Tuesday, October 19, 2010

In the News: Facebook Privacy. Again.


As if there aren't enough things to worry about line, Facebook is in the news again.

Not for the recent movie fictionalizing its creation, and making Mark Zuckerberg look like a world class jerk.

Not for the documentary revealing how easily someone's online persona can be improved, manipulated and falsified.

Not for teachers using it inappropriately.

This one is all about companies getting to know you, and selling that data to others who want to have it for their own use, mostly to sell you more stuff.

From ABC.Com:
The Journal found that in 25 instances the third-party app companies were taking in users' Facebook identification numbers. The number then tied into a user's profile and could identify the person by name, no matter how secure his or her privacy settings were.

The companies tracking you could then build a clear profile of your habits. If they used other Internet tracking technology to keep a record of the websites you visit and then married that to your name, this would be a clear violation of Facebook's policies, which has consumer groups up in arms.
So why should any of you care?

First of all it has to do with internet tracking and what that information can be used for.  For example, if you use a login with Google, every time you search, then Google keeps track of that search, what websites you look at and which ones you actually go visit.  In fact there's technology that follows your mouse on the screen to see where you point before clicking.

So Google is building a profile about your habits on line.  Now fortunately that profile is anonymous.  There's no name attached to it.  It's just some person in Walled Lake is searching for things and when he does he goes here next.  They sell this information to companies.  Teenagers from Walled Lake Michigan like to look for this on line and when they do they go buy that.  This is useful to companies to target adds.

What is happening with this Facebook leak, however, let's those companies also get access to your name.  No longer are you just "Teenager_Walled_Lake_004323".  You're a specific person.  And that can make it easier to track you, but it can also make things more easily known about you.

When I interviewed for my first job I had a very small website that I had to work to get potential employeers to find.  When you, my students now, go out and look for a job you already have one and probably several, and many of them you'd probably ~not~ want a potential employer to see.  In fact whole industries are sprouting up to help clean up people's online reputations.

There should be a small outrage at Facebook letting personal information leak out into the internet.  In fact they're being asked questions by Congress on this issue.

But it remains too a lesson about social networking, and the internet.  What is said and done here remains, more or less, forever.  Even if a server is turned off, there is a good chance that the photograph ended up archived somewhere else.  If that post got deleted, someone may have backed it up.  You may have cleared your email trash can, but taht doesn't mean all record of that email is gone.

It used to be that you were worried what your neighbors thought of you.  Now, your neighborhood is the world.

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