The Beeb is discussing its favourite technologies of 2007 which inevitably includes Facebook which Britain in particular has embraced with other social networking web sites.
I recently watched a BBC Money programme report into the social networking site Facebook which highlighted various privacy concerns (still available on the BBC iPlayer but only 1 day left before it expires). Such was the impact of that programme that my partner deleted her Facebook account as a result.
That was her personal decision and was probably equally motivated by a desire to kick a very 2007 habit into touch (I know many others who have cancelled their MySpace account just because they had lost interest). Those social networking sites I’m still on are pretty locked down privacy wise but I’m not naive enough to think that whatever scant personal data is there won’t be harvested for targeting adverts. An awful lot of the Internet is advert supported and if you’re using a proprietary computer operating system owned by a large corporation you may find that you usage habits and installed data details are sent back to the software makers for the purposes of research and development.
Scare Stories and Common Sense
Most of the scare stories concerning Facebook obviously centre around the potential for identity theft, whether in whole or for the purposes of gaining financial loans and credit cards etc and many of the stated cases on the money programme had filled in an awful lot of user data above and beyond what many would consider reasonable such as address, phone number, credit card details etc.
Yes there are many ways to hide your Internet footprint, encrypt your email and data files but few people do this as convenience usually outweighs taking the time to put measures in place in order to minimise the risks.
The farming of personal data is not unique to the Internet but currently getting users to pay for software services in the domestic arena can be like getting blood from a stone and so advertising and data farming frequently subsidises the costs.