**As a disclosure, I have been a Facebook shareholder since just after it went public**

I think we all have grown accustom to a certain level of service... you don’t want your food served cold, you expect the dry cleaner to remove the stain and you expect delivery guys not to drag mud into your house.  The thinking is simple… you are the customer and since you are paying for a service/product, you have a right to expect a certain standard of service.  This includes privacy of your transaction as well.

But, what if you are not the customer?

The majority of the most popular social media / gaming platforms are free to use.  Some of them, such as games like FarmVille or Roblox, use the possibility that you will use real dollars to buy virtual items as a way to turn a profit.  In other cases, such as Angry Birds, the company is hoping to create a brand for merchandise sales.  Either way, you are the customer and it is reasonable to expect some privacy.

However, is it reasonable to expect the same when you are the product?

I am going to take the less popular view and say that you don’t have a right to expect any privacy on these sites.

My reasoning

As far as I am aware, no one has ever signed up to Facebook under the threat of a gun, knife or prosecution… they choose to do so on their own.  To my knowledge, Facebook has never had an upgraded model which prevented any kind of advertisements (as many other services have)… you accepted that there were going to be ads based on your likes and wants.

When you post pictures/status updates of your home, your children, your relationships or anything else, it is reasonable to think that Facebook is using this information to better get to know you.  It doesn’t do this because it likes you, it does this to be able to narrow down the focus for targeted advertisements.  So, if you don’t want Facebook to know something about you, don’t post it.

However, having said that, there are limitations to this.  I do believe that Facebook is very much at fault in the Cambridge Analytica scandal given that they allowed data to be taken at a much bigger scale than anyone could have reasonably agreed to as well as its methods for accessing it.  But, to revert to my argument, the fact that your data was available to be taken was your choice in the first place.

The Bottom Line

While Facebook definitely dropped the ball (and has to answer) for its inability to prevent this kind of action, it still doesn’t change the fact that it is not reasonable to expect privacy in a model that you are the product, not the customer.  If you don’t want advertisers to send you ads about the latest dog food, stop posting pictures of your dog.  Or, you can join the #DeleteFacebook movement and just live your life in person…