Right off the top, I don’t care about the Facebook privacy scandal. Whether your account was “compromised” or not, you probably shouldn’t either. Far more interesting is the outrage which, for some people at least, has been akin to discovering a stranger snooping through their bedroom closet. I struggle to understand a lot of things, and this sense of intrusion is apparently one of them.
If you created a profile, not only on Facebook but any social media site, at a bare minimum your intentions for doing so were to make it possible for other people to find you online. Whatever privacy settings you were prompted to establish, themselves bypassed with nothing more than a simple “friend” request, you voluntarily extended a part of yourself into the soupy quagmire of the internet, and like all actions it wasn’t risk-free. The incredible power of these sites to connect long-lost friends and estranged family members comes, similarly, at a price; information. The more people you want to occupy your network, the more information you need to offer up. Without this trade-off Sally, the girl you were best friends with in elementary school before you moved away, will never know that you had the best pasta at the fancy new restaurant near your house.
I admit, I am being facetious. My contempt for social media, and the quasi-necessity of it, only gets worse the older I get. The point still stands. Like most people, you probably created your Facebook account because everyone else was doing it, idly filling in the various fields with little thought before clicking on the ubiquitous “Agree” box at the bottom of the screen. Nobody reads those things, not even when the internet was still in its infancy, and if you did you’d want to make sure to have a tab open to dictionary.com. “But that doesn’t mean I gave them permission to access my information in this specific instance!” you might be prepared to say, but how concerned were you about it in the first place? If any of you have accepted or sent a friend request to someone you weren’t really sure you know, then the answer to that question is “not at all”.
So what is everyone really upset about? Perhaps it was because, like I suggested earlier, they weren’t consulted before their already public profiles were skimmed for information. Maybe it was because Cambridge Analytica found the most expedient means of harvesting that information, a method already used by other data mining companies. My suggestion is this; Facebook and Cambridge Analytica are nothing more than sacrifices to an overarching political agenda, a convenient target towards which biased journalists and activists can direct their ire. Nobody cares when you see Amazon ads suggesting new pieces of shit based on your shopping habits, but this is beyond the pale. Why, you ask? Your guess is as good as mine, but I guarantee you that for the people screaming loudest it has sweet fuck-all to do with their privacy.
Ultimately, the onus was never on Facebook to protect your privacy, but on all of us. We are the first and last line of defense when it comes to our personal information, so when you step back and consider it carefully, maybe, just maybe, plastering a page with more than you were actually willing to share was a bad idea. These days you don’t even have the promise of anonymity if something untoward happens to you in public. Disaster, or at minimum humiliation, is precisely one smartphone and an awkward situation from internet infamy. Careers are ruined by private messages, lives ruined over taped conversations leaked to the media, and we as a society sit back and feast gleefully so long as we’re not the ones under the microscope. So if you’re still reading this, and I can only assume you are, and still feel outraged about Facebook, I’ve got nothing else to say.