Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Facebook: it's OK, you're among friends ... and bullies

Digital pioneers dreamed of online identities flourishing free of mundane prejudice. It seems the world has rejected that dream

Media Guardian article here.

In February 1996, John Perry Barlow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (and onetime lyricist for the Grateful Dead) published "A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace". He wrote:
"We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth. We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity."

Most arguments about Facebook and privacy focus on how well the company protects this information, keeps it secret from other users, from advertisers, from identity thieves, from search engines, from the world at large. But there is a more fundamental question, which is why anyone should give so much personal information to Facebook in the first place. The company's motives in asking for it are plain enough: market researchers used to have spend a lot of time and money gathering this kind of information, and now here we all are, splashing it around for free while Zuckerberg and Co make a killing selling it to advertisers. But why are we so happy to give it up? And what's in it for us?

Zuckerberg's answer to the second question would be that the more Facebook knows about you, the more it can tailor your "experience" of the web to suit you. On the Facebook blog last April, he wrote:
"If you're logged into Facebook and go to Pandora [an internet radio station] for the first time, now it can immediately start playing songs from bands you've liked across the web. And as you're playing music, it can show you friends who also like the same songs as you, and then you can click to see other music they like."

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