ONLINE PRIVACY SHREDDER Facebook is getting ready to go into the voice-over-IP (VoIP) telecommunications business, according to a leak on its website.
The leak left one Facebook user with the opportunity to call a friend through the website. No other details were provided, however a Facebook VoIP service fits in perfectly with the outfit's plans for personal information domination.
Typically The INQUIRER would run with the fact that Facebook suffered a security breach on its website that revealed something that clearly it shouldn't have, but let's be honest, a security breach is par for the course with Facebook. Instead, the quick peek at Facebook's VoIP button only confirms that the company wants to play a more central part in its users' lives.
Facebook has recently gone to great efforts to enter the lucrative messaging business and having a VoIP component to enable that makes perfect business sense. This development is no more than what The INQUIRER predicted last year when the social notworking website announced its messaging software.
The thought of a Facebook VoIP service seems all the more reasonable, given that the outfit recently went ahead with plans to allow developers to have access to its users' address and telephone numbers. Facebook was then forced to make an embarrassing reversal just days later following a public outcry, though it said the feature will be reintroduced in the future after it irons out some of the security flaws.
The impending arrival of a Facebook VoIP service was given further credence when reports surfaced that smartphone maker HTC is about to jump into bed with Zuckerberg. It makes perfect sense that it would want to synchronise Facebook data between devices in order for users to be able to call contacts and that doing that will generate a load of cash for Facebook, in more ways than one.
As we have previously mentioned, Facebook's aim is to enrich its social graph so it knows which user profiles and 'friends' actually matter to its capability to monetise its subscriber base and generate revenue. So while VoIP operations might bring it some cash, the big bucks will be in being able to analyse the links between user profiles and the wealth of other information in those profiles, which Facebook can analyse and flog to its advertisers.
By handling a phone call between Facebook users, the firm knows that the two profiles have a worthwhile link. It is a way of sorting so-called 'Facebook friends' from real friends, with the latter being far more valuable for Facebook.
It would be a privacy breach too far, even for Facebook, to listen in on calls that occur through any VoIP network it either runs or partners with. However as we have said, it doesn't need to listen in to make money, as users already post more than enough personal data on their Facebook accounts for the company to rake in mountains of cash.
A Facebook VoIP service coupled to any phone HTC or anyone else makes is just the tip of the iceberg for Facebook. The mobile phone will allow Facebook far greater access than ever before into the actions, whereabouts and habits of its users, which is just what advertisers crave.
And without a doubt, Facebook's obliging users will greet this surveillance with open arms. µ