9 Nov 2017

If Facebook is tracking us everywhere...

...to trick us into believing, buying or doing what its advertiser customers are paying for rather than what is best for us (our friends, events, or groups) then how can we protect ourselves?

I "quit" Facebook, but they are still keeping and collecting data on me, whether I am logged in, or not, whether I have an account or not.*

Perhaps my phone or computer will block some of the activity.

What other choices or actions are there?

As an economist familiar with the pros and cons of monopolies in the water sector, I know that Facebook is an abusive monopoly that is profiting from exploiting its users.** When will a regulator step in to protect us?

Your thoughts?

* Like buttons on any page are used to track you (see below), meaning that Facebook is not just collecting data on its 2 billion users but probably another 2 billion people on the internet, with perhaps the exception of China -- where even more data is collected by its domestic firms.

(And, yes, I did ask them to "delete" my account, but I am pretty sure they're still using my data.)

** The Economist's cover story: Does social media threaten democracy?


Frederick Lucies said...

I couldn't agree with you more about Facebook. I "deleted" my account over a year ago (I only joined to communicate with my Atheist Group - but I was so fed up with Facebook that I had to get it out of my life. Every time that I click on a link to read something, my login/password is still there and I can't do anything on the page unless I sign in - which I never do. I hate the hegemony of this abusive platform.

Frederick Lucies said...

And people think I'm "silly" for not using Facebook - that's the bigger thing in my mind is that people don't get it.....

DB said...

"To trick us into believing, buying or doing what its advertiser customers are paying for rather than what is best for us"

Are ads really that influential? When's the last time you saw an as an went out to buy something you didn't need, and felt tricked afterwards? What's your yearly rate of being tricked in this manner?

Ads seem to mostly be about building product awareness, not sales conversions. If FB is an abusive monopoly, specifically which rent's have they sought from you, and how would do you value them?

I do thing that social media plays a role in increasing partisanship and siloing people into political and social bubbles, but I fail to see how targeted ads accomplish that or how monopolistic behavior does. If anything, FB is too good at delivering to users' desires and doesn't serve the 'spinach' of exposure to new ideas (central to democracy) with the 'dessert' of self-confirming posts and ads. A coubterfactual more competitive social network market that catered even better to consumers would likely pile on more of that 'dessert'/dopamine.

In other words, the problem should be familiar to you as a resource economist: FB maximizes locally per-agent, while what is healthy for democracy would be located at a global maximum. Yet, I suspect that even that global max would be unstable.

David Zetland said...

@DB -- I oppose ads as they are ALWAYS distorted


FB has "network externalities" helping its market power, and its ad model means that it's interested less in you than in advertisers.

I agree that a better service would provide non-biased information, but consumers may not switch b/c they prefer to think they are "above average". Thus, the need for regulation.

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