People used to say that the banks were too big to fail. Then they started failing.
Then people used to say, some companies are too big to pay proper taxes or be held to account.
Then things started to go wrong (public opinion, food scandals) and lo and behold, big companies cannot escape responsibilities.
However, it may just be the case that some of the internet companies can.
The Google vs Apple Case
Google is being sued for millions, in the words of Simon Duke reporting in the Sunday Times on 27 January 2013, ‘for snooping on millions of British internet users’.
It transpires that Google found a way to bypass Safari security settings on Macs and iPhones between Spring 2011 and Spring 2012. Millions of users could have had their web movements unknowingly tracked by the search giant. Cookie blocks have been disabled.
They have already been fined over $22 million in the USA for getting round Safari privacy settings. Legal company Olswang have set action in motion,and partner Dan Tench described Google’s behaviour as ‘like being under surveillance from someone who specifically promised to leave you alone.’
Judith Vidal-Hall, one time editor of the Index on Censorship, likened Google’s activities to ‘electronic stalking’.
Claims could run into millions, though possibly small for each individual person. Google knew what they were doing, indeed, did it deliberately in their relentless drive to amass more data about people to make ever more money from targetted advertising.
Anybody who thinks their privacy has been compromised should check out the legal action.
The Facebook Claims
As ever, in a story about bad behaviour, Facebook stakes its claim for inclusion. Last month it emailed its US users to say they could be eligible for a share of the $20 million payout they are making for using members’ photos and personal details without permission.
The ‘sponsored stories’ are at the heart of this latest reason to dislike Facebook. They turn people’s web movement into adverts by republishing it all in a ‘timeline’ news feed.
Twenty million dollars is small change to the social networking site, of course. But the real sting in the tail on this one is that they have said if there are too many claims, THEY WILL GIVE THE MONEY TO CHARITIES THAT TEACH PEOPLE HOW TO USE SOCIAL MEDIA SAFELY!
By what right do they make that decision?
If I was due compensation from Facebook, I’d want to make my own decision about what I did with it, not have the Zuckerburg Empire dictate it to me.
Death Is No Escape
Facebook’s ‘sponsored stories’ are actually far more sinister than first appear. Using names and photos of people in their system without consent or even knowledge is bad enough, surely?
In some cases, the fact that the person concerned is dead makes no difference. Facebook think they have to right to use data as they want when they want in pursuit of their goal – to take more of your money.
They wrap it up in a mealy-mouthed explanation, something to do with their social advertising system when that person ‘likes’ a page, then if that ‘like‘ relates to a service product, event, then an advertiser can pay to have it used as a ‘sponsored story’.
Facebook was quoted in The Times on 25th January 2013 by Technology Reporter Murad Ahmed saying: ‘Sponsored stories are based around content that people have already interacted with on Facebook, for example a friend liking a page. Advertisers can pay to ensure you see this interaction’.
They believe that people put a lot of weight on the opinion of their friends, and obviously many do. But does it automatically follow that somebody you know has ‘liked’ a page of a product that you will too? Or that you will care less?
Facebook makes sure you are told it anyway, although they claim that people have the option of not receiving sponsored stories. Oh, well, that makes it alright, doesn’t it?
Advertising Saturation Point?
I’m as fervent a capitalist as anybody I know. I accept adverts have to sell things and that makes the world go round, employ thousands directly and indirectly and are now so much part of the western world that it seems they are here forever. Sponsorship has been an acceptable part of advertising for centuries, yes.
However, don’t you long for the day when an internet giant says we have enough for our needs? We do not want a cash pile bigger than the economies of nation states of a third of the world? We’ll just keep making better services but without treating people as just numbers and algorithms? And haven’t we reached saturation point on advertising anyway?
Jump on your own soapbox and let us know what you think…..
Other posts to check out:
Life-Logging Is Not the Harmless Fun It’s Portrayed to Be, 6 February 2013
Facebook Is Bad for Your Health, But Good For Your Self-Esteem, 29 January 2013
Time to Cage the Twittering, Tweeting Bird of Internet Freedom, 22 January 2013
Doomsday Battle Looms for Absolute Control of the Cloud, 9 January 2013
When Christmas Ads Become More Important Than TV Programmes, 24 December 2012
The Internet Has Created a New Frontier in Lite-Tax Paying, 29 October 2012