First there was Big Tobacco. Now there’s Big Social
It’s good to be big. But being big doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing good things.
Think what people mean when they refer to Big Pharma, Big Liquor, Big Tobacco, the big supermarkets - and talk about the big banks.
Brace yourselves - we’re entering the age of Big Social.
Being big has a certain impervious impersonality to it. Nobody expects any of the “big” boys to give a crap about the little guy. They’re the big boys, after all.
We understand they would sell cigarettes to a six-year-old if it were legal, they would charge us $200 for banana smoothies (a bank is actually a lot like a banana smoothie vendor) or jack up rates until we were all chained to a big wheel like the one at the start of Conan the Barbarian.
The big wheel doesn’t give a crap about you either - it’s big. Understand?
Want a clear example of this? Just look at people’s reaction to the now-infamous trader-dreaming-of-a-crash interview on the BBC.
“Look at this jerk,” people scoffed as they passed the video around their social networks of choice. “I always knew big traders were all bloody succubi.”
Social media is now in this category. You know you’ve made it when you get so big people don’t really expect you to play by the rules anymore.
If you want your pet bat to keep its head then don’t invite Ozzie Osborne for dinner.
And if you don’t want the world to know you’re pretending to read War and Peace, or that you got drunk and passed out riding an inflatable pony on a pool table wearing nothing but a pirate hat, then don’t social network.
Or at least don’t post things you want to stay private on the internet.
The circles don’t matter, the privacy settings don’t matter. We accept now that if it’s up online its fair game. We may pretend it’s still our info but deep down we know it’s not.
It’s been a very social couple of weeks. Facebook rolled out massive changes to the way the site looks and feels.
Google+ also opened its digital doors to the unwashed masses with a corresponding surge in traffic of 1269 per cent.
Then there was the interesting stuff. It turns out Facebook has been able to keep track of the sites you’ve been visiting even when you’re not logged in
And to make matters worse it looks like they’ve known about it for a year but haven’t bothered to do anything about it.
I was surprised at how unsurprised everyone was at the latest “accidental” privacy breech.
People I have talked to responded with everything from “so what?” to “of course”. I don’t think they’re alone.
And this is where the “big” part comes in. Remember the outrage when the Google streetview cars “accidentally” captured all of those people’s wi-fi data?
There was some real outrage. Those were the days.
“What happened to ‘do no evil’ you jerks,” we ranted.
I would love to see what the reaction would be today, or this time next year. I’ll put down cold hard bandwidth most people are only getting less excited.
Even back then I heard people saying the information was “out there” and “if you’re stupid enough to have an unsecured wi-fi connection you can hardly complain if someone captures its details”.
Since then we’ve entered the “uneasy truce” stage.
Sure, social media might be tracking everything you do, who you talk to, what you share and keeping a record of it.
But if you don’t like it - don’t be a part of it, right?
And if it turns out they’ve either “accidentally” reduced your privacy by default or put cookies on your PC that track what you do we’ll be pissed until they fix it.
But after that it’s move on, nothing to see here, nobody’s surprised and nobody really cares.
The possibility of Facebook or Google getting all “accidental” with your data is just part of interacting with them.
I conducted a quick survey on Facebook (both ironically meta, and scientifically impeccable) and one user summed it up perfectly.
“Social networks wouldn’t survive without advertisements, this means they have to sell/expose data occasionally,” he wrote.
“Facebook does it whenever it can get away with it, when it can’t it pulls it down. It’s a never-ending experiment, they constantly push the limits and measure public reaction.”
What makes it more obvious the social networks are batting in the big leagues now is this week’s news that Facebook has set up its own Political Action Committee (PAC), basically a lobbying group, to champion its interests in the political sphere.
By the way - Google and Microsoft have already been doing this, dropping a cool $3.5 million compared to Facebook’s $550,000 this year alone.
Because that’s what the big boys do. They lobby, they have power and they wield it. They champion interests. Your interests? Ummmm, yeah… sure…
Facebook and Google are growing in power, and they’re getting more interested in wielding it. I think everyone wants to see if they are going to use it responsibly.
But who will be surprised if they put their interests before… I don’t know… everyone else’s?
They are awfully big after all. I would like to be the first to welcome Big Social to the table.
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