At some point, shouldn't what's wrong with Facebook ultimately make us wonder what's wrong with us?
We could almost set our clocks by the number of times the social media behemoth has made mea culpa announcements this year.
A political consulting firm harvested user information. Hackers gained access to phone numbers and email addresses. Last week, the New York Times reported “Netflix and Spotify received access to people’s Facebook messages as part of features that allowed people to suggest movies, TV shows and music to friends.”
It doesn’t appear there was anything nefarious done with the access by Netflix and Spotify, and both companies deny wrongdoing. That's reasonable. The New York Times even reported on itself in its story, and denied being aware of the access they had.
But this isn't about the companies who acquired access. It's about the company that offered the access.
Facebook isn't bragging about its privacy limitations and settings any more. Each of the recent revelations has resulted in Facebook pronouncements of how much better it is than it was, each little more than immediate reactions to the most recent piece of news that will infuriate its users.
The recent complaints about Facebook have involved them selling users' information. But the Times report makes it clear Facebook is being even more cavalier, giving away information to any number of its “partners.” Those partners are beginning to find themselves tainted by the relationship, unable to answer angry customers' questions. Those partners are also protecting Facebook. If Facebook isn't alone in its transgressions, developing a plan for punishment or even change becomes exponentially difficult and unlikely.
We can wait for someone else to clean up the mess and make it better and safer. As a society, we're good at that kind of waiting. We're also smart enough to know no one will come along to save us, and we'll continue to swim in this morass and pretend to be outraged every time another revelation comes to light.
Or we can take things into our own hands. It takes no effort to ignore Facebook temporarily or abandon it completely.
That's the challenge, isn't it? We've allowed Facebook to become a centerpoint in our lives. The things we once did via phone calls or letters or email are now generally accomplished on Facebook. Social media can be fantastic because it's social. All of our friends and relatives are there.
But we need to remember who controls the information on Facebook, and it isn't us. When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg told Congress, “Every single time that you share something on Facebook or one of our services, right there is a control in line where you control who you want to share with,” he was lying.
We've spent almost 70 years in fear of Big Brother, the character created by George Orwell in his landmark dystopian novel “1984.” We just never realized Big Brother could be so much fun, generating cat videos and photos of our relatives' children.
Zuckerberg was lying, and we were wrong.