SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG

Why Digital Abstinence Won't Fix Facebook

Why Digital Abstinence Won't Fix Facebook
Karin Janker

-OpEd-

MUNICH — In the aftermath of the Facebook data scandal, some users have been deleting their accounts. It's an understandable gut reaction, but it's also a declaration of surrender because it's not up to the individual to oppose the superiority of Internet companies. That's the job of the politicians.

Digital abstinence cannot be the solution, especially since many other platforms on the Internet collect data. Anyone who wants to be consistent would also have to boycott Whatsapp and Instagram, both of which belong to the Facebook group. And you'd better bury your smartphone while you're at it because two-thirds of all apps share private user data with third parties.

The consequences of the data scandal surrounding Facebook must go further than a personal boycott. They should be reflected in how politics deal with Internet companies. Only politics can lay down rules for better data protection. And critical users of these platforms are in a better position to demand such protection than digitally abstinent people. Instead of deleting your profile, it makes more sense to stay and be critical.

Every now and then you browse through this address book and get in touch with someone. Often, it doesn't go further than a few hackneyed phrases, but sometimes an interesting conversation can come about.

Facebook doesn't make life better or more beautiful, but it is one of several ways to access the world. It shows you some interesting news and is also a practical address book because it holds a reservoir of acquaintances from different phases of our lives. Every now and then you browse through this address book and get in touch with someone. Often, it doesn't go further than a few hackneyed phrases, but sometimes an interesting conversation can come about.

Of course, there's a lot of irrelevant stuff on Facebook, just like in analogue life. But that's not a reason to wave it goodbye. And the fact that you can come across comments from users with completely different political views on Facebook is actually a reason to stick with it — even if the opposition is all too clear. Finally, the digital life can also be a way to leave the filter bubble of our analog circle of friends.

When you quit Facebook, you're cutting yourself off from part of the reality of the 21st century. The platform is simply too relevant to be ignored. The latest scandal is absurdly indicative of that state of affairs: The fact that Cambridge Analytica can influence elections with the help of Facebook provides material for today's biggest social experiment. Anyone who wants to have a say in the debate about this experiment should know how Facebook works.

Above all, don't give in to the desire to keep the world constantly informed about everything you do. Restrict your own narcissism, in other words.

A reasonable reaction would, therefore, be to reflect and adapt your relationship with the platform accordingly. Don't use your real name. Use a separate email address. And block cookies that track your browsing behavior. Above all, don't give in to the desire to keep the world constantly informed about everything you do. Restrict your own narcissism, in other words. This rule applies on the Internet as well as in the analogue world.

Anyone hoping to click her way out of Facebook is wrong anyway. The deleted data remains on the servers; it" just that you don't get to see it anymore. It continues to be used and to be evaluated. And Facebook not only collects data from its users, but also from their friends and people who browse websites that have Facebook applications installed and use the white-on-blue thumb. Wherever that thumb appears, it means Facebook has deployed its nets.

As fatalistic as it sounds, you can hardly escape Facebook. The company is increasingly unlikely to care whether you still have an account there or not. It creates shadow profiles for everyone who doesn't. Facebook will only change its business model if major advertisers boycott the network in large numbers, and if politicians regulate the company better and critical users articulate their political will in that direction.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Future

How Facebook's Metaverse Could Undermine Europe's Tech Industry

Mark Zuckerberg boasted that his U.S. tech giant will begin a hiring spree in Europe to build his massive "Metaverse." Touted as an opportunity for Europe, the plans could poach precious tech talent from European tech companies.

Carl-Johan Karlsson

PARIS — Facebook's decision to recruit 10,000 people across the European Union might be branded as a vote of confidence in the strength of Europe's tech industry. But some European companies, which are already struggling to fill highly-skilled roles such as software developers and data scientists, are worried that the tech giant might make it even harder to find the workers that power their businesses.


Facebook's new European staff will work as part of its so-called "metaverse," the company's ambitious plan to venture beyond its current core business of connected social apps.

Shortage of French developers

Since Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his more maximalist vision of Facebook in July, the concept of the metaverse has quickly become a buzzword in technology and business circles. Essentially a sci-fi inspired augmented reality world, the metaverse will allow people to interact through hardware like augmented reality (AR) glasses that Zuckerberg believes will eventually be as ubiquitous as smartphones.

The ambition to build what promoters claim will be the successor to the mobile internet comes with a significant investment, including multiplying the 10% of the company's 60,000-strong workforce currently based in Europe. The move has been welcomed by some as a potential booster for the continent's tech market.

Eight out of 10 French software companies say they can't find enough workers.

"In a number of regions in Europe there are clusters of pioneering technology companies. A stronger representation of Facebook can support this trend," German business daily Handelsblatt notes.

And yet the enthusiasm isn't shared by everyone. In France, company leaders worry that Facebook's five-year recruiting plan will dilute an already limited talent pool, with eight out of 10 French software companies already having difficulties finding staff, daily Les Echos reports.

The profile of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg displayed on a smartphone

Cris Faga / ZUMA

Teleworking changes the math

There is currently a shortage of nearly 10,000 computer engineers in France, with developers being the most sought-after, according to a recent study by Numéum, the main employers' consortium of the country's digital sector.

Facebook has said its recruiters will target nations including Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, the Netherlands and Ireland, without mentioning specific numbers in any country. But the French software sector, which has so far managed to retain 59% of its workforce, fears that its highly skilled and relatively affordable young talent will be fertile recruiting grounds — especially since the pandemic has ushered in a new era of teleworking.

Facebook's plan to build its metaverse comes at a time when the nearly $1-trillion company faces its biggest scandal in years over damning internal documents leaked by a whistleblower, as well as mounting antitrust scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators. Still, as the sincerity of Zuckerberg's quest is underscored by news that the pivot might also come with a new company name, European software companies might want to start thinking about how to keep their talent in this universe.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ