In response to AlterNet's Facebook: The New Look of Surveillance.
Interesting article. A bit harsh, though; we're not being preened for the Brave New World here; we are instead evolving our ideas of privacy in a natural, organic manner. Some ideas and features of this new privacy are good, and some bad, but each one will survive or expire on its own merit -- alarmist attitudes are certainly uncalled for. We're not helpless babes here.
Well, most of us, anyway.
I must say I'm not all that sympathetic to those of us that are; you've got to be pretty naïve if you think the stuff you put on Facebook won't be seen by anyone, whether they're looking for you or not. Any person that's ever heard of Murphy's Law will agree with its fundamental attitude of bestowing responsibility on the participants of any given situation, so if you put something online that could ever bite you in the rear, then you better expect it to do just that, sooner or later. They keep bringing up job interviewers and employers... well, this is a perfect example of my point: If you're applying for a job at a prestigious law firm, then a Facebook page full of you doing keg-stands that loses you the job is your own damned fault. You don't need MoveOn.org and a bunch of activists fighting for you. No, your problem can be solved much more simply. You need to grow up.
The "News Feed" shares these things we do on the Facebook site with all those who have any sort of connection to us at all. If there exists someone you don't want seeing these things, then don't do them or don't allow that person access to see you doing them. The onus is on you here, and I think this has been proven by, if anything, the fact that the News Feed has survived.
Because it is unfortunate that when yelling in a loud room full of your friends, your statements to the upper decibels of the room are quite obviously at risk of the dreaded sudden serendipitous silence. But if you embarrass yourself, there's no one to blame but yourself.
As for big bads coming after you because they found out you like sushi, are a libertarian, like brunettes and think pirates are cool... well, I don't see that as being anything worse than a deluge of ads for excellently priced hamachi, served by a chestnut-haired swashbuckler... The sorts of actual crimes that can be committed against us for becoming self-actualized public figures are wishy-washy at best.
Now, for the other side. Beacon, for example. Which can be used to turn actions unrelated to Facebook into public advertisements, thus making my private decision to rent "Earth Girls are Easy" -- a B-movie, certainly, but starring Gina Davis and Jeff Goldblum, it's not the porno its title suggests -- into an advertisement for this movie or the site from which I rented it. Assume this is done behind the scenes, or is presented to me in such a convoluted or obfuscated manner such that I never notice it.
So now, all of a sudden, anyone can be presented with an ad that gives the impression that I'm somewhere on the moral continuum between immaturity and outright perversion, depending on the viewer's bias. Well, I see two outcomes. The first and most common being the innocuous one: The viewer doesn't know me, recognize me, or care. The other, the one of import: They think less of me -- unfounded though it may be -- and I am in some way damaged by what should have been a private act of commerce.
I agree with this one, which enlightens the other side of my point: we have power here. Beacon is now obvious; you only advertise your actions on Facebook from external sites if you actively request it.
Because while it's unfortunate to have that loud room suddenly privy to your shouts regarding an unpleasant prank your buddies pulled on you involving Aspercreme, it's totally unacceptable for the local drug store clerk to sneak in and pass around pictures of your buddies applying it to your shorts.
So I conclude with this: Don't share what you don't want shared, and feel free to punch the clerk when he wrongs you. Or, if you're into clichés: Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. Or if you like generalities: Keep on truckin'. It's a bumpy road, but hey, that's life.
Or, if you like Forrest Gump...
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