Trust: Now Taken, not Given


Today’s article was about major corporations, and how they are very much like the government.  They take a lot of our information, don’t tell anyone about it, and expect everyone to trust that they’re not going to abuse it.  So, should we be worried about major corporations and their antics?  Are those antics even morally justifiable?  Let’s look, shall we?


So, there are two major corporations the article talks about:  Facebook and Google.  The event that prompted the article is that Facebook is updating their privacy policy, and the changes make clear that Facebook is using face recognition software on user profile pics in an effort to improve advertising.  Not “going to use”, but already using.  Facebook doesn’t think they did anything wrong by scanning profile pics and then using them as ad fodder because in their mind, since it is a public site, once you put information on their site it is okay for them to use it to turn a profit.  Similarly, Google is currently (as of the writing of the article this post is based on, while was back in September) in court defending its right to use automated methods to scan both the e-mails of both it’s clients, and anything sent to those e-mails.  To my mind there are two different issues here.  First is fact that major corporations are gathering information just like the government has been, but without any of the safeguards that the government has.  The second is what that information is being used for, and how it’s not fair to the user.

The first issue is fairly straight forward.  At least in theory the government has built-in checks and balances to prevent it from getting too big, and from gathering too much information.  Recent revelations by Edward Snowden have shown that those policies are not followed as rigorously as they ought to be, but they are there none-the-less.   Major corporations,however, do not even nominally have that kind of self-policing.  This means that there is a much greater chance of them using the information they get for profit, at the expense of the users.  This article points out seven different ways facial recognition , the major issue in what Facebook has been doing,  could be used in the future.  If Facebook were to find a way to capitalize of these technologies on its site, even if it meant their users were slightly inconvenienced or more, what would be stopping them?

What is the information Facebook and Google are gathering being used for?  It is being used for creating custom advertising, which on the surface seems like a good thing.  Better ads means that you’ll see more thing that you want to see, and have less annoying ads.   The problem is that Facebook and Google have to go through private information in order to make these better ads.  For Google and Gmail it’s about reading e-mails.  No one wants other people who aren’t the recipient to read their e-mails, and the fact that Google is using their e-mails of their own profit is a breach of trust.  Facebook’s position seems a bit less shady, since they’re only using profile pictures, which anyone can see anyways.  But in reality, people who are not your friends probably aren’t going to be looking at your Facebook profile picture, unless you’re a famous celebrity or some such thing.  Plus, even profile pictures which are not current can be set to viewable only to friends, which means that Facebook’s policy will also be using private information for it’s own profit.   Now, Gmail and Facebook are both free services, and I am okay with them using ads as a form of revenue, since they have to get money somehow to function.  But, when they are using personal information, which people think is hidden, in order to turn a profit, then there’s a problem.  1 Timothy 5:18 says “…’Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,’ and ‘The worker deserves his wages.'”  This is to say that if you are getting profit off of someone else, it follows that you ought to let them share in the returns.  Using Facebook is paid for by the ads.  Using private information for the ads is not part of that deal.  If Facebook is going to use private information to improve ads, then so be it, but they should in some way reimburse the user for selling their information.  This same thing applies to Google, and anyone else who is using a person’s private information for profit.


So Facebook and Google have also been putting their hands into the cookie jar of information.  Not terribly surprising, though perhaps a little disturbing.  They do not have any of the safeguards the government pretends to have, at least not anything built in specifically for that purpose.  Therefore there is no rel way of knowing how far they might go in pursuit of profit.  But also, they are also using private information for their own gain, for which they should at least give a little back to the user.


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