User-friendly, Privacy’s enemy

Does the value of social networks outweigh the value of human privacy?

Today’s an age of innovation and technological advancement. It is also a time where privacy is a thing of the past, at least through the Internet’s point of view. Major contributors to this fact are social media platforms such as Facebook and its integration into modern culture and communication.

Citing Zuckerberg through Harry McCracken’s article, “Inside Mark Zuckerberg’s Bold Plan For The Future Of Facebook,” more than 1 billion and a half people use Facebook’s core service, 900 million use WhatsApp, 400 million use Instagram, 700 million use Messenger, and another 700 million use Groups — and these numbers continue to increase by the day.

This not only a suggests a cultural dependency on social networks to stay in contact with others, but also signals Facebook’s dominance over the social media playing field.
McCracken states that “Facebook runs 4 of the 6 largest social platforms in the world” besides Google’s YouTube and Tencent’s WeChat. Facebook also acquired Instagram in 2012, consequently tripling the social platform’s user base “in the 10 months after the acquisition announcement to 100 million monthly users, [which] then doubled in the next 13 months.”

Though it doesn’t stop there. In early 2014, Facebook earned the rights to WhatsApp and Oculus, the latter being part of the three major technology initiatives Zuckerberg is putting his money on: artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and a drone to provide Internet access to practically everyone on the planet.

With these three initiatives, Facebook will no longer simply collect massive amounts of data, our personal data, through social networks, but will also be able to understand the content of that data. Moreover, with the help of Oculus VR, people will be able to interact with one another in a three-dimensional level. Lastly, people who have yet to gain Internet connectivity will finally have access to it through Facebook’s Internet drone, or rather, through Aquila.

The creation of Aquila (July 2015)

What’s more, Facebook intends to customize the Internet itself to achieve their goal. This is where steps in to further consolidate Facebook’s power over social networks.

“In 2013, Facebook enlisted Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung, and other tech giants to help it found, the global connectivity initiative dedicated to bringing the Internet to the 60% of people worldwide who aren’t yet online.” 
 — Henry McCracken
“All of Us,” a promotional video for (March 2014)

The result is what McCracken calls “a hybrid of short-term altruism and long-term capitalism.” In essence, Facebook aims to dominate the social network as well as have its own data centers filled with their own servers. But at what cost? Our net neutrality? Our freedom to participate in an all-inclusive Internet?

And what does this all mean for our privacy? Does the value of social interaction via technological means outweigh the importance of personal privacy?

Facebook already does an inadequate job of preventing identities from being faked or stolen through their main service. The whole premise of the social platform itself is a gift basket made perfectly for identity thieves. Former conman Frank Abagnale said it himself:

“If you tell me your date of birth and where you’re born [on Facebook] I’m 98 percent [of the way] to stealing your identity,” Abagnale warned.
 — Jam Kotenko

Now combine this with Facebook’s expansion of data collecting through their ownership of multiple social media platforms, creation of advanced AIs, virtual realities, and an all new formatted Internet; the odds of one’s privacy being safely secured online is slimmed down even further.

So is all this innovation for social networking worth it? Arguably, yes. However, the price of having absolutely no control on one’s privacy is too steep a trade to make it all seem completely worthwhile.

Works Cited

Kotenko, Jam. “Facebook Identity Fraud Is Up and You Need to Be Careful.” Digital Trends. 30 Aug. 2013. Web. 02 Apr. 2016.

McCracken, Harry. “Inside Mark Zuckerberg’s Bold Plan For The Future Of Facebook.” Fast Company. 16 Nov. 2015. Web. 02 Apr. 2016.

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