2 Feb 2017

Facebookistan -- the review

This documentary was made by a Danish filmmaker who had watched Facebook ignore or roll over many people's privacy and preferences, e.g., forcing drag queens to use their real names in profiles, tracking personal data in unnamed, opaque ways, etc.

[You can watch the whole doc. online here for now. Here's the trailer.]

The central story in the movie is an Austrian activist/lawyer's attempts to get Facebook to follow EU privacy guidelines, a battle that he won over the protests that "Facebook gets to decide how to control what it controls in the way it wants to control data."

I'm no fan of Facebook, and this movie only added to my concerns, which range from "if the product is free, then you're the product" to Facebook distorting our "feeds" intentionally (to make money) or accidentally (programmers need to group people in "buckets").*

Many people have pointed out that participation on Facebook is voluntary but I see it as "voluntary" in the same way as using a phone to reach another phone is voluntary. Facebook is basically a utility at this point (due to its network economies), and as such it should be regulated to ensure that access remains fair to all citizens.

My first regulation would be to allow people to move all their data (and potential connections) to another platform (just as with phone "number portability"). My second would require that Facebook make it easy for people to delete as much data as they want, with as few clicks as possible (e.g., "delete all posts/IMs/photos with X", where X is an "ex-friend"). Facebook will not do any of this (indeed, it keeps a list of your "ex friends" in its database) unless it's forced to do so.

It's time to use some force.

Bottom Line: Facebook "rules" over 1.9 billion people who have no rights or recourse to abuse. I give this documentary FIVE STARS for its exposure of Facebook's hypocritical claims to want to "connect your world" (it really wants to sell you to advertisers).

* Read this article on Cambridge Analytica on how firms are using data to create "psychometric" profiles of users' fears, beliefs, etc., that can then be used to send them advertisements or political messages. The first problem is that these messages play on fears. The second is that they can be lies or contradictory b/c the only goal is clicks/votes, etc. Trump paid them $15 million.

H/T to JB

For all my reviews, go here.

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