Facebook, The Cost of Consumer Profiling: Or My High Functioning Alcoholism by@saraho

Facebook, The Cost of Consumer Profiling: Or My High Functioning Alcoholism

The real reason Facebook is in decline it to do with Data Value Exchange. Consumers are demanding more for 'the new oil' that is their personal data and rejecting the poor UX offered by Facebook. We need to change the way we think about, share and commodify human personal data. From a purely ethical standpoint, individuals should own their own data and be the only people to profit from it.
Sarah Othman HackerNoon profile picture

Sarah Othman

Sarah Othman is Founder at www.verifiedwriters.org and based in Tokyo, Japan.

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Facebook recently saw a massive drop in share prices and blamed Apple but we all know what’s really going on. They have also seen a huge drop off in users and according to Lou Kerner at salon.com the engagement slide in their article is proof that Facebook is dying.

Maybe this article is related to that.

When you hand over your personal information to an online entity, what do you expect in return? In a world where data is increasingly seen as a valuable commodity, consumers need to be aware of the underlying terms of data exchange.

This piece for Hackernoon develops and discusses a conceptual framework that identifies four key criteria (data ownership, data intimacy, data permanence, and data value). They make-up consumers' perceptions of the terms of the data exchange.

It also discusses my high-functioning alcoholism, which is the real reason you clicked on this, right?

This article is going to be a thrill ride, so buckle up. 

I almost called this article: "Why can't I know exactly what kind of asshole I am? WITH data visualizations, GRAPHS and ANALYTICS? When other people already know?"

Let's Start With ShabuShabu and a Highball

I was sitting and procrastinating. I have high-functioning alcoholism, and that day I had eaten an enormous amount of ShabuShabu and drank two glasses of wine.

It was at a bustling restaurant in Tokyo's Akihabara district. I was finally back home and working through my second Japanese Highball (Whiskey Soda) at my desk in my tiny Tokyo apartment with the heater on full blast like a languid feline.

I had editing to do and I didn't want to write or edit. I wanted to read. But, when I opened up Hackernoon's Noonification email to get some procrastination-reading done, I realized I was an asshole. Allow me to explain.

I received it on February 5th, 2022, 01:02 Tokyo Time. "How are you, @sarahothman?" It asked.

There were a bunch of articles. I originally wrote what they were but I edited it out of this article because who cares, I didn’t read them.

And, then there was also an article about saying no to your boss and about how sometimes it's necessary. I felt angry about that one because sometimes that's necessary.

If the #MeToo movement taught us anything, surely it taught us that sometimes saying no to our bosses should also be accompanied by f*&king restraining orders. I didn't read it. Sorry, @vinitabansai. It's probably GREAT! 

And, finally, there was an article called: "AI is Not the Future. You Need it Today." I didn't read that either. Why? Because I'm arrogant and I already know that. I've read J.G Ballard and a bunch of other sci-fi authors. I know about the future. Guys, don't tell me J.G Ballard isn't sci-fi.

Sighing and taking a deep swig of my high ball, several disparate thoughts and recent memories coalesced and I realized: I'm an asshole. 

But, more importantly, I'm a very specific type of asshole. 

I was reminded of the recent hit movie: Don't Look Up.

Not just the movie generally, because of the amount I was reveling in not reading things — or (more importantly) not knowing things — despite the fact I was using them as a procrastination distraction, but because of a specific scene.

There's a scene in the movie, where a slightly cheese-fry fluffed Leonardo Dicaprio is ripped into by a wig-wearing Mark Rylance for calling him a 'Business Man' and it goes like this: 

PETER ISHERWELL Did you call me a businessman?

RANDALL You do own a corporate—

PETER ISHERWELL You think I’m just a businessman? Do you think you know me, Doctor? Business? This is evolution. This is the evolution of the human species. (To President Orlean) What are you doing bringing this— (Back to Randall) Did you know that BASH has over 40 million data points on you and every decision you’ve made since 1994, Doctor? I know when you have colon polyps months before your doctor does. You’ve got four or five at the moment, actually... You know, they’re not of concern, but I’d have a checkup as soon as you can. (MORE)

PETER ISHERWELL (CONT'D) But more importantly than that, much more importantly, I know what you are. I know who you are. My algorithms have determined eight fundamental consumer profile types. You are a Lifestyle Idealist. You think you are motivated by beliefs, high ethical beliefs, but you just run towards pleasure and away from pain. Like a field mouse.

RANDALL (almost in a whisper) I just want to make sure the science is sound on this project. I hope you understand — (Isherwell gets right in Randall’s face)

PETER ISHERWELL Our algorithms can even predict how you’ll die with up to 96% accuracy. I looked you up after we first met. Your death was so unremarkable and boring... I can’t even remember what it said. Apart from one thing. You’re going to die alone.

Randall shakes his head.

PETER ISHERWELL (CONT'D) Alone. If you’ll excuse me Madam President. I’ve got some work to do. (Isherwell leaves)

PRESIDENT ORLEAN What the hell are you doing? My God...

RANDALL I’m trying to do my job.

PRESIDENT ORLEAN You are just so lucky Peter adores you. (President Orlean lights up a cigarette with a GIANT: “HIGHLY FLAMMABLE” warning sign behind her)

RANDALL I wouldn’t--

PRESIDENT ORLEAN You are with the grown-ups now Randall.

And, I realized, knowing what I know about views, open rates, and a gazillion other metrics and consumer data points that we could use to measure engagement or audience suitability I have a unique set of prejudices that I am not in any way aware of.

I know more about the prejudices of other people who I have never met than my own prejudices and more dangerously than that, I have no access to that data.

A company like Facebook (META) will provide me with the data that I give to them.

For example, I can request to download my own chat logs.

But, I think it's harder for me to universally access consumer profile data about myself. Somehow, multiple online touchpoints have played the system, so that a company can buy that data about my preferences but I don't have a universal hub in which I can view consumer profile data about myself. 


I can pay to see my credit rating, right? According to Wikipedia the top 3 credit rating agencies in the USA are S&P Global Ratings, Moody's, and Fitch Group. 

Why can't I pay to see my asshole rating?

According To The Experts, It's Complicated

In the study that I highlighted at the top of this article, the researchers had this to say:

"As online and digital transformations disrupt their business, retailers are aware of the crucial role of collecting, analyzing, and translating consumer data into competitive advantages. It is quite popular to call data the “new oil” of our economies, or a currency that customers and firms might use to trade off costs and benefits in their interactions. Social media, new digital solutions, and the internet of things have led to an enormous volume of data being generated every day (Wedel and Kannan 2016). Coinciding with this, 62% of consumers feel they cannot get through a day without being tracked (Auxier et al. 2019). Yet, big quantities of data do not guarantee benefits to the retailer, and often come with inherent risks."

The researchers go on to talk about GDPR and consumers blocking information on their devices but neither of these things are considerable risks from either a consumer or business perspective. 

The biggest risk, as Facebook has seen with its massively declining user numbers and explosive stock market decline, is a boycott of services. It's people logging in and deleting their accounts.

Why can't I know exactly what kind of asshole I am? WITH GRAPHS and ANALYTICS when other people already know. I can only guess why I didn't read every article in my Hackernoon Noonification email, but I want to know more. I want to know about my prejudices so that I can address them. 

What's Data Ownership?

Data ownership is the perceived right of an individual to control the use and sharing of their personal data. It includes the understanding that individuals have power over their data — the ability to access, correct, amend, or delete it as they see fit.

What's Data Intimacy?

Data intimacy is the perceived level of personal privacy consumers believe that they have in their data. It includes the understanding that individuals’ data will not be used or shared inappropriately, and that there are limits to what can be done with consumer-firm relationships.

What's Data Permanence?

Data permanence is the perceived length of time that personal data will be accessible and usable. It includes the understanding that companies will not delete or alter information without consumer consent, and that individuals have a right to access their data for an extended period.

What's Data Value?

Data value is the perceived worth of personal data to individuals. It includes the understanding that individuals are entitled to receive some form of compensation for the use of their personal data.

Aha! Data value is the most important fundamental transactional factor.

Companies are profiting off my data value and it’s ‘the new oil’ but I have no way to profit off it myself (or even use it to search deep inside myself and become a better person) and even if I did… such as online surveys, I would be paid peanuts. 

According to some sources, okay, James E. Short and Steve Todd at MIT, the data of LinkedIn users was worth about $260 per monthly active user to Microsoft Corp when it acquired the professional network in 2016.

And then, in 2017 those two guys produced a whole MIT Sloan white paper about how: “Making implicit data policies explicit, codified, and sharable across the company is a first step in prioritizing data value.”

In 2019 a bill was considered that would have given Americans information about how much the ad-targeting data they give to Google and Facebook was worth. 

Maybe one day we can work together to make a way for people to transparently see their consumer profiles and prejudices. 

And, maybe then I can tackle the amount of masterful, absolutely ingenious, targeted alcohol advertising I receive.

Does anyone wanna’ build a consumer profiling data analytics company where the consumers own their personal data and are the only people who profit off it? 

If you do, I’ll be the first in line to find out exactly what type of asshole I am. You can pay me, for me to find out.

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