Mark Zuckerberg wants to clear something up: Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t “sell” your personal data. I want to clear something up: Mark Zuckerberg owns your data like a hotel room and rents out “Hotel You” by the hour, day or month to anyone in the world for cold hard cash.
Selling the rights to use a property for a period of time actually is a type of sale, but it’s more commonly called ‘renting.’ The property is you and your landlord is Mark Zuckerberg until you walk away.
Last Thursday the Wall Street Journal published Mark Zuckerberg’s Op-Ed, “The Facts About Facebook.” But the ‘facts’ about Facebook don’t explain anything when no one understands jargon like ‘monetization.’ Also, the company turning your life into an ever more valuable rental property buries the incredible results of building “Hotel You” deep in menus you’re never meant to find.
The property Facebook develops, owns and rents out to anyone in the world is you. Data collected about who you are and what you do on and off Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram is used to build Facebook’s property “Hotel You.” The more years and more often you use the landlord’s platforms, the more valuable the property “Hotel You” becomes to landlord Zuckerberg.
“Monetize” is what happens every time Facebook sells access to “Hotel You.” When you pay a motel or hotel to rent a room or pay a landlord rent for an apartment or house, the property owner is ‘monetizing’ their property. Facebook does the same thing, except the property they rent is the data they have collected about you.
More “You Data” means more ‘opportunities to monetize.’ Think of “Hotel You” as an actual hotel room. A hotel room without a bed (not much “You Data”) is less desirable than a hotel room with a single bed (some “You Data”) is less desirable than a room with two king size beds (a lot of “You Data”). Hotel rooms with two king size beds can be rented for more money than a hotel room with no bed.
Facebook actively builds its property “Hotel You” over time by tracking and recording every thought you share; everything you hover over; the things you ignore; and everything you have clicked since the day you started using Facebook. For the Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram users who use these platforms for years, “Hotel You” is probably the equivalent of a luxury suite with two California king beds and 800 thread count sheets.
As long as you use Mark Zuckerberg’s platforms, information rented out about you will become more abundant and better quality, making you a more precise target for anyone in the world who wants to influence you. At the very end of this process that filters who you are for advertisers, Facebook sells access to you in real life.
Because in real life you are looking at Facebook.
A recent Pew Poll found that 74% of Facebook users in the US don’t understand how Facebook makes money. Given how technical and complex Facebook’s “monetization” scheme is, it might be easier to see Facebook as always building ‘Hotel You’ and Mark Zuckerberg as your landlord for as long as you use his platforms.
Natasha Lomas writes in TechCrunch about the Pew Poll,
“For all the outrage generated by revelations that Cambridge Analytica had tried to use Facebook data to apply political labels on people to target ads, such labels remain a core feature of the Facebook platform — allowing any advertiser, large or small, to pay Facebook to target people based on where its algorithms have determined they sit on the political spectrum, and do so without obtaining their explicit consent.”