Users being used

Privacy on Facebook

The most heard criticism towards Facebook is that it does not respect the privacy of its users and shares stored personal data and posted content with third parties. Facebook officials have initially responded quite indifferently and arrogant to the critique, stating that if you do not like what Facebook does, you can always leave. However, after the Edward Snowden informed the world how many personal data was tapped by the NSA, Facebook finally published a transparency report, providing insight in the extent to which different governments request user data from Facebook.

Additionally, each time Facebook changes something in their settings or protocols, users automatically have their settings changed to ‘public’ so all their posts become visible to the entire world. They need to change the settings themselves if they wish to, and many users are not aware of this, at least for a period of time.

Sengupta reminds us how governments use new technologies for surveillance and control purposes, and especially how the boundaries civil rights pose on surveillance and control options are usually first expanded in the Global South. The internet is a space as any other where people’s rights can be violated by governments, because even though it is a virtual space it is interconnected with our physical reality. And blocking of Facebook, such is being done in China, is not the only way governments do this.

User exploitation

Facebook is free for its users. Facebook claims its mission to be to empower people and to make a change in the world. However, there are also large business interests at stake. The owner of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg is currently the richest man of his generation on this planet. Many users are not empowered at all by using Facebook, but rather exploited by it (Van Dijck:2012). Users are the products of the industry. And even though it is known that users do not want their page flooding with advertisement (Beauchamp:2013), Facebook still increases the amount of advertisement more and more each year.


van Dijck, José (2012) Facebook and the engineering of connectivity: A multi-layered approach to social media platforms, Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 19(2) 141-155

Beauchamp, Michelle Bednarz (2013) Don’t Invade My Personal Space: Facebook’s Advertising Dilemma, Journal of Applied Business Research, 29

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