We need to understand a simple premise - nothing is free. There is always a price to pay, even for services that are free at the point of sign up or delivery.
Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram are all free to use and all owned by Facebook/Mark Zuckerberg. If nothing truly is free, then we have a few questions to answer:
We've already discussed the moral angle to social networks, especially Facebook in previous posts, so in light of the annoucement that Mr Zuckerberg finally plans to do the inevitable and merge the three platforms, let's have a look at the privacy angle for a change. and examine the impact this merger will have on you as a user.
There is absolutely no way, in a million years, I would trust a word that came out of this mans mouth.
From a business point of view, Facebook's ownership of three platforms that perform similar or identical functions doesn't make a great deal of sense. Currently you have:
In business, developing, maintaining and hosting services which are similar or do the same thing isn't logical. You're spending too much, employing people to do the same or similar jobs and you're splitting up the data or information you've collected which is by far your biggest asset.
Zuckerberg faithfully promised when WhatsApp was taken over that it would always remain a stand alone service, continuing to be seperate from Facebook. When they took over Instagram they promised the same. No one in their right mind believed him and... blow me down with a feather if he hasn't gone back on this promise and openly announced the merging of similar services.
Of course, this is marketed as being in our best interests and to provide us with a smoother, more customised user experience.
It is not in your best interests.
It's quite funny to talk to students about their social media preferences. They'll be almost disgusted that you'd suggest they use Facebook these days but will openly and passionately advocate their use of Instagram. It's the same platform! Soon, it really will be the same platform.
In software development, web development and hardware management terms it would be sheer madness if Facebook allowed these services to be separate for any longer than is strictly necessary. I will knit the hair of a dog into a fetching jumper if they haven't been working on this merger from the day the takeover was completed.
The future is likely to be quite simple, they don't need three messenger services so they'll close them. This may be explicit in, for example, the removal of direct messages in Instagram and the closure of Facebook Messenger, or it could be far more subtle in that the apps themselves will continue to exist but the underlying code and messaging platform will be identical, only the "front end" will look different.
But why should you care, why does this matter?
The answer is simple. Absolutely everything that has happened since the inception of Facebook has proven one simple fact:
You cannot, and should never, trust Mark Zuckerberg with your data and he has absolutely no respect for your privacy whatsoever.
How can I make such a bold and sweeping statement?
Simply, how can anyone respect your privacy when their entire business model is founded on the principle that they need as much of your data as they can possibly get their hands on in order to sell it to other businesses or advertisers.
Furthermore, Zuckerberg and Facebook have been found out time and time and time again for:
The list is honestly endless. But, there's more.
WhatsApp had a big selling feature - end to end encryption of your messages. Put simply, this means that no one but you and the recipient of your messages should be able to find out what you're talking about. If someone intercepts your traffic then they shouldn't be able to make sense of it. This has a huge business down side - you can't read your users content and trust me, they want to.
If this sounds odd, consider the fact that Google read your email if you have a Gmail account. They're very open about the fact that everything you upload to a Google service, such as your photos, emails and so forth will be used to train machine learning algorithms. Every now and again a real human will need to check that work - which is why you've heard "scandals" recently where Amazon, Apple and Google all had to "admit" they were employing hundreds to workers to listen to thousands upon thousands of recordings from smart speakers, obviously including those false positives when your speaker kicks in when you haven't asked it to. Someone, somewhere listens to you telling your speaker to go away...
People are so used to this invasion of their privacy in return for something free such as an email account or a decent search facility that they either don't notice, don't care or simply its passed them by that this even happens. We've all noticed the "spooky coincidence" that you mention you fancy getting a talking pet frog and then suddenly, all your adverts on social media suddenly turn into pet frog websites. This isn't coincidence and only happens because our privacy has been invaded and eroded to an already unacceptable level.
How does this happen? Profiling and information sharing. You don't need to do anything, log in to anything or do anything out of the ordinary to enable algorithms to work out who you are, what you're doing, what you like and most importantly - to connect your behaviour on different apps, platforms and networks together to effectively follow you around. Data mining and gathering is so good now that an algorithm can work out that you're you regardless of whether you use different devices, different user names or even move around the country. Think about when you spend time with your friends and YouTube suddenly recommends similar things to you - this is based on your location data, data which is so powerful it even tells these companies what job you do, your daily schedule, your shopping habits, who you hang around with, what you do when you're with friends even down to which apps you're all using when you're busy ignoring each other. The bottom line is this - you don't even have to be using an app these days for it to learn all about you and the amount it can learn about it is eye watering.
But Mr Zuckerberg isn't happy with this. He wants, and has your permission to access, more. Zuckerberg wants to be able to tell advertisers as much as is possible about you, what you like, what you do and what you talk about (and to whom). This is where he fell out with the founders of WhatsApp, two people who posessed something crazy and disagreeable to Zuckerberg - Morals.
Facebook want to take data from your messaging habits and use this to profile you further. It makes their advertising platform even more profitable and attractive. Both founders of WhatsApp left citing Zuckerberg's complete disregard for the privacy of users and their data, he is literally hell bent on monetising you and your information whether you give him permission to or not. This is illustrated by the fact that Facebook Messenger is indeed capable of end to end encryption but its disabled by default and buried in the settings where they hope you don't find it.
When this merger of platforms is complete, you can guarantee that your behaviour in WhatsApp will be used to target advertisements to you. You can guarantee that your conversations or use of the app is nowhere near as private as you think it is. In short, you've got to be stark raving bonkers to use these platforms any more.
So what can you do? The answer is simple. Delete Facebook, delete WhatsApp and be careful what you post on Instagram and certainly don't use it for chat. The alternatives are obvious - the guys who founded WhatsApp went and created Signal. It's the exact same thing as WhatsApp, has the same functionality and has the added bonus that they're not out to make money from your conversations.
Just stop and think for a minute - would you want anyone, ever, seeing your messages? I'm not saying Zuckerberg is going to decrypt your conversations, but there is every chance they will be trying to find every possible way to gather data about what you discuss, how, when, where and with whom. This will then be used to link you to behaviour on other platforms. No thanks, not for me.
If you have any sense, you will use Signal or another messaging app and you will get the hell away from anything owned by Facebook.
And we haven't even started on their crypto currency, but that's a story for another time...
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