On the London Review of Books (LRB), John Lancaster has a lengthy essay on how, in a period of time shorter than any other mass adoption by humanity, Facebook has become entrenched in everyone's lives. Lancaster is quick to remind us that the user isn't Facebook customer. The marketers are.
What this means is that even more than it is in the advertising business, Facebook is in the surveillance business. Facebook, in fact, is the biggest surveillance-based enterprise in the history of mankind. It knows far, far more about you than the most intrusive government has ever known about its citizens. It’s amazing that people haven’t really understood this about the company. I’ve spent time thinking about Facebook, and the thing I keep coming back to is that its users don’t realise what it is the company does. What Facebook does is watch you, and then use what it knows about you and your behaviour to sell ads. I’m not sure there has ever been a more complete disconnect between what a company says it does — ‘connect’, ‘build communities’ — and the commercial reality. Note that the company’s knowledge about its users isn’t used merely to target ads but to shape the flow of news to them. Since there is so much content posted on the site, the algorithms used to filter and direct that content are the thing that determines what you see: people think their news feed is largely to do with their friends and interests, and it sort of is, with the crucial proviso that it is their friends and interests as mediated by the commercial interests of Facebook. Your eyes are directed towards the place where they are most valuable for Facebook.
Of note, the comments following the article on LRB are often a very good read.
|News Sites Rethink Anonymous Online Comments|
|Why the Internet Didn't Work So Well Yesterday|
|The Internet Makes Stupid People Stupider and Smart People Smarter|
|"Facebook might understand your romantic prospects better than you do."|
|Facebook Updates Replacing Letters from the Front|
|“The static fire is one of the last major tests prior to the maiden launch.”|
|“People are getting rid of their cash.”|
|“To create particles with negative mass.”|
|Pat the Zombie: A Cruel Adult Spoof of 'Pat the Bunny'|
|Naked Preacher Lady [NSFW]|
|“World's first passenger drone.”|
|How to Avoid Jury Duty|
|“Changes to the platform announced by Zuckerberg, will likely make the problem worse.”|
|“The first-ever driverless mass transit test program.”|
|“Some of us will do anything to be liked.”|
|“AI codes its own ‘AI Child’.”|
|How to Escape Planet Earth|