A current contention is that Facebook makes its money by selling our precious data – this is not true and now we’ve proof that it is untrue. There’s a certain importance to this as we’re told by the likes of Jaron Lanier that data is the new oil, that our data belongs to us and that people like Google and Facebook should be paying us for our data. Because, you know, they sell it so where’s our cash?
That Facebook doesn’t in fact sell data is only one problem with this argument but it’s a biggie:
Facebook staff discussed charging companies for access to user data, before ultimately deciding against such a policy, according to reports. The internal discussions were revealed due to improperly redacted court documents, released as part of Facebook’s lawsuit against American software developer Six4Three last year. According to Ars Technica and the Wall Street Journal, an 18-page court filing contains three pages that were supposed to be blacked out because they contain “sensitive discussion of Facebook’s internal strategic analysis of third-party applications”, Facebook said in other court filings.
Facebook doesn’t charge for access to data. Therefore Facebook isn’t selling data, is it? Hey, maybe they thought about it but the very fact that they decided not to shows that they don’t, doesn’t it?
There is of course that other problem with the our data, our money, argument. Which is that the data of any one individual is valueless. It’s the mountain of data which is valuable. Which means that it’s the system of creating the mountain which is adding the value. Sorites had something to say on this – at which point does data gain value perhaps?
But if it’s the system of piling it up which creates the value then that value righteously belongs to the system, doesn’t it? That is, if it’s Facebook adding the value then why shouldn’t Facebook be gaining the revenue? Even a Marxist should be able to agree to that one. It’s the labour of collecting and sorting which adds the value, the revenues belong to the labour. Anything else would be appropriation now, wouldn’t it?