The Fundamental Dishonesty of Facebook

Apple will soon be showing a pop-up in the Facebook app that it requires permission to track you across apps and websites and Facebook is not happy about it.

In a blog post today, “Speaking Up for Small Businesses,” Dan Levy, VP of Ads posted a video trotting out small business owners to defend Facebook’s use of advertising and a list bullet points about why Apple should not remind users that Facebook tracks you everywhere you go on the internet.

A point Facebook makes in their blog post is this:

“It will force businesses to turn to subscriptions and other in-app payments for revenue, meaning Apple will profit and many free services will have to start charging or exit the market.”

Speaking Up for Small Businesses” Facebook Newsroom 12/16/2020

This is fundamental dishonesty by Mark Zuckerberg and the executive team at Facebook.

The product “Facebook” and its relative, Instagram are not free. They come with the cost of an intrusive violation of privacy that is opaque or misunderstood by their users.

Facebook’s harm isn’t just selling access to you based on demographic and personal interests, it includes research Facebook does to trigger you into more engagement that will cause more ad viewing.

Facebook’s need to trigger engagement was a major factor in the rise of QAnon.

“Free” services are a falsehood. Businesses should charge so they do not fall into the trap of generating increasingly triggering content and user experiences that are neither healthy nor desired by “users.”

If your product is good enough, people will pay for a pro version. We know this from products like Spotify.

It is Facebook’s fault that it will not provide a pro version of its own product because the most valuable users will no longer be available to advertisers which will greatly undermine the profit it makes from tracking-based advertising.

More simply, the most valuable people don’t want to be tracked and they are more valuable to sell to advertisers than Facebook could charge for a subsription.

Facebook is mad that Apple is pointing in this direction when they continue to use the Facebook, Instagram or its other associated enterprises.

Despite its technical excellence and open source contributions, Facebook has a putrid business model that stains the entire company.

Both Facebook’s leadership and its shareholders deserve to lose for their continued support and enablement of this horrendous blight on the internet.

When Business and Personal Life Collides – New Facebook Privacy Settings and the Status of Tiger Woods' Endorsement Contracts

Exactly what counts as private personal details has been a major theme underlying discussion in new media and old media in the past few weeks.  Here are two interesting examples of how business and people’s personal details are colliding right now.

New Media: Facebook’s Privacy Settings Updates

Facebook has made major changes to how it handles privacy settings for users.  Most likely you are familiar with the outcry and acceptance around Facebook’s push to make your updates more transparent.

Facebook was conceived around the idea of sharing detailed content like photos and notes only with your social net, which was supposed to represent your core group of friends in the meatspace.  Twitter’s growth has been in addressing the extreme opposite: sharing 140 characters worth of insight with the entire world instantly.

Facebook relies on deep engagement with its users in order to get its advertisements clicked on.  Facebook was forced to change its strategy because it was losing opportunities for interaction with its users to Twitter.  In addition, Facebook is missing out on buzz because Facebook it is seen as lacking the real time relevance of Twitter.

The update to Facebook’s Privacy Settings is a tactic in the company’s strategy to get more Facebook users to share their updates with the public or at least make it obvious that users are welcome to do so.

The problem is that average internet users are not capable of building and utilizing a set of sophisticated privacy settings.  The result is that many are unwittingly sharing what they believe is private information.  Rafe Needleman makes a great point that the initial user interface designed to guide Facebook users does more to guide them to exposing their information rather than creating the controls they want.

If these ideas are to be accepted, it suggests that Facebook is knowingly creating conditions where the details of user’s personal lives are made public because it will lead the company towards greater market share and profits.

Old Media: Tiger Woods Endorsement Contracts

Let it be known that I am not a huge fan of old media.  To be clear, this includes broadcast and time shifted television advertisements, magazine advertising and  just about any electronic sign found in sports arenas like the Rose Garden. (Go Blazers.)  My reasoning is that old media too often lacks any real context and is more about blanketing the masses with the critical six exposures rather than seeking to engage individual interests.

Celebrity endorsements or testimonials are a classic tool of old media and I couldn’t help but notice the full page advertisement for Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer, which features their “official partner” Tiger Woods.

Woods is currently deep in allegations of adultery, and after being dropped from Accenture this past Sunday the Tag Heuer made the statement that Woods’ personal life is “not our business.”

Tiger Woods Tag Heuer Celebrity Endorsement So I had a closer look at this big magazine advertisement and the text reads: “I first swung a golf club when I was nine months old…Since 1996, my Foundation has inspired more than 10 million youth…Together with TAG Heuer, I’m helping young people believe in themselves.”

My question to Tag Heuer is if you’re going to have a representative for your brand make claims about his ability to connect with and inspire children, is your representative’s personal life really not your business?  It is one thing if you are going to depict your representative as a an accomplished athlete and another if he is going to be talking about his influence on kids.

Closing

I selected these to examples because I was interested in them.  Facebook is social media, which I enjoy and Woods’ sex scandal has become interesting because of the business aspect and the general extent of what he’s described as “transgressions.”

But the greater comment I’m after is that it is easy to say that Facebook or major media has taken away people’s right to privacy.  Or to believe that there is complete compromise in participating in social networking or great accomplishment that puts you in the public spotlight.

However, who controls your personal information and the judgement of exactly what is a constitutes “personal life” is a moving target.  New technologies and dollars and cents will affect what you get to keep private as much as evolving social mores.

Facebook User Interface Revision and Revolt

One of my guides for creating a slick FB profile recently made PC World’s list of 10 tips for Facebook Power Users (Tip #5).  That coverage sort of endorsed me as a thought leader in tweaking Facebook.  The user interface and design of Facebook is only of interest to me because I enjoy the service so much and like sharing my experience with it.

As you might guess I’ve been following the redesign of Facebook pretty closely. My pal Bryan just posted a link to another great PC World article on Facebook “caving” to user concerns in the redesign. The article contains a good summary but also some important links worth checking out:

  • Facebook’s Director of Product, Chris Cox official reaction (blog entry)
  • Techcrunch shames Facebook for caving to users.
  • The idea that while 2 million users complained about the redesign, yet that is only 1% of the userbase is highlighted here.

The main changes they will be making in the near term to satisfy complaints are: