As Facebook rebrands, user privacy even outside the platform is crumbling

January 26, 2022

By Justin Katz

The destructive force of the machine Mark Zuckerberg built is rebranding — and user privacy far beyond Facebook is at stake.

Facebook, now acting as Meta, released a video unveiling its plan for the Metaverse, through which the company is laying the groundwork to lure an unsuspecting population to live on its platform in virtual reality. Everything its users do will be subject to its algorithms and information collection.

Before Facebook, anybody could build a name with a blog and a little bit of insight to share. The earlier versions of progressive new-media sites, such as Salon, were held in check by the army of bloggers who could attract links by disproving and mocking their content. The GenXers and older Millennials who might be targeted by the Voxes and BuzzFeeds of the day were just as likely to stumble across Instapundit or The Corner, on the site of the conservative National Review. But that changed with the introduction of social media. Facebook, and to a lesser extent Twitter, took over the battlefield by making it easier for anybody to send off quick missives while keeping up with friends and family.

The catch was that your writing existed on their platform, and they controlled what readers saw and when. While independent websites set their own rules, moving content to Facebook meant Facebook could determine what and when to show its users. The site was setting a trap, turning Facebook into a substitute for the Internet at large.

But with Meta, the company is inserting itself far beyond Facebook. Independent publishers have received requests from Meta for “detailed instructions describing how [they] can access [my] platform to test and review” its functionality. Meta wants “valid credentials… to login to [my] app,” and those credentials “should be valid indefinitely to allow for future review.”

Users on countless websites and apps can use Facebook to log in — a convenient, easy requirement for sites to keep out spam. But with that, the social media giant is saying that the price of convenience for readers is a permanent pass for Zuckerberg’s minions to wander through pages whenever they want, including areas restricted to subscribers or other special participants.

Where this request might fit in Meta’s schemes is impossible to say. Maybe it is as innocent as wanting to make sure its new platform works well for users, no matter what they’re doing… for now. Or maybe they want to be able to plug the remaining bloggers and our readers into their algorithm, so that what we do and write in the wilds of the Internet can affect how we’re treated in the carefully cultivated virtual gardens of the Metaverse.

Out in the digital frontier, developers make apps for straightforward commercial reasons or simply because it’s a geeky rush to see people using them. Facebook always gives the impression that it is trying to invade your space and absorb your data, only with Meta, that will mean absorbing you.


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