The Aquila Drone is Facebook’s attempt to bring the internet to remote areas of the world that have insufficient access to the internet and bridge the digital divide. The drone is being developed by a project extension of Facebook’s Internet.org campaign, the Connectivity Lab. The idea here is that the people involved with the Connectivity Lab will develop technologies capable of making worldwide internet access possible.
So whilst the goals of the campaign are prima facie lofty ones, it may be worth investigating why this would be in Mark Zuckerberg’s interests. With more than $1billon per quarter in advertising revenue and currently 1.2 billion monthly active users, few realise that Facebook is more than just a social networking site- it’s a shrewdly run corporation worth more than $100 billion. With skillfully targeted advertisements based on personal information shared by users- Facebook knows what it is doing and increasing the already significant amount of users by bridging the digital divide is not simply an altruistic endeavour by Facebooks founders. The numbers speak for themselves: Starbucks, for example, saw a 38% lift from users who saw Starbucks in their feed, After investing $2.75million in advertising just ONE of its games, Battlefield 3, Electronic Arts saw a 440% return on its investment in sales. These are impressive by anyone’s standards.
So the company is obviously not a not-for-profit and internet.org and the Aquila Drone campaign are being used to enhance its already dominant position in the market. But if the result of the campaign is increased connectivity and a diminishing gap of the digital divide does it even matter how benevolent the companies claim to be?
Facebooks terms of service are completely one sided, they make it incredibly difficult to ever completely delete your account, and Zuckerberg’s personal behaviour has brought up some serious ethical issues- mainly allegations of hacking into rivals private email accounts.
“People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.”- Mark Zuckerburg 2010.
This from a man who controls and has access to all of YOUR personal data and is making money off selling it to more, let’s say ethically fluid large corporations. It’s scary when you think about it right?
Ultimately, the world we live in today is one of neoliberal capitalism, and the roll out of digital connectivity is being left to the market as opposed to governments. The flow on effect of Facebooks involvement with internet.org and the Aquila drone will bring forth benefit as well as raise ethical issues- perhaps people connecting will use Facebooks services to find more ethical providers? The question of whether letting the market bridge the gap that the digital divide, or intervening in some other more ethical way still bears examination. After all, with a no divide we should all benefit.
Business Management Degree, ‘How Does Facebook Make its Money?’ http://www.business-management-degree.net/facebook/
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Krause, S 2009, ‘How to Permantly Delete Your Facebook Account’, G Post, 10 November, viewed on 24th August 2016, http://www.groovypost.com/howto/security/permanently-delete-your-facebook-profile-account/
Matyszczyk, C 2010, ‘Zuckerburg: I Know That People Don’t Want Privacy’, Cnet.com, 11 January, viewed on 24 August 2016, http://www.cnet.com/au/news/zuckerberg-i-know-that-people-dont-want-privacy/
Yoder, D 2010, ’10 Reasons to Delete Your Facebook Account’, Business Insider Australia, May 4, viewed 24th August 2016, http://www.businessinsider.com.au/10-reasons-to-delete-your-facebook-account-2010-5?r=US&IR=T