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Archive for April 28th, 2010

Why I fled Facebook

On April 27, 2010 I declared my Independence from Facebook.  I have broken ranks from the masses and ran for the exit, though I fear it may have been in vain and I fully expect to hear, ‘Relax, we are programmed to receive. You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave!’  [1] 

“Why” seems to be the question Inquiring Minds want to know.  Why bail out on such a good thing.  To answer that I have to confess that I am not wired like other people, and I may be a little too, Fox Mulder-ish.  Where others see Facebook as innocuous and something good, pointing to the old friends and classmates that it allows one to reconnect with, I see it as more insidious where way too much information is being collected and the collected information is being used to mold an experience.  That is social engineering and a type behavioral modification.  When the machine dictates what you see then it can influence how you think.  In my mind that is dangerous.

Why did I choose April 27th?  This was a day of convergence turned divergence for me.  I had already been toying with the idea of leaving FB for a number of personal reasons but then there were two articles, a change to FB that confirmed one of the articles and one posting in particular that convinced me it was time to go. 

From one of the articles (http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2010/04/27/tom-helou-internet-cybersecurity-al-qaeda-password-google/ ) there is a heads up regarding corporate security and privacy issues.  In part it says, “As the global recession drags on, sensitive information only becomes more valuable – and more vulnerable. Former employees, upset over a recent layoff in these hard economic times, have insider information that can be used to access company networks and obtain corporate data. Depending on how big their axe to grind is, now it’s all too easy for the disgruntled former staffers to plaster sensitive intelligence all over the cyber-world.”[2]   Now the phrase that pays in this article is “more valuable and more vulnerable.”  Anywhere there is the lure or temptation for making $$$ there is the possibility for corporate hanky-panky and industrial espionage.  This article also talks about last month’s attack on Google where their source code was hacked. Again the article points out, “Consumer records can be left uncovered in the process of a breach, and the virtual identities of millions are left for the taking. In 2008 alone, 285 million consumer records – or nearly one per American – were compromised.”[3]  So the problem is both real and imminent.  I realize that is true of all sites that gather personal information on its users.  So why do I worry about FB so?

Glad you asked.  Now as most of you know I am a conservative and I never in my wildest dreams ever, never thought that I would be on the same side of an issue with Sen. Chuck Schumer… but here I am.  Today, the 28th I ran across this article and find I am in league with the Senator and others as, “Senators ask Facebook to alter feature that shares info.”    The lead  for this story begins, “Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg‘s latest vision of making the social-networking giant more visible on the Internet may resonate with marketers, but not all of its 400 million members are sure.”  What that means is FB, in order to make more money for themselves, and create a personalized internet experience for you, will now be, ”involved intermingling your life as a Facebook user with other activities around the Internet.”[4]  In other words they are going to make your information available to other websites that you visit so that when you visit these other sites you get a page that has been customized to your personality based on your FB information . 

Now Facebook has already been doing this.  You know all those ads on the right hand side of the page?  They all have the like button with the thumbs-up in the lower left and the “x” in the upper right.  If you like the ad and give it a thumbs up you  will see more of the same type and category of ads.  If you click on the “x” then you see less of those.  I remember when they started using that information to customize the in house ads that we saw.  In a way I am thankful for the machine’s use of that information because I remember how ugly it was when the ad would pop up for unwanted hair removal  accompanied by the gal with the Sasquatch pits. I probably should have ran screaming from FB back then… but I stayed.  FB has now evolved to the point that it leads instead of following.  It is now powerful enough to dictate what it will do and how it will do it.  This is seen as a boon to the movers and the shakers and all the marketing types.  Cha-Ching!  I see this as social engineering, corporate manipulation and behavorial modification that is beyond my ability to control.  To my way of thinking this level of manipulation is dangerous and borders on brainwashing.   Of course we have been under such attacks since the first marketing ad that was ever put on a shingle and hung outside a business.  It has now taken on the sophistication of fine art and we just fall in line and get in step.

Then there was the app that sent me over the edge.  FB is full of all these “Fun” questionaires.  This is where FB seems to take on a darker air.  Take a look at the questions.  They are very generic it seems but if you look at those questions you see a profile developing.  The FBI could not do any better at gleaning information in a full on interview as people give up willingly in these questionnaires.  Now let’s go all hypothetical shall we.  Person “A” fills out several of these funzie questionnaires.  Putting all of their personal info on them: age, gender, likes, dislikes, wants, desires, traits they admire in others, types of people they like… you know the spiel.   Along comes person “B”, a friend of a friend.  Now “B” is a creeper, a stalker type.  They read about “A” and since “B” is well versed in manipulation they soon strike up a conversation with “A” and using all the information that was freely and willingly supplied by “A”, “B” soon gets into the confidence of “A” and from there the games begin.  Maybe “A” becomes a missing person not long thereafter?  Who knows… that is a hypothetical postulation but the information that is so freely shared with others is real and is forever in memory in cache somewhere. 

Now look at your info tab on your profile page.  What can we learn about you?  Lets see: age, gender, education, likes, hobbies, music, movies, relationships, books you read, email, websites, your political and religious affiliations.  This is the info that FB is opening up to other sites you visit so that they can “customize” your experience.  Maybe it’s just me but I remember that Michael Crichton techno-western Yule Brenner played in, Westworld  “Boy have we got a vacation for you… where nothing can go wrong!” [5]

I am at a transition point in my life right now and it seemed a good time to escape the assylum.  Arkham was getting crowded and I needed to work on other endevors, including this blog.  I am on the mend physically, and mentally and emotionally I have excised some demons from my past that have haunted me for years.  It is time to start some reconstruction amidst all the deconstruction that I have been doing here lately regarding my worldview.  I also have to devote more time to preparing myself to go back to work.  So here at this cross-road I choose to take the road less traveled.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost[6]

I may yet return but not right now.


[1] http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/eagles/hotelcalifornia.html

[2] http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2010/04/27/tom-helou-internet-cybersecurity-al-qaeda-password-google/

[3] Ibid

[4] How to Take Control of Facebook Privacy, http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/04/27/control-facebook-privacy/

[5] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070909/combined

[6] http://poemhunter.com/best-poems/robert-frost/the-road-not-taken/

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