Saturday, April 2, 2011

Politics, Facebook and Your Privacy

Should Terrify Us All

Power is often something that is earned. It’s also something that can be taken by making the right moves. As Facebook continues to expand its reach in Washington, alarm bells should be ringing in every one of our skeptical minds.

For the most part, it will go unnoticed. It’s like the perfect bomb – two components that are benign by themselves but deadly when mixed. While most would say that neither Washington nor Facebook are benign, it should be noted that the potential of combining the entities is more than just dangerous. It will prove to be deadly.

There will be those who say that everything I’m about to write is paranoid gibberish or unfounded analysis. Believe what you will, but don’t be foolish or blind. This is a potentially dangerous situation. Here’s why:

The Unholy Alliance

The moves that Facebook plans on making go well beyond getting lobbyists to protect their interests. Currently, Facebook’s only public-facing interest is control over basic Internet functions – pageviews, eCommerce, social influence, and access. Facebook is already exceptional at controlling pageviews. Their eCommerce department is working feverishly (albeit stealthily) to embed Facebook as a centralized middleman for buying and selling through the Internet. Their social influence is unquestioned and nearly unchallenged. Access – new websites are born every day that encourage or require logging in through Facebook.

Rather than hiring lobbyists, Facebook is hiring Washington insiders. They already have a COO in the form of former Clinton administration official Sheryl Sandberg, a General Counsel in the form of former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia clerk Ted Ullyot, and they are eying President Obama’s former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs for their communications team.

This is just the beginning.

The only reason a company would pay the premium to get politicos on board is to have the influence and clout to make serious moves in Washington. That’s it. There’s no other valid reason. With 3, it could be a coincidence. We expect to see more down the line.

What moves could they possibly be considering? What do they want, and what would they have to offer?

This is where the speculation goes off the reservation. Facebook is a longshot candidate to be involved with the proposed National Internet ID. That longshot status could change quickly if they are able to convince the administration that they possess both the skills and the manpower to make it a reality in a way that people will be willing to embrace.

There are other things they want in Washington, but this is the big prize. Because the concept of a National Internet ID is to protect people while online and encourage eCommerce, Facebook is poised to be a recipient of some form of benefits once it’s in place. They could help administer it at the high end. They could be an integrated partner on the low end. Either way, they win.

As far as what they have to offer, it’s pretty clear. They have the data. They have the users. They have the attention of the nation and the world in a way that no other website has truly held. Even Google is useful but not as integrated into our day-to-day lives the way Facebook is.

They will never admit it, but it’s the biggest thing they have that the government wants. Are you scared yet?

Why It Should Scare You

The National Internet ID as a concept should terrify you already, but Facebook would double the danger. You see, Facebook as a company does not have a track-record of having our best interests in mind or of protecting our information in any way, shape or form. Their political aspirations go beyond Farmville and poking. They are making a play for real power.

The US government does not have a strong track-record of wielding their power in ways that the people want. Sure, this is a democracy, but did we vote to be groped? Did we tell the government it was okay to wiretap citizens without a court order? The questionable decisions go on and on. Add Facebook’s trillions of bits of data about us, our friends, and our activities to the mix and suddenly you have a recipe for 1984.

Big Brother won’t just be watching if Facebook gets more ears in Washington.

Enhanced by Zemanta