A recent TechCrunch post was published that was a reaction to news that Cambridge Analytica allegedly helped influence the outcome of the last US presidential election, based upon a treasure trove of Facebook data that the analytics firm obtained under somewhat questionable tactics. The details of the Cambridge Analytics/Facebook story are complex, convoluted and sketchy, but enough has been written elsewhere about them – I’d rather comment on the TechCrunch article itself. Suffice it to say that more recent information uncovered about Cambridge Analytica indicates that they are truly evil, and less about data than they are about honeytraps and blackmail.

In the article, the author scream of a conspiracy and suggests that Facebook is a cancer. He suggests that his “posts older than about a week are fodder for bots and bad actors.” He points out to Facebook users that:

Ultimately you’ve created the largest dossier on yourself and you’ve done it freely, even gleefully. This dossier reflects your likes, your dislikes, your feelings, and political leanings. It includes clear pictures of your face from all angles, images of your pets and family, and details your travels. You are giving the world unfettered access to your life. It’s wonderful to imagine that this data will be used by a potential suitor who will fall in love with your street style. It’s wonderful to imagine you will scroll through Facebook at 80 and marvel at how you looked at the turn of the century. It’s wonderful to imagine that Facebook is a place to share ideas, dreams, and hopes, a human-to-human connection engine that gives more than it takes.

Instead, he points out that Facebook is simply a big data collection service utilized by one class of organization alone – corporations that want to sell you products by hyper-targeting you based on the variables Facebook helps them determine. Facebook is, he suggests, a perfect tool for marketers and a user-generated paradise run by devils.

Of course this emotive and shouty diatribe is par for the course for a publication that, after all, sees its role in life as telling the stories of all of those myriad of startups that are delivering to the 1% of the 1%, the multitudinous laundry services, coconut water delivery offerings and juice machine startups who focus solely on giving twenty-something Silicon Valley people exactly what their mother no longer does for them anymore. If you fail to see the irony in a publication which is the epitome of commercially-driven self-absorption pillorying a platform that is all about self-absorption then, well maybe you’re a part of the problem.

But rather than these grandiose suggestions of what will never occur, namely that people delete Facebook and somehow try and turn back the clock, how about we think of other ways of righting the alleged wrong that Facebook and its ilk create?

As we heard, Facebook 9and, for that matter, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter et al) are being used to push tailored marketing down our throats. but there are two issues with that analysis: firstly, it totally ignores the fact that we all love the self-validation and fame/infamy that these platforms enable – they’re the ultimate delivery of Warhol’s “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” prediction.

But beyond that, the past assumes that we are simply automatons ready to be coerced by this subtle advertising. It supposes that we have zero control over our own decision-making processes. Well, screw that! We are all individuals that have sentience and make decisions for ourselves. I worry about a world in which we blame everyone but ourselves for the decisions that we make. Since the advent of advertising, we’ve been bombarded with messages attempting to sway our decision-making process, but how we react to those messages is our own choice.

So here’s an idea: instead of deleting Facebook, how about we let their customers, the corporations, waste their money. Let’s make our own decisions ourselves and happily ignore the marketing and psycho-social recommendations that Facebook offers up to us. Facebook is the medium, how we react to that medium is our own choice.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.


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