What are they Selling? Our Singular Facebook and Google Identities

5572509108_728e2f84c8Susan Cox wrote about how Facebook demands of us a single identity tied to our “real” name.  Facebook’s policy became public controversy when it started banning people they suspected of using fake names, including those people who might have had very good personal safety reasons not to use their legal name online.  Mark Zuckerberg responded coldly (and totally out of line with most understandings of human identity) that people have a single identity that can be attached to a single name.  To be one person online and another in person is, he argued, to lack integrity.  He also defended Facebook’s policies by saying it ensured people’s safety.

Cox focuses on issues of privacy and identity formation when she criticizes both Zuckerberg’s concept of identity and his sham claims about safety.  But what’s missing in this article is the ultimate reason for Facebook’s demand for a single identity attached to a single name.

Facebook wants you to have a single identity attached to a single name so that it’s easier to track all of your behavior, tie it to you, and then sell that information to people who will use it to sell you crap.  Facebook’s demand for a single identity is about commodifying and market us.

If an online service appears to offer you something for free, then that service isn’t the company’s product; you are.  Their free service is a means of gathering information about you to sell to others or to enable them to sell you something.  Wordpress wants to sell us upgrades and to show ads to our unregistered readers.  That’s pretty transparent.  But what is Google and Facebook selling?  And to whom?

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