Thursday, March 22, 2012

Why Facebook's Impending Data Policy Change Doesn't Bother Me Much

You are going to hear a lot of buzz about Facebook's new Data use policy. I tried to find an article that didn't have such a negative slant but I couldn't so here's the one I read.

Also, here's what I have to say about it.

  1. When you are using a free service like Facebook your data is being mined to more effectively market to you. Period. This is what they do. It's how they exist. When they say "your data" it is your demographic data such as your age, likes, dislikes, gender, etc. It is not your social security number, mothers maiden name, credit card number or annual income, unless, of course, you are dumb enough to put that on Facebook.

  2. "Your friends' activities can implicate your personal information." I'd like to hear more about this one from Facebook but, I suspect, the purpose for this is to learn more about you via the social activity of those you associate with.

  3. Some will claim that it is unconstitutional for Facebook to disallow you from using a pseudonym. "Facebook's ban on multiple accounts and using a pseudonym may violate First Amendment protections in the U.S."

    First of all, I'm not sure it's entirely accurate to say that the constitution protects your right to falsify your identity. Secondly, those people should realize that this rule serves a dual purpose. Sure, Facebook wants to know who you really are but it also is intended to weed out those with mal intent such as predators, spammers, identity thieves, etc. So if you are up in arms about this one, think twice. Many of the valid reasons to have a second or hidden identity have become obsolete with Facebook improvements over the years, such as pages for your business and the ability to separate personal and business associates.

  4. Facebook also requires that you keep your information up-to-date.  The same "dual purpose" mentioned above applies to this requirement.  Besides, if I move to the west coast, I know longer want Facebook to show me events in NYC, do I?

  5. In some sections the policy has been changed to "users and non-users who interact with Facebook". This doesn't come as a surprise to me. Many business have public facing pages that people can visit. Their "interaction" is limited as they can't like or comment so Facebook is likely tracking what it can grab from their browsing experience such as location data, browser choice, path, etc. As a business owner, this is data I want and isn't harmful to the "non-Facebook" user.

  6. There are now sections that apply to app developers, including:
  • "You will delete all data you receive from us concerning a user if the user asks you to do so, and will provide a mechanism for users to make such a request."
  • "You will not sell user data."
  • "We can require you to delete user data if you use it in a way that we determine is inconsistent with users' expectations."
  • "You will make it easy for users to remove or disconnect from your application."

Some will say "That damn Facebook is oppressing these developers when they don't even abide by all those rules!". Well, personally, I welcome this change. Facebook knows what it's doing with our data but they get shit on every time a rouge app developer does something it shouldn't. So, Facebook is setting some ground rules. Bravo.

The long and the short of it is that if you don't want your activity tracked, get off the Internet. Whether its Facebook or Google or whatever, your social activity is being monitored. If this is a concern for you, instead of complaining, be your own filter by limiting what you post and your activity. If you connect Facebook to Pintrest, don't be shocked when Facebook posts and ad for circus school and recommends you like "Fire Eaters Unite" because it knows you have a Pintrest board about circus arts.

The social graph is a relatively public place so behave accordingly. Would you strip down in the town square and then be offended that the mayor knows you have a tattoo of a pirate on your ass? No.

Personally, I don't mind that much. A few years ago I posted that I didn't like how Facebook was profiling me and I found its ads about "moms go back to school" and "the flat belly diet" to be a bit stereotypical. Recently I've seen that change and those ads and page suggestions are relevant and even helpful.

I know that some will call me naive and that I should strap on my tin foil hat and prepare for the rule of big brother. I don't care. Many of these are the same people who react to rumors that Facebook will start charging. I've got news for you. You already pay for Facebook. You pay with your demographic information. Each person needs to decide for themselves if the price is right.