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Over Easy: …one more thing

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A certain Over Easy crew member and commenter (ahem, BoxTurtle, ahem) likes to remind us that “If you’re getting it for free, YOU are the product.” That has never been more true than with Facebook.

Where Does Facebook Stop and the NSA Begin?

Facebook’s business model’s governing premise is that our personal information does not actually belong to us. No matter how often the company is told (including by the FTC) to stop using our personal information in ways we didn’t authorize, it keeps coming up with new ways to do just that.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg asserted back in 2010 that people have become more comfortable sharing private information online and no longer have an expectation of privacy.

People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.

We now know that by 2010, Facebook (along with Google, Microsoft, Apple, and others) was collaborating with the NSA’s PRISM program that swept up personal data on vast numbers of internet users. Had we all known, would we have “really gotten comfortable” with that?

Then not long after Zuckerberg declared that we don’t care about our privacy any more, Facebook had to promise it would stop putting our picture in ads targeted at our “friends.” But in August that promise evaporated when Facebook “clarified” its right to do with your photos (and those of your family) whatever it wants (or finds profitable) to do.

The company has a long track record of failing to keep their promises about your privacy.

Facebook Settles FTC Charges That It Deceived Consumers By Failing To Keep Privacy Promises

The social networking service Facebook has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public.

The 2011 settlement barred Facebook from making additional deceptive privacy claims, required it to obtain consumers’ approval before it changes the way it shares their data, and required it to obtain periodic assessments of its privacy practices by independent, third-party auditors for the next 20 years.

Where Facebook Went Wrong

The agency’s 8-count complaint boils down to this: Facebook’s privacy practices often flew in the face of its stated policies and, as one count alleges, the company made significant retroactive changes to its privacy practices, without getting users’ consent.

Now comes the latest: in the last couple of weeks, Facebook analytics chief Ken Rudin told the Wall Street Journal that the company is experimenting with new ways to suck up your data, such as “how long a user’s cursor hovers over a certain part of its website, or whether a user’s news feed is visible at a given moment on the screen of his or her mobile phone.”

I am increasingly disenchanted with Facebook. My son told me if I wanted to keep up with my grandkids, that’s where they are. But the college kid posts almost nothing but stuff about his “metalcore” band, the HS senior almost never posts anything, and my freshman granddaughter either has her settings such that I don’t see posts (for awhile they were frequent and inane), or she’s grown bored with Facebook. The 5 younger grandkids don’t have Facebook (yet). From friends I see lots of political stuff and photos of fingernails with Halloween designs and rarely anything worth seeing. I get into arguments (that I can’t win) with right-wing friends who rant about Obama and the ACA. This latest revelation tempts me to just abandon Facebook altogether. I’m not sure I’d miss anything.

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I retired from the University of Notre Dame in the Office of Information Technology in 2010. I'm divorced, with two grown children and 8 grandchildren. I'm a lifelong liberal and a "nonbeliever."