Your data belongs to Facebook, not you

TL;DR: Facebook’s goal is to grasp as much of the Internet as possible for their own profit. They have our content (ours by right, but forget about getting it back). They have the whole user base (almost impossible to win back by the competitors). They control the way we’re leaving their app (f.e. with News Feed). They’re covering all the cases we’d need to leave their app for and providing their own closed network instead (f.e. Pages; Marketplace). They even want to control the way we’re connected to the Internet (Internet.org).

If everything of their plan succeeds, they will control every step of us being connected to the one single brain which is called the Internet. If the Black Mirror scenario isn’t here yet, we’re just a few years from it.

The Facebook’s Internet

Let’s zoom into it a bit more. If we divide the Internet into four layers, called Data, Users, Usage and Access, we’ll notice that the Zuckerberg’s company clearly tries to be in the control of all of them.

Data

Posts. Pictures. Links. People profiles. Friendships’ relations. Huge amounts of valuable data. Almost everything we can share to the world is already there.

What is more, even though it is our content by right, it’s them who are in control with full access to it.

Naturally, as an individual user, you’re in possession of the authors’ rights to the content you are publishing on Facebook. You can remove it and share it whenever wherever you want. But this is where your rights end. Everything else is blocked with their Automated Data Collection Terms.

For example, you have no right to scrape the data of your friends on your own. You can only do it manually, by browsing their profiles through the FB app.

You have no right to scrape Facebook’s public pages data. If you want to get all the publicly available info about restaurants or events in your city, that is published on Facebook, the only way to do it legally right now is by using their Graph API. But then, you have to pray that they won’t close the API for you, as they did many times already, putting other competitors into either bankruptcy or the court (Power.com).

The only way to do it legally is by copying their data manually with your own hand, to an Excel spreadsheet or your notebook. Well, in 2018, that basically means the data belongs to Facebook, not the users.

It’s like “here, have this notebook, you can write in it as much as you want; we’ll publish what you want to your friends; and show you your friends’ notes, but sorry, we’ll never let you browse them by yourself.

So this is what you call the Open Web?

Users

No need to say much on it. Everybody is using Facebook. With the exception of a handful of people, that got sick of being constantly disturbed by its’ mobile notifications, ads or the Facebook wall algorithm. Basically, they were annoyed by the way the platform was influencing their life, and just left.

For most of them, leaving Facebook was not an easy decision. From now on, they will feel excluded. No longer can they message their friends. No longer they know what the people around them are up to. There’s a strong cost of not being present on Facebook, which is why so few of us are firm enough to leave it.

That’s also why Facebook is almost impossible to compete with now. Even if I build a better, more open and fair social platform, who’ll be crazy enough to use it? A few geeks like us, at maximum, and that’s it. All the rest will just stay with what there is, the Facebook’s Internet.

Everybody’s using it already. There’s no need to watch Black Mirror to see it live.

Usage

If you read news shared by your friends through the Facebook mobile app, what you’re reading in most of the cases is actually “the Facebook Limited Web”.

When reading news given to you with the Instant Articles feature, you’re shown only the pick of the web, ignoring all the other parts they assume you don’t need. The website’s related articles, the article’s original comments, basically anything else what the website’s author has to say? Oops, sorry, it’s gone, for the sake of the users, as the Mighty Facebook decides so.

If you website doesn’t use the Instant Articles feature, for now everything still stays the same. But they will limit your articles visibility, in the name of “war with fake news”. Of course, nobody knows how legit that war is. The algorithms of how they’re selecting the articles are unknown. For you, the only choice is to be either in, or out.

In addition, Facebook does much more than just limiting what you read. It tracks what you read, for how long, with what intensity, and when exactly. Moreover, when you want to leave their app and read stuff on your own, they will even help you not to do it, by throwing out a big alert in your face:

“This link goes to a dangerous place called the Internet. Are you sure you want to exit Facebook for it?”

Internet Access

By a nicely sounding and appearing to be a voluntary service, “Internet.org” is a Facebook’s initiative to give access to the Internet to the developing countries and afterwards control it.

The first problem is, it actually isn’t voluntary. The benefits are too obvious and hugely prospective in the future to not to profit from it.

The story goes similar as it is with the mobile app: If you’re an ISP, that can ignore net neutrality, you can basically control which websites your users will be visiting and how often.

For example, you can provide a free access only to the Facebook platform (and a few other websites, if their authors pay you enough), and block all the other ones, f.e. through some extra fee that all of the end-users have to pay, if they want to access “the rest” of the Internet.

In a such a way, you can directly control what the Users will browse on the Internet, and indirectly, what will actually be published there. (Because if nobody reads it, unfortunately, there’s little sense of publishing it.)

This is how India protested to force net neutrality in their country. Luckily, they succeeded. Because of this, Internet.org so far has failed to enter India, one of the biggest IT markets in the world.

In capitalistic countries, that means having an unbeatable monopoly on the whole IT market.

In developing countries, that means having millions of people not realising that there’s anything besides Facebook, because hey, they actually won’t have the access to the Internet. (They’ll just have “the Facebook Internet” instead.)

In reality, it’s much more than that. For me, it means going backwards in time, at least to the XX century or earlier. It means having someone able to limit what we can say. It means taking over and having full control on the currently main communication medium, the Internet.

Remember: the communication is how the world and society functions. With no communication, there’s no society. With healthy communication, there’s a healthy society.

Do we want it to be free, or controlled?


Related:

  • “Every human (…) strives to communicate what is important to himself. According to Cooley, for everyone of us, and the whole society as well, it is important because no life exists without having the expression of thoughts.” - J. Mucha (1992). Cooley, p. 60
  • “The ad tech landscape goes from bad to worse as the duopoly, Facebook and Google, cements the industry’s structural decline. Large communications conglomerates shed 20–50% of their value when their growth engines, digital agencies, stall as the duopoly begins making online creative and value added services less … valuable.” - Scott Galloway, Medium. Predictions for 2018
  • “These corporations want to lock down the internet and give us access to nothing more than a few walled gardens. They want to burn down the Library of Alexandria and replace it with a magazine rack. (…) This may sound like a conspiracy theory, but this process is moving forward at an alarming rate.” - Quincy Larson, Medium. The future of the open internet — and our way of life — is in your hands
  • “Big news outlets stupidly sold their soul to Facebook. Desperate for the referral traffic Facebook dangled, they spent the past few years jumping through its hoops only to be cut out of the equation.” - Josh Constine, Tech Crunch. How Facebook stole the news business
  • “It just has to get you to use any part of Facebook more. And the best way to do that is to make you require the outside Internet less.” - Josh Constine, Tech Crunch. Facebook’s Quest to absorb the Internet
  • Jay Kuo, Medium. The Future of Facebook Instant Articles
Like what you read? Give Jack Tomaszewski a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.