The East German secret service would have pissed themselves with glee, if they’d had access to all of Facebook’s data.
I know, I know. “Who is stupid enough to believe the internet is not tracking your every move?” you might say. And you are correct.
But who is the internet?
If every small website tracks you while you are visiting it, would you mind? Probably not. But if one corporation tracked 30% of all web traffic worldwide (aka Facebook), and knew which websites you’ve checked out, how much time you’ve spent on each page, each section, which pictures you looked at the longest, which links you clicked, which products you purchased, or left in your cart, and which links you shared with your friends via private messaging, would you still not mind?
If artificial intelligence (the same thing that recommends products to you on Amazon, for example) then serves you information according to what it thinks you want or need to see, would you still don’t care?
I probably don’t need to explain in detail what Cambridge Analytica did. The essence is this:
The democratic process is broken when citizen data are abused to influence elections.
And even that shouldn’t come as a surprise, because that’s how social media marketing works. Social media marketers use your data to influence you into buying a product. They gauge your readiness to purchase, and if you’re not ready yet, they will try to get you there. Once you reached the point where you believe you need the product, you’ll commit to buy. It’s what I did when marketing my books through Facebook and Instagram. It’s what every social media marketer does who wants to make a profit.
I’m guilty. I did my own share of social media marketing, although I always found it pretty creepy. My target audience often were women aged 35 to 65, who own a Kindle or are Amazon customers, and who are fans of certain authors. People who have visited my website and clicked a link. People who signed up to my newsletter. But that’s the least creepy part of the targeting thing.
The really creepy part is that anyone with a Facebook marketing account can target your sexual orientation, annual income, marital status, number and age of your kids, and whether or not you might have a debilitating disease.
You don’t need to write the stuff into your profile page. Facebook analyses your online behaviour and draws conclusions about you. Are you in the habit of liking posts from cancer charities? Have you sent links about a rare form of cancer to your friends via SMS or Messenger? Well, chances are that you or one of your loved ones have/had/has cancer. So why not sell a miracle cure to you?
The logical next step is to use those data to influence more than just your purchase behaviour.
The problem is that deleting my Facebook, Instagram (which is Facebook), WhatsApp (which is Facebook), and Twitter accounts would mean cutting ties with my friends and readers. Besides, during the past years as an indie author, I tried to get a shitload of people to follow me on social media. Which means I have at least partial responsibility for them using Facebook. Just deleting my accounts and showing everyone the finger isn’t the whole solution. After much huffing and puffing and mulling things over, I decided to delete my “normal” social media accounts, and make my own social network – one that respects the privacy of the users (below is a screenshot, if you got curious). I wasn’t sure if people would come. After all, it’s “yet another social thingy.”
But holy shit did they come! I’m not sure if it’s my weird ramblings, or the safety and privacy of this social space (without ads, yay!), but the place is buzzing! And we have a Bookworm Café!