Friday, May 18, 2012

Facebook is your friend. Or not.

About a month ago, the New York Times told us "Facebook Offers More Disclosure to Users" (Kevin J. O'Brien, April 12, 2012). Facebook, eager to "address concerns about the personal information it collects on its users ... would provide any user with more about the data it tracks and stores." Facebook did this before, in 2010, by giving users "a copy of their photos, posts, messages, list of friends and chat conversations."

The new version goes beyond that: it
includes previous user names, friend requests and the Internet protocol addresses of the computers that users have logged in from. More categories of information will be made available in the future, Facebook said.
So Facebook is going to let us get a better idea of how much and what kind of data it collects from us. That's mighty big of them.

But, you know, after Facebook's initial public offering (IPO) today, Facebook will have stock holders to keep happy. Which means that Facebook will have to make more money, and then still more money, and then much more money. How will they do it?

As Fred Cate, my colleague at Indiana University, puts it:
When Facebook investors and founders rake in billions of dollars on Friday, they are making that money by selling little bits of each of us.... What Facebook is selling is us. [IU law professor: Facebook IPO will 'sell little bits of each of us', May 16, 2012]
Cate, Distinguished Professor, and C. Ben Dutton Professor of Law, and Director of IU's Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research, knows what he's talking about.

Shouldn't Facebook users at least get a cut of this action?

Ken Pimple, PAIT Project Director