While Facebook and Google claim to be collecting data to improve lives, these claims are almost certainly ideological. In reality, they use data to manipulate users and maximsize their own profits, and this is all part of a long standing logic of control through surveillance.
Blockchain based social media seems to be based on a different logic, but whether it can disrupt these social media companies remainst to be seen!
This post evolved out of reading a chapter of Christian Fuch’s (2017) Social Media: A Critical Introduction.
Facebook and Google: fake advocates of the universal benefits of data sharing?
Social Media corporations have long expressed the view that privacy is outdated. Both Eric Schmidt and Mark Zuckerberg have long been advocates for massive data sharing, claiming that making data more open will help improve understanding between people and make the world a better place.
What they often fail to mention, however, is that when people ‘share data’, they are not only sharing it with their friends and family, but also with Google and Facebook, the two largest data storage and processing companies in the world.
They also fail to mention that once collected, user data is ‘used against’ the social media users who have freely given it.
For example, we’ve probably all experienced ‘targeted ads’ on various consumer sites: having just bought a new pair of Asics trainers, all of a sudden, you’re getting ads for Asics trainers popping up on that blog you’re reading. This is because of your data being used to target ads more directly at you, making it more likely that you’ll buy shit you don’t need.
These companies also allow third party developers access to user data, ostensibly so that these third parties can find out more about who exactly is using their products and tweak them accordingly. However, this can take a more sinister turn, as with Cambridge Analytica using Facebook’s data to manipulate the political process in Britain and the USA.
Facebook, Google and the anti-privacy ideology
It follows that the claims Facebook and Google make about ‘wanting to make the world a better place through helping people share more’ are probably ideological. In other words, a front, a fiction, a smokescreen.
In reality, the naked truth is that these are commercial (big data) companies who want users to waive their right to privacy so they can amass as much personal data as possible in order to make as much profit as possible.
Privacy for Corporations but not for Users?
In contradiction to their claims that ‘data sharing’ is good for ordinary people, Facebook and Google prefer to keep aspects of their own dealings private.
When it comes to their own financial issues, namely profit and tax, they go to great lengths to keep these details secret, with as many financial details as possible being buried in tax havens. Even if they are required to publish accounts, it is difficult for the average person to understand them, and tax is avoided by recording huge sums (sometimes millions of dollars) as ‘administrative expenses’, and there is effectively no way of finding out what much of this money was spent on!
There is also the fact that in 2013 Mark Zukerberg bought 4 estates which surrounded his house in Palo Alto for $30 million to ‘protect his privacy’, suggesting that privacy is something you are entitled to if you’re rich enough, but that you shouldn’t worry about if you’re poor.
Facebook and Google: extending the logic of control through surveillance?
Michel Foucault (1977) first pointed out that surveillance is a key mechanism of social control in modern societies – the powerful collect data on the powerless and use that data to manipulate them, while the powerful also resist data being collected on themselves.
It seems that with modern day social media corporations, this situation holds true…. Because Google and Facebook hold the personal details (name, locality, DOB, sex etc.) and can correlate this data with likes and consumption habits, this can be used to steer future users’ future actions through targeted ads, or even sway elections, depending on who the information is sold onto.
Then there’s the issue of inequality and disempowerment…. As individuals, we have given this information away for free, and yet it has become a valuable commodity, a commodity that only the richest of institutional agents can now afford to buy. It’s unlikely, for example, that a social movement will ever have the funds to purchase Google data to try and make positive change more effectively.
A few thoughts on data on blockchain based social media as a Facebook disrupter….
If we must post, comment, like and share, then dapps are being evolved on the steem blockchain that will soon allow us to do everything we can currently do on Facebook, maybe minus the pretty aesthetics.
And It seems to me that blockchain based social media has the potential to completely undermine Facebook’s business model (I don’t know so much about Google) for at least the following reasons:
- Because it’s ‘privacy first’, there is no ‘personal user data’ stored on the blockchain…. Because of this I imagine it would be of very limited use for developing targeted ads, because you cannot correlate what ‘type of person’ ‘likes’ what ‘content’.
- The data is not ‘owned’ by anyone, it’s just open access, freely available, so it cannot be sold on. Some clever person could commodify it IF they could find some funky correlations in there, but I think there’s limited scope to do this, and certainly not on a mass scale.
- Because it’s decentralised, I imagine it’s much less appealing to large Corporations… they don’t have an audience to advertise to ‘all in one place’ – there are several diverse communities interacting via several front-ends.
As a result of ‘thinking this stuff through’ I’m somewhat blow away by just how different Facebook and steem are as social media (I know steem is more than social media) models…. So different it’s difficult to make a comparison. AND I think I’ve only just scratched the surface above.
I’m also left wondering whether steem will ever appeal to large corporations? Surely it can’t, it just feels like an environment that will never be appealing to them, unless they come here by stealth to undermine it?
Finally, given that ordinary users are so used to the big four tech companies, so used to just giving their data away for free, I think mass adoption of disruptive blockchain based social media is a long way off!
This post was written for educational purposes.
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If you are a blogger, vlogger, entrepeneur or developer, or even if you just like good content, you should get on steem: it’s social media 4.0!
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Zuckerberg – https://blog.aftership.com/best-inspirational-quotes-mark-zuckerberg-facebook-f8/