Juha Saarinen is a tech blogger for nzherald.co.nz.

Juha Saarinen: Regulate Facebook before it's too late

Facebook has become incredibly powerful and it should be a concern for everyone. Photo / AP
Facebook has become incredibly powerful and it should be a concern for everyone. Photo / AP

Once again, Facebook did something that had my mouse pointer hovering over the Delete My Account button. This time, either the Facebook app or social network's mobile site accessed my phone's contacts and snarfed a bunch of names and numbers. I would then get a notification when those people joined Facebook.

Handy, huh? Except most of the contacts are already on Facebook and in one case, the person was a someone who had died several years ago.

Facebook's algorithms care not for such human subtleties as they try to push more and more people into the maw of the social network. I get jaunty birthday best wishes reminders for friends who have died, and whose accounts haven't been deleted.

You try to avoid social media over the holidays but, it's what people and businesses use instead of email, event management and websites so you're drawn back whether or not you like it. It feels like a guilty hit of mental methamphetamine and you know you shouldn't be doing it, but can't help it.

There's definitely that, the vast reach that Facebook offers. Also, setting up a Facebook presence is much easier than putting together and maintaining a website with a contacts database.

It's also most likely more hacker safe to be on Facebook which has a good IT security team making sure it's far harder to break into the social network.

Despite all the advantages, is Facebook where schools, local councils and politicians should be though? In my mind, no.

For the finer details, please read Salim Virani's 2015 article on how Facebook's "privacy" policy actually explains how they sell you, your personal information and the things you post along with your relationships and more to advertisers, governments and others.

The too long, didn't read version is: unless you're comfortable with faceless Facebook being the middleman in your relationships - not facilitator - and tracking everything you do to build accurate profiles, reading private information and more, you should delete your account.

That's the kind of information about our school children and citizens that we should not volunteer to hand over just like that.

Politicians on Facebook might quietly rejoice in the sweet revenge of the social network kneecapping the fourth estate by eating traditional media's lunch; they shouldn't though, because they too will be disintermediated in an ill-informed democracy weakened by social media giants that kill jobs and pay little or no taxes, and don't contribute to the local economy.

Perhaps it's time to take back some of that power, and regulate Facebook before it decides too many things for us?

Facebook does not share our local values or care about them, because such fine-grained localised sensibilities would make its business model impossible.

Ask Hirini Katene, who had his post about the puhoro he had created pulled, and Elisa Barbari whose picture of a statue of Neptune was too sexually explicit for Facebook.

Sure, Facebook apologised for both fumbles, but there has been plenty more random censoring by the social network which is on the other hand quite happy to post totally bogus nonsense masquerading as real news items.

Only last month did Facebook realise that that's probably a really bad thing and tried to do something to stop this and misinformation spreading amongst its almost 1.8 billion active users.

I wouldn't be writing the above if Facebook was staffed with people who understand the value of human information, and not just its worth in dollars at a given moment.

Because, people post some really great stuff on Facebook. There's wit, caring, connections being made, and social movements and journalism too. Some of it is worth archiving like the paper notes, diaries, and published articles of the past but will it be kept for posterity, or disappear in a data centre somewhere?

Facebook has become incredibly powerful and it should be a concern for everyone.

Perhaps it's time to take back some of that power, and regulate Facebook before it decides too many things for us?

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW
Juha Saarinen is a tech blogger for nzherald.co.nz.

Juha Saarinen is a technology journalist and writer living in Auckland. Apart from contributing to the New Zealand Herald over the years, he has written for the Guardian, Wired, PC World, Computerworld and ITnews Australia, covering networking, hardware, software, enterprise IT as well as the business and social aspects of computing. A firm believer in the principle that trying stuff out makes you understand things better, he spends way too much time wondering why things just don’t work.

Read more by Juha Saarinen

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 27 May 2017 23:37:22 Processing Time: 432ms