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Selling You on Facebook: Don't be surprised where your details pop up (wsj.com)
59 points by iProject 1632 days ago | hide | past | web | 37 comments | favorite

Am I the only one that doesn't get all the recent hatred of Facebook here on HN?

I think it's fair to assume that any site, anywhere, might wind up giving information that you have input into the site, to advertisers. You don't even have to input information, but just visit different pages on different sites that use the same ad network, and they already know what kinds of pages you visit.

Then, sometimes you get better ads shown, and sometimes they're hilariously misinterpreted. Honestly, who cares? And if you've got something horribly secret, then it's not the kind of thing you should be putting on Facebook anyways, where all your friends can see it.

This isn't McCarthyism, where you're being fired from your job because you visited the Facebook page for communism. All we're talking about is what ads you get shown, and even if someone is peeping over your shoulder, it's not like they know if an ad was targeted specifically to you anyways, or why. Junk mail has been doing this stuff for decades, sending you offers based on your credit cards, magazine subscriptions, catalog subscriptions, etc.

Seriously, can someone please explain to me any conceivable way in which this could negatively impact me? I'm genuinely curious if I'm missing something here.

It feels to me like any large company is a punching bag on HN. I do think it makes some sense though, because a fair number of people on here are trying to build things that disrupt large companies and they would have a natural interest in pointing out their flaws.

I think it's fair to assume that any site, anywhere, might wind up giving information that you have input into the site, to advertisers.

In the case of Facebook, it's annoying because people have the expectation that they're giving information to their friends, and Facebook seems to work hard to make sure it feels that way. Thus, people who are unaware of the privacy implications might share something with their friends, something those friends already know, without realizing how much it reveals about them to Facebook, advertisers, future employers, etc.

http://www.donttrack.us (by the DuckDuckGo-team) gives a few examples.

Right, so the "herpes" ad example -- I just have never seen that kind of thing in real life. I search for 100's of things a week, including certainly plenty of embarassing things, and have never noticed ads that seemed in any way obviously based on those.

And as for insurance companies rejecting you or charging you more -- this just seems like FUD. Has this ever happened before? And if it did, it seems like something for Congress to address, not a reason to stop using or hate Facebook.

Because WSJ is a business which uses a subscription model rather than an free with ads model, so it is willing to pay for articles that appeal to readers, and potential customers, who would be willing to purchase a subscription over free with ads.

"If social norms were fences, [Helen Nissenbaum] said, "any ethical, law-abiding person won't step over the fence." In the absence of data-usage laws or norms [...] some tech companies feel unconstrained about using information in new ways that can seem creepy."

And that's one of the major pain points of 'enforcing' privacy online for users. Together with all the 'global' sets of laws that are needed and need to be enforceable throughout the internet (the EU Data Protection[1] being one of the steps in the right direction), it's painful to see that the legal system can't keep up (once again[2]) with 'the free Internet'.

[1] http://ec.europa.eu/justice/data-protection/index_en.htm

[2] It's another side of the spectrum of enforcing laws and norms on the Internet, users paying with their 'personal information' for 'free' services, besides all the anti-piracy efforts of the mpaa and such.

I've never had a Facebook account (nor do I want one), but I want to ask the Facebook users out there something: Why do any of you put up with this crap? Whats in it for you? What does Facebook do that email, RSS subscriptions to blogs, phone calls, talking to people face to face, et al, can't do?

For me it's simple: my non-techie friends do not have blogs, provide RSS feeds, send a lot of e-mails, or hang out on Jabber/Google Chat. Second, you could reasonably call and meet your best friends face-to-face regularly, but doing that would be unmanageable for the wider group of friends.

Or in other words, I use Facebook to keep track of / stay in touch with friends (efficiently). I dislike Facebook's policies and apps as much as the next person here, but unfortunately, Facebook is the place where the majority of people are compared to other networks.

Remember how everyone used to have a TV, a stereo, a paper notebook, a VHS, a landline phone, etc? Now that you can get all that in a computer, an ever increasing number of people see no need to have each thing in my list above. FB is becoming / has become the new all-in-one, I might add, under the false notion that by sitting alone in front of a computer you are somehow being "social".

That being said (and with no research to back me up), people seem to get the same high received from actually being social as they do from being social online. The medium/means doesn't matter for them.

The standard answer given for what percentage of communication is non-verbal is 93%. This means the Internet generation is, in effect, losing the ability to read such cues and effectively interact with others in the real world.

My FB is bare-bones and I seldom use it. There are purposefully only 15 people on my friend's list (because I use it for my actual friends). Unfortunately, I find little use for the site but just like I gave up household 15 items for a single computer, I'm in a somewhat "continuously temporary state of acceptance" when it comes to using the medium my friends use for email and invites to events.

What it comes down to is we consume things in 'bits and bytes' nowadays. Be it a status update, a tweet or a blog post. FB plays to this very well. There's the idea that by taking small bites of something, you eventually consume it whole. I disagree but many people would disagree with my disagreement these days.

I'll end with this thought. I've been fortunate to see trends and movements between 6 months and several years before they happen (more like a sense than a certainty, yet they always happen). Some years back, I realized that with everyone spending more and more time online, there would be a movement against this wherein people would look to use the Internet as a means to connect in the real world (think: Meetup.com). I think it's still coming (to fruition).

It lets you keep track of above Dunbar's Number of friends.

This. Facebook is 'web scale' for friendships.

Quite simply, network effects.

It's possible to organize things through email etc but if your group of friends check their facebook (to play farmville or whatever) more often than they check their email then that becomes to most reliable way to communicate with them.

Especially for creating say a "group" for some hobby activity or whatever. You could setup a forum etc which is what people used to do but now it's easier to just add a group to facebook on the assumption that 90% of your members will have an account and the rest can be peer pressured into signing up.

I don't feel like it's 'crap' that I'm 'putting up with'. As others have said, it's a convenient social mediums interact with a wide spectrum of my real life grins, after variou circumstances caused us to drift apart geographically.

I post status updates and comments because it strengthens my ties with those friends to a point where I can resume them again when we might meet up again. My status texts may seem irreverent to others, but they're a reflection of what makes me me, and often times, that's why they're my real life friends.

I don't install a ton of apps there, but I'm not too concerned with any of my likes or data being 'abused'. I honestly couldn't envision a scenario where I'd care if a corporation thought they could abuse that info.

Because Facebook is to people what RSS is to blogs.

I have all (well, not all, but you get the gist.) info in single place. That's mostly it.

Well, I don't have a Facebook account either, so perhaps I'm the wrong person to try to answer this. On the other hand, almost everyone else I know does, and it's pretty obvious to me why.

What does Facebook do that email can't do?

Simple UI.

Automatically up-to-date address book.

Reliable delivery.

RSS subscriptions to blogs

Blogs? What is this, 1990? Personal stuff is for pinmytweetbooksquaring, man. Blogs are for business spam and geeks, or something.

And what's RSS, anyway?

Also, ironically, privacy.

Phone calls

Any messaging/mailbox system is non-intrusive compared to a blaring ring-tone.

Also, not all of my friends are in the same time zone right now.

Talking to people face to face

Did I mention that not all of my friends are in the same time zone right now?

Even for those who are, and who I manage to see reasonably frequently in real life, we may still live far enough apart to make casual face-to-face discussions impractical.

Personally, I much prefer to catch up with family and old friends in person, even if it's less often. Reading the trivia of 100+ people's lives in 140 characters or fewer isn't my idea of friendship.

I recognise that this makes it harder for me to keep up with breaking news. Then again, as long as enough of my immediate family and friends do use Facebook and I see them frequently anyway, I usually hear about big news pretty quickly. And if all those people stopped using Facebook, probably my less local friends and family wouldn't rely on it so much to share their news. So I don't see the absence of Facebook as some huge void in my social life or anything.

Services like Facebook are greater than the sum of their parts.

Thus, the allure of convenience can make one accepting of the arguably inferior versions, because it requires less effort to use. See: camera-phones.

A slightly off-topic thing, but I'm curious as to if anyone else here with a FB account has tried to download their FB data, but never actually received the notification email or data itself?

Honestly, the aspect that originally drew me to Facebook was as an online address book that everyone updated themselves so I always had their most recent phone, email address, etc. Unfortunately now, because of all the privacy concerns most the time I can only send a message asking for their phone number or begging them to call me. A lot of people don't even have email addresses up anymore. I think the change came about around the time they let everyone have an account.

Sorry that was meant to be a reply to G-Garon, fat fingers and iPhones.

Was having a chat with a friend a couple of days ago about something similar. Essentially having my own 'app' (ie I'm the only user) and seeing what data I can obtain about my network through it (assuming I give it full access).

Of course, the simpler solution is just to ask friends who develop FB apps what they can access.

First time I issued the request - no response. Second time, after an hour (probably less) I got a link to download a zip file that did indeed contain what looks like all the data I fed into facebook and in a (surprisingly) fairly usable form to boot.

Interesting.. I've been trying to get friends to conduct this experiment, and - albeit with a ridiculously low sample size - we've had 100% failure so far.

This happened to me twice. Finally got it on my third try.

I've tried 4 times, with no success. I know my gmail account is pretty accessible, so I doubt it's an issue there.

If you happen to "really" need a Facebook account, let's say to be in contact with your classmates, then you should consider adding only your Name and email address to your account info. I've added not religion or political info there, no one should care what my religion or political views are.

On the other hand, listing those is the bombproof defence against nosy HR departments.

Another option is to load your profile data with tongue-in-cheek humor that your true friends will understand as such and which can never be properly parsed by data miners. Course I say this now but haven't actually done this myself.

I have also never felt the urge to post my status, comment on another persons status on or was compelled to "like" something.

You can use facebook as a mostly passive medium.

That is the way I use it, I share nothing, but use it to keep in touch with some friends who almost never read their emails :). Usually to organize old friends parties. It is kind of good for that. With a private group. I would have preferred a Posterous group or a mailing list, but my '91 school class is not made by geeks. They use Facebook.

"Facebook requires apps to ask permission before accessing a user's personal details. However, a user's friends aren't notified if information about them is used by a friend's app."

I have apps disabled on my profile and have had them so for about 2 years. So if my friend uses an app as described above, I would image my data is still shared through Facebook, correct? Having apps disabled doesn't help me here?

They claim that having platform apps disabled prevents the data from being shared. Of course, if you accidentally give an app permission to do anything, anywhere, that turns apps back on including sharing your data with other apps.

I recommend checking to make sure you haven’t turned apps back on by mistake. If your apps are turned on but if you want to make sure, here is how to disable sharing your personal data with the apps your friends use:


Thanks for that blog post. That answers the question.

Over the past 2 years I have had apps turned off. A few days ago I had signed up for Instagram. On my Android phone, I clicked "share with Facebook" but did not complete the sign-up as I did not want to accidentally enable apps. Yesterday I signed in to FB and saw app requests. FB had turned the app platform back on without any sort of "are you sure you want to change this setting" prompt. I have turned apps back off.

There are actually separate settings for that, or there were, haven't looked for quite a while. Personally I'd have everything disabled too, but the Android Facebook client has been getting steadily worse, enough for me to use a third party app, that needs a Facebook application to do its work.

I have apps disabled. I also don't have the FB Android app installed.

In today's hyper-connected world always remember the maxim "If you are not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold."

Always and everytyime.

In fact to make it a bit stronger even when you are paying for an App/Service/Whatever expect your personal information to be a part of the deal.

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