[Air-l] Facebook protests

Alex Halavais halavais at gmail.com
Wed Sep 6 20:49:31 PDT 2006

I wrote this this morning after hearing about it from several students:

Facebook creepifies?

It seems that Facebook has a new face, which includes a personal news
feed feature, and the kids aren't all right. The aggregation of
information seems to creep them out.

So what's in my feed this morning? (Names abbreviated a bit.)

    * 47 new photos of FF and friends called "Fall semester in a
nutshell" (8:57am)
    * TM and GC are now friends. (8:37am)
    * JR joined the group "I hate facebook's new mini-feed feature" (7:40am)
    * CW is at the bar. (7:40am)
    * CW joined the group "I liked facebook the way it was" (7:00am)
    * EF, Ph.D. is kinda creeped out facebook is keeping a record of
everything he does. (6:03am)
    * MLS joined the group Chase+1. (5:23am)
    * MLS is on Campus (4:29am)
    * RLA and CH joined the group "I miss the OLD facebook." (4:09am)
    * JM joined the Poughkeepsie, NY network.

You get the idea. Several other new groups and thoughts show up on my
feed from yesterday, including

    * DF is thinking facebook is out of control.
    * The NEW Facebook SUCKKKKKS - Change it BACKKKKK.
    * FF is totally upset about how crazy stalkerish facebook just got.
    * I just wiped my ass and didn't wash my hands, and facebook told everyone.

So, the consensus among the students in my network seems to be that
aggregating Facebook data is creepy. This isn't a surprise to me, but
I still just don't get it. Facebook users seem to think that their
profiles are somehow not being published to the world. While I haven't
scraped Facebook, I did quietly scrape Orkut for my own use. I imagine
human subjects approval for grabbing that data for publishable
research would be pretty impossible, but that doesn't stop people
(like me) from grabbing the information and combining it with other
gathered info. I suspect that there is a growing database of profiles
out there in private hands, fed by people (like me) who provide fairly
extreme transparency in their daily lives.

But students expect that no one will see their MySpace profiles or
Facebook pages except for people they already know, and don't seem to
think about how this data can be combined with other sources of data
to create pretty complete profiles. This is counter intuitive, and
really short-sighted. I wonder if you have to be surprised by these
uses a few times before you really get that anything on the web (and
increasingly, anywhere) is no longer private.

[ Posted at http://alex.halavais.net/facebook-creepifies/ ]

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// Alexander C. Halavais
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