Opinion: Facebook is facing $5 billion in fines
One surprising piece of news that came out on Monday was that Facebook is being fined $5 billion by the Federal Trade Commission, basically for selling the private information of its users to its advertisers, without the permission of the users.
If you are a Facebook user, you may or may not care about that, but you should know that selling information about you is how Facebook makes its money. The FTC says that isn’t legal.
When Facebook’s advertisers get hold of information about you, it makes you more vulnerable to their pitches. It also is a tremendous violation of your privacy.
Which can be very embarrassing and possibly dangerous.
That’s because you don’t know what kind of creeps are out there on Facebook, who may be violating your privacy rights. Or your kids’ privacy rights. Ask some victims of the sex trade if you have any doubts about that.
The right to privacy is conferred on us by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. Here is what that Amendment says:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
The Federal Trade Commission believes, with no small justification, that Facebook is making unreasonable searches of your records or other information on its so-called social media, making it anti-social media indeed. And not only that, it is using your information for its own enrichment, and not yours.
Facebook also is getting into the government business by beginning to create its own money. You can imagine how happy the government will be about that. Maybe Facebook will do that so it can afford the $5 billion fine.
While it is legal to print your own money, you have to be able to back up its alleged value with actual money. Otherwise, what you will be doing could be adjudged counterfeiting, and will result in your spending many years in federal prison.
Facebook’s stockholders presumably would keep out of prison by applying the sheer weight of all that company’s money to create an equivalency to actual money that would in effect compete with U.S. cash, which at this point is the safest tender on earth.
But Facebook’s funny money, to do that, would have to be spendable in all places cash can be spent, or it would not be equivalent. Even in gumball machines.
Also, if you are going to compete with the U.S. Treasury, you must possess trillions, not mere billions, and no company has that kind of money.
Companies that thought they were big enough and clever enough to outsmart the government or the stock market were blown up in the dot.bomb at the end of the last century. Such an explosion could be coming again. Some people believe, for example, that Apple is beginning to shrivel because of pressure from its competitors. Apple’s products, it would seem, no longer are the cutting edges of technology that they used to be. It turns out that Steve Jobs, according to Microsoft’s Bill Gates, may have been more a salesman than he was a product designer.
(I hope Apple doesn’t shrivel altogether, because I use its stuff, and am getting too old to learn to learn how to use other manufacturers’ stuff.)