‘Facebook lowers our resistance by taking small steps’

The important question isn’t what Facebook is changing with their new terms of use, taking effect on January the 1st; the question is: where does it stop? Internet expert Danny Mekić doesn’t doubt for a moment that Facebook has a plan, and that they aren’t nearly done with it yet.

Facebook recently presented its new terms and conditions. For example, the website will be allowed to track the browsing behaviour of its users, even on other sites. „Every time Facebook makes a big change, they present a positive message while they’re actually doing something negative,” Mekić says. „This time, the message is that it’ll be an improvement for us and we’ll have more control over what we share with our friends. But what you share with Facebook itself is beyond your control.”

Earlier this year, Facebook paid nearly 12 billion euros to buy the instant messaging service Whatsapp. That takeover caused a lot of commotion, because people were worried that Facebook would make a fortune with their private conversations. Mark Zuckerberg, the head honcho of the social network, promised that Whatsapp chats would not end up in Facebook’s hands. „The new conditions won’t change that,” Mekić says, „but Facebook data will be going to Whatsapp. In a year or two, we’ll be used to that. Maybe then Facebook will add to its terms of use that data can go the other way too. We’re a major step further along now.”

It’s a familiar pattern to Mekić. „Facebook introduces something, there’s an outcry, they take it back again, and a few months later they do it anyway, because you’ll be used to the idea by then. They’re working on lowering our resistance, taking small steps to stretch our boundaries. Facebook will be safe as long as they don’t do too much at once.”

Switching is not an option, because Facebook doesn’t have any serious competition. „Facebook has become meaningful to our lives. We chat, we share photos, we read articles, we fulfil our needs. Facebook won’t teach us to chat less or click less ‘like’ buttons. We’re animals, we’ve been taught a particular behaviour, and we’re going to keep doing it for a while.”

Mekić thinks Facebook is trying to build up a great empire. The company has been working on becoming an internet provider; then they’ll be able to keep tabs on what people search for, and maybe decide what they get to see too. Maybe some day people will also be able to buy products and transfer money via Facebook. „If Facebook knows who you are, and where you are, and knows your level of education and your job and what you like to cook, then they can make an educated guess about your income. If they see you’re in Paris one weekend and in London the next, they’ll know you’re not pinching pennies. They’ll know they can show you ads for expensive products. And otherwise, maybe they’ll show you ads for a loan.”

And yet, there’s one big danger to Facebook: cybercrime. If hackers would ever succeed in stealing the personal information of billions of users, people will realise just how much Facebook has gotten to know about them. „What would you say if all your private conversations ended up out in the open? Do you remember what you talked about in 2007, and with whom? We have more and more accounts and more and more apps, we visit more and more websites and give away more and more information, which becomes connected more and more often too.”

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