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Facebook neglects user privacy with searches that are a bit too friendly

Courtesy of MCT

Last month Facebook launched the beta version of “Graph Search,” a search engine within Facebook that allows users to find friends, photos, places and more using queries. You can ask questions like “Who lives nearby?” or “Who is single?” and it will tell you. You can ask for “Photos from before 1995” and it will show you. Even questions like “What places have my friends been to in Cincinnati?” will return results. It’s really very impressive.
But is it a good thing?
It depends how you look at it, but at the very least, Graph Search is a glitter-covered confession of just how much Facebook knows about each one of us.
Over the years, we’ve been encouraged to reveal little bits of information about ourselves – we’ve said what we “Like,” where we are and how we feel. It all seemed harmless to say. However, Facebook is accumulating that information to create these expansive, detailed (and seemingly permanent) mosaics of who each of us is – and it wants us to be excited about it.
Personally, I’m worried. The respect for privacy is disappearing and, even worse, we’re becoming OK with that, and Facebook knows it.
It’s not just the information we’re giving away that is troubling, but the information being collected in ways many are unaware of.
In June, a “Consumer Reports” article revealed “that Facebook gets a report every time you visit a site with a Facebook ‘Like’ button, even if you never click the button, are not a Facebook user or are not logged in.” It also mentioned that your privacy settings do not necessarily prevent your friends from unintentionally allowing a third party to see your information.
Maybe that explains those curiously relevant-to-you advertisements on your computer screen.
In early December, Facebook’s intentions were made a little more clear. It held a vote on privacy policy changes (one of which was, ironically, to remove the ability of users to vote on privacy policies). It required 30 percent of users to vote to be legally binding; that’s about 300 million votes. If you, like me, never knew about it, you weren’t the only one – Facebook appears to have hardly promoted it because less than a million people voted. Of those that did, 88 percent voted against the changes. Too bad they weren’t enough to stop Facebook from implementing them.
Facebook is no longer the user-driven democracy it was once perceived to be. It is a business. The fundamental goal of any business is to make money, and to make money Facebook has to sell something. But we’re not buying anything and we don’t have to because we’re not the customer – we’re the product.
Facebook has sold us on something we unwittingly agreed to. Being sold.
Undoubtedly, some are comfortable with this and that’s fine. For others, like myself, it seems the company’s “Timeline” is nearing its end.

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