Monday, November 12, 2007

Knowledge is Power...Is Big Facebook Watching You?...

...I've been involved in a thread on Mashable titled Facebook asks Can we see your id? The post throws up a number of issues connected to our privacy and also the possibility of identity theft (BBC story) a topic in the news again this morning. I have contacted the Welsh office of the ICO for clarification of some the issues raised by the mass collection of personal data. The Wales network of Facebook alone already has 195,586 members and Wales is just a small country! It is perhaps important at this stage to make sure that all this data being collected is not breaking current data protection legislation and also to ask the question: Where do we draw the lines between the individual's right to privacy and the practical control and knowledge of all the data being collected. Facebook has a few spooky connections such as possible CIA links
and the now defunded Information Awareness Office whose motto was "Knowledge is Power." Some of the aims of the IAO were:
* Human Identification at a Distance (HumanID) to develop automated biometric identification technologies to detect, recognize and identify humans at great distances.

* Wargaming the Asymmetric Environment (WAE) focused on developing automated technology capable of identifying predictive indicators of terrorist activity or impending attacks by examining individual and group behavior in broad environmental context and examining the motivation of specific terrorists.

* Futures Markets Applied to Prediction (FutureMAP) was intended to harness collective intelligence by researching market-based techniques for avoiding surprise and predicting future events. The intent was to explore the feasibility of market-based trading mechanisms to predict political instability, threats to national security, and other major events in the near future.
All a lot of innocent fun to provide us all with useful suggestions as to what to buy for Christmas based on our known interests and purchasing habits? In view of recent deadwood press criticism of bloggers and the cult of the amateur (story/Rachel) why aren't our gatekeepers doing more to investigate these issues?
This is what the FT had to say this morning: "...allowing advertisers to exploit the deep connections between users on the Facebook site - a web of relationships known in the industry as the "social graph" - could backfire if the move ends up alienating the users themselves.

"What we've learned from the commercialisation of the web is that people are more than happy to exchange their privacy for free stuff and greater convenience as long as you allow them to maintain the fiction that their activities are not being monitored and recorded," writes Nicholas Carr, a prominent technology author, on his blog, Rough Type.

"In breaking that illusion, Facebook is taking a big risk. It may set off a rebellion among its users, who up until now have felt comfortable cavorting behind Facebook's walls." There is a perceived and real inequality between the rights and freedoms of the citizen and the power of large multinational corporations and an urgent need to make sure that advances in technology do not deprive us of our liberties.


Rachel said...

A very good post, well done. Tim Ireland at Bloggerheads has just left facebook. I am seriously considering it too.

Leighton Cooke said...

Thanks, Rachel. There are over 195,000 members of the Facebook Wales group alone so this concerns a sizable section of the population.