Users of the world wide web and social media are rapidly becoming more aware that their browsing habits and activities are being mass-monitored by one big data collector or another. It’s safe to say that one of the leading drag nets available to advertising companies is the wildly popular social media platform, Facebook. Facebook, being constantly in tune with public opinion and perception, seems to have realized that users are becoming more savvy to the fact that they are being watched and their data collected, and has penned a document called the Data Policy outlining what exactly is collected and how it’s being used. In order to console nervous users, Facebook frames their data policies in a very consumer friendly way, insisting that they’re doing all of this to enhance the user experience and make Facebook (and as a result the Internet overall) even more convenient.
After doing an at-home copycat of Mat Honan’s “Like Everything on Facebook for 48 Hours” experiment, and eventually reaching a point where my newsfeed was nothing but posts from the fashion entity “Who What Wear,” I decided to check out the Data Policy and Terms of Service a little more closely.
Again, Facebook frames their data policy in a very “user-friendly” manner that seems clean, simple, and easy to interpret. The language is almost parental, with Facebook claiming that it’s really only doing all of this because it loves you, in so many words. For example, the first article of the Terms of Service (quoted below) links you directly to an even warmer and fuzzier document, the Data Policy, and asserts that Facebook wants the user to be as empowered as possible.
“Your privacy is very important to us. We designed our Data Policy to make important disclosures about how you can use Facebook to share with others and how we collect and can use your content and information. We encourage you to read the Data Policy, and to use it to help you make informed decisions (Terms of Service).”
Within this Data Policy is language that very much tries to sugar-coat the fact that Facebook is a textbook digital enclosure, as described by Mark Andrejevic in his commentary, Surveillance in the Digital Enclosure. Every click, like, tag, check-in, and interaction is used to generate a profile on the user in order to make them more accessible to “relevant” advertising.
It is quite interesting to note that throughout this document, Facebook makes an effort to stay consumer centered in their language focusing on the consumer convenience of contextual advertising created by data sharing; however, the Full Data Policy indicated at the bottom of the “other resources” (pictured below) makes no qualms about acknowledging its service to advertisers where it left them out in the user-friendly version:
“Our goal is to deliver advertising and other commercial or sponsored content that is valuable to our users and advertisers (Data Policy).”
“…and measure the effectiveness and reach of ads and services (Data Policy).”
Facebook doesn’t exactly try to pull the wool over user’s eyes, as it gives them links detailing how they can opt out of surveillance, but the piles of information that need combing through to fully understand what’s going on certainly helps cloud up the view.