As I write this, Facebook stock is getting battered and many(govt. and regulators) are baying for its blood. However, I believe a defense can be mounted before the people’s court- the 2.2 billion people who are on Facebook.
Zuckerberg will bring in changes and we definitely will forgive and forget. Here is why…
Part -1 Privacy Concerns are overblown
Argument 1: Ads are here to stay.
- Ads influence but also inform. Inform about the existence of products, their attributes, and thereby influence our purchase.
- Information is NOT free. Internet is powered by online advertisements. The growth of internet has been synonymous with the growth of the tech behemoths- Google and Facebook. The business model that gets them there at the very top is online advertising.
- The information goods they serve you is paid for by your attention and the ads.
- We are now used to free(no cash) information. There is no going back.
Argument 2: Increasing efficiency is synonymous with development and growth (e.g. Moore’s Law, GDP, Car fuel efficiency)
- Moore’s Law- Processing power keeps increasing un-relentlessly. As a result every new model of phone/ laptop, is faster/better and often times cheaper than their earlier versions.
- GDP- Measures the economic growth of a nation. High GDP numbers indicate better performance of a country.
- Car Fuel Efficiency– Newer car models are more fuel-efficient than their predecessors.
Argument 3: Efficiency is the opposite of Waste
- Targeted Ads are more efficient than spray and pray, which is a waste at two levels – waste for the transmitter (money spent by the advertiser) and a waste for the receiver (our time/attention).
Argument 4: Targeted Personalized Ads at individual level are socially better than targeting on pure demographics.
- Targeting on Demographics such as Age, Gender, Race vs. Individual- Better to the target the individual than demographic.
- What do you prefer- I treat you like a typical person of ‘XYZ race/community” OR based on who you really are-somebody unique- A person who likes Kendrick Lamar AND Carmina Burana, AND pizzas, and enjoys long distance running.
Argument 5: Privacy concerns are overblown.
- You were not hacked. Facebook did not hack you. You “shared “ it all.
- Cambridge Analytica hacked Facebook.
- Read “Chaos Monkeys” by a Facebook Insider- Antonio Garcia Martinez, to understand that Facebook does not care for your deepest darkest secrets. You instinctively knew it, you have been sharing (indiscriminately?) for the last 10 years, and the sky has not fallen on your head.
- What Cambridge Analytica did with your data is what Facebook has always been doing or at least capable of doing.
- Then why the fuss now?
Part- 2: Influence my choice of Car, TV Shows, Dress, etc.- Okay. Influence my choice of Politician/Political party- Moral OUTRAGE!
Argument 6: Who is fussing? Not you and me.
- I am still on Facebook and so are you? And even if I want to express my “hurt/outrage”, where do I do it? On Facebook. The #deletefacebook is on its way to cyber oblivion.
- That leaves the media. So why are they fussing? To understand this we need to know who got hit? Who is hurting?
Argument 7: Who got hit? Who is hurting? Politics and Politicians who think that our political choice should not be manipulated/influenced by any person other than them.
- Politics/Politician- If you can’t have it, shit on it. Since no politician has enough bucks to buy off Zuck for all times to come- They are scared somebody else might. So shut it down.
- Do remember, NSA (National Security Agency) could inflict far more privacy infringes without any objection from the US govt., as it belonged to the govt. It took Assange and Snowden to blow the whistle on them, and where are they now? Assange holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London and Snowden in Russia.
Argument 8: And some of us are hurting too– with our confused thinking on the moral limits of the market.
- Economist say that everything should be up for sale. Transactions between willing and free buyers and sellers increase welfare. But many of us think otherwise- Somethings should not be up for sale.
- We think sale of body parts is unethical, but hard-nosed economists will disagree and can prove that sale of kidneys will increase welfare/save countless lives. But as far as societal thinking goes, we believe there are some things money should not buy. (Read Harvard Professor/Philosopher Michael Sandel’s “What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets”)
- Election and voting come under a similar category. We strongly believe that votes are not for sale- And our thinking on whom we vote for should not be influenced/manipulated. We are okay with our $20,000 purchase of a car being influenced by an ad targeted on Facebook based on our uniqueness, but we(media/ political parties?) feel moral outrage if we as a voter are exposed to targeted ads which may influence our political choice.
So now do we understand the origin of the outrage? It is not us, it is driven by politics.
How do I see this issue end- Zuck says, (and I am liberally paraphrasing him) “I am okay for once in a while F*ck by the regulators, I swear that nobody else will “misuse” the data for political purpose other than me. I will have no political leanings- EVER. And only I will influence the voter at the behest of the supreme commander– the Holy Dollar, irrespective of who holds it Democrat/Republic, BJP/Congress, Conservative Party/Labour Party , AIADMK/DMK,…”
How do I see FB’s stock performing? If you haven’t guessed by now re-read my post. I am a buy for Facebook. The stock will bounce back!
Zuck for President 2028. Anybody?