So: in return for the ability to ‘spank’ your buddies on Facebook (yee-hah!), application creators get to know all manner of succulent facts about your online existence — how often you log in, who your friends are, which groups you’ve joined… and much more. Think about it.
There is — of course — no such thing as a free service. Facebook (I hear) has ads on most pages. I don’t see ‘em because I have decent ad filters. But you can bet those ads are tailored to your profile as Facebook’s data-miners see it. Maybe you’ve balanced that value exchange mentally, and decided that for you the fun of Facebook is worth a few dodgy banners. But we don’t think we’re the only ones who object to the same amount of personal information going to the creators of teeny applications which only briefly amuse. And we’re betting that many of those apps only exist to suck up and sell on all that lovely personal data.
Who’s feeling well and truly ‘spanked’ now?
Of course, you can just refuse application requests. That’s no big deal. But why don’t we have some fun with this? We wouldn’t be the first to try and subvert the engines of social media capitalism. Take the long-established Google Will Eat Itself project, for example:
We generate money by serving Google text advertisements on a network of hidden Websites. With this money we automatically buy Google shares. We buy Google via their own advertisment! Google eats itself – but in the end “we” own it!
By establishing this autocannibalistic model we deconstruct the new global advertisment mechanisms by rendering them into a surreal click-based economic model.
After this process we hand over the common ownership of “our” Google Shares to the GTTP Ltd. [Google To The People Public Company] which distributes them back to the users (clickers) / public.
Likewise the hypothetical (?) Amazon Noir, which uses a crafty bot to steal digital copies of books from the retailer:
The bot will outwit Amazon’s “search inside the book” system, making up to 5,000 inquiries per book and assembling the individual parts afterwards to compile entire books. This would allow “users to ‘legally’ copy and redistribute copyright books from amazon.com.”
So why not spank back on Facebook? We’re thinking of building a Facebook app to do just that. Enable it, and it will slurp up all your Facebook data, same as all the others apps. The difference would be that it will be upfront about its function — only people who want to donate their data to our database need install the thing in the first place. Then, we end up with a huge pool of valuable user data — and some good free press. We go out and sell that data: to marketeers, researchers, whoever pays the highest price. And everyone who contributed gets a proportional share of the profits (if any). Ok, no-one will get rich, but it will raise awareness, be an interesting bit of hacking and maybe a bit of a laugh. Brothers and sisters, we are the means of production. Let it begin.