Facebook has been wading through the hot waters of scandal lately thanks to the Cambridge Analytica data-mining scandal. Privacy issues have troubled Facebook, and many have been openly wondering if Facebook is the product or if you, the user, is.
Mark Zuckerberg was forced to respond in a congressional hearing to claims about selling personal data and users’ right to privacy. It was part of a public relations campaign that Facebook has embarked following the scandal, where the company wants to reassure users about comfortably and safely using the popular social network.
Related Story: WhatsApp’s Founder Tells Users To Delete Facebook
In a blog post Monday, Rob Goldman, Facebook’s vice president of advertising, tried to address the criticism head on. He wrote:
If I’m not paying for Facebook, am I the product?
No. Our product is social media – the ability to connect with the people that matter to you, wherever they are in the world. It’s the same with a free search engine, website or newspaper. The core product is reading the news or finding information – and the ads exist to fund that experience.
This message was met with even morecriticism for Facebook. Goldman comparing the company’s ethos to that of a website or newspaper is particularly ironic as Zuckerberg has repeatedly insisted that Facebook is “not a media company,” but a “technology company.” It also doesn’t help as Facebook has ravaged newspaper and other media companies in the digital advertising market, and analysts have claimed that Facebook and Google own a duopoloy over the digital advertising market.
Goldman tried to explain why Facebook needs to store so much personal data about users, arguing that it was how the social media company researches to “give you a better service.” In addition, Goldman tried to suggest that if anything Facebook was a service and advertisers the product as there were the ones spending money.
But that also opened up the company for more criticism. Saying that “data also helps us show you better and more relevant ads. And it lets advertisers reach the right people,” does cause you to wonder who Facebook is trying to please more—you or advertisers?
What Facebook is and isn’t remains a contentious debate that isn’t going away anytime soon. Of course you listen to the founder of WhatsApp and remove yourself from the narrative and service if you want to play it safe. Then there’d be no worries about ads at all!