As the graph on the right shows, more people spend more time on Facebook – by far – than any other social medium.). After that the mayhem ensues. The technology taps into your name and user photo in your Facebook account to put the watcher in the unnerving position of being watched.
The magic, or crude leftist parody, is self-inflicted insofar as one must choose to sign into one’s Facebook account, thus one’s willingness to participate in what is often called “permission marketing.” One can opt out as well. But the latter gives you a much-less-humorous (Your email name) and a demonic black-on-red silouette to fill in the ‘holes’ that could have been you. But what happens going forward? Did I give CNNBC the right to keep any information trolled from my Facebook site? Did my name and password get tucked away by CNNBC’s servers? Could/would CNNBC sell access to the database to advertisers or – worse – law-enforcement agencies sympathetic to Fox News‘s perspective? Could this all be a plot to garner the personal information of the vast left-wing conspiracy who are sharing this video amongst themselves? Is Mr. Beck right?!
Probably not. Which is not to say we do not have cause for concern here. The fact is, we like to think we are in a private realm when we sign into our own Facebook/MySpace/Twitter/Buzz!/Latest-Application-Here. That we are inviting only our friends and followers. That relationships are built on a certain accepted risk and responsibility (After all, aren’t we all risking our privacy together?).
But the online world was meant from its inception to link and share and transmit. What we think is our own personal information eventually leaks out into that larger ‘cloud’ and our patterns, habits, and interests make their way to people who would like to sell us something. As Steve Lohr discussed in a recent posting on the New York Times blog, “In social networks, people can increase their defenses against identification by adopting tight privacy controls on information in personal profiles. Yet an individual’s actions, researchers say, are rarely enough to protect privacy in the interconnected world of the Internet.
You may not disclose personal information, but your online friends and colleagues may do it for you, referring to your school or employer, gender, location and interests. Patterns of social communication, researchers say, are revealing.” The article is a sobering one, as it reports on proofs-of-concept efforts to get passwords, accounts, even Social Security Numbers from people’s online presences.
If you saw Minority Report from 2002, you might recall the fact that in the future folks move through advertisements that target the individual viewers. Both the government and the corporations have enough ‘personal’ information that they can predict and mold behaviors and decisions before they happen.
We’re not there yet. But as the video faux-news demonstrates, the technology is coming that allows us to target comedy, slogans, and advertisements not just to the general trends of one’s poking around the internet but to one’s own specific images, words, relationships, and love of rice (I confess! I eat rice fairly often.). We will have other postings on this issue in the near future as we keep a close eye on its development. Do not be alarmed, but do not assume your holiday pictures on your favorite photo-sharing site are only accessible by your invited friends and family either.