Historically, I was not a fan of Facebook, to put it mildly. And yet, tomorrow is my first day working at Facebook.
Facebook does not have a good track record of protecting its users’ data – both social data and security credentials. Facebook also came under fire for helping to spread misinformation (e.g. election interference attempts) and inappropriate data (e.g. hate crime videos). Mark Zuckerberg recently responded with two posts addressing each of these problems: “A Privacy-Focused Vision for Social Networking” and “The Internet needs new rules. Let’s start in these four areas.” respectfully. From talking with several insiders, the company is taking these changes seriously.
I care about privacy more than the average person. I rarely use Google to search the web – DuckDuckGo does an okay job most of the time. I pay money to my email provider (FastMail) instead of using GMail. I also self-host the analytics for this blog instead of using Google Analytics. I also realise that most people have different priorities and choose to use these services.
The inherent fundamentals of social networks dictate an advertising-based business model, which requires making trade-offs with users’ privacy. If these transactions are transparent and clear to users, the business will provide a win not just for itself and its customers (advertisers), but also to its users. As someone who lives a short 11,000 kilometers (6,800 miles) from family and friends, I can attest that the value is real.
Facebook needs to improve in: (a) Security; (b) Privacy; and (c) Integrity. The last one is difficult both from a technical and from a societal perspective. How can we identify if each post is a Hate post? How quickly? Who gets to define what is inappropriate? I look forward to trying to tackle these problems.
When disaster strikes, you should run towards the source of the problem, not away from it.