I had one big loud thought pounding in my head as I read the Cambridge Analytica headlines this past weekend: it’s time for Facebook users to say ‘enough is enough‘.
Many people have said we need to regulate Facebook and other platforms. Maybe. What’s clear is we need the platforms to work differently.
A faster route to this outcome — or at least a first big step forward — could be for millions of us who use Facebook to tell the company what we want ‘differently’ to look like. And to ask them to make it happen. Now.
There is a long history of this sort of direct consumer-to-company conversation outside the tech world.
People who care about fair work pushed Nike to raise wages and improve factory conditions. People who care about our forests got Kimberly Clark to stop cutting down old growth. People concerned with human health convinced McDonalds to stop buying antibiotic ridden chicken.
The surprising thing: we have yet to see internet users start a conversation with a company en masse to say: hey, we want things to work differently. Until now.
The concerns people have raised about Facebook and other platforms are wide ranging — and most often tie back to the fact that the ‘big five‘ are near monopolies in key aspects of the tech business.
Yet, many of the problems and harms that people have been pointing to in recent weeks are quite specific. App permissions that allow third party business to access the private information of our friends. Third party data profiling that shows where each of us stand on issues. And advertising services that allow companies, politicians and trolls to micro target ads at each of us individually based on these profiles. These are all very specific features or services that the companies involved can change — or stop offering altogether.
As a citizen of the internet and a long time Facebook user, I feel like it’s on me to start talking to the company about the specific changes I’d like to see — and to find others who want to do the same.
With this goal in mind, Mozilla launched a campaign today to get users to band together to ask Facebook to change its app permissions and make sure our privacy is protected by default. This one small, specific thing that could make a difference.
Of course, there is also bigger ambition for this campaign: to spark a conversation between the people who make Facebook and the people who use it about how we can make a digital world that is safer and saner and that we all want to live in. I hope that is a conversation they will welcome.