money for them, and that's something that I accept as part and parcel of my use of their services.
Now where I start to have problems with this is when that data is handed off to a third party group without any way of me knowing who those people are or what they intend to use that data for. Realistically that data is the one thing that Facebook, or any other social platform, has that is of any value so thinking that they not be selling that information out to others or that only Facebook is the one doing this is a pretty silly point of view.
So while I have a problem with data about me or that I provide to a social media company being provided to third parties for "undisclosed" purposes I don't have any say in that matter once I thin the post button to provide that information to the public. This has led me to be rather cautious about what information I'm putting on any social media platform - including this one.
To be completely honest I would rather leave the whole social media thing entirely, however that's not practical for a number of reasons.
First of all if I don't maintain a profile on Facebook, or other sites like it, there is a chance that someone else might jump on there pretending to be me. While that's something that most people who know me would probably catch on there are a lot of people that don't know me well enough for me to be 100% sure that an imposer wouldn't be doing damage to my reputation (such as it is).
Secondly there are still some people that I don't talk to outside of the occasional comment on social media. And while I would love to move everybody over to something that's able to provide me with a secure way to communicate with others that's easier said than done. Between the different platforms that people us, and differing levels of technical ability it's not as simple as just telling someone to install What's App, Signal, or whatever the flavor of the month is for "secure" and "encrypted" communication between two people is.
The only good thing going on right now is that the current amount of coverage that we are seeing on this right now, and the attention that it's getting from lawmakers in a couple of different countries might help to get some more teeth into the controls around what these companies can do with our personal information. However, as long as this information exists it's going to have value and regardless of the teeth in place and the penalties for misuse of that data someone will eventually risk getting caught if the price is high enough.
The only way that we can get control over this is to understand the value of the data that we are providing and not allowing any one platform to go in and become so dominant that we can't survive without it.
Now if you will excuse me I'm going to go get some email addresses that I should have asked for several years back.