Dark Facebook: more reasons we need SAFEnetwork

From her blog:


The concluding section of the article:

Facebook Absolutism: As I wrote about in my recent Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung essay, “Dark Google,” (see forum post) Facebook, like Google, represents a new kind of business entity whose power is simultaneously ubiquitous, hidden, and unaccountable. I encourage you to read the full article (drawn from my new book still in progress), but I”ll summarize a few of the themes here.

The procedures and effects of the new information barons are not well understood, and therefore they can not be effectively restrained. Individuals and societies are vulnerable to these new powers in ways that we are only gradually coming to light. Facebook, Google, and other tech companies provide services that many have come to regard as essential for basic social participation. Indeed, many of us viewed these firms as harbingers of a new more democratic world enabling unprecedented voice and connection. We thought they were a new kind of company, aligned with our interests. Now the hidden costs of their new goods––in lost privacy and autonomy at the hands of commercial and even state-sponsored surveillance––are slowly being revealed. The new firms have reverted to the old GM paradigm but with powers and scope beyond anything the world has known. Now, it’s increasingly the case that the ambition of these companies is shifting from collecting information about us to intervening in and shaping our daily reality for their commercial benefit. I have called this “the reality business” because “reality” is the next big thing that the tech firms want to carve up and sell. In the data business, the payoff is in data patterns that help target ads. In the reality business, the payoff is in shaping and communicating real life behaviors of people and things in millions of ways that drive revenue. The business model is expanding to encompass the digital ‘you’ as well as the ‘actual’ you. This is precisely what’s exemplified in Facebook’s secret experiment.

The “reality business” reflects a shift in the frontier of data science from data mining to “reality mining” described in one academic paper as “a God’s eye view.” But the reality business aims beyond the God’s eye view to the God-like interventions that can shape and control reality. Facebook’s evident interest in mastering the mechanisms of emotional contagion, like Google’s glasses, self-driving cars, or investments in everything from the wired home to drones and satellites share this purpose: to influence and shape human behavior along the lines that feed their bottom line.

This brings us to the precipice of a new development in the scope of the market economy. A new “fictional commodity” is emerging as a dominant characteristic of market dynamics in the 21st century. “Reality” is about to undergo a fictional transformation and be reborn as “behavior.” This includes the behavior of creatures, their bodies, and their things. It includes actual behavior and data about behavior. It is the world-spanning organism reborn as information and all the tiniest elements within it. This dominion over “reality” is the new currency of the networked surveillance sphere.

The big question we are left with: Is reality for sale? Right now the outrage of Facebook users says NO! The question remains: how do we translate our outrage into the kinds of institutional and legal frameworks that insure democratic principles and humanistic values in a networked world?