Lots of ruckus has been made over the past few months, including here on this blog, about Europe’s reaction to Facebook, Google Streetview and the like. It finally took a self-promotional e-mail from a professional acquaintance to get my ire up enough to actually write about it.
The ire inducing part didn’t have much to do with my acquaintance directly. It was that the “people who you might know” section along the bottom which is designed to get us connected was eerily accurate. All but one were, in fact, people I knew.
That means Facebook knows about me. I have never been there, so whatever data they have has been taken from other sources. The debate about these things in the US and about the European view misses the mark, though. Americans are so politicized that they tend to frame European resistance to Facebook and Google in the frame of too much personal data being the hands of government. While that is a factor, it is not the single factor.
I am a product that Facebook is selling to advertisers and other “premium Facebook members.” The fact that they already know who I spend my time with means I am in their demographic database. They profit on my data without my consent or my getting a cut.
How fair is that? I’ve been willing to give Google search a “pass” because it is useful to me. But not these other services. The wild west Internet may be one thing, but I.. just like 730,000,000 other people live in Europe. It is not a political question. It is a question of how people… and corporations behave towards people.
Ask my consent, first. That is all we ask. It is no more complicated than that.