The Internet offers its users numerous possibilities for fun, meeting new people, staying in touch with friends and family, and sharing information. It would all be alright, if some social networks are not abusing the information they gather from their users, and making money off of them. This is exactly what Facebook is rightfully accused of: collecting the so called likes their clients are utilizing to express their interests, and transforming them into enormous revenue, simultaneously creating new and additional changes in policy to make the users oblivious to this fact. All of these factors strengthen the idea that Facebook users are not really users at all, but mere puppets, products that Facebook is selling to make more and more money.
Senator Al Franken reiterated the argument that companies that are offering free services, such as Facebook, have become more accountable to advertisers than to their users, who have become the product, rather than the customer (Bosker). This means that in the world of business, the customer’s satisfaction is no longer, if it ever was, the primary goal of the companies. Rather, it is the accumulation of funds that interests them. If a Facebook user was to ask himself a very simple question, such as who is paying for his use of Facebook services, the answer would be obvious: not him. Interestingly enough, if the customer is not the one who is paying for the service, then he cannot be the customer. Thus, the only logical answer is that the client has been transformed into the product. This is exactly what Facebook has done to its users. It treats them like commodity, selling their personal information to their advertizing partners, in a never-ending cycle of accumulating more money. Instead of it being an altruistic endeavor, as it was presented in the beginning, what it is really all about is simply monetizing the social aspect of human existence. Thus, by the mere fact that Facebook users are not paying to use their services, they are getting something for free. But, as it is known to everyone, there is no such thing as a free lunch, which is exactly what is happening with Facebook owners, who are selling people’s information on their interests in order to boost sales of their advertisement partners.
In addition, Facebook not only sells people’s interests, but also their personal information, such as real names, addresses, emails and phone numbers, for the very same reason as was stated in the previous paragraph. It is well known that advertisement agencies are on the lookout for people to whom they can promote their products, and use their brainwashing techniques to make the public buy more and more things they do not really have any use for. Like Franken said, accumulating data about individuals is not just a strange hobby for these corporations, it is their whole business (Bosker). The logic behind their operations is very simple: by collecting more personal data, they make more money, while Facebook helps them along the way, participating in this get rich quick scheme.
Thirdly, Facebook has been making a lot of policy changes lately, especially due to the fact that a lot has surfaced about their selling the users information to advertisement companies. People in favor of Facebook would state that policy changes are an unavoidable part of operating a social network, especially the one as vast as Facebook. This is true, certain issues arise which must be dealt with immediately, and the clients are simply there to be told of the changes taking place. However, what Facebook is doing goes way beyond this innocent practice. Their policy changes directly affect the way a user’s information will be handled and questions their statements about keeping their users’ private information private. Frequently, the users find out about the change that occurred only when it is already too late to do anything about it. Still, this does not give Facebook the right to sell information and make billions out of unsuspecting users, while hiding behind policy changes.
So far, Facebook has agreed to pay $10 million in plaintiff’s fees (Sengupta). It appears that the true nature of their business is surfacing, and people are slowly, but surely becoming aware of what is happening to the information they shared willingly, having been promised that it will all remain confidential. Unfortunately, this is not the case, as Facebook steals information from users, sells them to advertizing companies, all the while hiding behind policy changes that make the average user confused enough to believe that what is going on is not hurting his rights in any way. This way, Facebook is making their users their products, who are blind to see the truth.
Bosker, Bianca. “Al Franken Warns Facebook, Google Users: ‘You Are Their Product’.” Huffington Post. 30 Mar. 2012. Web. 4 Sept. 2012.
Dwyer, C., S. R. Hiltz, and K. Passerini. “Trust and Privacy Concern Within Social Networking Sites: A Comparison of Facebook and MySpace.” Proceedings of AMCIS. 2007. 1–12. Web. 4 Sept. 2012.
Jones, H., and J. H. Soltren. “Facebook: Threats to Privacy.” Project MAC: MIT Project on Mathematics and Computing (2005): n. pag. Web. 4 Sept. 2012.
Sengupta, Somini. “‘Liking’ a Product on Facebook May Let User’s Name Be Used for Promotion.” Business Standard India 24 June 2012. Web. 4 Sept. 2012.
Solon, Olivia.“You Are Facebook’s Product, Not Customer.” Wired UK. Web. 4 Sept. 2012.