How many times have you read “Facebook” and “privacy” in the same sentence? It’s not just me, right? So what exactly is stoking this anxiety?
For decades, I have been bristling (and acquiescing) to being asked for personal information at every turn. Doctor’s offices, insurance companies, banks, jobs; you name it. They all want one thing from me; my personal information. Identifying numbers and dates have been flying around unprotected forever. There was a time when college identification cards were emblazoned with the student’s social security number. Personal checks often had the account holder’s driver’s license number printed on the front (to avoid that pesky step of a cashier copying down a customer’s most identifying number at each purchase.) It was routine in many high schools and colleges to post test results in hallways with “only” the identifier of a social security number.
So what is it exactly that makes some people feel stalked by Facebook? To establish an account you need to provide a name and an email. That’s about it. There’s no financial information and certainly no call for any identifying numbers. You may choose to provide your birth date, but you needn’t. I can only assume (and yes I am aware of how dangerous that can be) that the perceived invasion of privacy centers around the actual behavior while on Facebook. All those “Like” buttons and photo sharing may result in some huge database of T.M.I.? And then what? Since data collection (of such mundane points) could only be useful from a marketing standpoint, is it a fear of adverts? I don’t know about anyone else, but my (real) mailbox and email inbox have been brimming with adverts (tailored just for me!) for about twenty years. My reactions range from annoyance, to hurt pride (“really, teeth whitening offers?”) to grabbing my coat and going shopping (hey, sometimes they do get it just right.)
To be clear, I am not a lover of pop-up ads or commercials (shout out for the DVR, you beautiful little genius, you!!) but like death and taxes, they’re going to happen no matter what. Close the pop-up box, delete the message, avert your eyes. Facebook is free, and free costs. Think of the adverts as a pledge drive.
But then again, we know what happens when one assumes.
February 19, 2012 at 5:39 am
The dread is inchoate for most people, which doesn’t mean that it signifies unwarranted paranoia. What isn’t fully grasped is the inevitable use of the data gathered as more than a targeting tool to maximize marketing expenditures. It is already widely used to permanently wall off entire demographics from opportunity. The best discounts don’t just go to those who expend the most effort to claim them, but to those least needful of them. If the numbers indicate that those who live in one zip code are more likely than those who live in another, then the best prices are only offered to those in that zip code. (It’s a SUPERB proxy for race, in that way.) The already disadvantaged likely will never know (directly) of their further marginalization. This process has already advanced so far that the more advantaged have begun to speak openly of the desirability of removing the burden of these useless eaters. I expect the pace and breadth of this meme to accelerate, further larding the appalling ignorance of the fortunate–of the lives of the least among them–with the brutality of indifference.
There is an even more odious use to which this data can and will increasingly be used. “The Minority Report” isn’t really fiction, but prophesy. What’s worse, it isn’t only the high and mighty who can do such things. Anyone who bears someone a sufficient grudge, assuming that they are enterprising enough to search out black hat hacker sites, can profile that someone to a fare-thee-well. Do you now, or have you ever, gone anywhere on the web the exposure of which might embarrass you, or even destroy your life? That life can even more likely be savaged by destroying their credit rating. Hmmm, maybe I’ll backdoor some child porno on to their PC and then dime them out. Where has my spouse been going when she’s not with me? Good thing that her smart phone has left behind a permanent trail of breadcrumbs for me to follow. And that stupid ***** of an ex of mine thought that she could leave me and not be found. (Nobody would ever suspect me; it’s been two years and I live 700 miles away.) OOOH, nice! That tasty little 5th-grader looks so cute all squeaky clean from her shower, bopping away to her beats in the ‘privacy’ of her own room. Thank God for Facebook.
The real winner is facial recognition software, though, in combination with cell phones. Every random video stream that you never knew was taken, there for the inquiring mind. (Did you know that those cameras on your PC and Mac can be turned on remotely, after disabling the warning light? I wonder how many people Wii in the buff? Yummy!) Right now, I’ve gotta run and drink away the picture in mind of Martin Short in the holding cell in the squad room on “Special Victims Unit.” (“Was it good for you?”)
February 18, 2012 at 2:28 pm
A while back I purchased a pair of boots online. All of a sudden every add in yahoo and facebook was for boots. then I looked at but did not purchase a specific brand of pans. Boom all the adds changed to the pans. Two things I did. AVG(free) has a popup blocker and Google Chrome has an add-on that blocks adds. Now my web experience is 99% add free.