Jarter Jargon

Posts Tagged ‘privacy

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Facebook recently rolled out a new feature: adding emotions, things you’re watching, eating, reading, and listening to (among a few others) to your status post. It seems like a fun way to let people know how you’re doing or what you’re doing. It fosters conversations within your own community and connects you to others who could be watching/eating/drinking/listening to the same. But underneath, it serves a much larger purpose. As Josh Constine notes,

“Along with being fun for users, it could be a big help to advertisers, though Facebook tells me it’s not piping this data into its ad engine just yet. By selecting your current activity instead of merely writing it out, you structure data for Facebook. That could eventually help it to connect you with advertisers who want to reach people who frequently watch TV and movies, or listen to music, or eat at restaurants.”

If you listened to a certain song, ads for the artist’s new album could be targeted towards you. Or if you are the type to watch a lot of movies, Netflix could target ads towards you.

Facebook does a great job of mining information from you without you even knowing. Third party companies track your purchase habits. When you add a new friend, you are prompted with a question about whether or not you know that person outside of Facebook. You can set geo-tags on posts to let people (and Facebook) know where you are. These are just a few of the features that Facebook uses to learn as much about you as possible.

A little creepy, right?

A few months back, Facebook rolled out their Graph Search. It lets you search for people in a more specific (some say “unsettling”) way. You can search for people who like to cycle. You can look for people who like to cycle that live in your city. You can look for people who like to cycle that live in your city and are friends with your friends. You see where I’m going? It puts front and center just how much data we have committed to this social network.

With people freaking out about online privacy and security, it sure amazes me how openly they share information and how openly they allow Facebook to gather information. Although the latter, there isn’t really a way around it. The way Facebook structures itself makes it hard NOT to have your information mined out. Pages you like, people you friend, your interests, everything plays a role into how Facebook crawls across your profile and archives data. Although scary, it can be humorous (second link is now defunct).

So be careful about what you put on the internet. In Facebook’s case, every design mechanism plays a role.

Last month, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg mentioned in an interview that the social media giant was looking to develop a search engine.

Zuckerberg believes that, with the use of internet bots, he can create a search engine unlike Google (or its estranged second cousin twice removed on its mother’s father’s aunt’s side, Bing). To emulate Google’s success, Facebook would have to invest a hearty amount, and their data warehouses are a different kind of data than that found through Google searches.

Facebook users talk about movies, music, products and vacations. Essentially, the Facebook search engine could simply become a massive consumer database. The company’s social scientists are hunting for insights about human behavior. What they find could give Facebook new ways to cash in on our data—and remake our view of society.

The problem with this is obviously security and privacy. Facebook has been slapped on the wrist quite a few times for privacy issues, but this intense data mining will definitely have to be scrutinized. Now of course, President Obama’s administration unveiled it’s “Privacy Bill of Rights” which calls for giving people more control over what companies do with personal information. Some even believe that Facebook, as the world’s largest social media site, should be subjected to specific consumer protection regulations.

While the world of commerce and information gathering continues to expand rapidly, we need to take a look at what is acceptable and not acceptable information gathered on people. But where do we draw the line on what is acceptable? Age? Gender? These are basic information, but to some it’s still too much. Salary? Spending habits? It’s a matter of how we feel individually that defines what goes too far.

Some people are smart about it while others aren’t. What gets posted online is going to be there forever. We need to be careful, just as much as Facebook does, as to what information we give out, although Facebook does a good job of burying privacy settings deeper and deeper with each new reformatting.

A little while ago, my dad and I were talking about social media and how sites help make someone’s online experience that much better. We got to talking about how the internet has changed business and its influence on culture today.

A little more recent, my dad called me and frantically told me how these sites were tracking what he looked at and what he clicked and that he promptly deleted his Facebook account.

This, coupled with the trouble Facebook has been running into lately with privacy issues, got me thinking about how much personal information and habits we give out freely online. We essentially give people (well, anyone who wants to add or follow us) our lives. We allow countless apps to access our Facebook and Twitter info. We post what we are doing on Facebook along with pictures of ourselves doing those things. We check into places when we do those things. We tweet out random crap about us. But where do we draw the line?

Facebook is starting to implement ways to connect your shopping habits and track and share with friends. Say you “Want” a shirt integrated with Facebook’s soon-to-be “Want” button. Facebook then shares that information on your profile. But behind the scenes, Facebook tracks what you like and sites you look at and tailor ads and suggested links accordingly.

Obviously different browsers have ways around online tracking (i.e. Google Chrome’s ‘Incognito browsing’), but when can we feel safe enough to browse without fearing someone looking over our shoulder at what we are looking at? The FTC is teaming up with the Digital Advertising Alliance to create an “easy-to-use, persistant and effective Do Not Track system.”

Sounds hopeful, but just reminds me of when I signed up for the “Do Not Call List” yet still continue to receive those calls…

In this day and age, we put a lot (and I mean a LOT) of personal information online. German Internet artist Tobias Leingruber’s work looks to explore mutual impacts of communication technologies and society.

The Facebook Identity Card is modeled off Facebook’s color scheme, and includes your real name, Facebook user name, the country code Facebook uses to discern different nations, the date you joined the social network, the unique user ID number Facebook assigns its users, and a QR code linked to your Facebook page. It’s a physical tie between the user and their online identity. His ID cards are a critique of how users are becoming increasingly comfortable with corporations “owning” a piece of their identity.

When crossing the border from Canada to the U.S. last summer the border officer jokingly asked me: "So - What is your Facebook Name?" - @tbx

Facebook is huge, and getting bigger by the day. What’s more, people have begun using the social network to serve court summons. Leingruber’s creation is far from accepting of this brave new reality. Further more, Facebook is delving deeper into your personal behaviors with the possible creation of “want” and “own” buttons. The induction of the Timeline layout lets users “create” accomplishments rather than post a status update about it. Soon, partner companies can link with Facebook, so when you’re shopping, you can let your friends now things you “want” or purchase and now “own.” But what this does is it feeds into Facebooks expansive information tracking system. VentureBeat explains:

In the new world of Facebook Actions, you would simply click an “Own” button next to the tracksuit you bought on a Facebook partner site. On related parts of your Facebook profile, the app you used to show you “own” the tracksuit would add that item to a list featuring other purchases you’ve made. Other Facebook-linked apps you use might show other lists — for example, clothes you’ve worn, products you want, books you’ve read, movies you’ve reviewed — anything you’ve talked about on the network or on Facebook-connected sites around the web.

Tobias’ previous work comes from a project called Facebook Resistance, a series of workshops to encourage people to question the rules and restrictions of Facebook by showing them the basics of web technologies, open data and creating little “hacks” that open new perspectives. Feel free to check out Tobias on Twitter.


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