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Facebook Economics

October 3, 2009

I wrote this in February for my old blog, about Facebook returning the ‘rights’ to the content on the website to the original owners. I thought it was pretty good, so I’m bringing it over here


All those drunken pictures of you on Facebook, where you insist you just look bad because of the lighting, or your red face, or the camera adding ten pounds, or the photographer accidentally hitting the ‘ugly’ button on the camera (right next to the flash button, really Sony?) now belong to you again. Putting aside the fact that I don’t know why anyone would want to own those pictures, now, like it was before, when you close your account, Facebook can’t keep an archive of your content.

Of course, while your account is active, it can claim rights to your content. And if someone else uploads a picture of you, and you close your account, your image (some cultures believe it is your soul) still belongs to them. Firstly, I’m surprised anyone read the terms of service. Thank you law students and computer nerds for doing so. I’ve accepted so many terms of service at this point in my life that I wouldn’t be surprised if CEOs started lining up at my door for foot massages I’ve inadvertently agreed to give them (at that point, I would be happy it was only foot massages). Secondly, Facebook didn’t change the terms of service back because they like you, because they respect your opinions, or because they agree they did something wrong.

Facebook changed it back because they hate you and don’t want you running away to Myspace. They also don’t want you starting your own social networking site. They want to get as much as they can without losing too much, which means they’re going to piss off a few hardcore Luddites who fear getting barcodes branded on their arms while keeping the rest of us vaguely unsettled, but not unsettled enough to actually leave.

Like KFC. Popular opinion has it that they might be torturing chickens, and a few people have done research and probably don’t eat there anymore, but most people still do. Economically, it’s cheaper to have a few less customers while still torturing Foghorn Leghorn than to have a completely happy customer base and NOT torture him. The people who care about the chickens would probably only get a salad with dressing on the side anyways.

Personally, I don’t like chicken torture, and I don’t like having content directly involving me belonging to someone else. I don’t eat at KFC (I was going to make a joke about how it’s because it’s not actually chicken, but that’s hackneyed, isn’t it?) But I still use Facebook, because at this point, the benefits of Facebook exceed the costs. For people who value their privacy more highly, that’s not the case, and they’re the ones who made this whole fuss in the first place.

I still de-tag pictures of myself where I look stupid and ugly though.

Which is most of them.

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