[EDITORIAL]#AnimatED: Dear Facebook, it’s truly complicated
It must be that bad when even Playboy decides to call it quits.
Facebook’s absolute desire to connect us mortals, the consequences be damned, unmasks not just the duplicitous nature of our relationship with it, but the algorithmic sums of what the behemoth has earned out of it: $40 billion, and counting.
Over the years, here’s how it has been for us users in light of the exposé on how Facebook’s data had been harvested for political pofiling by Cambridge Analytica, the data analytics firm that worked for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Since 2004, when Facebook was founded, we have joined it for what it promised: to make new friends and reconnect with old ones; to reach out to real people and engage them in conversations; to promote ourselves, our advocacies, our politics, and our campaigns; to share what we do, eat, buy, and feel; and, yes, to announce our heartbreaks or change of status, whichever came first.
Backdoor and underneath, Facebook has – and continues – to mine it all, the tech giant being at its core a data company, not just a sharing platform for our vanities. To be sure, they’ve told us bits and pieces about this through their terms of service, in our profile settings, and in those advisory pop-ups that we see every now and then – which we, of course, don’t read at all, especially the fine print that accompanies them. Data collected from us was being sold both directly to those annoying ads that you see and indirectly through third parties.
If Facebook exercised any control over the latter, it did so as a token move, as we had discovered in the series of investigative stories on it.
This agnostic approach to data made Facebook indifferent toward who was adding to that supply chain, whether they’re companies out to gain sheer profit, politicians out to game sentiments, trolls out to earn money from lies, or fake news sites out to click-bait us and pollute the already murky waters of online chatter. Emboldened by what it was acquiring passively, Facebook then decided to be proactive about it and target our behavior to shape our desires and create individual chambers for what it deems we want and need based on our online profile. They call it algorithm, we call it hijacking – of our choices, our conversations, our public sphere.
Unregulated, unchecked and riding high on its god-like reputation, Facebook is, in many ways, engaged both in legitimate business and in the black market, where data is being sold to the highest bidder with the least public scrutiny.
It came as no surprise then that when the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, it took Mark Zuckerberg all of 5 days to react in a public post. Because what the controversy exposed is Facebook’s own lifeblood and core: earning from our individual data, certainly a business model that it shares with the rest of the world’s data giants such as Google and Amazon.
Now the giants are quaking, as they should, although belatedly.
Facebook saw at least $50 billion shaved off its value before the Easter break. It is now forced to take heed of what had repeatedly fallen on its deaf ears, recently taking down, for example, groups notorious for their hate claims (though much more needs to be done in this aspect, and the Philippines should not be again at the bottom of their priorities).
Policymakers around the world are not just crafting and discussing regulation but also investigating and understanding (thank God!) how the technology backend works (which means that our very own Senator Grace Poe, given her surface, almost superficial view of this issue, has a lot of homework to do as lead policymaker in the Senate on public information and media).
Facebook also now faces the prospect of customized regulation in each country or continent, and we’ve seen this already from what it chooses not to offer, for example, to its European users given Europe’s tight regulation.
On a broader scale, what is happening to Facebook impacts the entire data business model on which many companies are founded, and the entire technology industry that now controls the global economy and dominates the world market. If you think this is all going to go away soon and does not have far-reaching consequences down the line, think again.
Meanwhile, we assume you’re still on Facebook. And asking yourself why. We feel you – as we're on the same boat, struggling with our own questions, doubts, and pain. – Rappler.com