Absorbed by the Borg
We Are All Data
Already we feel compelled to post so much of what we do on Facebook in order to validate our activities or to prove how active we are or what scrumptious meals we make. We share our photos, our thoughts, our blog posts. We all (well not all are on Facebook [yet] and Facebook users are not equally compulsive [yet], I realize I am using hyperbole, but it’s getting harder to avoid, is it not?), OK, I do this.
And it’s not just what you normally think of as Facebook. The corporation is sucking in other tools that can be used to share your life data. I’m looking at you Instagram. Now comes news that FB has purchased the activity tracker Moves.
- We may share information, including personally identifying information, with our Affiliates (companies that are part of our corporate groups of companies, including but not limited to Facebook) to help provide, understand, and improve our Services.
“…improve our Services…” can be very broadly interpreted.
We Are All Product
Moves tracks where you go, how fast you go and how long it took you to go there. To the right is an example of my activity for Saturday, April 26, 2014. It graphs that activity to mapping software as well. So, now Facebook knows that much more about me going back to June of last year since the app is in my phone and my phone is with me almost all the time.
While Facebook says it will not integrate Moves, Instagram, WhatsApp and other recently acquire tools into its social graph directly, this doesn’t preclude it from sucking the accumulated data into its vast maw and getting it to line up with all the other stuff I have voluntarily shared. And they can use that data in all sorts of ways to make money. I am the product. We are all the product.
Rage Against the Machine?
I’m really not sure how to think about this. I like Facebook. I love Moves. And this is only the tip of the iceberg of knowledge that Facebook gathers about me. Every time I login somewhere else using Facebook or even just browse the web Facebook is tracking.
And it’s not just Facebook, though it’s arguably the most successful behemoth. The Internet is awash with applications and companies gathering and sharing my data. It’s huge business.
I could unplug. But since I make my living on the Internet, that’s not very practical. I could use counter measures and tools to protect my privacy, but that in itself could be at least a part-time job. Maybe I worry to much. Maybe, instead, I should relax as we will soon have reached that new Eden that Richard Brautigan wrote about in 1967:
“I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature,
returned to our mammal
brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.“
How are you handling your data/privacy in this brave new world? Comment! Please…