Facebook’s purchase of Instagram for a billion dollars makes it clear that pictures, and the sharing behaviors we attach to them, are an incredibly important and valuable slice of the social data set.
If your mission as an organization is to know as much as possible about as many people as possible, it behooves you to have all the world’s photo uploads. ‘Nuff said. Instagram is reporting in excess of five million uploads per day, so it’s obvious that they 1) have acquired a shitload of data already, and 2) have created an experience that will likely keep that data coming in. The incremental value to Facebook from the purchase is simply the long-term value of the Instagram data, of which the greater part will be gathered in the future, to be sure. And until they roll out some other dominant revenue model, it’s safe to assume that Facebook will endeavor to monetize that data by using it to target advertising to YOU.
If you don’t want Facebook to have your Instagram data, here are instructions for deleting your Instagram account.
While the strategic fit of the purchase is abundantly clear, the billion dollar price has come as a shock to some. Because the valuation of Instagram today comes from the expectation of its value to Facebook in the future, that’s a bit of a Big Picture question.
It’s fairly clearly written on the wall that Facebook is poised to become something more important than a company. Because Facebook has become the richest repository of human behavioral data in human history, it is practically asured that many other interests (both in commerce and in government) are going to be extremely interested in that data, pretty much forever. Facebook is going to become one of the basic components of the infrastructure of our civilization. Facebook is already too big to fail. Why? Because what it knows about the citizens of the world is already too important to lose.
Most conspicuously, Government needs that data quite badly.
Last month we heard that the NSA is setting up an imposing new facility in Bluffdale, UT with the express purpose of “listening” to us, and to all our manifold digital expressions. What do you think they’re going to be listening to? Correct. Whatever the nature of the relationship through which data is exchanged between Facebook and the government agencies today, it’s certain that there will be a relationship between the two for the foreseeable future. Here is an example of what Facebook turns over to the authorities about you today. We can safely assume that the data sharing process between Facebook and Government will become much more efficient in the future.
The Instagram acquisition fits nicely into this Big Picture because it further consolidates Facebook’s ownership of all the data that is known about you, about all of us. Because it intersects so many great data points 1) where you are 2) who you are with, and 3) the actual photographic content of the image, etc. you can see that photo sharing is a pretty rich vein of data, and eminently useful to law enforcement. If there’s a heads up here, it’s to take note of this broader scope now and to remain attentive (as ever) to the list of entities with which Facebook shares your data.
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