Have you ever had a dream about a product and later saw an advertisement for it on Facebook? The once dominant social media platform has come under fire recently after the release of series of articles involving Cambridge Analytica and data mining. Facebook rose to popularity in the early 2000’s and has been one of the biggest and longest lasting social media websites since the advent of social media as a concept. Mark Zuckerberg, a controversial figure in the business world, founded the website during his time at Harvard. The Social Network portrayed Zuckerberg in a relatively negative light, and throughout the years, leaks of personal conversations have not done him any favors. The recent accumulation of bad press seems to have been a final straw.
Facebook, which operated by data-mining users and selling the data, while turning around and selling advertising space, had monetized the free website relatively smoothly. Now it’s hemorrhaging money. Zuckerberg has reportedly sold $357 Million in insider shares in the company and investors are pulling out. Users are starting to look more closely at the exact extent of the data-mining, and members are deleting their accounts like crazy. Amid the movement to delete Facebook accounts, which includes public companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX, investors are worried that Facebook is no longer a good investment. It seems that collapse is imminent. This raises questions about privacy and the social media business model which operates by selling user data and advertising in nearly the exact ways that Facebook has been. Is the extent of Facebook’s intrusion the problem? Or are people starting to realize how little privacy they have been affording themselves by using these social networks. Zuckerberg’s response to the recent criticism has been defensive. He claims that “users agreed to this” in regard to the amount of data mining. This isn’t strictly true, as Facebook recorded phone numbers called on phones with the app. This meant that people who never agreed to the Facebook terms of service could be mined to an extent, and Android device users specifically saw much more detailed information harvested than was ever agreed to. In addition, many saw the statements made by Zuckerberg as a direct contrast to other official remarks by Facebook. It seems as thought the leader of Facebook hasn’t grown much since the leaked instant messages in 2004 where he called his Harvard users “dumb fucks” for giving him access to emails and other private messages via Facebook. In a country that was once paranoid about government intrusions on our privacy, we have invited part of the corporate sector into our lives and sold out rights for any protection, and this corporate giant is run by a man who few see as responsible. If Facebook does indeed fall apart, the business world will need to anticipate how other social media platforms handle it, and users will need to decide if they want to continue using applications and technology that intrudes on their private lives.
Michael O’Malley is a Business Administration/Theatre Double major sophomore at USC. He enjoys long walks on the beach, screaming into the abyss, and dancing with friends.