Prescriptions by Google, then? The company indeed lacks Amazon’s delivery capabilities but has a stranglehold on search and therefore on consumers’ connections to local businesses. It is not hard to imagine a world in which Google appears to keep its privacy promise by refusing to sell ads directly based on Fitbit user data but still capitalizes on the data by using it to connect Fitbit users with local health care service providers, pharmacists, and even gyms. That would just constitute one more way Google is edging out the digital middlemen that once closed the loop from Google search to a local service provider.
Insofar as Facebook’s pivot to privacy fails to reward its users for the data that has made it one of the world’s most powerful and profitable companies, I see it as a modest change that is more reactive than proactive, more inevitable than forward-thinking. It is likely that Facebook is only beginning to lay out its moves on privacy, and more ambitious changes may lie ahead. But for now, when it comes to the most pressing, fundamental ethical challenges that are inciting political fervor and increasing the likelihood that serious regulation of Big Tech is on the way, Zuckerberg is dragging his feet. With visionaries like Lanier and Zuboff raising public awareness about Facebook’s business model, the truth may just catch up with him.