On Facebook’s research

A friend of mine asked:
“Do you think there is something different about researching if we will click on more ads, to researching if different types of posts alter our mood Carl…? And does their blanket policy cover both, in good faith…?”

To which I responded:

I think people in general understand that Facebook wants us to use their site as much as they can get us to do so. I’m going to guess that most people participate willingly without a thought regarding Facebook’s motivations. When people do think about it, they understand that ads are how Facebook makes its money. So research in the service of making money is in alignment with their expectations and so they’re ok with that.

Research into whether, and how, one’s news feed/wall affect the emotions of a group of people is something new and unexpected. So people go from surprise to questioning the, possibly hidden, motivations. What is the /real/ motivation? What could this research be used for? Who might exploit this information?

We are affected by everything that we see and read. The Facebook news feed has never been “neutral”, neither has your newspaper of choice. The content has always been subject to some kind of filter. What is revealed here is that the filter might have some, possibly nefarious, purpose we weren’t previously aware. We have been conditioned to be exploited for money. We’re making money for Facebook and we don’t see any of it. I call that exploitation. But I can leave at any time, and mostly its informative and often entertaining–so I’m ok with it for now.

The question people are asking now reduces to: are they ok with the idea that people unknown might be influencing them for some unknown purpose with malice aforethought? Further, they wouldn’t even know it was happening. But we know that advertisers, marketers and sales people do this all the time. So why do people feel their agency is at risk when Facebook does it?

I don’t believe “in good faith” applies here. We are not Facebook’s customers. Facebook’s customers are its advertisers. We are Facebook’s product being sold to the advertisers.

I believe Facebook’s lawyers wrote the privacy terms and data use policy with the intent to provide Facebook with as much leeway as possible to do whatever they want to do.If they missed something, or come up with some new idea that isn’t covered by the existing language, they just update the terms/policy. They might make an announcement to say that they’ve made some changes and suggest that we read the revised document. But really how many will do that? How many read it to begin with? If anyone disagrees, the only recourse is signing out and walking away. The concern Facebook has is how much can they get away with before a significant number (whatever that means to Facebook) decide to do that.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014 at 8:32 pm and is filed under Uncategorized . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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