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As Citizenfour ended, I left Salomon feeling more vulnerable and uncomfortable of my personal privacy and security than when I first sat down. I was always aware of Edward Snowden and the whole debacle of him seeking political asylum in my hometown of Hong Kong, but never really delved deeper than that. Citizenfour sought to widen my perspective in the sense that I can no longer believe that my movements aren’t being data mined right now. My phone calls, messages, credit card purchases, web history – all are being monitored without my consent. In Bucher’s article Algorithmic power and the threat of invisibility on Facebook, we are essentially being boiled down to algorithms and quantifiable numbers.

“Cultural assumptions about the nature of social networking that are being built into algorithmic architectures” (pg. 1178) Like what Glenn Greenwald said during the movie, the NSA and it’s alliance with the top 10 internet firms begin to shape our personalities together, learning and understanding our internet footprints. We thus become susceptible to their watching, always over our shoulders, listening and analysing to ensure absolutely ‘security’. On the other hand, Bucher noted that “anticipated or future-oriented assumptions about valuable and profitable interactions…are ultimately geared towards commercial and monetary purposes” (pg. 1169)

We are well into the age where we are being constantly being bombarded with information and news in our everyday lives. Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm controversially “switched the default setting to the Most Recent feed to ‘Friends and pages you interact with most’, so that the feed most users believed to represent every update from every friend in a real-time stream.” (pg. 1168) However, they did it without the consent of Facebook users, as they never notified the users of this change. What this kind of portrays to the consumers is that we are being kept up to date within our circle of close friends, and therefore enables us to get ‘lost’, or invisible within the swamp of people we interact most with. This kind of algorithm feed change practically creates niches where companies can target for commercial and monetary purposes, as they are able to extrapolate from a bigger pool of users that have more or less the same kind of virtual activity that allows some form of manipulation.

Bucher said “if an architectural framework helps to to frame Facebook as a “space designed to make things seeable, and seeable in a specific way’ (Rajchman, 1988), the question of how this space becomes and shifts meaning needs to be attended to.” (pg. 1178) The word that we must critique here is ‘specific’, that Facebook is a portal that is designed to portray events and activity in one kind of light, and only one kind. Like ducks or geese that are constantly being force-fed in order for their livers to fatten in the product of Foie gras, we are similarly being force fed with this filtered information that is contingent on what is ‘trending’ within our friend group. “Edgerank…reinforces a regime of visibility that runs counter to much of the celebratory Web2.0 discourse that focuses on democratisation and empowerment.” (pg. 1176) Like the NSA tapping into our computers and phones, and Facebook’s Edgerank system; both have the same goal in their eyes – to ensure that no one can ever escape their reach by the click of a button. In the eye of the citizens, the ‘celebratory Web 2.0’, our empowerment and freedom of democracy is violated and taken away due to this regime of ‘visibility’.

So I must ask, is all this for the citizens?

My answer is: Not one bit.