At a certain point, all the bad Facebook headlines start to blur together. Earlier this month, a New York Times investigation found that Facebook had carved out exceptions to its data-sharing policies for major companies like Netflix and Spotify, agreements that were still in place as early as last year. In the same week, we learned the company was sucking up more data from third party apps through its login system, had enabled a misinformation campaign in Bangladesh, and keeps logging locations for users who turn off location services. After a while, it’s hard to keep up with all the ways the company is preying on its users.
As complex as each story seems, the broader takeaway is pretty simple: Facebook has an enormous amount of information about you, and they’re sharing it in secretive and self-serving ways. Facebook has tightened up in the years since the most egregious sharing took place, but it’s still a massively opaque system with a frightening amount of insight into our personal lives. After so many scandals, it’s hard to trust that Facebook will do what’s right.
At the same time, nobody seems to know what to do about it. Prominent people keep publicly quitting the network — most recently Verge alum Walt Mossberg — but there are thousands of new users arriving every minute to replace them. There’s a growing sense that Facebook is a problem, but it’s become the kind of problem we resign ourselves to. As one observer put it, Facebook has become “more a trite joke than something we’ll ever do anything about, like cable companies and the DMV and airline food.”
It doesn’t have to be this way. We’ve dealt with world-changing tech monopolies before, and while it’s not easy or fast, it’s entirely possible. You just have to reach back to an earlier era in American politics, and look at the big picture.