'It's digital colonialism': how Facebook's free internet service has failed its users | Technology | The Guardian: "Whatever Facebook’s true goal, Free Basics offers the company another treasure trove of data: all user activities within the app are channeled through Facebook’s servers. This means Facebook can tell which third-party sites users are looking at, when and for how long.
Free Basics collects metadata relating to browsing activity. “The program has created substantial new avenues for Facebook to gather data about the habits and interests of users in countries where they aspire to have a strong presence, as more users come online,” said Global Voices.
In spite of its shortcomings, Free Basics has grown rapidly and, according to Facebook, is used by 50m people. However, it’s mostly used by people who want to extend their mobile data package for free as opposed to connecting those who previously didn’t have access to the internet – an audience Facebook has repeatedly stated it is trying to reach.
“It is not a great approach for bringing people online, but it’s really good at saving costs for people already online,” said Dhanaraj Thakur, of the Alliance for Affordable Internet.
“The narrative Facebook is concerned with is about increasing access, but there’s a lack of empirical evidence. But that’s the whole point of the project!”
Facebook refused to answer questions about how many people it had brought online for the first time, how it places content within the apps or how the company measures the success of the scheme. However, the company pointed out the report only looked at a few markets and that it is an open platform for which any content provider can adapt their services." 'via Blog this'