Apple CEO Tim Cook made headlines over the weekend when he urged college graduates to push back against social media companies out to steal their privacy, bringing the issue of Facebook's privacy crisis to the forefront again. Michael Levin takes a look at why Facebook’s privacy crisis could be a privacy opportunity for others.
Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, says it best, "Privacy in itself has become a crisis."
Our tech giants know too much about each of us and continue to gobble up vast amounts of information; creating a bizarre world where our phones may know more about us than our closest friends. And people are increasingly unhappy about it.
‘Techlash” refers to the growing sense of anger at Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple, who seem to just buy their way out of trouble and never face real consequences for their antisocial behaviour.
Even Chris Hughes, one of the founders of Facebook, said a few days ago, "It is time to break up Facebook."
He advocates using the tools of government to "check the domination of Facebook." But are those tools, conceived in the pre-internet era, really effective for managing powerful billion dollar tech firms? Or do social media sites sometimes just self-destruct when members move on?
Time for a quick history lesson: Once upon a time, there was a popular social media site called Myspace, which started as a hangout for musicians and turned into a proto-Facebook, where all the world went.
Rupert Murdoch, who wanted to get in the social media game, bought Myspace at the peak of its popularity for $580 million, only to dump it in a fire sale five years later, for pennies on the dollar.
Like the rest of us at the time, Murdoch thought Myspace was here to stay, but Facebook was the competition to which everybody switched, and now they're worth an unbelievable $500 billion.
If any of the other tech giants offered a social network that did not collect insidious amounts of information about all of its users, Facebook might just become the next Myspace.
"We think we're the competition with a better social experience," says Scott Relf, founder of PikMobile, a social media app.
“We’ve eliminated all of the ads and data snooping to reinvent the art of social storytelling, for a world that wants its privacy respected.”
PikMobile claims to have the best features of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and because there is no advertising, there is no reason to collect data, or manipulate the user's experience with algorithms.
According to Relf, Pikmobile replaced unpopular ads with the option to add premium content from sports, news, celebrities, and creators of all types for a small additional charge. Some users buy premium content, while many users only use the free social storytelling. And no one has to look at ads or have their privacy violated.
"Congress is trying to use an outdated regulation framework from the mid-20th century to deal with privacy issues online," said Relf. "We can't wait years for that to happen, we need to fix things right now."