So I recently was browsing facebook (as most average human beings do) and I came across a curious poll. If you haven’t visited Facebook in the past 3 months or so, than you may not be aware that recently facebook introduced a new service that allows you to post a poll. Now the odd thing about this little polling service is that once your friends begin to answer the question on the Poll, all the friends of your friends can answer the poll as well. Now, one might see how this can quickly get out of hand in terms of number of respondents. I am admittedly surprised and at the same time not by the fact that the new polling system doesn’t allow for you to restrict the people who can respond to your immediate friends. On the one hand, doing so would be a massive boost the poll’s privacy, and allow you to ask questions that are actually useful. On the other hand, Facebook has and always will be about data collection, and why limit that collection to such a small-scale.
So that’s where we get on to this funny poll I stumbled across. The poll itself was asking people if they would be willing to continue to use facebook if it was a paid service. Most of the respondents answered with no, as you might guess people do. The amusing thing here of course is the assumption that Facebook isn’t making any kind of profit already off of the nearly 300,000,000 users they have managed to acquire.
Here’s the thing about the Facebook, Twitter, etc business models, they are entirely designed around the marketing departments of the world. You see, marketing will pay hand over fist for data on the people of the world so that at some point down the road they may use that data against their fellow-man. The thing about Facebook is that even if we assume that only 75% of their users are voluntarily providing data, and of those 75% only 80% of that data is valid, than you still end up with a pretty massive pool of human beings who have willingly provided data that can be used to categorize them, sum them up, etc. Hell, OkCupid does the exact same thing with their users (of course, it’s in the name of science as opposed to selling people burgers).
The thing is that people don’t really understand how much this data is really worth, they don’t understand that the reason the cracking of the single largest email list in the world was a big deal was because that was several million dollars worth of personal data. There is a fascinating little AMA over on Reddit in which an admitted e-mail spammer goes on to explain how one can make money off of things as simple as e-mail.
The thing is that Facebook know this, hell I believe Mark Zuckerberg is quoted as having said
They trust me, Dumb Fucks
The thing is, Facebook is the greatest mining scheme for your personal data since the invention of Google (as I sit here, Facebook open in one window, using Google Chrome, letting my personal information fly away like some kind of rabid butterfly). And if you think that Google isn’t selling your personal data, you might want to completely rethink how you view the world. Hell, just recently Google admitted that they are using the data from the location of their various Droid phones, something Apple had to climb back up into the technology rafters and apologize for.
Facebook took a note from the Google book and decided that as long as the service you offer is good enough to make up for the large amounts of personal data that you are stealing you are just fine. I personally find the whole practice (well marketing in general really) to be reprehensible to a scale I can’t even describe. “But fullphaser”, you say, “Didn’t you just admit to using not only Facebook but Google Chrome as well? Doesn’t that make you a Hypocrite of some kind?”. To this I can only really respond that, yes, I am a hypocrite of sorts, on a lot of things.
I guess I find the practice to be terrible, but ultimately I’m willing to live with whatever consequences come with the notion of it being terrible. I guess you might say that I’m just OK enough with the practice as a whole to not do something about it. Really I guess you could define any number of things by this criteria, That you’re just willing enough to care, but not motivated enough to do anything about it.
For instance, I care about what happened in Tennessee, but between school and Finals I won’t be able to get back into the city of Chattanooga before May, 9th. One might lump this in as “I care about the situation, but lack the motivation to attempt to do something about it”. Anyway, I digress, Facebook is an organization that is hell-bent on turning your data over to someone (I assume the highest bidder). If they aren’t than I don’t know how in the world they intend to keep the lights on at Night. Really I guess it’s amazing what people will pay for, and if confronted with no alternative would people really leave Facebook? Or would they just chuck up that 5$/Year fee for the social connection. I mean back when I was still playing World of Warcraft, I happily threw 15$/month purely to have access to a communication method some friends. There was no other alternative for wanting to play WoW, the content was annoying to me, the game felt like it met the end of its days a long time ago, and I got my daily dose of WoW news and Commentary anyway.
I think Facebook will fall into a somewhat similar spot. We don’t want to think that we’d be willing to pay for it, but I know for sure that if no alternative was presented with superior quality to Facebook presented itself shortly thereafter, most users would suck up the paltry sum (even by my account, and I’M POOR) in order to keep in contact with friends and family. You’d be surprised the value that humans will place on social connections.
With all that said, here have this video from Bill Hicks on Marketing