Friday, November 30, 2007

Facebook and its Lack of Privacy

In the world of high technology and convenience, we sometimes need to be reminded that there is a cost associated with having both. And companies need to be reminded to do their homework before putting things out into the public spectrum. The users and managers of Facebook are facing such difficulties.

Facebook is a free site that receives the majority of its funding through advertisers and contributions; most people would likely consider that this would extend to banner ads, side page ads, and the occasional pop-ups. However, internet advertising agencies are going beyond these reasonable efforts; and this is what is especially troubling. The program is called “Beacon” and the sole purpose is to memorize your purchases. While this may be considered an appropriate tool for internet stores to employ in order to track purchases and make suggestions to you based on your purchase upon checkout, it would seem highly problematic when employed in an endeavor such as Facebook. The version installed on Facebook essentially does the same thing, except this time, everyone one of your “friends” will also be allowed to view your purchase history.

Originally, the tracking part of the program would be able to be turned off by its users. The problem is that once implemented on Facebook, “Beacon” has no way of turning off - - and no option for users to have the ability to turn it off, with or without permission.

This might not seem like a big deal in hind sight, but it is a slippery slope, and may very well – if continued – raise serious privacy concerns; even perhaps involving Fourth Amendment issues. For Facebook and its creator, Matt Zuckerberg, this is not the first time they have been in the hot seat this year when it comes to privacy rights.

This brings us back to the Big Brother issue our country is facing today. How much imposition is too much imposition? What kind of rights are we going to have left if we allow the government, businesses, and other entities to continue to chip away at our privacy – something Ayn Rand correctly identified as the very foundation of civilization? It is important that we, as citizens, educate ourselves about the privacy underpinings in the Bill of Rights, and ensure that we promote and vote for leaders of this country who will also keep our rights in the highest regard – and support only those businesses that commit themselves to doing likewise.

No comments: