When signing up for Facebook, you are promised a service that is completely free. Facebook is free and so is Google, WhatsApp, Snapchat, or other hugely popular Internet services. Yet, few people realize that there is a hidden price.
With a market valuation of $500 billion, how does Facebook make all those profits? How can a “free, and always free” product can lead to such indecent profits ($16 billion in 2017)?
The latest scandal involving Facebook and the Trump campaign-tied Cambridge Analytica may provide a hint. If you aren’t paying for a product, then, most of the times, you are the product.
Facebook users are the product because they are the target of advertising, which accounts for 98.5% of the social media giant’s revenue. In some cases, the company can sell their private data to businesses they wouldn’t like if asked. But that’s the price for using Facebook.
The product that is being sold is not you, but your personal data which tells a lot about you. Facebook knows your preferences and opinions when you are simply hitting like on a post or doing a search on the website.
Advertisers Can and Will Mishandle Data
This type of data is very important to advertisers because they can get to know their clients better, and tailor the ads to get their attention. Facebook even allows advertisers to buy bulk information on users based on their jobs, age, sex, hobbies, favorite films, or relationship status.
The social media platform has two billion active users every month. So, it is now wonder Facebook boasts “powerful audience selection tools” that can help any business target the audience it wants.
The cringy part is that Facebook is doing all this legally. It doesn’t sell the data in itself, but the access to it, and most buyers don’t comply with the terms and conditions of use.
This usually leads to data breach allegations which is the case of Cambridge Analytica, which mishandled the private data on 50 million unknowing Facebook users.
Image Source: Obama White House.gov