Letter to BS: Educate users about unrestricted data that tech giants hold

Mark Zuckerberg
Apropos “The Facebook conflict” (March 28), the Facebook scandal involving Cambridge Analytica is more of a news cycle that would eventually blow away. In its aftermath, we need to educate the users about unbridled and unrestricted access that these technology giants have over our data. It reflects in the write up by Vanita Kohli-Khandekar. 

Facebook paid over $19 billion for WhatsApp; by some accounts, the potential was worth $30 per user. These valuations are arrived by understanding customer lifetime value. It is a function of net profit a potential client would generate for a company to create revenues in the future. The rich data sources fuel better algorithms and in turn helps the company to monetise its assets more efficiently. It also leads to better network effects in a positive spiral. For Facebook, the US and Canada are the most lucrative markets. Likewise, these corporates are not fuelled by altruism when they wish to provide universal access to dark areas. For most communities, including India, Facebook is what the Internet is.  

The long-term solution is to make people aware about alternatives to social media; its adverse psychological impact on impressionable minds, the rancid echo chambers of microblogging and removing the informational asymmetry about how to protect the data they generate. The other way out is to force these companies to become even more transparent about their data collection and ethics. 

These intertwined complex issues have subtle, nuanced layers which are not solved by a knee-jerk reaction with the urge to push for regulation. But by mainstreaming “caveat-emptor” — let the buyer be at least aware of what an individual is getting into — beyond the dopamine fuelled “likes”. 
Abhishek Puri Mumbai

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