On Facebook you are not the client, but the product, and that's the essence - Technology
On Facebook you are not the client, but the product, and that's the essence

On Facebook you are not the client, but the product, and that's the essence

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Edward Morrissey, The Week - The last few days, lawmakers and various experts have been shocked and angry after Cambridge Analytica, a contracted company for Donald Trump's election campaign, used personal data from Facebook. Many critics looked like the problem was unique and unusual. But in fact, the use of personal data for advertising can be the core of the existence of social networks.
Facebook has many accounts to give. Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives will be asked to testify before the US Congress about what happened. Meanwhile, they have removed the company "Cambridge Analytica" the right to use the platform, and have harshed the rules for obtaining data.

President Trump and his campaign, of course, want to distance as many of the ex-advisers as possible. But the Facebook scandal is not the only reason Trump's team should be distanced from "Cambridge Analytica". An investigation by investigative journalists showed how Alexander Nix, director general of "Cambridge Analytica", and other leaders, boasted about the many tricks they could offer to their customers. One of the "services" they offered, as they said during the tapping, was the introduction of trapped politicians using Ukrainian prostitutes, or that attracted opponents to inflict financial violations during the campaign, and produce false news. Even if Trump's team has never used these services, even if Cambridge Analytica executives have said it in vain to show off to clients (or, as they say, to find malicious actors in politics), these councilors have become a clear political obstacle.

But should anyone be surprised that Facebook has allowed foreign companies to access the data of 50 million users? Facebook has been providing such data to advertisers for years, and the user has not forced anyone to write the data. "Cambridge Analytica" may have many fouls, but data capture can be the smallest sin among them.

Facebook remains one of the most valuable companies in the world. Can anyone ask where this money comes from? There are really 1.4 billion users, but they do not pay anything to access the platform, and they can use it as much as they want. It's 100% free.

Money comes from advertising. And Facebook's priority to sell more ads than others is that there is such a large user base that it can promise companies to send ads to demographic groups they want. Do you want to advertise something only Kansas residents who were born after the 90s who own a home? Facebook enables this. Do you want to advertise anything to retirees in Japan? Facebook also makes this possible.

Facebook sells advertising based on the knowledge it has for you. It's all the core of this business. It is foolish to think that it can happen differently.

Companies that come as third parties can also use the data as well. In 2007, Zuckerberg opened the Facebook platform for external programmers who could build their apps outside of Facebook, and through them they could connect to the user by getting personal data. Thanks to the opportunities provided by the social network to have a lot of friends, these third-party applications can receive data not only for those who have installed it, but also for their friends. This is a basic element of Facebook's structure, which multiplies the power of advertising several times. That's how Cambridge Analytica got data for 50 million users, using friends of only 272,000 users who had installed their app and allowed the guest list to be read.

"Cambridge Analytica" was not the first company with a political connection to discover this opportunity offered by social networks, and not the first to use it. As the Washington Post reports, Barack Obama's electoral campaign team had used the same mechanisms to build a huge organization on social networks. The New York Times reported in 2013 that Obama's moves to collect these data had raised alerts on the Facebook system, but they simply disregarded it. "They said we could do as much as we wanted, enough that we would not do it after the November 7th elections," a campaigner reported. This way has not been less intrusive. "We were looking to look at the photos, but in fact our goal was to see who you were labeled in the picture," said the same employee for The Times. "Photos are a good way to discover old schoolmates or ex-girlfriends."

The key is when the service is provided free of charge, you are not a customer. You are the product. If you do not want to become a product, do not register at all. Or simply, do not enter personal data without end and look for how their financial model works and how much their work depends on customer records. "Cambridge Analytica" may have many accounts to give. But just like with Captain Louis Renault at Casablanka, this great amazement as you play gambling at social networking casinos seems more like intentional ignorance.

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