(Written c. 2008, when social media users were much more innocent, apparently.)
I’ve discovered that it is possible to use Facebook without revealing any information about yourself at all. None. What is required for registration you make up. You use an alias email. Therefore nothing of use goes to Facebook or any of the big, scary search engines that trawl the databases for whatever reason. You can even set up a fan page using your own name that requires giving no useful information. (Did I do that?). What is astonishing about Facebook is how all the information it has acquired on people is given over completely voluntarily. No torture necessary.
The scary fact is that none of the info they have on you is ever eliminated. There is no law requiring them to get rid of that info, the way there is with financial institutions, etc. Indeed, there are no laws about Facebook whatsoever. People simply cannot get themselves to believe that anything on the Internet could be, potentially, deep down malign. (This has certainly changed.) Yes Facebook is now, right now, being used to collect information on citizens in ways that neither the Third Reich’s RSHA or the Soviet’s KGB could ever imagine. I know paranoid leftists and paranoid rightists who will readily give all kinds of personal information to Facebook without batting an eye. I wish I could say I’m being paranoid but I worked in that side of the industry (data mining) for ten years. It is all about acquiring as much information from as many people as possible. There seems no limit to what people will tell a website. They have analytical tools now of astonishing sensitivity and breadth, and have ways of storing information is usable forms that are beyond the average person’s understanding. I’d constantly see the new tools coming out to mine that info. They were able to get more and more specific. When you can direct ad campaigns at individual users—that means someone knows so much about you that they can accurately predict what will attract you to send money. There are technologies now that can be that specific across databases that contain millions of individuals. They can even see what those people look like. There are pictures of them posted everywhere. Not only on their own site but on other people’s sites. Facebook didn’t develop that technology as a favor to its users.
HR departments regularly go to Facebook and do a search on an applicant’s name to see what comes up. (This was new at the time.) The applicant doesn’t even have to be registered with Facebook. If some jerk posted a photo of you on their website smoking a joint and then tags your name…..there goes that job. Same with security clearances. Medical insurance. SSI. Credit companies. Homeland Security. And that is just in this country. They all use Facebook and people just pretend they don’t. People think Facebook is all about having friends. Facebook is about information. That’s why it’s worth a gajillion dollars.
Facebook knows that a sucker is born every minute.