This week Mark Zuckerberg, aka captain Facebook, triumphantly launched a new Internet.org initiative designed to get everyone in the world connected to the internet. This announcement was of course immediately met with a public outcry of negativity, with many quite justifiably pointing out that the Facebook owner has a lot to gain from the initiative.
After, all Facebook is a service powered by web users' personal data, using it to make money with initiatives such as targeted advertising. This of course is a sensitive point for many people, given that tech companies such as Google and Facebook reportedly have a role in the US National Security Agency's (NSA's) infamous PRISM operation, which saw the agency siphon vast amounts of web users' data from a multitude of tech companies.
Still, even with the obvious privacy and data collection issues and the fact more people on the internet means more money for Zuckerberg, I still think what he's doing is a good thing. The fact is Zuckerberg has, at least for now, done everything right and has been fully open about the fact he, like all businesses, will benefit from having more people online. As he said in his opening call to arms, having more people online is a good thing for everyone, from the person enjoying their new internet connection, to the carrier providing the connection, to the business touting its wares online to the newly connected audience.
This is because, as Zuckerberg pointed out, opening up the perks of the internet and its vast resources will help people in all areas of the world, making it so even the smallest of businesses in the remotest areas will be able to market and sell their services or products on a global scale.
For me the open approach of Zuckerberg addressing people's privacy concerns is a welcome breath of fresh air, being completely at odds with most other tech companies, like Google for example. Just this month Google has had two absolutely golden moments privacy-wise, first telling users of its Gmail service they really shouldn't expect privacy during a US court case proceedings, and then saying UK privacy laws don't apply to the search giant because it's American. Stellar PR work right there. Sure, Facebook will still take advantage of the new data, like all smart businesses will, but at least it's being transparent about the move.
Because of this I can't help but hope the initiative works and the world's economy does indeed get the adrenaline shot it needs. In fact, my only concern is whether Zuckerberg's three-pronged strategy to make internet access aﬀordable by delivering data more efficiently, making apps use less data and partnering with businesses to develop a new, more cost-effective model to get people online will work. After all, these are pretty big goals that will require a lot of investment and Zuckerberg to get a host of other businesses on board – a feat not too dissimilar to herding cats.
Still with big names such as Samsung, Nokia, Qualcomm, Ericsson, MediaTek and Opera Software already signed up to help the company achieve its goals and roll out a host of affordable smart devices and network deals to the masses, Zuckerberg's chances are better than most. Let's just hope the new internet users don't end up using a privacy-killing Android smart device as their door into the worldwide web.
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