Saturday, April 24, 2010

Facebook giving Google a run for its money

Facebook has recently announced some new features that will allow you to share your web-surfing habits with all of your friends.  It seems like Facebook and Google are in competition to become the most intrusive, Orwellian entity on the Internet.

As is standard operating procedure for Facebook, users were not told ahead of time about the new features, and opting out is cumbersome. 

Some of the features seem benign.  The "like" button will now appear on many other websites when you visit them while logged into Facebook. You can let your friends know that you like these sites (or recommend an article), and those results will be seen by your friends when they visit those sites while logged into Facebook.  Of course, that means that Facebook keeps track of the other websites you are visiting while logged in.

Creeped out yet?  Do you typically stay logged into Facebook while doing other web surfing?  Feel confident that your friends will only know about those websites if you click the "like" button?  That's how it works now, but what's to stop Facebook from changing that in the future?  After all, there is advertising money to be made by encouraging viewers' Facebook friends to visit that site.

And that brings me to another new FB feature, Instant Personalization, which is being offered by Yelp, Pandora and Microsoft's site.  Unless you opt out (see this article for helpful instructions on doing so), visiting those sites while logged into Facebook allows them to view your publically available profile information, as well as that of your Facebook friends.  Even if you have opted out, if your friends have not, Yelp and Pandora can still mine your profile information when your friends visit their sites, unless you go through the added step of specifically blocking each individual website offering instant personalization (currently only those three, but soon to be many more).

Maybe I'm just paranoid, but I don't think it's any of my friends' business what trashy novels I've purchased from Amazon or what medical conditions I've researched.  And I would really rather not know which of my friends belong to an adult diaper support group.  While it is still easy to avoid that sort of oversharing, will that still be the case a year from now?

1 comment:

Tim Morrissey said...

Ja, Fraulien Seex-Pack, if you have nozzing to hide, you have nozzing to fear. Zis information you are vorried about vill be kept konfidential. Only za state vill know.