Do People Want A Better Facebook, Or A Dead Facebook?

from the there's-a-difference dept

The question in the title is one that I actually think is worth discussing, because seeing the reactions to both Mark Zuckerberg's announced plans for greater privacy in Facebook's messaging tools, and to Elizabeth Warren's not very well thought out plan to break up Facebook, it seems quite clear that some people just want the company dead at any cost. Indeed, I've seen a lot of people pointing to this AP article, derisively, about how Facebook's plans for more privacy are all a misleading game because the the company might profit from it.

As if that's a bad thing.

For years, we kept getting told that the reason big companies like Facebook and Google didn't treat user privacy very carefully was because there was profit in scooping up all our data, and that there were no profits in privacy. This was seen as a problem. Yet, now that Facebook is exploring ways to provide more privacy and snoop less, some are still complaining that it might profit from it? Shouldn't we want to see business models that align with protecting user privacy? Shouldn't we want companies to realize that protecting user privacy both can and should be profitable as well? Won't that encourage companies to move away from data surveillance business models into ones that are more respectful to end users?

That's why I highlighted the positive concepts in Zuckerberg's post. Because I think it's good to encourage companies to go in the right direction.

But many people, clearly, do not agree. And, as far as I can tell, the thinking is that they don't care about a better Facebook or a Facebook that protects privacy. All they want is a damaged or (even better) a dead Facebook. And, frankly, that kind of thinking makes no sense to me. Look, I'm all for something better coming along and killing off Facebook that way. I'm all for creative destruction -- especially the kind that destroys big stodgy businesses by giving their customers a much, much better experience. But, focusing just on killing off Facebook for no reason other than "company bad" doesn't make much sense. Like it or not, billions of people use Facebook.

And most people can agree that Facebook has a history of fairly egregious behavior at times, but slamming the company for finally doing something positive, doesn't seem particularly productive. It doesn't encourage other companies to do the right thing either. Sure, it makes sense if your goal is just a "dead Facebook," but arguing for a "dead Facebook" for no other reason than you just don't like Facebook is irrational. I want to see more competition in the marketplace, and I'd love to see Facebook not be as dominant. But I'd also greatly prefer a Facebook that is a good actor, rather than a bad one.

Filed Under: antitrust, big tech, consumers, elizabeth warren, mark zuckerberg, privacy
Companies: facebook


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  1. identicon
    TFG, 13 Mar 2019 @ 11:44am

    I have removed myself from Facebook as much as possible. I went through the process of deleting my profile entirely from their system, and I've set up browser extensions to block their trackers. I can't do anything about the shadow profile thing, but I can keep them out of my business, and keep them from delivering anything to me.

    The only reason I still had a Facebook was to connect with my parents, who were until recently across an ocean from me. My parents still use it to connect with certain people. In its core functionality, on which everything else is bolted, Facebook still serves a purpose of connecting people to each other.

    As much as I dislike it, I don't advocate for removing the ease of connection that Facebook provides people. I understand why the average person uses it, and why they would want to use it. It's a lot easier to find an old connection on Facebook than it is outside of Facebook, and those interactions are, for many, desirable. I personally don't care for them, but that's me.

    Since it provides an actual service that is desirable to a significant number of people, I don't advocate for Death at All Costs. It has serious problems that need fixing, but there's no simple answer. Kill Facebook, and you have a massive gap in the market that will be filled one way or another - and everybody who used Facebook will be forced to make all those connections again.

    I'd prefer a better Facebook. I don't know how that can be done, but that's what I'd prefer.


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