Facebook: The Online Census

In the beginning, Facebook seemed so innocuous, so friendly, like a miniature internet puppy begging you to play with it and share all your dirty little secrets. Facebook was a friend in which to connect you to your other friends. Everything was wonderful as you played and shared your thoughts and photos, as Facebook became naturally more and more curious about your life. It introduced a ‘current location’ function so you could let your friends know where you are and a photo recognition function that would suggest tags for friends it recognised.

Everything was wonderful and we all fell in love with Facebook; right up until the point it rose up and bared its teeth at you. Suddenly all your ‘secrets’ that were intimately shared on Facebook started coming back to bite. In the last 2 years alone more than 26 people have lost their jobs due to the content they posted on Facebook. One woman lost her job after being found by her employers visiting the site when she was supposed to be ill, claiming she “could not work in front of a computer as she needed to lie in the dark”. All of a sudden it was made apparent that the beast had a darker side.

The social playground that became a worldwide party had suddenly turned into your snitching ex-best friend with copies of all your photographs ready to name and shame you in any way it saw fit. Aside from casual ‘fraping’ and incriminating photos, the police have been reported to use Facebook’s Photo DNA to track down criminals using face recognition. Suddenly all those pictures of you gurning at house parties aren’t funny anymore.

The recent addition of the ‘timeline’ is another feature that begs questioning. Accompanied by the introduction of ‘likes’ (which gets around 2.7 billion a day) the timeline now displays users trends of interests and other information in a way that couldn’t be portrayed previously. Zuckerberg remarked at people telling their ‘story’, but it suddenly becomes a virtual record of your movements, trends in behavior, social habits, and in some cases, a timeline of your dirtiest secrets.

George Orwell couldn’t have painted it better.

It doesn’t make me sleep easier knowing that between September and December last year 45,000 accounts were hacked by a piece of malware called Ramnit, stealing sensitive information and passwords. Facebook are looking into it. Meanwhile Zuckerberg has been getting into bed with Washington. As well as employing political veterans onto his board in key positions, he is also buttering-up present candidates with a committee making it easy to donate money to them, in a hope this will ward off investigations into privacy which may affect the value of the company to investors. But it doesn’t stop there…

Barack Obama has displayed an unusual interest in it all, meeting with Zuckerberg to discuss America’s broadband connectivity. Over 80% of Facebook users primarily connect on mobile devices and Obama has been reportedly planning to use $18 billion in federal funds to connect broadband to 98% of America in the next five years; a huge untapped market in advertising revenue alone. Zuckerberg also has his green eyes fixated on China, Brazil, and India, and hopes to one day take over the world.

Seemingly this little puppy has recently reached maturity, and what a mean little bitch she can be. Our so-called best friend has turned more than once in the past and yet we still vote with our fingers. Now Zuckerberg’s teaming up with some of the other big dogs in the playground and we don’t know yet what kind of games they want to play. Despite the efforts of the Federal Trade Commission can we really trust Zuckerberg and his pals to play ball in a world where our information is used as currency?

FACEBOOK: THE ONLINE CENSUS