Facebook is introducing a new AI that shall understand what users post with near human accuracy. The new system called “DeepText” will be able to analyze thousands of posts per second in 20 different languages from posts, messages, and other pages. The stated purpose behind this system is to better offer suggestions to users. What it really means though, is that Facebook has developed a better way to track and understand what users are doing.
Facebook is seen by many as a way to keep current with friends and relatives, and the truth is, it does a good job of that. But Facebooks reasons, it’s true motivation, is not as benevolent as that. While using Facebook is free, Facebook is not non-profit. The truth of the matter is, Facebook is quite profitable, and those profits come from a lucrative trade in users data. People do understand that what they post to timelines is public, what they don’t understand is that it’s much more than what you post to timelines that Facebook is interested in.
Back in January, we told you how Facebook had entered a partnership with television rating company Nielsen to scrape people’s private messages for data. There is also a recent class action case being brought against Facebook for URL’s being collected from private messages to be translated to likes for companies. Two plaintiffs claim that Facebook is violating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the California Invasion of Privacy Act with the collection of this data. Facebook states that what they are doing is legal, despite the fact that this information, stored in a database called Titan, include these URL’s along with the sender and receiver ID, time, and date of message.
I would have expected these stories to anger the general populace. After all, this is information being collected from people’s private messages, not public posts. Messages which people believe are between them and the person they are talking to, yet Facebook collects, and takes the information that will profit them from those messages. But it gets scarier than this.
Once confronted with this wholesale collection of private conversations, users may attempt to justify the information being collected on them because of they are choosing to utilize the service. And they continue to choose to utilize Facebook. What would they think if they discovered Facebook was listening to them through their phone? Professor Kelli Burns has accused Facebook of listening to users through their cell phones. Burns claims that Facebook is collecting audio through users phones, and provided a test in which she spoke of an African Safari near her phone, only to have Facebook place a post on her feed within 60 seconds about a safari story. The post was originally posted three hours before. Facebook’s response was that their app does indeed listen to what is going on around it, but that it is not saved and that no one listens to it. Well isn’t that convenient?
Let’s also not forget that Facebook Messenger will also track your location with every message. It will record your location so specifically, that with the help of a simple Chrome Plugin, followers can tell which part of a bedroom someone sleeps. No, we didn’t make that up.
We need to remember that in the midst of the media battle between Apple and the FBI over the phone of the California terrorists, Facebook very publicly sided with Apple. Facebook claimed to be siding with privacy, all the while collecting people’s conversations and location data.
Sadly, Facebook has one fairly major thing working for it, and that is the amount of users it has. It does make it easy for users to keep in contact with others. But is it worth your privacy? Is it worth being nothing more than a commodity to Facebook? Let us not forget that Facebook also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, another popular social media platform, and a messenger. We can be sure that both these subsidiaries are also collecting user data.
Personally, I choose BBM and BBM Channels. Are there as many users? Of course not. But I ensure that those I wish to keep contact with, are on BBM. It can be difficult at times as they are not seeing the amount of activity as they do on these other platforms, but that is exactly how we get it to grow. One by one, we bring people to BBM, and as they learn what a great platform that is, they will bring others. With a little effort, and the knowledge of what Facebook actually does, perhaps we can show users that BBM is the real place to be.