Google and Facebook know everything : so what?

Google and Facebook know everything about everyone:

Google and Facebook are increasingly concerned because of the massive data collection they do and the potential privacy implications. Yet, despite the alarmist articles that are multiplying on the subject and the comments of scandalized Internet users who “promise to close their account”, Facebook and Google do not lose users.

On the contrary: the two planetary services continue to win! In this forum, let’s explore why these companies collect our data, what they do with it, and how they have been able to provide their services. And why, despite all, there are no leaks from their users.

While we are talking about data collection, privacy and RGPD, several questions come back: why Google and Facebook remain as powerful and enjoy even in early 2018 a very sustained growth? Why data collection? Why does nobody leave these services for alternatives, even if comments on the subject come back? So many questions that we explore in this forum.

Google and Facebook: information is power?

Google and Facebook base their business model on the collection and exploitation of your personal data: the two sites could never have been created otherwise, and could not really survive if suddenly they were forbidden to know everything about you.

The idea is that the ultimate goal of Facebook and Google, among other giants of the net, is to monetize as much as possible their activity, while offering the user a free service. What these companies have done, therefore, is to create attractive services for Internet users, who in exchange reveal, without always realizing very many preferences, sometimes even very intimate.

Google and Facebook in particular have positioned themselves at highly strategic network entry points, and have virtually eliminated all of their competitors. Thus Google is undeniably the gateway to the net. To illustrate the dominance of Google on this point of entry of the network, here is the market share of the search engines, in France, on May 1, 2018 (figures

. Google: 91.49%
. Bing: 4.93%
. Yahoo! 1.81%
. DuckDuckGo: 0.76%
. Qwant: 0.52%

For Facebook, it’s the same thing: France has 56.4 million Internet users, Facebook claims in the country 38 million active accounts (figures Statistica). It’s as if 67% of the French had a Facebook account, a company that “cannibalizes” another gateway to the internet, that of social networks.

The word is strong, but fair, because both Google and Facebook are no longer limited to their historic core business. Google is also YouTube, Gmail, Google Chrome, Google Maps, Google Earth, Gmail, Android … so many services that collect very precisely several types of data and allows to create correlations, and completely dominate their competitors.

Facebook is also Instagram, WhatsApp, or Oculus. Both Google and Facebook have of course their own ad network, able to use all this data. And it is frighteningly effective: in France in 2017, Facebook and Google accounted for 78% of the digital advertising market!

Google and Facebook reign supreme over your data … or almost:

What you should know is that normally, neither Google nor Facebook resell your data: they do not need it, especially since your data represent for them a competitive advantage and the condition for the proper functioning of the data. service.

As a result, for these companies, the security of your data is really a priority. Facebook and Google have a lot to lose when scandals break out. And nothing to gain by being too open and transmitting data to third parties.

This does not mean that these services do not give access to certain data. APIs such as Facebook Graph allow for example to pull data from the social network, to do data mining, identify trends. Similar tools exist at Google.

Normally, it is not possible to correlate this information with personal data. The problem is that this data can have a lot of value for some actors not always well-intentioned. This encourages them more and more to find and exploit loopholes, de-anomolyizing information.

Enough to allow for example to find the right words to convince users of the platform, for example, to vote for a presidential candidate: and that is precisely what happened with the scandal Cambridge Analytica.

The product is you for a long time:

Advertising and targeting have not been invented with the Internet. The business model in which advertising can provide a free service either. For more than a century, there has been a whole bunch of intermediate situations, such as the paper press which has to offer advertising inserts to offer a newspaper at a reasonable price. However, advertisers have also long been fond of data around the audience of the media in which they proposed their inserts. A logic that has sometimes been scandalous, especially on television.

Still, targeting does not necessarily mean monitoring: after all, Facebook and Google are, like many other platforms, entirely private firms that are not funded by governments. Nevertheless, they are based in the United States and must comply with the law, especially when a judge orders, for example, to reveal data on a particular user. And some of their search tools, like the Facebook API can be used (and potentially diverted) by anyone, including governments around the world.

The big question of consent: can we really do without Facebook or Gmail if we do not agree?

There remains the big question of consent. If you enter a lot of data on Facebook, you may not know exactly how and why it will be used. Despite their efforts, sometimes forced in this area, Google and Facebook probably do not explain enough (concretely) to their users how they became so powerful. In other words, how a like on a cat photo too mimi manages to generate money.

And yet, we stay. And yet, Google and Facebook continue to gain users at a steady pace. And yet there are alternatives to Facebook like Mastodon, or Qwant for Google a French search engine that does not collect any personal data. It must be admitted, the services offered by Google as Facebook are, from the point of view of the user the best and most engaging (after all they are designed precisely for that!).


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