At Oculus Connect 6 this month, Facebook announced that they are building The Matrix. Now they didn’t call it The Matrix, because that would be shitty marketing. They are calling it Live Maps; how’s that for innocuous? How could Live Maps be bad? We love maps. They’re amazing. And if they were Live, that would be even better right?
Live Maps are more than maps. They’re a 3D recreation of the physical world, down to the chair you might be sitting on while you read this blog. Facebook (and Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and other tech companies) will be using data from all the cameras in all the devices we use to “map” everything in a 3D space. This is why companies are so desperate to get augmented reality glasses into our hands. This way our eyes become cameras, and EVERYTHING we see will be recorded and uploaded to the cloud.
Think I am making this up? Watch this video from the OC 6 Conference in California this month.
Without understand how Facebook has manipulated us over the years, this might seem like just a cool tech innovation. But there are a few indicators of past behavior that are cause for alarm.
- In 2014, Facebook was found to have experimented with the emotions of over 600K of their users, by controlling what showed up on their homepages. They were testing “emotional contagion” or whether they could alter the moods of users by promoting posts from their “friends” who were either in a good or bad mood. This was done without permission or notice, and when they were “busted” a Facebook spokesperson said the experiment was done “to improve our services and to make the content people see on Facebook as relevant and engaging as possible”. This is actually inline with their interpretation of their terms of service, which we all opt into.
- In 2017, Facebook notified certain advertisers that they can identify when teens are feeling “insecure” and “worthless”. The internal report produced by Facebook executives states that the company can monitor posts and photos in real time to determine when young people feel “stressed”, “defeated”, “overwhelmed”, “anxious”, “nervous”, “stupid”, “silly”, “useless” and a “failure”.
- In a well-publicized scandal, Facebook gave personal insights data to Cambridge Analytica, who went on to manipulate elections ranging from Brexit to the US Presidential campaign. You can watch the Netflix documentary
Now to be fair, marketers have been manipulating our emotions since the advent of advertising. But Facebook’s ability goes beyond anything we have seen before. And their willingness to use our information and that of our friends for monetary gain is worth understanding.
Facebook has stated that their goal is 1 Billion people in VR. The average American spends over 2 hours a day on social networks and more than 12 hours a day interacting with all forms of media. When VR and AR become mainstream, and we are literally living in a virtual reality owned by Facebook, their ability to manipulate the world we live in should be terrifying you.
In The Matrix, the computers were using us as batteries, harvesting our energy to run their networks. Facebook uses our eyeballs to harvest our attention to sell to advertisers. Neo took the red pill. I suggest you do too.