Editorial

Facebook is the new Big Brother

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

You’re putting your life at risk, one like at a time

Facebook’s fairly recent slog into transparency reveals some rather nasty big-brother surveillance of their users.

It’s always been a given that a service provider who does not directly charge customers can only pay the bills and employees if they’re being subsidized, either by the government, advertising or leasing access to their clients’ information.

The more information the service provider has, the more they can charge their own clients for access to that information.

There’s really nothing new to this. Grocery stores, insurance companies and retailers of all sorts have been collecting such information for ages.

What’s new is having two billion active monthly users willingly or unwittingly handing over their most personal data and that of their children to one site that then sells the information to thousands of businesses.

Facebook even tracks you across third-party websites, which a California judge decided is legal because you should know they do this and you should do more to keep your browsing histories private.

Will the next Judge decide we should all be able to decipher and rewrite algorithms ourselves?

All of this worries some people, like a listener to my radio program who quit Facebook after he posted a couple of pictures from a car show he attended. Almost immediately, Facebook posted pictures from his friends in his own timeline featuring the friends’ pictures.

This is a great feature for advertisers and a lousy one for you. Without paying you anything for your endorsement, Facebook uses your “likes,” “favorites” and photos to sell your “friends” on the concept that if you like Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, then all of your friends will be encouraged to buy it.

But, what sorts of businesses are buying your personal information from Facebook?

As Facebook itself has operated from the beginning in deceptive ways, we cannot trust them to tell the truth. In fact, just as Equifax, Experian and Transunion collect and sell your data to thousands of companies, so is Facebook.

The New York Times reports, “Equifax has a team of mathematicians who mine its data to develop algorithms predicting how consumers will behave. Those insights are sold to companies like lenders.”

That information is worth potentially more than the $400 million the company’s consumer business generates in annual sales from people and companies like Lifelock researching credit reports.

Does Facebook sell your data to government agencies? Private companies whose clients include government agencies?

There’s another threat to Facebook users.

It takes us back to a 2006 book titled, “Three Felonies a Day,” by criminal defense lawyer Harvey Silverglate.

Harvey explains that there are so many thousands of laws that you, on average, commit three felonies every day because there’s no way you can know every law.

Have you ever lied to a stranger who asked where you’re going?

If that stranger is an undercover agent and you lied to him, you could spend a few months in jail, even if you were not aware that the scruffy dude was a federal agent.

Ever accept a package delivery that was not properly packaged according to the laws of a foreign country from which it came? Honest business people have been jailed for this.

Suppose you get lost in a snowstorm and use Facebook via cell to reach out for help.

Park rangers find you and your companion lost, off your path, in a federal park on snowmobiles.

You’ll be rescued and perhaps spend a few months in jail for trespassing.

This happened to race driver Bobby Unser, whose lawyers managed to keep him out of jail.

The more information Facebook and other services have on you, the less freedom you have and the greater danger you face.

Be careful what you post.That innocent family outing where the kids dig for arrowheads at your favorite campground could land you all in jail if you accidentally dig in federal land.... even if you find nothing.

Copyright 2017 Rick Jensen