Facebook charges its users!
A dramatic byline….. ostensibly it hasn’t broken its vow that it is “free to use and always will be“, and there isn’t a pay-wall being erected around it. That said, with the hefty price tag it just paid for WhatsApp, it may well have to consider things!.
But Facebook has always charged, as has Twitter, and Google and so on. So it hasn’t had a Direct Debit mandate, but they have taken something you have freely offered in return for perpetual use of the site for free, and have marketed that. Your most valuable information; your preferences, your search history, your favourite band, most checked in pub, your beach snaps, all of this adds up to a data-miner’s paradise.
A quick calculation on Facebook’s market capitalisation just prior to the WhatsApp deal and its self-declared active users at the end of 2013 suggests your “most personal data” is worth a mere $13 (simply dividing one by the other), or in other words, that’s the value of one free website subscription for life.
Nothing there is really new and we’ve heard it all before. But what does it have to do with Edward Snowden?
Well, we all know this fellow. He blew the whistle on Western electronic surveillance; mass internet monitoring with, seemingly, the approval and/or co-operation of some major internet players. According to some sources, only 1% of the documents have been leaked, which makes you wonder what else was going on. Incidentially, my two favourite revelations have been the spying on Angela Merkel’s phone, and the National Security Agency playing characters in World of Warcraft to spy on “love interests” (read into that what you will).
Regardless what you may think of Edward Snowden (I am personally torn between a hatred of anything that risks national security and those that put their lives on the line to protect it and my inherent libertarian bias) or your political views and whether or not his whistle-blowing was the right thing to do or not (that’s a debate that we could have for years and never reach a conclusion), you do have to wonder how all of this came about. I have a simple view; the Governments merely exploited an opportunity created by our own naivety – an opportunity exploited by Amazon and Facebook et al for years; that we are so willing to broadcast our most personal data in return for small favours, be it a cheaper DVD or access to a site to troll our friends’ photos. No amount of Data Protection Legislation is going to overcome the basic economics of this situation; many don’t really value our data and privacy enough to prevent the large scale State monitoring revealed by Edward Snowden. Until that fundamentally changes, Enterprises and Government alike will have a data treasure trove within easy grasp and we will have to continue to endure the consequences.
Finally, I do have to say, that if you get caught trying to blow something up because you were chatting up an NSA Agent on World of Warcraft, well, that’s basic Darwinism really!