COMMENTARY – I’m not one to make blanket proclamations very often, but I am feeling compelled to do it this one time: The free ride for big social media is over.
What do I mean by that? Well, it’s been a long social media journey for me personally. I stopped using Facebook, Instagram, and similar social media sites, and really only use a few very specific services like LinkedIn. Facebook’s lack of integrity concerning user privacy, uses of our data, and refusal to adequately disclose Facebooks’ and third-party uses of our data are something with which I have really struggled. For months I’ve considered leaving Facebook, or just taking a pause.
Facebook seems to be at a breaking point. Their model of “the customer is the product” is quickly waning as both users and platforms like Apple demand more accountability. But Facebook continues to cling to the old strategy, to only disclose as little as possible, and obfuscate everything else. Some might say Twitter is at a similar breaking point as well, but they were much more proactive in their reaction to inaccurate political posts, gaslighting, and fake news. Facebook, however, doesn’t want to change. They want to be able to track everything that users do, provide any and all data to advertisers and partners that they want, and really skirt the privacy and disclosure efforts. The momentum of the market, governments, and users is clearly moving in the opposite direction.
Recently, Facebook lost a privacy lawsuit in Illinois regarding facial recognition and photo tagging. They’re also facing a lawsuit in Redwood City, California over the use of biometric information without user permission, and of course, there’s Australia and their battle with Facebook over breaches of privacy laws and selling user content. Facebook is under attack from multiple fronts, and yet at the same time still pushing back and trying to advocate for a total lack of privacy—we can use your information, and we don’t want restrictions from Apple’s platform or anybody else. My point is the free ride is over. The idea that we can do anything we want on these platforms and people will continue to give up their own privacy is coming to an end.
With all this information about the managing and manipulating of what comes over social media, I think it’s really taking the luster out of it. It’s not as altruistic as it once seemed. And I think people will increasingly pull back and want to maintain more of their privacy over time. Who knows? I could be wrong. Maybe we are the product and we should just give up and go on with it. But I’m not getting over it and I doubt that a lot of us will over time— I think more and more of us will err on the side of the platforms, software, and services that maintain our privacy and give us some reasonable control over when and how our information is used.
Are you reexamining your own social media use? Is the appeal of social media fading?
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