Facebook Is Following You

    You knew that, right? How else would Facebook know to serve that panda video straight into your newsfeed, and leave your college friend’s ill-informed rant about Pacific trade deals in the dark bowels of its servers? How else would it know to serve you with 7,000 ads for wedding dress vendors the very day you announce your engagement? How, my friend, could it deliver that invitation to “like” the Doritos Locos taco when you had only just yourself realized that you were craving terrible Mexican food? Facebook knows what you like. It knows what you don’t like. It probably knows whether you have been naughty or nice, and will be selling that data to Santa this Christmas season. This bothers many people, especially since Facebook keeps expanding the list of things it knows about you, and the ways it is willing to use that data to make money. The recent announcement that Facebook would soon target ads using your “likes” and “shares” has triggered some Olympic-level teeth-gnashing from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, because Facebook will get information from you not just when you actually like, “like” something, but when you load a page that has a “like” button on it. They want Facebook to agree to use a “Do Not Track” standard that will keep all that potentially profitable data from the greedy eyes of advertisers. Of course people should be able to hide data about what sites they use. But there’s a perfectly good way to do this: Stay signed out of Facebook and tell your browser not to accept cookies, or otherwise let advertisers follow you around the web. The problem is, this level of security is incredibly inconvenient, because you have to spend a lot of time painfully re-entering data. The other problem is that naive users, who probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about privacy, won’t bother. But what obligation do companies really have to naive users who don’t spend a lot of time thinking about privacy? Some of these users undoubtedly don’t realize that they are exposed, but we should not reject out of hand the possibility that most of them really don’t care enough -- at least, not enough to put up with all that inconvenience. Enforcing someone else’s preferences about privacy may not be liberating; it may be counterproductive. [ ... ]

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  • 1. What does Facebook know?
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  • 2. Why does this fact bother many people?
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  • 3. What is "the good way"?
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  • 4. What is the problem with this method?
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