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Commentary: Facebook friends?! Try Facebook's guinea pigs
Published on July 11, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Anthony L Hall
 

People are up in arms about the recent revelation that Facebook manipulated its users during a psychological study…

User Interface designers and researchers at places like Google, Facebook or Yahoo! regularly tweak the live site’s interface for a subset of visitors to see whether users behave differently in response. While this technique shines new light on user behavior, the overall goal is to bring the company more revenue through more users, clicks or glances at ads.

(TIME, July 2, 2014)

Frankly, if you are among the millions of Facebook users who feel betrayed by this revelation, all I can say is, I told you so … repeatedly, including most recently in “Facebook Complaining about NSA Spying? Ha!” The iPINIONS Journal, March 15, 2014:

You are probably aware that President Obama appointed a commission to recommend cosmetic changes to the NSA programs. But he only did so to avoid having to point out how stupid the American people are for buying into Snowden’s self-righteous and misguided outrage. After all, the NSA collects metadata for the sole purpose of trying to keep them safe.

By contrast, these outraged nincompoops are showing nary a concern about tech companies tracking every move they make online for the sole purpose of trying to sell them stuff. Which makes the open letter Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo!, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and AOL sent to Obama last week complaining about NSA surveillance a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.

But it speaks volumes about Facebook’s sense of entitlement in this respect that -- where Obama took immediate steps to allay public concerns about NSA spying -- its COO Sheryl Sandberg insists that public concerns about this psychological study stem from nothing more than a failure to communicate:

This was part of ongoing research companies do to test different products, and that was what it was; it was poorly communicated. And for that communication we apologize. We never meant to upset you.

(Huffington Post, July 2, 2014)

In other words, get over yourselves Facebook users!

hall.jpg
Anthony L. Hall is a Bahamian who descends from the Turks and Caicos Islands. He is an international lawyer and political consultant - headquartered in Washington DC - who also publishes a current events weblog, The iPINIONS Journal, at http://ipjn.com
Truth be told, I don’t blame Facebook for treating its users like mindless guinea pigs. After all, why take seriously the concerns of people who blithely share all manner of personal information about themselves on social networks but become indignant at the NSA for mining that information -- not for profit or experimentation, mind you, but to keep them safe.

Not to mention that its sense of entitlement is duly based on the fact that it provides users all of its selfie-promoting, self-flattering, and self-deluding services free of charge….

If my informed cynicism does not resonate with you, just ask yourself why it is that every time you hear about private information being hacked and exposed, it always involves an account held with private companies like Target or social networks like Twitter. Whereas nobody had ever heard of NSA accounts being hacked and exposed … until Edward Snowden perpetrated his now notorious betrayal.

At any rate, this revelation only reinforces my contention that Snowden would’ve provided a far more useful public service if his leaks had focused more on the spying social networks are doing for profit and less on that which the NSA is doing for security.

But I trust it will finally reveal for all to see that, when it comes to the invasion of privacy rights, we have far more to fear from Facebook than the NSA.

Meanwhile, for good measure, just last week the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board issued its long-awaited report on Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act:

[T]he NSA, CIA, and FBI have used [this section] to justify collecting the contents of emails and other electronic communications from web services or directly through internet backbone cables. It’s the rule that governs PRISM, one of the first surveillance systems to be revealed by Edward Snowden.

According to the board, though, it’s completely legal.

[Most significantly] the board says it’s seen 20 cases where PRISM or upstream surveillance helped an existing investigation, as well as 30 cases where it catalyzed a new one: a ‘rough count of these cases identifies well over one hundred arrests on terrorism-related offenses,’ it says.

(The Verge, July 2, 2014)

Of course, the self-righteously misguided Snowden thought this kind of surveillance smacked of such a police state that he figured he’d enjoy more democratic freedoms in places like China, Cuba, Venezuela, and Russia. Russia, of course, is where he’s enjoying “temporary” refuge shrouded in ignorant bliss from the contradiction inherent in playing the role of useful idiot for its neo-Stalinist president, Vladimir Putin….

But here’s the real question for all Facebook users who hailed him as a hero: given that Snowden left the United States to register his protest against the NSA’s pervasive spying, are you prepared to leave Facebook to register your protest against its pervasive spying, financial exploitation, and emotional manipulation?

Related commentaries:
Facebook complaining

 
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