Facebook: Resisting the Giant

It had to happen some day. Several posts on the web1 have reported on how Facebook recently announced plans to develop technology that is capable of analysing brain activity, allegedly to allow users to type more quickly than when using their fingers.

Even if that were true, whatever the nature of the system they will conceive, wouldn’t it have to filter through many of our thoughts in order to find what we want to type? The team behind the project claims their technollgy will only be “decoding those words (…) you already decided to share, by sending them to the speech center of your brain.”

That still doesn’t do it for me. This could easily be the first step that will grant Facebook access to private thoughts, many of which we will be giving away involuntarily. Reading our minds to allow us to type faster might only be the beginning.

Think about it: how many random thoughts pop up in your mind when you’re trying to think about something? Things you were consciously avoiding to upload or post on Facebook because they were too private or too embarrassing, will now also become part of what Mr. Zuckerberg’s company can use to rack up even more ad revenue based on ‘your preferences’. Even if you could decide which thoughts to post, your cognitive data is still theirs to analyse.

Acces to your mind will allow them to meddle with your news feed and the ads you see even more, based on anything ranging from highly intellectual musings to your most ridiculous brain farts, including emotions (which many are giving away already by ‘liking’ with emotions).

But what I find even more discomforting, is that barely anyone seems to be concerned about having their minds read by Facebook.

I remember how in Facebook’s early days, alterations to their privacy policy quickly became hot news and caused momentary but widespread outrage among netizens. Ways to provide  feedback on changes such as these have gradually been made less obvious to find and use by Facebook, and as people got used to it, they have introduced one privacy-invading feature after the other.

That’s why I’m out. Roughly two weeks ago, I requested a download of everything I’d posted on the social network and then deleted my account. Even the deleting process was a primary example of Facebookian data hoarding: only if during 14 days no attempt was made to log back in, my data would finally be deleted.

Privacy, or any data about you, has become the new currency. It’s what we pay to use free services such as Facebook and Google’s Android. As these companies are seeing that their strategies seem to work (e.g. people happily use their services and don’t seem to mind losing their privacy), they simply carry on to invade our personal space.

There are alternatives. Not all companies are after your data to the same extent. Instead of Google, which is permanently tracking you, use DuckDuckGo. Instead of relying on Android, where Google have so much control that they can install, update and delete apps whenever they like, use a phone with another OS.

Alternative services or devices might not always be as affordable. But I’ll gladly fork over some extra cash to have control over my personal data.

More on FacebookThe not-so-correct censoring policy of Facebook (Engadget)

1See The Guardian, Android Authority, Buzzfeed


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