Professor Tim Wu, a former advisor to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), has claimed “privacy” is “like kryptonite” to Facebook’s business model.
“The fact is that privacy, it’s like kryptonite to their business model,” declared Wu during an NPR interview, adding that the company has “to be able to promise their advertisers they have the goods on everyone and they have the power to manipulate people.”
“So if they’re tight on privacy, that tends to throw a wrench into the machine,” Wu explained.
During the interview, Wu also described the problems that the FTC had with Facebook regarding user privacy in 2011.
“The problem the FTC was confronting, a problem similar to now, is that there were a number of abusive apps installed, and then they did a lot more with your data than you thought they were,” he claimed. “And one of the big problems is that Facebook gave the impression you could control your own privacy, by setting the settings in certain ways, but those settings did nothing. They were fake buttons… They prevented some things, but the apps were easily capable of getting around settings.”
Wu added that although Facebook “promised to fix it all up,” and “agreed to audits every two years for the next twenty years,” the problem “didn’t go away.”
“I think the problem lies here; it’s actually a very fundamental one. Facebook is always in the position of serving two masters. If it’s actual purpose was just trying to connect friends and family, and it didn’t have a secondary motive of trying to also prove to another set of people that it could gather as much data as possible, and make it possible to manipulate or influence or persuade people, that wouldn’t be a problem,” expressed Wu. “For instance, if they were a non-profit, it wouldn’t be a problem. But they’re not. That’s a problem. I think there’s an intrinsic problem in having for-profit entities with this business model in this position of so much public trust. They’re always at the edge because their profitability depends on it.”