Is Facebook evil?

kinnon —  October 28, 2007 — 9 Comments

Microsoft invested 240 million in Facebook last week. A quarter of a billion dollars. For a 1.6% share of the company. Which means that a company, hardly out of the toddler stage (3.5 years old) has an apparent market value of $15 Billion. But that’s not why I think Facebook may be Evil.

Fb-SharkWhy did the Great Satan MSFT spend so much for such a small portion of the Book of Faces? They want access to you. And when I say you, I mean all of you poking, super poking, candy corn sending, tickling, cuddling, wall writing, Facebookians.

Here’s what Microsoft says on one of their innumerable interweb pages;

With more than 41 million registered users in over 55,000 regional, work-related, collegiate, and high school networks, Facebook, the Internet’s leading social networking site, helps people meet and share information online the same way they do in the real world. In fact, Facebook ranks as the sixth-most trafficked site in the United States.

I’ve highlighted the relevant bits. While you are busy “sharing information online”, Facebook is tracking you, your information and your habits. The Book of Faces is becoming one gigantic database of likes, dislikes, wants, hopes and dreams. All with easy electronic access to 41 million registered users. In 55,000 mini-networks, that cluster around particular likes, dislikes…you get the drill.

This is how my friend, Terry Heaton puts it, in his post Facebook’s gamble is, to be kind, sinister,

As a student of life, culture and media, little surprises me anymore and especially when it involves humankind’s propensity to greed. Much of the reaction to the Microsoft/Facebook announcement yesterday is making my caution flags ripple unfurled in the wind, because it has “greed” written all over it.

Terry quotes an Advertising Age article,

Facebook is keeping mum about exactly what it is unveiling at the Nov. 6 event, but ad-industry executives familiar with the company’s plans said the social network is looking to better use the data its users voluntarily offer up on their profiles. Of course, that much seems like a no-brainer (although it’s actually not easy to implement). But less obviously, a couple of industry executives familiar with the company’s plans suggest Facebook could use some of what it knows about people — and their relationships with others on the site, what is known as the “social graph” — to target them off Facebook (emphasis Terry’s) as well.

Doc Searls writes,

Facebook’s users are not its customers. They’re the targets to which Facebook’s customers aim advertising. In old media this was no big deal. But Facebook isn’t just a “medium”. It’s a vast walled garden where the social activity of members and visitors constantly improves the ability of advertisers to “target” both. (emphasis added)

FbnewsfeedThe Facebook $15 Billion valuation is based on what you Facebookians are worth to marketers desperate to target consumers they can no longer easily access by traditional media exploits. Those of you who self-identify as Christians on Facebook can expect to be receiving targeted email from Zondervan, Christianity Today, EMI Music et al. Using information you may have thought was only viewable by people within your mini-network.

Here’s what Facebook has to say about the data you provide them with in your content sharing, interactions and other Facebookian habits,

By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing. You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content. (emphasis added)

Oh. I should add. I’m a casual, occasional Facebookian myself. But I’m considering deleting my account. Though “The Company” will still have “archived copies” of my “User Content.”

Addendum: Please make a point of reading all of Doc’s and Terry’s Facebook posts – and the other posts they link to. If you are going to use Facebook, you need to be aware of who and what you are dealing with.

UPDATE: John Santic points to this site in the comments, Does What Happens in the Facebook, stay in the Facebook?



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

9 responses to Is Facebook evil?

  1. Just reading your post makes me feel … you know … kinda dirty and used. Like a greezy old dinner napkin. Yick.

  2. Have you seen this Bill?
    link to

  3. So, I’ll let you guys guess who just finished setting up a Facebook account. This particular person did no research, at all, about what having such an account would entail. This person is getting a little overwhelmed at the moment and will most likely very soon type a row of completely irrelevant symbols and letters at the end of a comment on Bill Kinnon’s post.


  4. None of this is news. Facebook has been gathering and selling info from the beginning. Truthfully, MS can’t make it any worse than it already was.

  5. Gee, DLE. Color me late to the understanding. I guess I shouldn’t have bothered to post it. But at least I’m in good company with Doc and Terry, eh!

    You are cracking me up.

  6. Yep! They are gonna to sell you down the river and to anybody with a pulse and a checkbook.
    link to

  7. No disagreement here. I fear, though, that we are closing the gate after the horses have left the barn, so to speak. I think most of my personal info has been available since the day I started I using Gmail!

  8. Alan,
    Great to see you back, my friend. Missed your writing. Have added your new site into Google Reader.

    I think Google’s Do No Evil policy (as badly implemented as it might be) provides you with a higher order of privacy protection than does Facebook. Though ad revenue is what drives the Google machine as well.

  9. Interesting. It does give me the heebee jeebies. BUT whether evil or not, it is a powerful economic force and it is not stopping. We can use it for good or evil. We can ride the wave or get pounded by the wave.

    I absolutely want to use face book for my selfish ends of marketing my agenda: the reign of Christ is here, we need to do good in the world, connect with the socio/tech generation. etc.

    Can’t do that by staying the invisible man. Anyway, I would rather get marketed by people who have something I might be interested in.

    I wonder if the Roman Empire was evil? Yet, I think God allowed it to grow along with its lingua franca so that the communication channels for the spread of the Gospel would be in place during and right after Jesus’ earthly ministry.


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