Facebook Will Kill You And Other Data Mining Myths

by Jason Falls |

Valeria Maltoni shared an interesting video on Conversation Agent today that got me riled up. I started to comment on her post and then realized the length of my response might shut down her servers. So she gets credit, I’m copying and pasting all this there, but I wanted to share the video and my response with all of you as well.

Thanks for sharing this, Valeria. My first reaction is two-fold. First, it sounds like a bunch of conspiracy theory BS that the originators produced to take a chunk out of Facebook. I’d love to know more about their motivations. Yes, Facebook’s policies are unreasonable and the community outrage measurable. I think this means Facebook will change them eventually. They’re already backpedaling on Beacon, which has sparked the community to dig deeper into Facebook’s policies.

But to connect their information mining to the CIA, etc., is a little too much for me to swallow. It’s almost like they’re saying, “Zuckerberg went to grade school with a guy whose mom’s cousin’s neighbor’s babysitter’s gerbil’s original owner partied with Osama Bin Laden once. We’re all going to die.”

Obviously, I’m exaggerating to make a point. I, too, am bothered by the depth of information Facebook says they can rightfully mine and sell. That information in the wrong hands (or even the government’s hands) is a violation of my privacy. But I also don’t necessarily see my buying habits, surfing habits and such to be something I necessarily want to hide.

Case in point: If Facebook’s social advertising model worked, I would stop seeing the buxom blonde singles add on my home page there. I very clearly have listed my status as “married.” Smart advertising excites me because it could make my life easier. If the messages I’m most likely looking for or interested in are served up by the advertisers I’m most likely to be receptive to, I’ll miss out on fewer purchase opportunities, sales or deals I may not have found otherwise.

Still, there is a fine line between knowing my tendencies and being all up in my business.

And this is the challenge that faces all of us … advertisers, social networks, the government and us the users … as we define what is on- and off-limits in out online experience now and in the future.

What information is off-limits to you? Should our online profiles or even surfing behavior be collected to enhance our experience or is that too Big Brother-y for you? Tell me.

[tags]Facebook, privacy, data mining, marketing, personal information, Beacon, conspiracy theory[/tags]

About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).