This one’s for everybody posting that PRIVACY NOTICE on Facebook

I’ve mentioned a few times now my intention to write about The Hunger Games. That promise stands. But while said post is now over two months overdue (the movie came out on March 23), what follows is even older: I started and abandoned this post on March 19.

To be honest, I never really intended to get back to it. Facebook privacy was a tired and worn-out topic sometime in 2006 (Johnny Bench called). But then Facebook went public. And then I started seeing the following silly status pop up all over my newsfeed – the sentence you are currently reading continues below, so hold your breath

For those of you who do not understand the reasoning behind this posting, Facebook is now a publicly traded entity. Unless you state otherwise, anyone can infringe on your right to privacy once you post to this site. It is recommended that you and other members post a similar notice as this, or you may copy and paste this version. If you do not post such a statement once, then you are indirectly allowing public use of items such as your photos and the information contained in your status updates.

PRIVACY NOTICE: Warning – any person and/or institution and/or Agent and/or Agency of any governmental structure including but not limited to the United States Federal Government also using or monitoring/using this website or any of its associated websites, you do NOT have my permission to utilize any of my profile information nor any of the content contained herein including, but not limited to my photos, and/or the comments made about my photos or any other “picture” art posted on my profile.

You are hereby notified that you are strictly prohibited from disclosing, copying, distributing, disseminating, or taking any other action against me with regard to this profile and the contents herein. The foregoing prohibitions also apply to your employee , agent , student or any personnel under your direction or control.

The contents of this profile are private and legally privileged and confidential information, and the violation of my personal privacy is punishable by law. UCC 1-103 1-308 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED WITHOUT PREJUDICE

– which made me think to myself: Oh god, people are getting worked up about Facebook privacy again. Maybe I should finish that really old post I started about Facebook privacy to give the people what they want. I spend a lot of my time and concern on the people and what they want and how I can give it to them. In case you didn’t know.

To be clear, when I wrote earlier that “I started and abandoned this post on March 19,” I wasn’t talking about the roughly 440 words you’ve managed to make it through until now; I meant the roughly as-yet-unknown-number of words you may be about to read on Facebook privacy after now.

Or that you may not be about to read – it’s up to you, really, how you choose to spend your time. That said, if you did read all 480 words up till this point and then chose here as your place to stop, that was a huge waste of reading 500 words. I apologize. Though to be fair, about half of them were taken up by that status you shouldn’t have posted either.

So without further ado, two short anecdotes:

The first concerns one of my favorite things, How is babby formed? (I can only hope you’ve seen it before. If not, just know that I also spend a lot of my time and concern on the people and what they don’t yet know they want – and this is it. But I digress.) I was brushing up on my History of How is babby formed? by reading this post on on Something Awful, a post that happens to include the following sequence of words:

The terrified look on “kavya’s” cartoon face really drives it all home.

Sort of unremarkable, you think. Sort of unremarkable, I thought. But as it turns out, Mark Zuckerberg found them very remarkable. I returned to Facebook after a few minutes to discover this:

I don’t know Kavya Dwivedi. We don’t have any mutual friends. We’ve never had any interaction on Facebook. His (her?) email does not appear anywhere in my Gmail contacts list. Facebook literally has no reason to suspect I know anyone by the name of Kavya, except for the fact that Mark’s been following me around the Internet, reading Something Awful over my shoulder. At least we know Mark Zuckerberg knows about How is babby formed?

The second anecdote:

I recently bought a pair of sneakers from JC Penney using my credit card. Pretty non-descript, and as you can see. Their salient features are: 1) they’re black, and 2) they’re Nike:

Because the purchase was both off-line and un-premeditated (i.e., I hadn’t googled for shoes), I was thoroughly surprised to come home, log into Facebook, and notice this ad for the first time:

To recap, that’s Facebook advertising a pair of black Nike sneakers right after I bought a pair of black Nike sneakers on my credit card, IRL. To make things even creepier, check out the text that accompanied the ad:

More than one pair? How did you know I have even one? I just bought it, and I didn’t even blog about it!

Facebook’s business model is that it can extract personal information without literally spying: users voluntarily enter data, and the company can then use that data to sell ads (or to sell data?).

But even if that sounds on the up and up to you, never put something creepy and invasive past Mark Zuckerberg. The dude watches How is babby formed? over your shoulder. So if you suspect Facebook has resorted to buying your purchase history from credit card companies, there’s no reason to believe it hasn’t.

And that means, just maybe, the company’s business model is broken. Perhaps all those status updates did some good, after all! Good work, half my friends.

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