In Defense of Facebook

Aditya Saxena

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The ebb and flow of data privacy breaches ­­ which Facebook has become the loth grand

ambassador of ­­ has prompted many to both reflect and have qualms about the nature of data

that they share with their friends. A spate of global lampooning or admonishment has

consumed our beloved social network over the past several months, which is now ostensibly

mired in yet another controversy as the Wall Street Journal recently unfurled another set of

fresh allegations accusing it of illicitly receiving intimate data of users from apps on their

smartphones without their consent to heighten the advertising experience for both businesses

and end users.

However, given the laundry list of problems (like harmful content, fake news, election

manipulation, etc.) plaguing Facebook and flustering conservative consumers worldwide,

there is really nothing new under the sun, so­to­speak. In this editorial, I have argued that

elevating Facebook to some sort of a global poster boy of data breaches, or a doomy symbol

of pressaging future regulations, or lastly and less importantly, fantasizing the futility and

disdainfulness of how Mark Zuckerberg was interrogated (or rather, disparaged) by

Washington (and later the EU), is all both petty and unwarranted. All that has transpired by

reducing Facebook into a lightning rod or a soft target for desultory criticism is digression

from otherwise damning problems that the internet is presently rife with.

First, consider this quote from the celebrated play Macbeth by Shakespeare: ‘Life is a tale

told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’. Now in light of this, consider the

fact that Facebook is the largest social agglomeration of life having more than two billion

people peddling growth to its platform by virtually recreating pristine moments of their lives

everyday. However, it is this ‘sound and fury’ of life that spurs its audience into not

exercising abandon where required. Just like in Macbeth where Lady Macbeth conjures up

visions of irremovable blood­soaked stains on her hands reflecting her sins of the past, our

more­or­less mortifying and pernicious spur­of­the­moment follies make up the bread and

butter of other quotidian Facebook users’ experience. So, the fault unfortunately lies more

somewhere in it operating in the social networking market and less in the company per se.

Second, since Facebook operates on the same scale as any other tech mammoth, it is

unwarranted of anyone of us to sideline it for admonishment on the grounds of employing an

aggressive advertisement strategy when its competitors are busy doing the same. As Mark

Zuckerberg recently wrote in the Washington Post (to both placate concerned consumers and

allay speculations), government regulations are imperative to enact so as to level the playing

field for all companies. If Facebook becomes an ascetic by foregoing personalised

advertisements, another company would simply occupy its position and come under the line

of fire of watchdogs. The debate should deal with the nitty­gritty of the enactment of privacy

regulations and not with the behavior of an existing company toward it.

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Third, Facebook is scarcely alone in this whole privacy blunder. Google has also earlier been

party to exposing private information of users from their now defunct social network,

Google+. Apple, much to its own dismay, not so long ago inadvertently let users eavesdrop

facetime calls of others due to a bug, and a phalanx of topnotch third party apps are accused

on a daily basis of exposing sensitive user information (famous examples entail the fitness

app: myFitnesspal). Data has indisputably become the oil of the twenty­first century, as the

Economist has rightly proclaimed, but this one is a type of oil that is unfortunately laced in

such an aura of scepticism that even its staunchest purveyors can’t seem to refine.

All told, we the students, on the other hand, are merely spectators in this filmy curtain of

ambiguities, skewed by our own outright nonchalance in the face of otherwise consumerism.

The demarcation of our abandon has amounted to nothing but increased consumption itself.

And in an attempt to bolster data privacy efforts, universities like ours have although

jettisoned their earlier lax behavior on data privacy and marshaled forces to educate the

student community at large by having them take an online course on it, but to what extent is

all this effective seems mostly unclear. What remains imperative, however, amidst everything

is that as we brainstorm ideas to advance technology, we must not forget to turn our attention

to the shift in privacy that is developing. Its high time that we cut Facebook some slack and

start accepting that what began with and made Snapchat a stellar success was not an

ephemeral and a millennial trend, but a muffled shoutout to privacy which has now found its

voice, and it is disturbingly loud.