The Facebook market failure


The thought-terminating cliche about Facebook goes if you don’t like it, you don’t have to use it. And it’s transparently specious:

  • If you’re a millennial and don’t have a profile, good luck finding a job. Recruiters routinely search Facebook profiles to make sure you’re on the up and up; an absence of one leads to the assumption you deleted or blocked it out of shame for what it contained.

  • Facebook maintains shadow profiles of unregistered users, based on patterns of others.

  • Merely having an account will result in you being tracked online, unless you’re extremely proactive with opting out and using privacy tools. This should all be opt in, of course.

None of this, even recent revelations about Cambridge Analytica, should be surprising or new, though at least the latter are finally making more media outlets take notice.

The core problem is, Facebook is a success by our current metrics of making money and having lots of users. Only when those motives are aligned differently will we see a change.

The more I think about it, it looks like one of the biggest market failures of all time, where the welfare of people is impacted by its growth.

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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