- by John Carroll
Having trouble deciphering the social network’s latest policy changes and what they mean for you? It’s less complicated than it seems – but if you "like" privacy, says John Carroll, it’s not good news. (Joerg Koch/AP)
When you’ve got mail from Facebook, nothing good can come of it.
Exhibit Umpteen: The latest Facemail that launched a thousand tsks.
It begins this way:
“We recently announced some proposed updates to our Data Use Policy, which explains how we collect and use data when people use Facebook, and our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (SRR), which explains the terms governing use of our services.”
The entire expanded message can be found here.
As usual with Facebook, it’s all about control — control of your messages, control of your privacy, control of – well – who controls what.
And of course, any Facebook reference to privacy automatically means you’ll have less of it. That’s because Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sucks data from you like marrow from a bone.
Facebook doesn’t bother creating demographic profiles of its members. It’s too busy assembling social graphs (“people and the connections they have to everything they care about,” as the site describes it), which reflect your activities both on and off Facebook and helps the company package you for marketers.
That’s a sort of three-dimensional chess where you can’t possibly protect your king.
Okay, back to the Facemail that got the privacy hall monitors all riled up. First, the housekeeping items (closed-captioned for the Facespeak-impaired):
“New tools for managing your Facebook Messages.”
That means: 1.) Facebook is eliminating the “Who can send me Facebook messages” setting, and 2.) Facebook is instituting new filters for managing incoming messages.
Net result: More Facebook spam for you.
“Changes to our site governance process for future updates to our Data Use Policy”
That means: 1.) Facebook is eliminating the system for users to vote on policy changes, and 2.) Facebook is instituting new procedures that allow users to … make suggestions.
Net result: Nothing. That’s because it’s been a Potemkin voting process all along. Yes, it took only 7000 comments on a new policy to trigger a vote. But it took 30 percent of all Facebook users for any vote to be binding — which equals 300,000,000 voters in a one-week voting period. A couple of fun facts to know and tell: That’s more than twice as many votes as were cast in last month’s presidential election. And that’s 260,000,000 more votes than were cast in the last Facebook policy-change bake-off.
Then again, Facebook users have bigger things to worry about. One concern: the new policy of “allowing Facebook and its affiliates, such as photo application Instagram, to share user information.”
That alone is worrisome, since it triggers more of the “frictionless sharing” (read as: hijacking personal information without telling you) that the Markocrats are always trumpeting.
But then there’s an even bigger issue: The new data-sharing policy is just a building block in Facebook’s drive to establish an “external advertising network” (read as: Facebook using data it’s collected about you to show you ads outside of Facebook).
Which means personalized ads on Instagram and Facebook’s kissin’ cousin Zynga and … everywhere, eventually.
So forget about Facebook as a social media democracy, and start worrying about Facebook as a social media oligarchy. The corn is off the cob, my Friends. Time now to face(book) it: The more Wall Street squeezes Zuckerberg for profits, the more he’ll squeeze you for data he can peddle to marketers.
The views and opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the writer and do not in any way reflect the views of WBUR management or its employees.