Thanks to the internet, everything's going on my permanent record.
— Brent Logan (@blogan) October 10, 2018
Update. I added the following as a comment, but am pulling it up for those that might not see it otherwise:
Want to freak yourself out? I'm gonna show just how much of your information the likes of Facebook and Google store about you without you even realising it
— Dylan Curran (@iamdylancurran) March 24, 2018
I’m feeling a little stupid right now. Maybe a little history is in order.
- We’ve known since 2014, back when Five Labs used our Facebook posts to analyze personality, that when we shared our data with an app on Facebook, the app’s publisher gets our friends’ data, too.
- It should have been obvious more than a year earlier, in 2013, when Wolfram|Alpha did its Facebook social graph analysis, but I didn’t draw the connection then.1I’ve been unable to determine if there is a link between Five Labs and Cambridge Analytica. Both Five Labs and Cambridge Analytica performed personality analysis using the Big 5 (OCEAN) personality traits. To my understanding, Five Labs did it first.
- A couple of years before that, in 2011, one of my friends posited that the 2012 election would be about “winning the Facebook news feed,” though I resisted the thought.2Actually, I still resist. That’s why I did my Facebook Experiment.
- And in 2009, I predicted Facebook selling targeted ads. How could it not?3This was tongue in cheek when I wrote it. Haha! I still think Facebook has a way to go before it implements all of my “plans.” But the point remains—does anyone think that Facebook doesn’t survive and thrive by selling ads into target demographics?
- We know Facebook experimented with our moods.
- We also know that Facebook studies our political views and manipulated our news feed so we saw news we agree with, with the goal of keeping us happy and on Facebook.4This doesn’t bother me. When I go to Starbucks, or the mall (yeah, right…), or the airport, I don’t mind that they try to provide a comfortable place that makes me happy. If they have reading material around, I don’t assume that I’m getting a comprehensive view of everything I should know. I wouldn’t expect it from Facebook either.
So tell me again what’s so shocking about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica? What new thing did we learn?
Btw, if you want to keep your data on Facebook more private,5If it’s on the internet, it’s not private. Regardless what settings you have, your information is no more secure than your least responsible Facebook friend on a bender early, early on a Sunday morning. there are steps you can take. Techlicious has a great walkthrough on Facebook’s privacy settings.
Some years back, I made some social media New Year’s resolutions. I still think it’s a good list.1The longer you write online, the greater your chances of disagreeing with yourself. Alexandra Franzen2Alexandra is the author of You’re Going to Survive. She describes her book as “a collection of true stories about criticism, rejection, public humiliation, online bullying, all kinds of difficult situations, and how to get through them. I hope you love reading it, and I hope it boosts you up whenever you’re having a tough moment.” drafted an internet pledge with some useful additions over my resolutions. Will you join me in taking this pledge?
THE INTERNET PLEDGE
- Both offline and online, I will treat people as if they’re my daughter, son, sister, brother, parent, or friend. Because everybody is somebody’s daughter, son, sister, brother, parent, or friend.
- To the best of my ability, I will try to add to the amount of love in the world — not subtract from it. This means communicating in a reasonable, respectful manner. This means treating human beings like they’re human beings, not canned dog food. This means asking, “What would Michelle Obama say in this situation? What would Gandhi say? What would Martin Luther King Jr. say? What would Mister Rogers say?” and then proceeding accordingly.
- I will not post snarky, cruel blog comments. If I disagree with something that’s been written, I can write my own blog post to voice my perspective.
- I will not post snarky, cruel messages criticizing people for their weight, body type, age, or anything related to their appearance — including the clothes they choose to wear. Every human being has the right to express themselves however they want, whether that means wearing a bikini, a pantsuit, or a cocktail dress.
- I will not post snarky, cruel reviews on Yelp, Amazon, or anywhere else. If I’m not happy with a product that I’ve purchased, I can reach out to the manager or business owner to express my concerns. I can give that person an opportunity to make things right — which they will probably be more than happy to do.
- I will not treat online forms (including Customer Support forms) as if they’re a free punching bag where I can unleash all of my pent-up frustration. Eventually, whatever words I type into this form will reach an actual, living, breathing human being. Not a robot. A person. My words will impact this person’s day. So I will try to communicate in a reasonable, respectful manner.
- I will not send numerous emails, one after another, saying, “Hey, did you get my last email?” (Or emails marked URGENT when really, they’re not.) I understand that many people are inundated with hundreds of emails every week. Many people are dealing with intense difficulties at home — upheaval, divorce, illness, caring for aging parents, and a thousand other responsibilities. Sometimes, responding quickly just isn’t doable. I will be patient, just as I’d hope that others would be patient with me.
- I will support the artists that I love. If there’s a blog, podcast, public radio program, video series, book, or any other creative project that has deeply touched my life, I will support that artist to whatever extent I can. A fan letter. An appreciative review. A donation. A purchase. Whatever I can do to say, “You’ve made a difference for me. Thank you.”
- I will not be careless with my words. Words matter. Words can break hearts, start wars, or spark a bonfire of shame. Words can also help and heal. I will try to be a helper, not a hurter.
- I HEREBY PLEDGE?
I will do my part to create a safer, kinder, more compassionate Internet — and offline world, too. It begins with the next email I write, the next comment I post, the next choice I make. I will never be a perfect human being, but every day, I will try to be better.
October 28, 2017
More than two years ago, I started an experiment with Facebook: I hide the sources I don’t want to see anymore. I started with the Buzzfeed quizzes, then moved on to the radio stations and their silly news stories. I hid the parody sites, the viral meme sites, the sports teams’ sites.
But I kept some news sites. The Wall Street Journal. NPR. OPB. The Washington Post. The NY Times.1Turns out, I noted this in a footnote in a previous post. ‘Course, you probably already noticed that, being the type that reads footnotes and all… ;-)
These are reputable sources. I shouldn’t have to worry about them, right?
Facebook doesn’t see itself as a news media company.2It’s an ad serving company. It sells eyeballs to advertisers. It fired its human editors and replaced them with an algorithm.
Facebook’s algorithm’s goal is not to keep us educated and informed, to show us a balanced cross-section of news. Instead, Facebook wants to keep us on Facebook. It does that by watching us closely and determining what our political views are.3Thanks to all those Facebook “like” buttons across the web, Facebook knows what you read on the internet. Then it feeds us news that agrees with our biases.
It doesn’t matter that I haven’t blocked a news source with a different political perspective. Facebook won’t show it to me. Facebook wants to keep me happy — and as a byproduct, ignorant.
I made a decision to expand my Facebook experiment: no news on Facebook, period.4Yeah, I know. I’ll still see news from those sources I haven’t yet blocked. But only once. It has made a huge difference in my Facebook newsfeed. I see more baby pictures, more vacation pictures, and more statuses.
I’ll get my news elsewhere.5For those that are interested, that elsewhere currently is Twitter. I intentionally follow people with whom I disagree. They are good at finding those sources I’ll have the most difficulties with.
“What if Twitter decided to drop off the count of both followers and following? Would you still make use of it, like you are doing today? Imagine if Twitter decided get rid of that vanity metric, so that we would focus more on the conversations themselves, i.e. on topics, hashtags, events, etc., etc., do you think you would still be making use of Twitter and enjoy the overall experience as much as you are doing nowadays?”Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez tried the interesting experiment of unfollowing everyone on Twitter and using Twitter lists instead. He documents what he learned in the process.
It’s interesting how ego plays such a big role in social media. I remember when I first removed visitor analytics. Would I still write if I didn’t know whether people visited? Would it matter?1Unfortunately, web analytics has been replaced with email subscriber analytics. MailChimp dutifully informs me every time I get a new subscriber, or lose a subscriber, and my subscriber count.
It’s tempting to try Luis’ experiment. What do you think?
I love my friends on Facebook. I love your status updates. I love the pictures you take. The more, the better. When you post to Instagram and share it on Facebook too, that’s really cool. If you write a clever tweet, I want to see it. If you write a blog post and share a link to it on Facebook, I want to see that, too.1Actually, that’s my biggest complaint about Facebook: it doesn’t show me everything you post.
In other words, if you wrote it, created it, or photographed it — I want to see it!
Conversely, your links to news, your links to politics, your quiz results, your game invites — I’m not so interested.2I get news, politics, and religion from Twitter and some RSS feeds I read. But if you post all those things, don’t worry. I’m not asking you to change.3In return, please don’t ask me to be consistent. I won’t be.
Instead, I’m taking charge of my own Facebook news feed.4This was inspired by Mat Honan who “liked” everything he saw on Facebook for two days straight. His experiment made Facebook an ugly mess. My experiment does the opposite. YMMV. When someone shares a link to something they didn’t create,5I have a few exceptions. There are some organizations I’ve liked. I actually want to see their stuff. There are also a couple of news orgs that I haven’t (yet) hidden. Time will tell whether I hide them, too. I click the “V” at the upper right and then select the “Hide all from this website” on the drop-down that appears. I won’t see links on Facebook from that source again. Ever!6Yeah, this does appear to be irreversible. Not that I’m complaining. At some time in the future, I expect to accidentally hide a source I might want to see from in the future. At that point, I’ll get more serious about learning how to undo this. In the meantime, should I recognize my error immediately, there is a handy undo link.
I started this experiment by hiding one of Buzzfeed’s quizzes. Since then, I’ve hidden scores of viral story sites, radio stations, news organizations, sports sites, recipe sites, etc. The effect on my newsfeed has been dramatic. I see more of my friends and less “stuff.”7Sure, my friends continue to link to places I haven’t yet hidden. But it feels like there’s less of it.
And the satisfaction from hiding stuff? That just can’t be beat! :-)
LinkedIn: Where people I don’t know endorse me for skills I don’t have.