In a recent article for Slate magazine, Phillip Howard made the case that Facebook should become a nationalized entity; meaning government has a majority share and oversight into the companies doings. He makes the case that a) security would be a bigger focus in a publicly-owned entity and Facebook would be more accountable, b) Facebook would be more transparent on political issues, and c) the immense amount of data collected by Facebook could be more easily used by researchers & security agencies for the public good & furthering the sciences.
I don’t know what invisible government of angels you’re basing this plan on, but I must submit to you that all of the reasons you recommend government oversight for Facebook are the exact reasons we need to keep it as far away from any government as possible!
Firstly, your assertion that Facebook will do a better job protecting it’s users security while under the government is absurd. Was it not just a few short years ago that the patriot act was decried by every corner of the country, liberal and conservative? On what planet does giving the government more access to our lives create greater security? We should be fighting to keep the feds farther away from our lives, not giving them reasons to take control of our digital aspects. Liberals love to throw out the term “independent oversight” at the slightest provocation as a supposed defense of further government control, or as you call it “a national privacy commissioner with real authority”. Do you realize we’re dangling a golden apple in the face of every politician in the form of an endless bounty of politically useful data? One that is controlled by a commission appointed by the very politicians that would find it so tempting? (this commission doesn’t even exist and I already doubt it’s legitimacy, that’s how far we’ve come with the US government) The simple fact is, government involvement never increases transparency, it destroys it. If Facebook is about as transparent as a dirty window, government is spaghetti baked into a block of cement and covered in tar. Look at Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac. Look at Solyndra. Whether crony capitalism or so-called “public” ownership, government does not make things clearer to the people, just easier for the politicians.
Secondly, your claim that any possible political biases Facebook may have would be eliminated with public ownership of the company (even these so-called controversies you name were fixed rather quickly and could well have been simple mistakes) By no means! People operate out of their beliefs, whether involved in private industry or the government. In fact, personal beliefs are an essential part of getting into government! Government is all about values! That’s the whole point of government! So to say that people’s civil rights will be more protected by a commission appointed by politicians than by a private entity with an interest in acquiring and keeping happy as many users as possible is ridiculous. If there’s one thing we know about government, it’s that they politicize everything. You want the same body that gives illegal aliens every reason to come over the border in the form of food stamps, forces catholic hospitals to provide contraceptives against their beliefs and can’t even pass a budget to be in charge of your social networking, too?
Third, you argue that the valuable data collected by Facebook could be better leveraged by research commissions and security agencies if the employees could focus on data mining instead of being profitable. So let me get this straight, you want better privacy, but you want more data shared with security agencies? Even you back off this a bit by saying you’d want to be “careful about the circumstances under which our security services had access to Facebook data” but how do you ensure this actually happens? In a world where we’re mounting facial recognition enabled cameras on street corners, what measures could we possibly put in place that would beat the current system of requiring a warrant for private digital content?
And you even try to make a (very weak) argument that they would remain profitable if government were in charge. HA! That’s funny. I’m going to laugh. Ha. Ha ha ha ha. HA HA HA! See? I got your joke. You were making a sarcastic joke about the failing postal service. You made your joke even funnier by saying:
While most U.S. citizens and most global citizens treat Facebook as their social network infrastructure, the firm is greatly understaffed: It has about 4,000 employees serving nearly 1 billion users. Facebook staffers—at least those in it for the social good, rather than the bonuses—might even welcome the move to nationalize. Currently, Facebook employees are tasked with discovering marketable trends, selling advertising, and doing data mining in the service of profit. Nationalizing Facebook would allow more resources to go into data mining for public health and social research.
Aha! Ha ha ha ha! You, sir, are hilarious. Already, even in your magical fairy land where government does what’s best for the people and does so efficiently, your publicly-owned Facebook fantasy is growing in size. AND IT DOENS’T EVEN EXIST YET!
But let’s say that all the things you said about how wonderful government control is were true (and that’s a pretty big if) Why not do you one better? Why not let the U.N. take it over? If, as you say, companies are more efficient, accountable and useful to the public when controlled by large government bodies, why not hand it over to the most balanced mass of elected (or self-appointed) leaders in the world? In fact, why not give them control of all social networks? More is better, right? Think of all the scientific data to be mined! Think of all the problems we could solve! All the “domestic terrorists” we could stop! In fact, how about we just give them control of the whole gosh darn internet! Oh wait! WE ALREADY WANT TO DO THAT!
Your suggestion is just one more step to globalized, centralized dictatorial control of everything we do. And that is why people like me will never stop challenging dumb things like this that people like you think would improve our society.