Monday, January 16, 2006

Why Facebook Really IS Evil

Last night, I was sitting around with some students chatting about Facebook. Facebook is basically a version of MySpace that is set up for high school and college students. Since I am neither, I haven't really seen much of what Facebook has to offer, though I did have one brief tutorial session from a friend who loves Facebook, just enough of an introduction for me to get a general sense of it. (I'm not sure what makes it more attractive to students than MySpace, but maybe someone will helpfully post a comment here and explain that.) Anyway, it's billed as a way to keep in touch with old friends and make new ones, and I suspect that because it's supposedly for students only - though anyone with an "edu" address can gain access to it - it might feel deceptively like "safe space." It is apparently so much fun and so addictive that one of my students kept repeating, "Facebook is the devil." (I don't really get WHY it is so much fun or so addictive, but then, I don't get text messaging, either.)

Well, here's what you need to know about Facebook. Apparently, in addition to being a place to meet friends, it is also a service that very helpfully collects information and photographs and then sells this information to a variety of vendors - including our very own Department of Defense. Why should this be cause for alarm? Because it is illegal for the DoD to collect such information on its own...but apparently it is perfectly legal for someone else to collect this information and then sell it to the DoD. And Facebook, according to one source of mine, appeared on the scene specifically to provide this service. If you are a conspiracy theorist, you should have the cold sweats right about now.

The thing is, once you're on Facebook, you've provided information that you can't get back. It's out there. It's in your permanent file, mister.

I suppose I shouldn't really be surprised by this. I mean, we all know that whatever we send out into cyberspace is public - we can't control what happens to it, and we have to assume that others will have access to it. Further, we know that there are all kinds of ways that businesses collect information about us to sell to various advertisers and marketing agencies. So it isn't exactly a huge leap to get from there to the DoD.'s freaky in a 'Big Brother' kinda way. Sadly, even that is not surprising.

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