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Facebook is currently one of the most valuable companies in the world. We may ask, is that value derived? In fact, billions of daily active users pay nothing to access the platform, moreover, no matter how much they use it. It’s completely free. Although, the money comes from ads. And Facebook’s entire advantage in selling ads is that because its user base is enormous. They can promise advertisers the ability to target virtually any demographic group they wish. Want NYU students in Shanghai? Facebook surely has them. Tech workers in Japan? It has them, too.

Facebook sells ads based on info it knows about you. That is core of the business. To think otherwise is insane. The primary point is this: When a service is free, you are not the customer. You are the product. If you don’t want to be the product, do not sign up in the first place, or do not load a bunch of personal data in the expectations that it will be kept private. Facebook addressed this issue once, by responding that their product is social media – the ability to connect with the people that matter to you, wherever they are in the world. It’s the same with a free search engine, website or newspaper. The core product is reading the news or finding information – and the ads exist to fund that experience.

So, as to whether Facebook users are actually customers or the product, it depends on how you look at it. The concept that they are the product is actually pretty simple to understand: free online services usually make money by extracting lots of data from users, then selling that data to clients for targeted advertising. In this sense, advertisers are the clients and the people enjoying the free content are what is being sold.

So, if we do not like how Facebook is treating us, we should not throw up our hands and call ourselves the product of a system over which we have no control. Nick Tanic and I come up with an idea of representing the notion of “You are the product” using the actual product box and user data collection. In this case the user is the one who is interacting with the box. The python face detection script is available in Github. It uses OpenCV library to detect a face captured by Pi camera. After the face is being captured, the data should be sent to thermal printer. This is our current challenge for next steps.

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