Friday, February 20, 2009
Facebook is Forever
It should, of course, go without saying that nothing ever posted on the internet goes away. With time, compromising information will age out of a Google search, but a competent user can eventually locate much of it. Any e-mail sent to someone or some other entity has a large likelihood of being retained due to the fact that mass storage makes it easy to never need to delete one. Then there's also a possibility of an e-mail being posted onto someone's web page. Facebook has a way of creating a trail of pictures, personal messages, and easy-access searches that make many lives much more frighteningly public then ever imagined.
For example, blogs like this one can always be read and referenced by search engines unless I choose at some point to make this exercise in wanton self-indulgence Friends Only. Or, I suppose I could always delete this weblog if worse came to worse. The kicker with Facebook, by contrast, is that a recent policy makes it clear that nothing posted on its servers can ever be deleted so long as the user maintains an active account. Those who have ever tried to delete their Facebook account know how difficult a process it is. What everyone has been talking recently is taking care to make sure that potential employers aren't repelled by the presence of too much personal information on a Facebook page. Few talk about how Facebook gets final say about how it uses the data you input, ALL of it. The idea that I could be unconsciously contributing to marketing and research studies is reason enough for me to give pause, or at least make my profile private.
To conclude, ours is a Brave New World, when even those of us who take great pains to keep a sense of privacy will find it more and more difficult to do so. The irony is that while we have a Patriot Act in force by which our government has the right to spy on us based soley on the flimsiest suspicion, we often surrender much of our privacy voluntarily.