Do most people truly care about privacy? Maybe not…

Facebook Portal and the world we live in

Joseph Emmi
Nov 3, 2018 · 5 min read

Not long ago Facebook introduced to the world its first physical product, Portal, a device constituted by a screen, a camera and microphone, along a couple interesting and innovative features; designed to allow us to communicate with others through video, but, also aimed to inhabit our most personal and private place, our home. That proposition, coming from a company under severe societal and political scrutiny, is a big ask.

The last 18 months have not been an easy ride for Mr. Zuckerberg and his company, battling security breaches, new legislations and allegations of misuse of the platform and users’ data by third-parties as a way to interfere in national elections; all this, in addition to their proven questionable practices towards the gathering, harvesting and manipulation of personal information, not surprisingly putting their reputation under the line. This, also opened a series of interesting conversations that now seem long overdue, such as accountability towards their actions, products and services, and how users and societies as a whole are ultimately impacted.

That said, it is clearly understandable that the first reactions towards Portal were negative. This is the same company that after all the above turbulence is now offering you to put a camera and and microphone inside your house, in your living room, kitchen or maybe even bedroom.

However, despite the polemic, comments and opinions, all coming from the usual sources, analyst, experts, news sites and inner circles, I started to wonder if, despite what seemed a definitive opposition towards the product: Could this be another case of the so-called “bubble effect”? Filled with the voices of those that I intentionally follow, read and like, the content I consume and that interest me, ultimately aligned to my beliefs and world-views, even when in disagreement.

So, if this was the case and my opinion and the information , and a knowing all the Mal-practice from Facebook, the negative connotations and the stated rejection by many, is this actually the case?

Does people truly care about privacy as much as the like to say and even complain about?

Maybe they are testing to see how much we actually care, or, maybe they already know we truly don’t…

Timing

Timing is definitely not right for Facebook on this one, not because they are early, but because they are in the wrong place. Based on the current climate, it was not the best decision to bring it to market. Three years ago it could probably have been a hit.

Yes, innovation and marketshare are time sensitive, but also are brand, image and trust, and right now it feels that Facebook is asking too much with Portal, it says “just trust me in this one”. Why should we? (Again)

Trust

There’s a clear factor underpinning both, the company and their new product. Trust.

They know trust has become an issue; they have also lost credibility, and as a consequence they built this lack directly into the product.

With the slogan “Private by design” and the emphasis in words like, privacy, safety, security and control, Facebook aims to ease users. All this, while letting them know right away, in the first page, that they are not going to do any of the things they think Facebook is going to do, meaning, spying on them.

https://portal.facebook.com

They even included a cover for the camera, a feature that under a different climate would have been not only a differentior, but also a demonstration of responsibility and meaningful care towards their users privacy.

https://portal.facebook.com

Unfortunately, for me, it only screams Red Flag, one that says: “We know you think we’re spying on you, so here’s a way to cover the camera yourself”.

Facebook Portal is not the first product of its kind on a marketplace dominated by Amazon and Google, both with offerings that hold the same core functionalities (screen, camera, microphone) and that have been embraced by consumers, even when facing some initial criticism, but never as severe as Facebook’s.

The question is… Actually, is more that one…

Beside all of the above, all the mentioned criticism and opinions from experts, analyst, media and the common public: Do users truly care about their privacy?

During and after the 2016 US Election, we came to the realisation of the “bubble effect” Facebook can create; isolating us from opinions that we differ, while filtering information aligned to us.

  • Can this also be the case for Portal? Actually, can this be the case for cyber-privacy as a whole?
  • Do people outside “my bubble” don’t care at all and would buy Portal anyway?
  • Do people outside “my bubble” don’t care at all about their personal information and privacy on the Internet? Even further, are they even aware?
  • When it comes to younger generations that grew up with Facebook as the standard way of communication, how do they see Portal? Are they concern at all? Do they think about their privacy?

These are some I’ve been asking to myself and others recently, and unfortunately, maybe it is the case, maybe a great number of people don’t care or don’t consider it a threat/problem.

Despite the stated discomfort towards Facebook, the headlines and backlash, people still using it on a daily basis. They keep talking to friends, family, colleagues, and businesses continue to do business.

In an ideal world, the right thing to do by everyone dissatisfied with the platform, is to move away from it, just as we do when we don’t like the food in a restaurant, the quality of a product is poor, or clothe doesn’t fit us adequately, to name a few. Sometimes we give those products, services or restaurants a second chance, and it might work, but in many others, we just don’t want to hear about them ever again.

For some reason, the same rationale doe not seems to apply when we deal with our personal information and privacy.

Unfortunately, for the the majority of the common public seems to be a sense of disbelief or lack of acknowledgement about the reality of these issues and the impact on the their lives.

Yes, Facebook user-base is not growing, but is not significantly reducing either, meaning people doest not truly seem to care, and a product like Portal will make no difference to them.

“Facebook has proven to be a net negative for humanity. But if you’re one of the many people who doesn’t give a shit about anything, the Portal might be for you.”

The Bridge

A crossroad between Technology, Business and Design

Joseph Emmi

Written by

Technology + Business + Design + Entrepreneurship

The Bridge

A crossroad between Technology, Business and Design

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