Facebook is Like a Webcam: Beware of What You Let It See

A friend of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg asked him, back in 2004,
after the 19-year-old had casually mentioned in an online conversation
that 4,000 people had uploaded their personal information to his
fledgling website: “How did you manage that?” He typed back: “They just
submitted it. I don’t know why. They ‘trust me’,” then indiscreetly
described them as “dumbfucks”.

Facebook is a social phenomenon. It is a great way to keep in touch with your social network, share news, stories, and pictures. But it can also be a personal liability. Most people are aware that information presented on the internet can come back to haunt you. But people seem to underestimate what type of online information is secure. The reality is, anything you post online can be found by those willing to look for it. Facebook has come under recent scrutiny for lax privacy settings, often making default settings ones that share personal information to third party companies seeking to datamine potential customers. But your privacy settings may not even be sufficient to protect you.

I have heard rumours of employers getting access to highly secure accounts, whether privacy settings are on max, whether the account is invisible or deleted. One example of such a company was a hospital researching the backgrounds of potential administrative job applicants.

When Microsoft bought a 1.6% share in Facebook for $240 million in 2007, it valued the company at $15 billion. That is some serious money for a company that until then existed to sell advertising. But that type of valuation from a company as shrew and successful as Microsoft serves to indicate there are other sources of value inherent in the company. Data mining is the most likely reason Facebook is so valuable.

What data mining does it collect information about individuals which can be compiled in a central database and accessed by interested parties. Such parties include but are probably not limited to businesses, police, intelligence services and other government agencies.

Given what I’ve seen posted on some people’s Facebook pages and groups range from scandalous pictures of shameless debauchery to personal information such as addresses to threats to calls for violence against groups and individuals. Now, if you’ve been stupid enough to threaten a person or group over Facebook, be aware that you may find yourself the target of surveillance. But if you’ve merely had pictures posted of you wasted on Friday night, be aware that potential employers might not see you as the trustworthy, reliable type.

Economists have a saying that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Since you aren’t paying money for your Facebook membership, ask yourself what the company is getting from you instead.

So, back to Zuckerberg. He’s a billionaire because of you. And he has also referred to you (who submit personal information) as “dumbfucks.” Draw your own conclusions..

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