Facebook, privacy and the new norm

29 Sep

Every time Facebook tweaks their interface people will find reason to complain. Yet the initial irritation wears off and people grow accustom to the changes. And it’s funny – the more intrusive Facebook becomes, we adapt ourselves to this sort of full disclosure and the more integral it becomes in our daily lives. Friends can peak into another side of our virtual selves. Whether or not it enhances our interactions is debatable but privacy still remains the biggest controversy of them all.

I remember thinking newsfeed was TMI when it was introduced. Now I can’t imagine Facebook without it. I disliked the ‘like’ button for as long as I knew it fed information to the third party advertisers. Now I’ve given in some and liked so far as my favorite brands.

Transparency, although similar to privacy, is not an issue for me. I don’t care if people see my wallposts, or notice when I comment on something. What I don’t like are the cookies that are being stored. I don’t like the thought of being traced and having that information used for data analysis and plugged into algorithms. Privacy policies always say they remove our identity from the stats, but we are a stat nontheless. Combined with the masses we create valuable information as a whole. Something seemingly mundane as entering age, location, the when and where we log onto Facebook reveal plenty. That alone can track the daily habits of a young professional like myself.

Facebook has more information than the census could ever accumulate. They say they use sensitive data to best serve us. Perhaps. But, serving us comes with new product placements from paid advertisers. According to one blogger/hacker, Facebook has tracked cookies even after logging out of their homepage. They have only recently admitted to it as a bug and “fixed” it. (http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2393750,00.asp#fbid=F0HsYn-e0gy)

Facebook’s biggest change arrives with its introduction of the new timeline. Facebook has astonishingly and maybe not surprisingly stored all of your activity since you first joined. On your profile it has laid out all of the activity on a timeline for you and your friends to see. Information such as every poke, like, check-in and defriending is stored. Reading some of that history threw me for a loop. It knew more than I cared to remember. If that wasn’t enough, they analyze some of that data and chart it. For example, all of your checkins over the month are put together on a map. I can only guess the next step will be analyzing the data further into more charts and graphs and compiling all of your actions into mathematical formulas. Maybe it will predict future activity. We will become walking mathematical functions giving data away to Facebook while others cash in on it. Is it such a terrible thing? Depends on your view of privacy.

I wonder if people will adopt these drastic changes? Will it become the norm just as newsfeed did? Have we finally reached the saturation point of full disclosure? There isn’t much left to say as Facebook continues to excavate our lives. They may know more about us than our moms do and that to me is a very scary thought.

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