Tim Bornholdt

Facebook Is Using You

With social media being a big part of my job (and a big part of maintaining clients as a freelancer), I know I can't totally get rid of Facebook and Twitter, and I certainly can't shed myself off of YouTube. But since the latest "Google Privacy Scandal of the Week," I've really been trying to ween myself off of as many free services as I can. It's really pretty stupid: why are we willing to give so much information to these companies who are more than willing to sell it to the highest bidder?

This is a great article in the New York Times about the various organizations who mine and utilize the information we give to companies like Facebook every day. This part, in particular, really worried me:

Stereotyping is alive and well in data aggregation. Your application for credit could be declined not on the basis of your own finances or credit history, but on the basis of aggregate data — what other people whose likes and dislikes are similar to yours have done. If guitar players or divorcing couples are more likely to renege on their credit-card bills, then the fact that you’ve looked at guitar ads or sent an e-mail to a divorce lawyer might cause a data aggregator to classify you as less credit-worthy.

Even more scary:

The term Weblining describes the practice of denying people opportunities based on their digital selves. You might be refused health insurance based on a Google search you did about a medical condition. You might be shown a credit card with a lower credit limit, not because of your credit history, but because of your race, sex or ZIP code or the types of Web sites you visit.

Just searching for something like "diabetes symptoms" could disqualify you for health insurance, even if you were just doing research for an article on the disease.

I bet the first person who makes a social network that values its users' privacy and operates on a model that can make money without selling out their users will become very, very wealthy.