What is the commercial value of social media?
Just like one can inherit money, car, and house, one can also inherit social media. What is the commercial value of social media? Before, time was money. Now, personal data is the new currency of the digital economy. If Facebook profiles of dead users continue to remain active and produce new “data”, there will be significantly much more data on Facebook. Facebook’s business model depends on advertising revenue. By using personal data of the numerous users on Facebook, Facebook is able to intelligently and specifically target groups of users for advertisements. They could track what you liked, how much time your mouse hovered over a post, who your close friends are, what kind of mobile apps you use, what credit card you use, and much more. The Legacy Feature of Facebook allows Facebook to extrapolate lucrative data from the dead. The more users, the more data Facebook can exploit to target people on advertisements. For example, if a mother of a dead son continues to post pictures and write posts on behalf of the son, Facebook can possibly analyze the emotional responses of the deceased’s mourning friends and suggest advertisements of mental therapy, relaxation vacation trip, or flower arrangements to them.
Recently, Facebook made a public apology for its Year in Review feature, which displayed to a grieving father images of his dead daughter. Hopefully, Facebook learned its lesson and will be extra cautious about preventing algorithmic mistakes that can anger people who are sensitive to death. Most likely, Facebook will not use the data of the deceased to advertise funeral services or make other blatant suggestions. Besides, even if Facebook is making profit by subtly utilizing data of the deceased users, the company will need to make sure that this fact remains unnoticeable. Imagine how enraged some people will be knowing the company is making money out of your son’s death.
Even if the profile of the deceased is not active, the fact that Facebook stores all data of the dead people is a concern. In the Facebook’s financial side of the view, the company needs to invest in assuring that all data is secure. In the future, when there are more dead users than living ones and stored data exceeds an unimaginable amount, Facebook will struggle to protect data from hackers trying to access certain information. According to a 2014 global survey by SafeNet, nearly two thirds of consumers said they would stop or avoid using a company that had experiences a data breach. After the Edward Snowden’s revelation of government surveillance in mid-2013, it is estimated that the incident cost U.S. technology companies as much as $35 billion in potential business. Facebook has already been challenged with many privacy law sues. To prevent the company’s loss of users, they will need to invest heavily on protecting personal data from leaking.
Also, data storage does not happen in an invisible cloud but actually requires physical space. Currently, the Luleå Data Center in Sweden handles all live traffic and data of Facebook from all around the world. As its users grow and dead users continue to produce more data, Facebook will need to rush to build the physical infrastructure needed to process data more efficiently. For photos, Facebook currently stores them by dividing them into “cold” and “hot” photos. Only eight percent of photos on the site are getting views. These are the “hot” photos that are stored in expensive hard drives whereas the rest “cold” photos that are rarely accessed are stored in Blu-ray discs. These discs are often rated for 50 years of storage and 50 percent cheaper than hard drives. However, what if these discs crash? Facebook will need to diversify their storage options to have a back up storage plan if the discs were to ever experience storage failures. The company is increasingly investing on building new technology and technicians to insure safe storage. Unless the company continually develops new innovations for data storage and efficient powering of the data centers, Facebook will struggle to keep up with this costly duty.