We're Not Facebook's Customers. We're Its Products.
I recently asked my daughter if she’d seen the Facebook ads that pop up constantly in my feed. The ones for a magical gloss that erases lip lines and gives women plump, juicy kissers.
She said no.
Of course she hadn't. Those ads are aimed at desperate women my age, whose lips are disappearing.
She sees ads for things young women want. Tattoo-disguising makeup, I suppose. Birth control gadgets. Sexy lingerie. Items that don't interest the lipless crew.
How does Facebook know my lips are endangered and my kid's aren’t? Through all of the info we’ve merrily tossed them with our “likes,” clicks and comments over the years. Oh, and the personal stuff in our profiles that we think is secret because we marked it "private."
Facebook knows a lot about us.
Which bring us to the latest news: A political outfit used Facebook to get their grubby paws on our personal information and then they blasted campaign ads at us based on our personality traits.
We’re supposed to be shocked and outraged about this Facebook news.
But other than what it’s done to the stock market - and my 401K - I’m not that angry.
And I’m definitely not surprised.
Ever since the Obama campaign boasted about how they grabbed lists of friends and friends of friends on Facebook, we knew where this was headed.
In a story headlined "Funny, When Obama Harvested Facebook Data On Millions of Users To Win in 2012, Everyone Cheered," Investor’s Business Daily claims that the current outrage is more about who may have benefited from the latest data mining - Trump - than by the deceptive process itself.
I think IBD may be right.
“In 2012, the Obama campaign encouraged supporters to download an Obama 2012 Facebook app that, when activated, let the campaign collect Facebook data both on users and their friends…,” IBD reports.
“The campaign boasted that more than a million people downloaded the app, which, given an average friend-list size of 190, means that as many as 190 million had at least some of their Facebook data vacuumed up by the Obama campaign — without their knowledge or consent.
“This … gave Obama an unprecedented ability to reach out to non-supporters. More important, the campaign could deliver carefully targeted campaign messages disguised as messages from friends to millions of Facebook users…"
Geez. Not exactly honest and above board, but where was the outcry?
Fast forward to 2014 and we learn that many Facebook users downloaded a Cambridge personality quiz that they were told, “…would be used for academic purposes.”
It wasn't. Instead, it was used to harvest their data and that of their friends, which meant "tens of millions" of people had their personal information gleaned without their permission. It was used to craft political ads for conservative candidates.
That’s sneaky and deceptive. But is it worse than disguising campaign memos as messages from friends?
You decide. I’m not looking for a debate about whose campaign was the most underhanded in its use of social media.
It's all a sobering reminder of one important thing: We're not Facebook’s customers. We’re its products.
Remember that the next time you’re tempted to answer dopey questions on one of those lame quizzes, such as “Which Sex In The City Character Are You?”