Social Networks And Data Ownership

Number of the questions to Mark Zuckerberg in the Senate testimony were asking about data ownership and were quick to point out that the users don’t make any money off their data. Many people on social media were echoed the same. I believe these questions are short seighted and are looking at the problem from the wrong angle.

You said multiple times during this hearing that I own the data… That sounds good, but in practice you’re making $40 billion a year. I’m not making money on it. It feels like you own the data. Could you give me some idea on how you can honestly say it’s my data? — Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) Los Angeles Times

Many of my constituents have asked about your business model, where users are the product. Mary of Half Moon, in my district, called it infuriating. Andy of Schenectady, New York, asked, “Why doesn’t Facebook pay its users for their incredibly valuable data?” — Rep. Paul Tonoko (D-N.Y.) Washingon Post

Facebook provides services to their users for free, and since they are not a charity the users must give up something in return. Asking or expecting money back for a free service is ludicrous.

Asking about data ownership is the right direction, but the question shouldn’t by why the users don’t get money in return, but rather why can’t they view or control all of their data.

When you own a house, nobody pays you for it, but you can choose to do anything you wish with it. The same principle should apply to my data on Facebook. I should be able to see it in its entirety. I should be able to look through it. I should also be able to force them to purge it when I quit, rather them retaining it for as long as they want.

We should not be demanding to get paid, just because Facebook makes money off our data, but instead, we should be demanding full visibility into our data. What they have, when it was collected, and who it was shared with.