Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Facebook - What Lurks Beneath The Surface?

I have been personally concerned about Facebook since it started invading our lives. I have seen relatives and friends become so dependent upon it to communicate that phones, email, and even texting have gone by the wayside. It has become an integral part of so many folks' lives. It has allowed friends from long ago to connect again. It allows people from all over the world to communicate directly with each other. It is an easy way for groups of friends to communicate with the entire group. It seems to be such a great tool, and it is free.


There are tons of money spent developing and hosting Facebook - constantly updating and adding improved features. So ... how does all of that get paid for? Where is the profit for those who created it, and those who run it? Are they doing it out of the goodness of their hearts? Out of a dedication to social service? A contribution for the good of mankind?

Hardly ...

Here are some excerpts from "Which is Worse - Wikileaks or Facebook", by John Quain, FoxNews.com, published on Dec. 21, 2010.

"In actuality, its (Facebook) only purpose is to collect information on its members in order to make money off that date. It can be in the form of ads directed specifically at you based on your interests (those sneaky "you might like" pronouncements on the right-hand side of the page). It can also be in the form of virtual goods or gifts, not to mention all the digital games people play pretending to be agrarian farmers.

And Facebook has a lot of information on its users. It can know where they live, how old they are, what sites they visit, what foods they like, where they work, where they go on vacation, where they like to party, and who their friends are. In Facebook-speak, it's all mapped to your 'social graph'. Translation: they know who's been naughty and who's been nice.

That could be very valuable information for marketers who want to reach people they think are most likely to buy their products ...

... Facebook - while often frivilous and fun and a possible goldmine for advertisers - has a dark side too. It has also become a tool for cyberbullying ... on a scale heretofore unavailable. People get fired for what they post to Facebook. Others have been robbed by thieves via Facebook."

The information that Facebook gathers from its users comes from what they enter in their profile, their account information, and the automated tracking of what it's users do, where they visit on the internet, what they tell their friends, and who their friends are. Users have no control on what information is gathered, indeed, do not even know it is being gathered. Users have no control over how that information is used, or who uses it.

Information gathering is especially profitable/horrific when it involves kids who use Facebook. Kids blindly believe that they're only talking to their friends when they are on the site. They don't realize that their communcations are open for others to read and collect. They don't realize how information they think is cool to share with their buddies can be used to harm them or their families. How many kids tell all their Facebook friends exactly where they (and their families) are at any given time? Hundreds, maybe thousands, of burglaries across the world have occurred because a kid unknowingly told a thief that their house was empty. How many kids have unknowingly accepted friend requests from pedophiles and predators, and then divulged dangerous information to those bastards?

Information gathered is not only available to those who gather it, but is targeted by hackers. Huge databases of identities and personal information are prime targets for theft.

A huge danger that Facebook poses for kids is social misuse. Bullying. Ridicule. Cliques. All that stuff that our kids face while they grow up. Except, now it is not just verbal, it is spread out on the internet, where the entire world can see it. Some kids always have had a cruel streak in them when it came to their contemporaries. Now, they have a powerful tool to take their cruelty to a never seen before level. Kids are killing themselves because of cyber-bullying, and Facebook is the primary enabler.

Another danger is inherent in Facebook use. Because of its popularity, its massive audience, and the incredible number of files that are passed through it (pictures), it has been identified by internet security experts as the biggest source of computer virus infenction in the world. A photo that your friend posted can easily have a virus scabbed onto it after it is posted, without the friend having any knowledge of it. You view the photo, and you have created a highway right to your computer for that virus to come screaming in. In many cases, commercial virus scanners (the ones that most people have on home systems) are unable to prevent this. Then when you post a photo, the virus attaches itself, and spreads amongst the rest of your friends. Photos are a favorite way for virus' to travel between computers.

Virus' are also imbedded in many of those cute games and apps you see pop up on Facebook. A word of advice - if you see something that looks cute, and you don't know where it came from, don't open it. You'll probably be sorry if you do.

For all you Facebook users, just remember this ... the people who make Facebook, and the people who take advantage of it for illegal/immoral purposes, didn't make it to give you a convenient tool to keep up with the members of the Class of '75. They built a tool to make a profit off of you, or to steal from you, or to hurt you. The benefits you see in using it are their hook.

So, if you use Facebook, Be careful! Watch what information you put out there. Monitor what your kids are doing, what they are saying, and to whom. Buy the best internet security program you can get, and keep it up to date.

Update - Forbes Magazine has reported that the creator of Facebook is now worth $50,000,000,000, and is likely to be MUCH richer soon after Facebook issues its first IPO.

No comments: