What shocked me most about the recent Facebook-analytica scandal, was not that Facebook are using and marketing your data but that people were actually surprised by this. If you think it’s just Facebook who’s doing it, you’re naïve. Your data is how tech companies make their money and you need to realise that in today’s day and age, anything you put up on the internet is no longer your private information, be it Whatsapps, Instagrams or tweets. There are no guarantees that your data will remain private. It’s what you signed up for, it’s in all their terms of service if you bothered to read them. ‘But no one reads terms and conditions?!?!’ T&C’s aren’t sexy, but do yourself a favour and read them before you start posting statuses about your fragile emotional state and it’s marketed back to you in the form of advertised self-help books. If you really think that the big problem of Facebook is that you publicly post information that public companies look at, it’s not.
The biggest problem is the fact that Facebook is using your data to feed back to you the information which reinforces your views. Yes, that’s done in the form of advertisements, but advertisements aren’t dangerous, if anything they’re what allow us to use all these useful social media sites for free. What’s dangerous is the notion that your political, cultural and economic views are being strengthened by algorithms which seek to please you. How can Facebook/Twitter/Instagram claim to be virtual spaces of free speech? Your own views are being reinforced by a system which is savvy to the fact that everyone loves to hear themselves be told that they’re correct. We all know as well as each other that our best friends and favourite pages always show up at the top of our news feeds. How can information be free flowing when it is prioritised by a computer system which seeks to make you happy by showing you information you’re most likely to react positively towards?
On 12 January of this year Facebook announced an algorithmic change whereby certain news publishers would be prioritised above others. In his senate hearing Zuckerberg agreed that Silicon Valley is ‘a very left leaning place’. So Facebook is targeting what pages you’re more likely to stumble across and there’s a general consensus that they politically lean in one direction. So how exactly can they claim to be a platform of free speech?