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I just don't see what the big deal is...

The set of information people publish on their own about themselves (like blogs) is almost exactly the same as the set of information they disclose via Facebook.

Anyone can datamine people's blogs for similar surveilance.


From Stallman's blog & email history on newsgroups I could work out:

  who he knows
  what projects he participates in
  his age
  infer his sexual preference
  infer his religion (may even be explicit there)
  where he lives
  where he was on any day (conference speaker history)
People shout and scream about themselves as often and loudly as they can. Facebook is just the medium du jour.

Those concerned with privacy have oodles of crypto-tools to do so with.

It's just people can't be bothered. That's the root problem.

Stallman is an intentionally public person who wants you to know these things.

Many many people besides a public figure like Stallman have written a blog or participated in a newsgroup.


Let's just see what can be done without Facebook:

You (pessimizer) have listed your email address pessimizer@xxxxxx .

  You have an HN comment history.
  Your email pops up in google under Arkansas
  You commented on a Django topic.
  I could infer your set of HN buddies (maybe not including myself now!).
All those methods are almost as bad as facebook for disclosing information.

If you use a pseudonym to hide from those - why don't you use a pseudonym as your facebook account??


I haven't listed my email, but I'm pretty sure people could work out who I was and where I lived from my comment history. But I am reasonably happy that the reward of not having to screen all my comments for incriminating info is worth the risk of someone figuring it out.

(edit with an example)

You make some good points, but I think there's a difference between having a few personal details about someone and surveillance. The clincher with Facebook is the amount of detailed information about the time and place that you are doing things, all in the hands of a single private entity. There's no telling what kind of analysis this data gives them and perhaps law enforcement (if not today, tomorrow?). For example, a few weeks ago there was a post circulating about how FB inferred the location of a photo without any location information in the exif data. Even if you use their ever-changing privacy controls to hide your data from people you don't know, Facebook still has access to all of it.

I've never used Django, I don't have any HN buddies, I haven't lived in Arkansas for 15 years, and you are currently replying to a piece of my very public HN history on HN.

Point taken, and partially agreed with, but the fact that facebook is systematically doing this about every aspect of every individual's life would guarantee that getting better info than you got about me, in a shorter time, would be trivial.

I meant no harm, and was just a 5 second google in a White Hat fashion. If you see some of the other posts on this topic, the same 5-second-google got some better results.

I imagine there are data-mining companies that are crawling the interwebs systematically to collect detailed information.

Facebook is the motherlode of course, no doubt about it.

No offense taken at all, and it's a good point. It's just that what facebook is doing makes random googling look primitive.

Fell, isn't using a pseudonym something FB allows? "Facebook users provide their real names and information, and we need your help to keep it that way"

Read their term http://www.facebook.com/legal/terms they are things like "transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook"

As Stallman pointed out in the interview, the scale of the monitoring is on a different level of what you can do manually. No matter how hard you try, you will not know what websites pessimizer has visited, FB got a list of his/her visits on any site that contains a like button (doesn't matter if he/she uses FB).

Beside the scale of information disclosed, that's how it can be used or not. I'm pretty sure I can decide what products are endorsed on my blog, not so much on FB, and if we visit pessimizer site, no one will now. On FB, they could use this information to know pessimizer better. Guilty by association ;)

I use a mangled pseudonym on FB, and entered a misleading DOB... how are they supposed to know?

Probably they have some common heuristics to spot a fake, but those cannot be too clever.


Re: Scale of monitoring

Does this not just make the haystack bigger for the same number of needles?

But none of that information is auto-profiled by a machine. That's already a big difference since it's not being sold/bought by companies or states.

It is auto-profiled in google and other indexers.


You (gldalmaso) don't list your email address, but you haven't used a unique username, so you pop up under twitter (your name is disclosed).

You have a StumbleUpon page which lists your age (27) and your hometown Flxxxxxxxxx, Brazil

You are clearly an Anime Lover.


This has all been automated, cached and waiting for me just to do a search.

Facebook has not been involved at all.

Now tell me who his closest friends are, tell me the odds of his being homosexual or belonging to a given political party, and what sort of music, movies and games he likes.

Sure, you could probably find that out by googling; but Facebook makes it significantly easier.

Saying that Facebook hasn't changed our privacy is like saying that firearms haven't changed the face of war. I mean, it just puts metal through your body just like a bow and arrows.

Woah there on the hyperbole! Using a war analogy is not the same as being correct: it breaks down too easily and ends up silly. Do you really care if you're shot with an arrow or a bullet if you are still killed??

I also don't want to turn gldalmaso into some sort of cruel hamster to argue a point. Suffice to say the poor guys twitter feed is completely open. You or I could easily deduce all the answers to your questions based on his past tweets and followers.

If he didn't use twitter, then I could use blog comments.

One thing that he mentions in the video is the fact that Facebook Like buttons are everywhere. They can track many of the sites you visit.

A google for "firefox facebook blocker" returned:


A simple grep of your HN comment history shows equivalents to 'Like'

How is Facebook worse than this??

I think the point is that the simple presence of a Like button tells Facebook that you've been there. You don't have to click it, you just have to load it. HN comment history is active participation.

Ok, so I see the point that the websites you visit invite Facebook tracking onto their pages.

But one can trivially block these autoinclusions.




My work's firewall directs Facebook.com and Twitter.com to /dev/null . This stops all such tracking.

Individuals could do their own blacklist via Greasemonkey / Charles proxy equivalent.

And that's exactly what some of us do. But there's no way you're getting all of your facebook friends to do the same. Facebook can build a profile on you based on your friend's tracking data. Whether it'll be accurate or not is mostly a technical question - whoever looks at it will assume it's accurate. There are a lot of nefarious uses for this information and there's no useful way to opt out right now, short of not having created a facebook account. Hence the whole "mass surveillance" bit.

The leakage of information by friends is a problem.

But it is not a problem owned and invented by Facebook, it is any network.

> From Stallman's blog & email history on newsgroups I could work out:

The problem is: FB has all these things together: blog, e-mail, network of people and surfing habits (inside FB, at least). For you and recursively for each friend of yours.

And they don't even have to try hard. It would take effort to track down this information manually from blogs and such; Facebook just has it. Don't underestimate what a difference convenience makes.

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