Mark Zuckerberg’s repeated assurances to Congress last week that “We never sell your data” were in a class with Bill Clinton’s insistence in the Lewinsky affair that “I did not have sex with that woman.” (She had sex with him, but he did not have sex with her, get it?) Or maybe that kind of sex isn’t really sex. But I digress.
Zuckerberg’s claim is the same sort of hogwash. Facebook may not literally “sell” a packet of data, but it sorts and sells access to all sorts of personal information that it collects every time you go on Facebook. That’s how Facebook makes its money. It’s a distinction without a difference.
The other big lie Zuckerberg kept telling was his insistence that you control who has access to your data. Yes, you control which information you want available to what categories of other Facebook users and the general public. But you have no control whatsoever with what Facebook does with your data.
The only remedy is total prohibition of any commercial use of data collected by Facebook. If Wikipedia can operate without commercializing data that reflect user searches, so can Facebook. And if Facebook can’t make that business model work, good riddance. There are surely other ways for people to stay digitally connected.