Facebook’s fix on us all

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Not on Facebook? It still has a fix on you’ is the headline that’s grabbed my attention this week. It was a piece about how the world’s biggest social network is building-up data about people who haven’t even signed-up yet.

There were also some ‘shocking’ facts about existing users – apparently, Facebook keeps every message and tagged picture even after we’ve deleted it from our account! So, that’s what it’s just filled its humongous data farms with in Sweden!

Your contact details can be culled from friends, you’ll be linked to anyone who has ever searched for your name and there may already be tagged holiday snaps of you, despite the fact you’ve never given permission for this.

When you look at this from a civil liberties perspective, it does seem extreme that non-users have already unwittingly created a Facebook profile of sorts. But I, for one, wasn’t massively surprised.

When you think about it – why would Facebook delete any of this precious data? Remember that Facebook doesn’t charge you to log-on and tag those pictures of your friends. Every scrap of its value, and the success it’s achieved, is down to the mountains of data and size of the communities it’s managed to build. This is what allows it to go on to sell very cleverly targeted advertising that makes the company its billions and zillions.

The reason we like Facebook is because all of our friends are on there, so there has to be some element of give and take. There’s no doubt that people do tend to be a bit laissez-faire in what they post online as they feel it’s not permanent. For me, rather than scaremongering about a surveillance state, we need to ensure that we’re educating ourselves to post information that we’re happy to hand over to Facebook and the like. 

You only have to go back a couple of generations to find examples of people who were worried about handing over information to machines and organisations that we now accept as a daily fixture. My Grandma won’t even use a cash machine or bank card, because she’s worried the robots will nick off with her pension! So, if the social networks are watching our every move, let’s just make sure we keep an eye on what they’re up to too.