24 March 2018

Facebook: making ourselves vulnerable

Through Facebook with give our opponents the data they need to exploit and hang us.

I have been rather nonplussed about the whole Cambridge Analytica / Facebook affair. It always seemed obvious to me that Facebook compiled a massive database on its users, which constituted an asset of huge commercial and political value. And it is obvious that the state along with the rich and powerful would acquire that asset for their own political purposes, legally or otherwise. Facebook users, for their part, have quite literally donated hours of their free time to providing information for market research, advertising profiling, and of course filling in state security and police records to overflowing.

A couple of years ago, I developed the idea that the progressive left should not be doing this. After all, back in the day, the idea that a recording of every left-wing meeting would be systematically handed in at the police or Tory party offices would have horrified us. I sought out a number of open-source encryption tools and services that might be of interest to us. I can safely say that the interest in such things beyond a few techies was non-existent. I saw my left-wing friends blooming on Facebook and I reluctantly continued to follow suit.

Apart from the fact that through Facebook you can actually reach a lot of people with your messages, there are two further reasons why the left is addicted to the platform. The first is simple laziness. With a quickly written message you can in a single click make it available to many of the people whom you wish to see it. Facebook works. People are on Facebook, so we post there, so do others and that keeps Facebook as the place to be.

The second reason is that many of us use Facebook to project our personalities. We wish to radiate the trivia of our lives: that sweet poodle we saw with a pink ribbon, the stone we just fell over, etc. How much more jolly it is to have our political analysis and comments intermingled with all this. And, as so many argue, what does it matter if PC Plod and the Labour Party compliance unit knows our politics? The reality is that the left is both legal and weak. It seems not to matter that our enemies know everything about us: who we are and what we do and say. But I think it does matter.

No comments: