As Facebook takes its place at the table of business high rollers, users will have to ask how their personal information is treated.
On the back of a successful 2010, including a silver screen debut, the social media goliath welcomed in the new year by accepting a $375 million investment offer from Goldman Sachs. Like sending the two Milliband brothers on a team building exercise in Cumbria, nothing good can come of this.
For one the deal estimates Facebook’s worth at a giddying $50 billion, a potentially inflated sum when you look at the company’s reported revenue of just $1.2 billion over the first three quarters of 2010. But enough with this monetary dandyism, what of the unwashed masses who use the thing? Well, the noticeably gaping numerical chasm between revenue and worth suggests that financial value is being uncovered elsewhere on Facebook. A bounty is slowly collating above the heads of its 600 million usership and more importantly, the keg loads of information Facebook has on them.
Addresses, birthdays, phone numbers. What’s to stop Facebook auctioning its users’ information and details to the highest bidder, flimsy privacy agreements? Goldman Sachs and co. has seen worse. After all, the parents of royal fiancée Kate Middleton were known to derive a sizeable chunk of revenue for their business, ‘Party Pieces’, by selling their clients’ contact details to relevant companies. With more extensive information at their digital fingertips, Facebook could do one better.
After seven years of loyal service; nursing our hangovers, publishing our ethereal musings and inviting us to join groups detailing the post-mortem of a phone lost to the supernatural clutches of a festival bog. Is Facebook preparing to throw us to the corporate lions? Are our witty wall posts destined to be salivated over by a wispy cheeked researcher, hell bent on proving the neo-Nazi tendencies of Generation Y? Not on my watch.
At this crucial juncture I acknowledge this may sound like the ramblings of an apocalyptic prophet, touring the country and living out of a caravan and stockpiles of tinned food. Or even Morpheus incarnate, offering the ‘blue pill’ of online salvation. Unfortunately for any leather suppliers, I am neither. I’m just not keen on the idea of my postcode being bootlegged across the web to any Tom, Dick and Hameed. So when China gets their teeth into global advertising and start sending Viagra discounts to my new address in the Shire, I’ll be Chairman LMAOing.
As a further measure, next time I see a status update saying “just off to the South of France in daddy’s yacht”, I will not be ‘liking’ it. Instead while they are enjoying the sun, I will round up a posse and march on the offender’s home address (conveniently located in the ‘contact information’ section), kick down the door and kidnap the new puppy they put photos up of last week. It’s for the best.
The socially transparent era of tweeting your bowel movements is over, long live privacy!