Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that everybody’s favorite social networking site might be transmitting identifying information about its users to “dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies,” regardless of if the user has set their security profile to its strictest setting. In other words, the wall of privacy we’ve erected with a few subtle changes to our security settings is about as effective at keeping out unwanted prying eyes as holey mosquito net.
But here’s the question: Who cares?
A lot of my “friends” on Facebook like to brag about how awesome their significant other is, or complain about their splitting headache. It’s a sign of the perceived importance in which they approach their Facebook account. Just how aghast would they be to learn that they will now have to avoid more creepy, targeted ads that appear when they’re spying on their friend’s friends’ pictures?
I’m willing to bet not much.
We in the tech and communications industry are bombarded every day by blog posts and data trends and newspaper articles that indicate more and more of our information is being released to the Web, available for consumption by any company with the smarts to find it. It is our job to stay abreast of these trends.
But I can’t help but think that the nurse who uses Facebook as a way to stay in touch with her high school friends is not aware of the privacy issues, nor does she care. She’s more concerned with knowing the details of her high school reunion. In the grand scheme of things, if her proclaimed affinity for Matt Damon movies leads to an influx of “Hereafter” movie ads on her Facebook page, what is the actual cost to her? Minimal, at best. And that’s if she even pays attention to those ads.
When it comes to protecting our social security numbers and financial information, privacy protection is, of course, of the utmost importance. But just as we’ve learned to ignore junk in our mailbox and spam in our e-mail, we will learn to ignore targeted marketing. It will become just another tributary in the deluge of useless data we encounter every day.
And if you’re not concerned with the ramifications, was it ever a threat to begin with?
-- Brad Marley