Unspoken Agendas

Recently the WSJ conducted a panel discussion about online privacy. Panelist Christopher Soghoian’s perspective on resonates for me:

Although consumers knowingly share information via Facebook, the privacy issues associated with that company are not related to the way consumers use it, but rather the other things the company does. These include the tricks the company has pulled to expose users’ private data to third-party app developers, the changing privacy defaults for profile data, as well as Facebook’s covert surveillance of your browsing activities on non-Facebook websites, as long as a “Like” button is present (even if you don’t click on it).

The dirty secret of the Web is that the “free” content and services that consumers enjoy come with a hidden price: their own private data. Many of the major online advertising companies are not interested in the data that we knowingly and willingly share. Instead, these parasitic firms covertly track our web-browsing activities, search behavior and geolocation information. Once collected, this mountain of data is analyzed to build digital dossiers on millions of consumers, in some cases identifying us by name, gender, age as well as the medical conditions and political issues we have researched online.

Although we now regularly trade our most private information for access to social-networking sites and free content, the terms of this exchange were never clearly communicated to consumers.

(emphasis mine)

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  • David Bren

    The upsetting part is that most people agree to such terms and conditions without realizing it. Facebook, as well as many other websites and companies rely on the fact that most people don’t take the time to read what they are really getting themselves into. They could write almost whatever they wanted to, and almost all their users would agree without blinking an eye. And what bothers me more is that at the end of the day, it’s really our faults for not reading it, but who has the time now-a-days? If you were to read every single detail of every contract you signed, we would be throwing out hours of your life. 

  • Anand Brahmbhatt

    “as well as Facebook’s covert surveillance of your browsing activities on non-Facebook websites, as long as a “Like” button is present (even if you don’t click on it).” — that is something I NEVER thought about or even considered. I feel like that’s an invasion of privacy. people use their computers personally, and I understand Facebook acquiring information, private information, about someone when there’s a like button present and someone CLICKS it but not when its merely there. that’s going a bit far. I feel as though that’s like having an app on your smartphone, that can read all of your text messages. people web histories as well as their text messages are personal private things and I’m shameful that it’s not communicated to people. I wonder if there would be lawsuits that would follow?