The problem is not Facebook, it is you

Giulio Prisco
Mar 6, 2019 · 3 min read

The latest Facebook scandal is that the social network is giving out the phone numbers that many users provided for two-factor authentication.

Worse, “Facebook doesn’t give you an option to opt-out,” notes TechCrunch.

“Last year, Facebook was forced to admit that after months of pestering its users to switch on two-factor by signing up their phone number, it was also using those phone numbers to target users with ads. But some users are finding out just now that Facebook’s default setting allows everyone — with or without an account — to look up a user profile based off the same phone number previously added to their account.”

So this must be why I receive so many phone calls from spammers that I had to stop answering calls from unknown callers?

Yes, I guess. But I also guess that, even before Facebook, the phone company was selling my number to spammers. I (and most people) always suspected that. If I had been able to prove it, I would have sued the phone company, because as a paying customer I should have certain rights.

But we are not paying customers of Facebook.


A wise man said “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” (TANSTAAFL). Another wise man said that, if you don’t pay for the product, then you are the product. This short statement is so simple and so true that it really deserves being worn on a shirt.

That’s it: We are not Facebook’s customers, but Facebook’s products, and this is Facebook’s business model.

Reminder: Facebook is a for-profit company. They must make money. We don’t pay for Facebook. So, they must find other ways to make money. They have found out that your phone number sells. Your likes sell. YOU sell. Why else should they spend all that money to give you a “free” social network? Simple: Because they make even more money by selling you out.

And I see nothing wrong with it. A private company should have the right to do whatever the hell they please, as long as they don’t break important laws. And I don’t consider things like General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as important laws, but as annoying nanny-state regulations.

Note to nanny-state regulators: Please don’t protect me from things that I don’t want to be protected from. Facebook should have the right to resell all that I give them.

I have always assumed that Facebook sells me out. This is OK with me, and I consider it as part of my agreement with them. According to popular conspiracy theories, many top social media operators also filter what you see (and add fake news as needed) to sell you things or influence your political choices.

Of course, I would never post sensitive confidential information to the social network. Facebook is good for dog pictures, and little more. Since I love dogs and sharing pictures of my doggy with my friends, I use Facebook every day.

We need GOOD alternatives to Facebook

Others have stopped using Facebook. But, let it be said, there is no credible alternative out there.

They say that a decentralized Web 3.0 that works like BitTorrent is coming, with decentralized social networks by-the-people for-the-people.

I hope so, but the thing is, I make it my business to actively monitor decentralized internet developments, and I haven’t seen anything that really WORKS well enough for mass appeal. That includes convenience, simple user interfaces, and compelling user experiences, things whose development costs a lot of money. Only Facebook and other tech giants can burn that kind of money for years.

And THIS is the problem. We, internet users, have shown a willingness to give up privacy for “free” convenient tools that only giant corporations can offer. The problem is not Facebook — it is you, and me.

I hope to see advances toward a decentralized internet soon. In the meantime, I would use centralized alternative social networks with a simpler and more honest business model: Paid subscriptions.

Yes, PAID — the forbidden word in today’s “free”-for-all internet. But remember TANSTAAFL, and remember that paying for good products and services offered by small companies is a simple way to go back to a healthier, small-is-beautiful form of capitalism.

Picture from leakhena khat/Flickr.

Giulio Prisco

Written by

Writer, futurist, sometime philosopher.

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