Calacanis Blasts Facebook

Those who know me realize that I have as much use for Facebook as I have for a hair dryer. I don’t like Facebook, don’t trust the people who run it, and will not patronize it. To my mind, Facebook is the webification of evil.

For a while there, I felt like a voice in the wilderness. When I first began my jeremiad against Facebook, few were willing to join the dissenting chorus. Everybody was too busy doing things on Facebook to pay notice to the critics who weren’t on it.

Perhaps the worm has turned. I think it’s an encouraging sign that somebody as influential as Jason Calacanis has taken pointed issue with Facebook Uber Alles, the company’s dishonest, jackbooted, unethical crusade to subjugate the Internet to its self-aggrandizing ends.

Anyway,, I encourage you to read Calacanis’ forceful, passionate repudiation of Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. It has the dual virtue of being entertaining and true.

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6 responses to “Calacanis Blasts Facebook

  1. I guess it takes one unethical sociopath to know another. However, I think Jason Calcanis is worse than Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg is in a much more powerful position and thus has the potential to do a lot more damage, though.

    I disagree with a lot of Calcanis’ screed (and yours, too) but without knowing all the details of many of the events and without knowing Zuckerberg personally I am not willing to attack him like you two. Calcanis’ list of people who have been “Zucked” has some ridiculous items on it:

    “1. FourSquare was Zucked when Facebook stole their check-in feature.”

    Uhh… what? Human history is ripe with examples of good ideas being copied and adapted. This is unethical how? Certainly not any more unethical than Apple incorporating “widgets” into OS X (copy of Konfabulator) or Microsoft incorporating disk compression into MS-DOS (copy of Stacker).

    “2. Twitter was Zucked when Facebook stole their public facing profiles”

    Uhhh… what? This is ridiculous. Facebook “stole” this idea from Twitter? The feature is obvious. I think Facebook chose to implement this obvious idea.

    As far as the other items on the list, some of them obviously have an element of truth since there is documentation (IM messages showing that Zuckerberg didn’t deliver on verbal commitments to ConnectU people, purposely delaying them) but others are impossible to call unless you were there (co-founder kicked out — there could be a lot of extenuating circumstances and nuance there).

    I think Zuckerberg has done questionable things, the most egregious of which seem to have occurred before he was 21 years old. I also did some questionable things as a teenager and college-aged young adult and now am a reformed and upstanding member of society and am ashamed of those actions and wouldn’t do them again. I’m glad that my exploits are not well-publicized and are not being used to judge me now.

    • I don’t want to stray into the weeds on this one — whether Calacanis or Zuckerberg is more spiritually pure than the other is a debate for another time — but I want to clarify that my primary objection to Facebook relates to its less-than-transparent privacy policies and its cloak-and-dagger arrangements with advertisers. It should make its privacy policies clear, transparent, and easy for users to understand, and it should come clean about how it intends mine and sell subscriber data for profit.

      That it has failed to do so, despite repeated opportunities to mend its ways, tells you all you need to know about the company and its leadership.

  2. I keep hearing people talk about how Facebook is “selling subscriber data for profit” but haven’t seen one shred of evidence that is true. I’ve search around for any evidence of this and have found none. It seems to be completely based on paranoid speculation.

    Here’s how Facebook uses subscriber data for profit: anyone can sign up as an advertiser with their self-service ad platform and target ads based on demographic information (sex, age, location, etc) and even target specific networks. The advertisers don’t get access to the data: instead they purchase use of the advertising platform that is powered by the data.

    You should try it out just to be better informed about the company you love to hate on. This system is very effective for some types of advertising, but can also be completely valueless for others, or if executed without skill, which is a property it shares with Google AdSense/AdWords . Even if Zuckerberg were an ethics-less Machievellian schemer, by all accounts he thinks long-term, and so he’s not going to sell this valuable data to someone else and erode Facebook’s advantage in this type of advertising.

    • I have a feeling you have a vested interest in Facebook’s business success. Maybe you don’t, and you could prove it by coming out from your anonymous cover. For somebody championing a company that wants us to throw off the last vestiges of privacy, your insistence on anonymity is ironic and intriguing.

      Facebook has been intentionally opaque regarding its privacy practices and how it makes and intends to make money. In its bait-and-switch privacy maneuvers, it has shown contempt for and disregard toward its users. You admit the troubling possibility that Zuckberberg might be “ethics-less.” Meanwhile, he has demonstrated in the past that he will act unethically. In my experience, people — and the companies they run — don’t change their essential character.

      Facebook cannot and should not be trusted with the personal, private information of its users. If you trust them with yours, good luck to you.

  3. You’re right, I have chosen to acquire an interest in Facebook’s business success. I also have small equity positions in approximately 30 publicly traded companies and larger interests several other private companies. I don’t think my interest in Facebook blinds me to what the company is doing or makes me an unquestioning apologist for the company’s actions.

    I think you are wrong about Facebook wanting “us to throw off the last vestiges of privacy”. I’m sure their software would be easier to develop without the complication of all those privacy controls that allow users to limit exposure of most of the information they supply to Facebook in a pretty fine-grained manner. But I think we’ll just need to agree to disagree on that.

    I certainly wouldn’t provide Facebook with any information about which I’m ashamed and desperately want to hide. Of course, there’s nothing in my life now that fits that bill, so it’s moot. I post comments and photos to Facebook that I’d rather be limited to my friends and not show up in Google searches, but if they someday do I won’t be ashamed or devastated. Should that day ever come I will remove the content in question from Facebook.

    • We can agree to disagree. I have no problem with a respectful exchange of views.

      However, I don’t think the salient question is whether we have anything in our private lives we wouldn’t want exposed publicly. The issue to me is whether we want Facebook, or anybody else, to mine and sell personal user data to advertisers, marketers, and other organizations. You say Facebook wouldn’t do that, but I see a company that will stop at nothing to increase its valuation. You say Facebook can be trusted, but I argue otherwise.

      We disagree, but thanks for your comments all the same.

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