Tag Archives: facebook

The Missing Analysis

In the current reporting and debates regarding the revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, I find that everyone seems to be missing on analyzing one important fact. One important country rather. Iraq. Witnessing the mass uprisings in these autocracies, it is prudent to ask one question. If the Iraq war had not taken place, would both the “goals” of the war still have been achieved? The answer is undoubtedly, yes.

The Iraq war was first fought on the premise that Saddam was manufacturing Nuclear Bombs and hence had to be stopped at any cost. When it became clear that Saddam did not have any WMDs in his possession, the US administration quickly turned around and blew its own trumpet for sowing the first seeds of democracy in the region by overthrowing a dictator. They claimed it would set an example in the Middle East. Some Bush loyalists claim victory today over the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, arguing that Bush’s mission of establishing democracy in the Middle East has now been successful. Now, that is one big joke. Mark Zuckerberg has contributed more to these revolutions than George Bush, the US Army and the CIA combined. The democracy in Iraq is in tatters while democracy in Egypt and Tunisia has made a promising start.

But coming back to the question: What if the Iraq war hadn’t taken place? I assume that the following sequence of events would have happened. Saddam would’ve continued trying to build the bomb in vain despite international sanctions. In the meantime Iran races ahead with its own nuclear facilities. Saddam, unable to build a bomb because of sanctions and unable to sit in the sidelines and watch rival Iran progress, is then forced to terminate his weapons program in exchange for aid and military equipment from the West a la Libya. Hence, Iraq would’ve become a new proxy against Iran a la during the Iran-Iraq war. However, come 2011 and inspired by the Tunisian revolts, people in Iraq revolt against Saddam’s rule and he flees. Notice how the dictators deposed have been ones who had good relations with the US. These are the ones who refrained from the use of military force against their people to a large extent. Maybe because of some amount of pressure from the US, which supplied their major military hardware. Contrast this against countries like Iran and Libya where peaceful protests have been crushed violently. Hence, with Saddam being an ally of the west, it is safe to assume he would’ve come under international pressure to quit. And thus, both the goals of the Iraq war, elimination of WMDs and establishing of a democracy would’ve been achieved without firing a bullet. Im no pacifist, but anyone can definitely realise the large number of negative consequences of that futile war.

Maybe this sounds a little far fetched. But, then again, two months back, the idea of an overthrow of Hosni Mubarak through 18 days of peaceful street protests would’ve sounded very much far-fetched.


The Evolution of Facebook’s Piracy Policy … err Privacy Policy

There are already tons of articles out there on the web, ranting about the changes made to the default privacy policy settings of Facebook (which makes your personal info public by default). So, ill keep this short and try to sum it all up using infographics prepared by Matt McKeon, a developer with the Visual Communication Lab at IBM Research’s Center for Social Software.

The 2 graphs below indicate how much of your personal data is accessible by third parties online and how that accessibility has changed between 2005 and 2010. The dark blue represents the availability of your personal data, by default.

availability of personal info in 2005

availability of personal info in 2010

What does Facebook get by giving third parties more access to your personal info? Its the ad revenue stupid. Think Google.

According to the Wall Street Journal, in the first quarter of this year, Facebook pulled ahead of Yahoo for the first time and delivered more banner ads to its U.S. users than any other Web publisher.

And why not? Facebook makes money when you click on the ads presented to you. You would be more willing to click on those ads if they were personalised for your needs. Facebook also sits on a wealth of your personal info. Now Facebook is providing that info (as the default setting) to third parties who can target you with more personalised ads. Simple, isn’t it?

The main issue here is that Facebook lured in people with its foundation of strong privacy settings and is now pulling that very foundation from its user base. I dont think most FB users are complaining though. According to this Wired article most of the current anti-Facebook rantings are by adults over 35 years and not its core user group in the age bracket of 18-34 years. However, there is this interesting article in the New York Times about people realising the long term implications of sharing private information in the public world of Facebook.