Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Facebook Beacon: How far is too far?

Last week, online privacy concerns were raised to a new level as the tainted underpinnings of Facebook's Beacon advertising system were exposed. Now as Facebook tries to save face, the important question that everyone online needs to ask is how far is too far? The public is now beginning to see that when you are online, it is quite possible that the whole world might be able to see what you are doing at a given moment. Publishing your latest movie rental or recipe might not seem like a huge deal, but given enough data points and you can turn a lot of harmless information into something quite harmful. For instance, knowing that an anonymous online user speaks Japanese does nothing to help you identify that specific person. But combine that with the information that the user's hometown is some small, mostly Caucasian town in the middle of America and you can probably figure out who that supposedly "anonymous" user is. I'm pretty sure that Facebook did not have bad intentions, but other people will. Facebook is not a small company, how many other people on the web are following your every move? Do you care? In general, we are willing to sacrifice a little privacy for better service in our behalf. But it begs the question, for you how far is too far?

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