Why does Facebook insist on anti-social behavior?

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There is probably nothing as irritating at the moment as those self-righteous Facebook adverts that champion data privacy. ‘Misuse of data is not your friend’ they cry. ‘Who misused it in the first place,’ we cry back.

There is a definite feeling of panic about recent announcements coming out of Menlo Park.

The most obvious is the size of the hit the company is taking in the wake of various scandals. Mark Zuckerberg has taken a paper hit of almost $660 million and the 20% shake down in value has had a knock-on effect on the whole market.

Even the demographic that has the most time for Facebook – the 45+ brigade – is beginning to fall out of love. The number of posts that show you how the company is only ‘allowing’ you to see posts from your 25 closest friends is proliferating and sentiment is souring.

Meanwhile Facebook is making much (as much as it possibly can) about the fact it is hiring thousands of people to help with ‘safety and security’ and bringing the total up to 20,000. Even though the company announced this months ago, executives are still saying it to anyone who will sit still long enough to listen.

Then there is the issue of the patents. So far this year, the company has filed 533 patents in the US alone. Patents that are not, as you might think, about privacy as such.

The top three, according to UK satirical (but gets the scoop magazine) Private Eye, are:

  • Systems and methods for identifying politically influential users
  • Identity prediction for unknown users of an online system
  • Systems and methods for determining sentiments in conversation in a chat application.

It is, of course, possible that the people responsible for filing the patent applications did not get the memo, entitled (one presumes) ‘Keep your head down’.

It is also possible that those at the top of Facebook believe that this little data scandal will blow over and soon they will be able to get back to business as usual, harvesting data.

Yet the extra overhead of 20,000 people, knocking off 20% of the stock’s value and the bad press around at the moment must be causing massive strain in the company. You can’t help feeling that the ‘cool job at Facebook’ just got rather less so.

And yet, there are those who will point to the ‘correction’ and advise their clients that it is the perfect time to buy.

Whatever happens to Facebook, it is fair to say that the ‘golden age’ of social media is over and what comes next will be more critical, more cynical and much less windswept and interesting.

And, by the way, while we watch the next chapter play out, can you please stop posting adverts championing privacy. It is making your users feel sick.

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