"Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride"
Forget it, Jake, It's Facebook
The quote is from Hunter S. Thompson, who felt an ironic contempt for our propensity to complain about the consequences of our own bad choices (a topic he knew well). Which brings me to the latest Facebook uproar. People are so shocked - SHOCKED! - to learn that Facebook was gamed by a digital agency working for Donald Trump.
My take is that it's far from shocking. Something like this was bound to happen. In using Facebook and other social media sites, you should know that you are taking on a high degree of risk. I do know it, which is why I use Facebook sparingly and selectively, with my eyes wide open.
Nothing that you do or say there is private. Everything is catalogued by the site owners for the purpose of creating a consumer profile. Having millions of consumer profiles on inventory gives Facebook the ability to narrowcast ads based on user affinity. It's all about precision delivery. That's what Mark Zuckerberg is referencing when he uses this vague term "your data."
You pay for the use of Facebook with what I'll call your retail identity. It's an in-kind transaction in which you participate - wittingly or not - in the creation of your individual consumer profile. The profile is based on your posts and your clicks, plus any personal details you may choose to reveal in your account settings. And now it's also going to include dating profile information volunteered by millions of users participating in the company's new hookup service.
So in this sense Facebook is the most sophisticated surveillance system ever built. But no you musn't compare it with Big Brother, because you are surveilled only if you opt in. You have to open the door and invite Big Brother into your house. Facebook is actually fairly transparent about all of this. The Terms of Service which you didn't read tells all about it.
This system allows Facebook to serve you ads based on your logarathmically modeled profile affinities - including your political leanings and hot-button passions. Hence Facebook can efficiently target you for political ads which challenge your views or reinforce them, depending on the needs of the advertiser.