Last week, a flurry of messages hit my Facebook Messenger inbox warning me that, starting on the weekend, if I didn’t do this or that, Facebook would start charging me for using their service…
It seems that every few months, this old hack makes the rounds. Users worry that Facebook is going to suddenly start ‘charging’ them for what most of us believe, up until the date specified in the notice, has been a free service.
I’ve got some good news and some bad news.
The good news: Facebook is not going to start charging users for using their platform to catch up with grandkids, share what they had for lunch or show off their latest workout pic any time soon (Hurrah!)
The bad news: The reason Facebook is not going to stop being free because it was never free to begin with (silence)
In fact, this point pertains to all social media networks.
You see, it’s free for you to get an account on most social media platforms, in that you’re not whipping out your credit card to sign up. Nor are you outright paying to engage with your friends, share photos, or post your latest thoughts on Sherlock.
But surely, we can’t expect, in this day and age, that massive companies like Facebook and LinkedIn are providing these social networking opportunities out of the goodness of their hearts? Or can we?
Well, to quote Mr. Wonderful himself (also known in real life as Kevin O’Leary): “The only reason to do business is to make money; that’s the only reason for doing business.”
Of course, he also said: “If you want a friend, buy a dog” so he might not be the poster child for social networking, but he nonetheless makes my point.
Businesses exist to make money and there is BIG money in information. Your information, my information, what we read, what we like, what movie we are going to see this weekend, etc.
Information is power because information can be monetized.
Social networks collect information. They are not free; they are an exchange. They provide us with a (valuable in my opinion) service in exchange for the right to collect our information. It’s how they stay afloat, pay their staff, provide the service you know and love.
“Facebook’s data collection from personal sharing is a huge part of why its ad network has been so successful.” (Source)
A Deeper Dive Into Data Collection 101
Let’s stick with Facebook as an example. When you signed up for Facebook, you agreed to their Terms of Service.
Line 2 of the terms (not buried deep in the dungeons of the fine print as many will accuse), is this line: “You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings.” (Attribution)
Sounds fine, right? Read on…
“… In addition:
- For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.”
This doesn’t seem complicated to me. Neither is this part, just a few lines later:
“When you use an application, the application may ask for your permission to access your content and information as well as content and information that others have shared with you. We require applications to respect your privacy, and your agreement with that application will control how the application can use, store, and transfer that content and information. (To learn more about Platform, including how you can control what information other people may share with applications, read our Data Policy and Platform Page.)”
The Terms are there for you to review at any time; they’re not overly lengthy and they’re in plain English.
These terms explain the kind of payment that Facebook accepts for use of their service: Data. And if you don’t like those payment terms, you’re under no obligation to use the network.
A Middle Ground: Limiting Your Digital Footprint
I can hear you now: “But I can’t! I have to be on it for work, for family, for….” And that’s a very fair point.
On the upside, you can still control who sees what and when. You can limit your digital footprint:
- When you answer that quiz and are connected to a Facebook application, you have to agree to it and the app specifies what information it is going to be collecting. This is true for any third party app connected to Facebook. So ixnay the quiz and don’t agree.
- Don’t use your Facebook login to login to other sites. In doing so, you are giving up some contact information. Be aware of these connective services and what information they collect / share.
Where Was I Going With This Rant? The Bottom Line…
We, as every day users, already “pay” for Facebook – and other networks – by allowing access to our data that, in turn, Facebook indirectly supplies to advertisers on their network, and also allowing Facebook’s clients to show us their ads.
This type of data collection and access is far more valuable than any fee Facebook could charge for use of its network. Therefore, Facebook is unlikely to charge you a monetary fee in the future.
The next time the above scam makes the rounds, exhale, relax! Nothing is changing. The more you use the network, the more money Facebook makes, so the LAST thing Facebook is going to do is give you a reason to stop using it!
Just remember, Facebook was never free to begin with, and its payment structure is not about to change 🙂
P.S. If the idea of sharing your info really pisses you off, here’s three things you can do:
- Educate yourself
- Read the terms of service for whatever networks you are on
- Learn about third party apps, connective and identification services