Last week we started a 2-part series on the Facebook Business Model. It’s a timely look, given that today, February 4, Facebook celebrates 15 years since its founding. But this is more than a chance to say, “Happy Birthday, Facebook!” Now is also the right time to look closely at comments made by Mark Zuckerberg in a recent editorial he authored for the Wall Street Journal.
Facebook, Who’s In Control?
After a year of pummeling by the press (as well as its largest profits and highest user-enrollment numbers ever), Facebook stands behind its message of “user control.” As Zuckerberg explained, “On Facebook, you have control over what information we use to show you ads, and you can block any advertiser from reaching you. You can find out why you’re seeing an ad and change your preferences to get ads you’re interested in. And you can use our transparency tools to see every different ad an advertiser is showing to anyone else.”
So, what’s the rationale behind Zuckerberg’s claim that the Facebook business model is built on user control? Why would social media users and its critics buy into this assertion?
Because selling –or even worse, freely revealing— people’s personal data is counterintuitive to Facebook’s business interests. If Facebook sold user data to advertisers, it would be diluting the value of the most lucrative information it possesses. As Zuckerberg observes, “We have a strong incentive to protect people’s information from being accessed by anyone.”
Likewise, it would not make sense for Facebook to increase engagement for causes and agendas just because Zuckerberg or others at Facebook personally support them. Showing a person anything other than what truly is of interest to that individual is a short-term plan for long-term failure.
Here’s Where Facebook Isn’t Giving Up Control
You’d have to have been living under a rock to think that Facebook’s security measures have been flawless and fully air-tight. But then again… hasn’t Facebook done an incredible job anticipating and protecting BILLIONS of people from what could go wrong? As online engagement and platforms continually evolve, each step along the way is literally blazing new territory (read: FACEBOOK: OPERATING AT A SCALE AND PACE UNSEEN IN HUMAN HISTORY), into the vast and uncharted waters of cyberspace.
Zuckerberg summarized Facebook’s position on the balance between control and security, saying, “We give people complete control over whether we use this information (personal data) for ads, but we don’t let them control how we use it for security or operating our services.”
Good! Who, other than those with unscrupulous motives, wants Facebook to reveal its security protocol and processes? That would be like your bank sharing the code to the vault.
Instead of being a critic, today is a great day to celebrate Facebook and all it has accomplished over the past 15 years.
Happy Birthday, Facebook!