Cutting to the chase, I’ll say up front that the latest Facebook controversy doesn’t surprise me in the least.
Faceboook isn’t done generating controversies. There will be more of them.
Here’s why: Facebook is a company, a business entity, and its objective is to make profit — preferably plenty of it. To do so, it must exploit — sorry, but there’s no other term that is accurate and honest — its 175 million users.
Therein lies the rub. Many of its Facebooks users, perhaps the majority, simply perceive it as an online venue in which to meet “friends” — for now, let’s put aside whether social networking in general and Facebook in particular have devalued that formerly meaningful word — socialize, trade juicy gossip, and exchange embarrassing photographs.
But Facebook is something else, too. It’s a business. Its executives have investors breathing down their necks in search of breakneck growth and, ultimately, an obscenely rich exit scenario. Mark Zuckberberg and his team are under intense and unremitting pressure to show tangible business results.
Considering that the company continues to lose money, that means the head honchos at Facebook must continually explore how to derive revenue from the subscribers who frequent the site. If, in pursuit of filthy lucre, Facebook must compromise the privacy of its users, it will do so, because that’s the only business card it can play.
That said, Facebook will try to hide or otherwise obscure the online diminution of subscriber privacy. Most of its subscribers, even in an era of increased social exhibitionism and voyeurism, don’t want everything that Facebook knows about them sold to advertisers or to have their online postings live in perpetuity, long after their Facebook accounts have been canceled.
Still, Facebook knows confidential personal information represents a business asset, a tradable commodity. It is constantly tempted and compelled by relentless business imperatives to exploit those assets.
All of which explains why the company must attempt to sneak privacy incursions into its Terms of Service (ToS). It’s just hoping the Facebook natives don’t notice the changes. It’s easier leading lambs to the privacy slaughter if they don’t realize that’s where they’re heading.
There really isn’t much transparency into how Facebook conducts its business, to whom it sells private information and for how much. Until Facebook becomes more transparent, its subscribers might want to assume the worst.