So, like every other one of the world’s 1.28 billion monthly active Facebook users, you blindly agreed to Facebook’s Terms and Conditions without reading the fine print.
You entrusted your photo albums, private messages and relationships to a website without reading its policies. And you do the same with every other site...sound about right?
In your defense, Carnegie Mellon researchers determined that it would take the average American 76 work days to read all the privacy policies they agreed to each year. So you’re not avoiding the reading out of laziness; it’s literally an act of job preservation.
So here are the Cliffs Notes of what you agreed to when you and Facebook entered into this contract. Which, by the way, began as soon as you signed up:
Nothing you do on Facebook is private. Repeat: Nothing you do on Facebook is private: Note the rather vague use of the word “infer”, which Oxford Dictionary defines as “Deduce or conclude (information) from evidence and reasoning rather than from explicit statements.”
That includes some things you haven’t even done yet: Facebook has even begun studying messages that you type but end up deciding not to post. A recent study by a Facebook data analyst looked at habits of 3.9 million English-speaking Facebook users to analyse how different users “self-censor” on Facebook. They measured the frequency of “aborted” messages or status posts, ie, posts that were deleted before they ever were published. They studied this because “(Facebook) loses value from the lack of content generation,” and they hoped to determine how to limit this kind of self-censorship in the future. While a Facebook spokesman told Slate that the network is not monitoring the actual substance of these messages, Facebook was able to determine when characters were typed, and whether they were posted within ten minutes of being typed.
Even if you leave the network, not all your information does: Your Facebook footprint doesn’t necessarily disappear if you deactivate your account. According to the site’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, if your videos or photos have been shared by other users, they will remain visible on the site after you deactivate your account, and are subject to that user’s privacy settings.
Your information lets Facebook sell the power of your profile to brands and companies: This means that Facebook is being paid for supplying your endorsement (which you indicate by liking a page) to brands or companies. You can even find out how much your data is worth to Facebook by using the FBME application from Disconnect, Inc. And a report from The Center For Digital Democracy shows marketing companies are taking note, creating algorithms for determining key social media “influencers”. The report found that many marketers have identified multicultural youth users as key influencers, and have targeted those demographics with heavier social media marketing.
You’re also giving Facebook the ability to track your web surfing anytime you’re logged into the site: Facebook notes that other websites do the same thing. But that accounts for an insane amount of potential data, especially given the growth of Facebook mobile use. On average, Facebook mobile users check the site 14 times a day on their devices.
Facebook also uses strategic partnerships to track your purchases in real life: Last year, Facebook started partnering with data broker firms. Data brokers earn their money by selling the power of your consumer habits and monitoring your online and offline spending. Facebook’s partnership allows them to measure the correlation between the ads you see on Facebook and the purchases you make in-store – and determine whether you’re actually buying in real life the things you’re seeing digitally while using Facebook. Two of Facebook’s partners, Datalogix and Acxiom – one of the oldest data brokers and a partner of Huffington Post’s parent company AOL, Inc, — were among the nine data brokers the Federal Trade Commission analysed in a recent in-depth study. The study found that data brokers “collect consumer data from numerous sources, largely without consumers’ knowledge” and “store billions of data elements”. Acxiom has a database of about 3,000 data segments for nearly every US consumer.
Brokers share this information among “multiple layers of data brokers providing data to each other,” and then analyze the date to make “potentially sensitive inferences” about the consumer. These sensitive data points could range from health specifics, like high cholesterol, to broader demographic categories – like the so-called “Urban Scramble,” which includes a “high concentration of Latinos and African Americans with low incomes” or the so-called “Rural Everlasting,” which includes single men and women over the age of 66 with “low educational attainment and low net worths”.
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