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.
|Hacked Refrigerator Was Sending Out Malicious Emails|
|Vaguely Rude Place Names of the World|
|Everyone's Life on Facebook is Better Than Yours|
|P-Hold: Simple Placeholder Image Service Powered by Flickr's CC-Licensed Images|
|The Wab: 100% HTML5 Graphics and Animation|
|Fake Name Generator|
|“Are the puppets coming for our jobs?”|
|“Research that could engineer dinosaurs back into existence within the next five to 10 years.”|
|Japanese Robot Serves Ice Cream From Inside a Vending Machine|
|“A man-powered machine that creates scarfs in 5 minutes.”|
|How to Avoid Jury Duty|
|Google Map Shows You the Most Photographed Areas of the World|
|“The only thing worse than assuming that carbon removal will save the day is assuming it will save the day.”|
|The (Very Scary) People of Public Transit|
|CaptchaTweet: Write Tweets in Captcha Form|
|“A machine meant to hurl rockets into space.”|
|What Computers See When They Watch a Movie|