It’s time for Facebook’s critics to move past what has become a tired cliché. There’s something nihilistic about telling people they’re the product of a gigantic corporation and there’s nothing they can do about it. “You are the product” paints us as powerless pawns in Facebook’s game but gives us no leverage with which to improve our predicament. […]
The second is to view ourselves as part of Facebook’s labor force. Just as bees labor unwittingly on beekeepers’ behalf, our posts and status updates continually enrich Facebook. But we’re humans, not bees, and as such we have the capacity to collectively demand better treatment. The technologist and activist Jaron Lanier, carrying this analogy to its logical conclusion in the book Who Owns the Future?, suggested that users of Facebook and other data-hungry online services rise up and demand actual monetary compensation for their data. That seems a little far-fetched, but at the very least citizens and their representatives in governments should demand more robust protections and legal rights. The European Union’s new privacy law, the General Data Protection Requirement, could be viewed as akin to a bill of worker’s rights for users of online services.