by: Daniel Barker
You probably know that Facebook collects and stores your personal data and preferences to form a profile that it uses to generate advertising content targeted directly at you. But did you know that Facebook also looks at all the other websites you visit and stores that data, too? Facebook also collects your online search data along with some of the details you give to retailers when you purchase something.
Facebook and the data brokers
Zuckerberg and his Facebook shareholders make huge amounts of money by partnering with what are known as “data brokers.”
“collect demographic information: names, addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, gender, age, marital status, presence and ages of children in household, education level, profession, income level, political affiliation, cars driven, and information about homes and other property. They collect lists of things you’ve purchased, when you’ve purchased them, and how you paid for them. They keep track of deaths, divorces, and diseases in your family. They collect everything about what you do on the Internet.”
This information is used to target advertising to individuals, but many see it as an illegal invasion of privacy. One of the charges against Facebook is that it deliberately tries to hide the extent of its data mining. Very few people actually read the terms and conditions when they sign up to Facebook, and even those who do typically don’t have a real understanding of what the privacy policies actually mean.
A recent article posted by Phys.org explores the issue and observes:
Users of social media are generally unaware of how much of their fragmented personal data is collated from across social media sites–and even taken from the content of their free, web-hosted emails (e.g. Gmail)–and how this can be used to build detailed personal profiles.
“Opting out” is difficult and basically futile
Facebook claims that its users can opt out of its data-mining practices, but it’s difficult to do so, and, according to data security experts, it doesn’t make much difference if you do.
As a piece on the Sherbit Blog points out:
A ‘note’ on the ‘Facebook and Privacy‘ page attempts to comfort users by insisting that “the process is designed so that no personal information is exchanged between Facebook and marketers (or the third parties those marketers work with).” But the truth of the situation is that the ‘data brokers’ already own your personal information–and their collaboration with the social network may allow them to assemble even more detailed profiles of your health and habits in the future.
The bottom line is that Facebook and the data brokers collect and store more personal information than the NSA does, and they make piles of money doing it.
A recent analysis conducted by the Belgian Privacy Commission concluded that these practices are in violation of European law, but it remains to be seen whether or not anyone will be able to curtail Facebook’s snooping practices.
Facebook claims that its data-mining activities make for a better user experience, but I doubt that very many people actually appreciate their spying. “Big Data” is increasingly expanding its reach into our personal lives, and it appears that the age of total online surveillance has arrived.
What many of once thought of as a fun, essentially harmless and amazingly useful social network has turned into a intrusive tracking monster of Orwellian proportions. The NSA has nothing on Mark Zuckerberg and Co., and unless there is a concerted global effort to reverse the trend, we can expect the ever-increasing monitoring of every detail of our lives.