Am I worried? Yes, a bit. In FB as in life in general, I try to be cautious but not compulsively private in sharing information about myself. I don't do much FB statusing and adjust my settings every time I hear there's been a privacy change. I realize, must not we all, that there's much available about me which I can't control. I try to surrender my social security number as little as possible and it used to annoy me that my work ID contained an SSN barcode. It concerns me that financial institutions have required I give it to them when I've applied for a credit card, opened an account, or applied for a mortgage. I know that my accounts with utility companies, wireless & landline phone providers, and my ISPs yield up publicly available information about my use of their services. Many companies with which I do business accumulate information about me which they can, and under certain circumstances, freely do share. When I've bought the homes I've lived in, a whole raft of information became publicly available about the transactions.
I suspect most of us know that the computer we're using supplies information about itself when we're online. There are a number of web sites that show you this info, this one, for example. You probably also know that programs which put spyware in web cookies can accumulate a whole lot more about your internet sessions.
It's the business of data snoops to accumulate this information along with every thing else they can tag as pertaining to you, your computer, and the use you make of it. Many people now assume that all their email traffic is subject to either machine or human inspection, or both.
Columbia law professor Eben Moglen summarized the risk in a speech last February:
The Problem is the Cruft and Data Dandruff of Life: In fact the degree of potential informational inequality, and disruption and difficulty that arises from a misunderstanding, a heuristic error in the minds of human beings about what is and is not discoverable about them, is now our biggest privacy problem. My students ... show constantly in our dialog they still think of privacy as the one secret they don't want revealed. But that's not their problem. Their problem is all the stuff that's the ... data dandruff of life, which they don't think of as secret at all but aggregates to stuff they don't want to know. Which aggregates not just to stuff they don't want other people to know, but to predictive models about them which they would be very creeped out to know exists at all. The data that we infer is the data in the holes between the data we already know if we know enough things.This isn't very precise, but captures the main cause of concern. A whole mess of facts, each by itself benign, can be assembled and put to a nasty purpose.
Here are some links about the current noise regarding Facebook.
Has Facebook gone too far this time? (SocialMedia.biz)NY Times Graphic on Privacy Settings
Weekly Wrap-up: Deactivating Facebook, Social Oversharing, iPad vs. Netbooks, And More... (ReadWriteWeb)
Facebook Privacy: A Bewildering Tangle of Options (New York Times)
Could a start-up called Diaspora knock Facebook off its perch? (Christian Science Monitor)
Facebook's Washington Problem, The social network is facing a privacy backlash that could prompt congressional hearings (Business Week)
Europe slams Facebook's privacy settings (Agence France Presse)
Facebook Privacy: A Bewildering Tangle of Options (NYT again)
19-Year-Old Facebook CEO Didn’t Take Your Privacy Seriously, Either (Gizmodo)
Facebook: Facts You Probably Didn’t Know (Mashable)
Facebook confirms informal company meeting (CNET News)
Mum's the word from all-hands Facebook company meeting on privacy (NetworkWorld)
Facebook downplays privacy crisis meeting (BBC)
Facebook caves in to privacy pressures; Sort of, partly (Inquirer)
Your public Facebook status updates? Now publicly searchable outside Facebook (TechCrunch)
Anti-Facebook project rockets to $120,000 in online donations (VentureBeat)
Blogrunner Facebook news snapshot (NYT)
Facebook downplays privacy crisis meeting
This Is MySpace’s Moment To Shine, But That Obviously Isn’t Going To Happen (TechCrunch)
Facebook Adds Two Privacy Tools (Information Week)
Are privacy concerns causing an about face on Facebook? (MassHighTech.com)
How to delete your Facebook account forever (GeeshuiLiving.com)
Mark Zuckerberg was born in White Plains, which is not far east of the path taken by the old Croton Aqueduct, and he was raised in Dobbs Ferry through which the aqueduct passed on its way to Manhattan. The green line marks its route. Click image to view it full size.
Documents Department & Data Center}
Also, as it happens, my great-uncle Adolph Windmuller and his wife Caroline Hague lived in Dobbs.
I've written a few posts about the aqueduct and Mrs. Hague: