A silly XKCD today, suggesting that because sensible non-ubergeek people didn’t back open source file formats in the early 2000s, they now have no right to be upset by Facebook’s Doing Great Evil.
There are only two problems with this analysis:
1) Facebook isn’t doing great evil, at all, and if you think it is then you are a paranoid loony.
Facebook is making money by aggregating user data and selling targeted advertising. Well, yes – that’s what it’s for.
In other news, newspapers exist to sell adverts (with the content being a regrettable but necessary expense to persuade people to read the adverts), and retail banks exist to sell loans (with interest on savings being a regrettable but necessary expense to allow the loans to be made [*], and running current accounts a regrettable but necessary expense to acquire customer relationships). I’ve also got some studies on ursine defecation and Papal religion, if anyone’s unconvinced.
I signed up to Facebook in full knowledge that the company would sell aggregated user data to strategic marketers, and would do its best to target direct marketing to me, to the greatest extent that data protection laws would allow it to. In exchange for which, I’d be provided with a useful social networking infrastructure for bugger all money.
It doesn’t spam me, it doesn’t pass on anything to strangers that I’m not happy for strangers to see. This is win/win.
2) The only people who think Facebook is doing great evil are the same people who wanked smugly on about non-open file formats in 2003.
Well, that one’s not entirely true. Stupid peasants also think Facebook is doing great evil, because they think it’s a tool for murderous paedophiles to groom victims for their doom. But they can safely be ignored.
The people who’re stirring up the current fuss about Facebook privacy, &c &c ad nauseam are total geeks. Half of them weren’t even on bloody Facebook in the first place; and the ones who were are doing ridiculous grandstanding by actually deleting their accounts (rather than tightening their privacy settings if they’re worried that friends might forward stuff to other people, or something).
Meanwhile, normal people continue to use Facebook, hopefully with a little more awareness that posting “lolz I am so wasted, gunna pull a sickie tomorrow hehe” where people who disapprove of wastedness and/or pulling sickies might be able to read it is Unwise.
This is all to the good.
[*] some UK banks during the 2000s thought they could cut out this expense via much cheaper wholesale funding. This proved not to be wholly correct.