Recent revelations about Cambridge Analytica and Facebook’s use of users’ personal information has only confirmed what I had initially thought of Facebook: they wanted too much information from me, and they couldn’t be trusted to keep it private, regardless of what ‘privacy settings’ I opted for.
In the first years of the social network’s existence, all of my friends giddily hopped on board, posting and sharing everything about their lives and their families. I sat it out, suspicious, naturally reluctant to share my feelings, opinions, or preferences in public.
A few years ago, in the interest of promoting my work, I did create a Facebook page for the Old Money Book, where some of the posts from this blog would appear. After several issues with Facebook Ads (which were probably due to my lack of technical expertise) and difficulties auto-loading WordPress blog posts to the Facebook page (not my issue), I asked Facebook to delete the Old Money Book page.
To this date, they still haven’t honored my request. This is telling. They do what they want to do and don’t do what they don’t want to do, regardless of your personal preferences or requests.
Many point to the face that Facebook has been a great innovation for business and society. I agree. It has. Most of the time. The darker aspect is the social network’s business model, which most people don’t fully appreciate: it is to get your personal information and sell it. To do this, they want to know everything they can about you.
To younger people, who grew up with the internet and social media, the concept of what I understand as ‘privacy’ is nonexistent. Their entire lives are online, visible for all the world to see, or at least accessible for too many people to find. And analyze. And monetize.
As we now know, companies not only use this information to sell you things; they use it to persuade and manipulate your behavior, to shape your opinions, to play upon your aspirations, and to prey upon your fears.
In addition to making people nuttier than they already are, this is very dangerous for democracy.
I cherish my privacy. My mood turns foul when anyone–individuals or institutions–want information from me. I think, at this juncture, I’m entitled to ask information about them: what their business practices are, who they do business with, what their credit rating and reputation is. Prove yourself worthy of my information, I say. Then, and only then will I consider sharing it with you.
Those who favor more surveillance and less privacy often say ‘If you’re not doing anything wrong, you shouldn’t mind’. These people are either working for Big Brother or idiots. I have no patience for it.
Most importantly, privacy is a safeguard for patriots, as the American and French revolutions bear out. I may very well be plotting a revolution, and I may very well want to keep that a secret from prying eyes. And, in a free society, I have every right to keep that a secret, as long as I don’t break any laws.
And yes, revolutionary ideas are dangerous, but only to tyrants and corrupt elites. But, hey, If you’re not doing anything wrong, you shouldn’t mind.