Persuasion and Control

Recently Facebook has been under serious scrutiny about their data privacy policies and practices. The business model that Facebook has, along with the majority of the internet, is one that sells your attention to advertisers who want to sell something.

Data, specifically your data, is what enables Facebook to be one of the most effective advertising platforms ever created. Want to advertise to older men? Facebook can do that. Want to advertise to expectant mothers? Facebook can do that. Want to advertise to business professionals from the retail sector who are looking to join a gym? I’m pretty sure Facebook can do that too.

This leads to a situation which is concerning in 2 main areas:

  1. The more data Facebook has about people the more money it makes
  2. The more time people spend on the platform the more money Facebook makes

Now these are not obviously problematic motivations for a business, but when taken to extremes they can be detrimental to individuals. For example making the platform as addictive as possible is in Facebooks interest, even if you, the user, spends a little less time with your family or in the gym or anything else.

Zeynep Tufekci and Sam Harris discuss the implications of platforms like Facebook and Google fighting for our attention, and the impact on individuals and society.



A Ted talk by Zeynep, where she talks about more unintended consequences of businesses profiting from our attention:

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