Fear Facebook, but not because of privacy

By Toby Manhire In Technology, The Internaut

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fbprivFacebook is all about privacy these days, sporting a host of dials and knobs you can turn to determine who sees your stuff.

But the behemoth of social networks can afford to changes its approach, writes Evgeny Morozov in the Financial Times, because it has found better ways to understand, and “nudge”, its users.

Recently it faced criticism for an experiment in which it quietly removed from some users’ feeds more negative posts and more positive posts from others’.

“This revealed that those exposed to positive posts feel happier and write more positive posts as a result,” writes Morozov. “This, in turn, results in more clicks, which result in more advertising revenue.”

The experiment is evidence that “Facebook does not hesitate to tinker with its algorithms if it suits its business or social agenda”, says Morozov, one of the most interesting and challenging writers on technology today.

In an op-ed headlined “Facebook invades your personality, not your privacy”, he writes:

The reason to fear Facebook and its ilk is not that they violate our privacy. It is that they define the parameters of the grey and mostly invisible technological infrastructure that shapes our identity …

A robust privacy debate should ask who needs our data and why, while proposing institutional arrangements for resisting the path offered by Silicon Valley. Instead of bickering over interpretations of Facebook’s privacy policy as if it were the US constitution, why not ask how our sense of who we are is shaped by algorithms, databases and apps, which extend political, commercial and state efforts to make us – as the dystopian Radiohead song has it – “fitter, happier, more productive”?


See also: The first social media election, just like all the others

Morozov’s reasons to hate Silicon Valley

The Zucks of tomorrow say Facebook will prevail

Morozov on the death of the cyberflâneur and the rise of the sharing fetish

Five-word TED talks – a selection

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