The recently coined meme #surveillancecapitalism identifies Google, Facebook and other online communications platform providers as profiting through collecting data on over 2 billion people. The improved efficiencies in Advertising by selecting precise groups of individuals to target with specific ads is working well. Google’s value / market capitalization is about $750 Billion dollars, Facebook $550 Billion dollars, together, they are valued at over 1 Trillion dollars, their claim to that number based on their ability to influence the users of their Social network and Search engine and views of ad placement behavior. In general that behavior has been the sale of a product or service, but more recently, the advertisements have a more subtle goal – Join a specific group, write to a politician, get your word out to people who respond.
Google has won its FTC battle assert under the rights of Corporate “Citizens United”, that their company is a Citizen of the United States with all the rights and benefits of Citizenship, specifically ‘Freedom of Speech’. Under this right, Google claims that its search engine results are an Opinion and its return fo that Opinion to people using their search engine is guaranteed by the Constitution under Free Speech. Further, cherry picking Rights, Google claims that how it arrives at its Opinion is no ones business but their own.
Clearly, their Opinion so strongly influences Google’s users that the Stock Market assigns a 750 Billion dollar value to Google’s methods and process.
Facebooks deep understanding of what Mark Zuckerberg called a users ‘Social Graph’ – the interrelated data about a person’s data presented through using Facebook, Likes, Location, Age, Friends, Ad-clicks, movement, inter-friend messages, time on line, time of day online, amount of time on line, activities, pictures, videos, book interests, are enough data on which Facebook’s customers can rely for a steady success set of outcomes. This helps support the 1/2 Trillion dollar valuation for Facebook.
Anyone wishing to influence Facebook users, or Googles can develop a graph, video or text message to alter the behavior of those non-customers of Facebook – their data providers – free users.
Nation-states, and their representatives are using the facilities of Google and Facebook to alter readers behavior in ways that support the outcomes they look for. The change could be as simple as encouraging a Facebook reader to take a position, click on some news, that solidifies that user’s unpopular view, thereby splitting their vote from others. Many small group of voters, each chasing a ‘custom’ vote, can likely not win a vote that has only 2 or 3 options.
Since neither Google nor Facebook needs to reveal how they influence readers, the public, scholars, regulators, community leaders may never discover how subtle changing in news-feeds, content and availability alter readers perspectives. Continue’d into the future. AI and Machine Learning can make advertising placement even more effective, with unknowable methods. Wisdom may be decades off. The median age of Facebook’s workforce is 29 years old.