Everything You Need to Know About Facebook in One Popup

On Feb. 23, 2021, a news story from BBC Online about an explosion following the collision of a freight train and 18-wheeler riveted my attention. An early version of the report offered video footage embedded from Facebook (additional media is available in the linked version that you can click). I tapped the play icon on my tablet, which got the video going but also an overlaying message requesting permission for the social network “to use cookies and website data while browsing BBC.com”. Hell no, FB CEO Mark Zuckberg’s zombie-bots aren’t allowed to track my activity. Give blanket permission for all the Beeb? Eh, no.

Dirty bird! Pressing “Don’t Allow” stopped the video playing. Not once, but every time—and I confirmed the behavior on my laptop browser today. If you think the Internet is free, I got some swamp land in Florida to sell you right now. I don’t own it and you wouldn’t want it, but if you’re gullible enough to think social networks and other content-rich sites give you something free without taking something more, let’s you and I make a swamp deal. You are tracked, your browsing behavior is catalogued, and advertisements are targeted based on your online activities. That’s the Facebook Way.

Oh, did I fail to mention something? The popup appeared in Safari running on 11-inch iPad Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro but not Google Chrome, from which the video played without permission-prompt or interruption. Not coincidentally, the Alphabet subsidiary also profits from you as a marketable commodity.

Tech Titans Fight
Apple has cracked down on the ability of “facebook.com to track your activity”—and app developers, too. Zuckerberg is unhappy with the privacy mechanism, with the company responding by taking out full-page ads attacking Apple in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, among other newspapers—and launching a counter-marketing campaign that includes a website full of small business testimonials praising targeted advertising. From the website:

Apple’s latest update threatens the personalized ads that millions of small businesses rely on to find and reach customers. We’re giving small business owners a place to speak their mind…We will continue our efforts to support your business through these changes, introducing new ads features and measurement solutions despite the limitations announced by Apple.

Apple CEO Tim Cook responded in a Dec.17, 2020 tweet:

We believe users should have the choice over the data that is being collected about them and how it’s used. Facebook can continue to track users across apps and websites as before, App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14 will just require that they ask for your permission first.

Zuckerberg and Company really are freaked about people being given the choice not to allow the tracking. On Feb. 25, 2021, the company launched “Good Ideas Deserve To Be Found, an initiative that highlights how personalized ads are an important way people discover small businesses on Facebook and Instagram, and how these ads help small businesses grow from an idea into a livelihood”—aimed at Apple’s privacy-protecting policies. There’s an accompanying video, which I couldn’t watch; Safari displayed a tracking-permission popup, and I chose “Don’t Allow”.

To watch the video, or others from Facebook, I have to pay to play—by surrendering even more personal information, and way too much is collected already online. Same applies to you. The data mining troubles me because I don’t use Facebook, having deactivated on July 6, 2019 an account that was opened on Oct. 1, 2006.

A Personal Principle
If you wonder why there are no source-links for the Facebook citations or small business counter-marketing website, as a matter of personal principle, I no longer link to the social network or subsidiary Instagram. I temporarily, and may eventually permanently, do the same for Twitter, which is why no embedded Cook Tweet. Censorship is the reason.

As I expressed on Aug. 8, 2018, following the mass social services banishment of Alex Jones (with whom I am aware but not first-hand knowledgeable; he is not someone inside my regular reading, listening, or viewing sphere):

Absolutely, based on how subscribers use them: Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, and YouTube are preeminent platforms for self-expression. Removing accounts for expressed viewpoints, using ToS policies as justification, is censorship that defies—no defiles—the democratic spirit that these services foster; or they did. Censorship is a slippery slope, because someone makes a value judgement about what content is acceptable and which isn’t. Values change across and among generations.

Do read my two-and-and-a-half year-old essay, because the content is hugely appropriate for censorship underway today. But that topic digresses from the main one: Of course, people using free services like Facebook should have a right to choose to pay by being tracked and harvested for profit.

Thank you, Tim Cook. No thanks, Mark Zuckerberg.