I bookmarked this 2016 article in the Washington Post – 98 personal data points that Facebook uses to target ads to you – sometime ago, after coming across it on John Naughton’s blog. As it still sums up exactly why I refuse to succumb to Facebook, I thought I would link to it now.
While you’re logged onto Facebook, for instance, the network can see virtually every other website you visit. Even when you’re logged off, Facebook knows much of your browsing: It’s alerted every time you load a page with a “Like” or “share” button, or an advertisement sourced from its Atlas network. Facebook also provides publishers with a piece of code, called Facebook Pixel, that they (and by extension, Facebook) can use to log their Facebook-using visitors.
Here are three more links to more recent material. I’m going to keep on adding to this post with links to other articles as and when I come across them. It should prove a useful aide memoire.
Article by Josh Marshall on Talking Points Memo (another link from John Naughton).
the political momentum of the Russia probe seems to be on a collision course with Facebook’s longstanding presumption, myopia and generalized illusion that it is the custodian of a national (and international) community as opposed to – let’s get real – just a website. It feels like this might be a moment or maybe the moment when the truthiness of Facebook’s rights and privacy and community talk simply collapses under the weight of its own ridiculousness.
You are the product, says John Lanchester in this piece from the London Review of Books.
What this means is that even more than it is in the advertising business, Facebook is in the surveillance business. Facebook, in fact, is the biggest surveillance-based enterprise in the history of mankind. It knows far, far more about you than the most intrusive government has ever known about its citizens. It’s amazing that people haven’t really understood this about the company. I’ve spent time thinking about Facebook, and the thing I keep coming back to is that its users don’t realise what it is the company does. What Facebook does is watch you, and then use what it knows about you and your behaviour to sell ads. I’m not sure there has ever been a more complete disconnect between what a company says it does – ‘connect’, ‘build communities’ – and the commercial reality.
In this September 2017 article in the Guardian’s Long Read series, Franklin Foer tells us how Facebook wants to advance our individual ‘transparency’. No longer will we be able to have different images for the different groups with which we are involved.
Though Facebook will occasionally talk about the transparency of governments and corporations, what it really wants to advance is the transparency of individuals – or what it has called, at various moments, “radical transparency” or “ultimate transparency”. The theory holds that the sunshine of sharing our intimate details will disinfect the moral mess of our lives. With the looming threat that our embarrassing information will be broadcast, we’ll behave better. And perhaps the ubiquity of incriminating photos and damning revelations will prod us to become more tolerant of one another’s sins. “The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly,” Zuckerberg has said. “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”
The point is that Facebook has a strong, paternalistic view on what’s best for you, and it’s trying to transport you there. “To get people to this point where there’s more openness – that’s a big challenge. But I think we’ll do it,” Zuckerberg has said. He has reason to believe that he will achieve that goal. With its size, Facebook has amassed outsized powers. “In a lot of ways Facebook is more like a government than a traditional company,” Zuckerberg has said. “We have this large community of people, and more than other technology companies we’re really setting policies.”
Since I am a Cold War-era kid, I remember that we lived in real dread of a future in which a faceless totalitarian power would be able to spy on us and keep tabs on all of our secrets. Little could I have known that in the future people would gladly give up this information voluntarily.