Here is an essential truth about Facebook: Everything it does is intended to suck up as much information about you as possible, so it becomes more capable at selling ads.
Because Facebook tracks everything you say about yourself inside its digital walls, and tracks your activity online and in the real world, the company is armed with so much information that it can find Ford exactly the people who might buy a new pickup.
Facebook is an incredibly successful business in part because of this creepy data harvesting machine. (See also Google, but I’ll leave that for another day.)
That’s why I want you to pay attention to what a German antitrust watchdog is doing. It is saying that limiting Facebook’s data harvesting could address both the company’s data privacy problems and questions about whether the company competes fairly.
Facebook said Germany’s antimonopoly regulator is misapplying the law. The country’s top court sided with the regulator this week, but the case might continue to wind its way through the legal system. I’m certainly not an expert in German laws, and I won’t try to predict the outcome.
But the philosophical idea was a jolt to me. The regulator is treating two major concerns about Facebook — violations of people’s privacy and potential abuses of the company’s power — not as disparate issues but as two sides of the same coin.
Imagine if the Facebook data-sucking machine had more limits? Maybe its ads wouldn’t be as effective and politicians and ice cream companies would have to find other places to pitch what they do.
Facebook would be less creepy AND internet competitors might have a stronger hand.