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Facebook is scaring me

In Big Brother, Tech, World News on September 26, 2011 at 4:48 pm

By Dave Winer

Yesterday I wrote that Twitter should be scared of Facebook. Today it’s worse. I, as a mere user of Facebook, am seriously scared of them.

A picture named lucyCharlieFootball.gifEvery time they make a change, people get angry. I’ve never myself been angry because I have always assumed everything I post to Facebook is public. That the act of putting something there, a link, picture, mini-essay, is itself a public act.

This time, however, they’re doing something that I think is really scary, and virus-like. The kind of behavior deserves a bad name, like phishing, or spam, or cyber-stalking.

What clued me in was an article on ReadWriteWeb that says that just reading an article on their site may create an announcement on Facebook. Something like: “Bull Mancuso just read a tutorial explaining how to kill a member of another crime family.” Bull didn’t comment. He didn’t press a Like button. He just visited a web page. And an announcement was made on his behalf to everyone who follows him on Facebook. Not just his friends, because now they have subscribers, who can be total strangers.

Now, I’m not technically naive. I understood before that the Like buttons were extensions of Facebook. They were surely keeping track of all the places I went. And if I went to places that were illegal, they would be reported to government agencies. Bull Mancuso in the example above has more serious things to worry about than his mother finding out that he’s a hitman for the mob. (Both are fictitious characters, and in my little story his mom already knows he’s a hitman.)

There could easily be lawsuits, divorces, maybe even arrests based on what’s made public by Facebook.

People joke that privacy is over, but I don’t think they imagined that the disclosures would be so proactive. They are seeking out information to report about you. That’s different from showing people a picture that you posted yourself. If this were the government we’d be talking about the Fourth Amendment.

Also, I noted that I had somehow given access to my Facebook account to ReadWriteWeb. That’s puzzling because I have no memory of having done that. And when I went to…

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