My Facebook Data

I downloaded my Facebook data (how-to link here).

I was curious to see what I would find. The short answer is that it was very helpful to see which advertisers have glimpsed at my profile and uploaded me to their contacts list.

That’s all par for the course. As an advertiser, you can use Facebook ads to target people by interest group, gender, age, location, etc. It’s what all online and offline advertisers do: They try to find relevant audiences.

It’s why I do not view Facebook as a social network. To me, it instead is a marketplace that aggregates advertisers and consumers; it’s an advertising platform, just like a TV channel.

On my Facebook data download, there were the usual brands, as well as some I didn’t recognize. But, there was one entity that caught my eye: the Department of Homeland Security.

There always is a tension between security and civil liberties. Security requires people to “track” you and that requires limits on privacy. As someone who has invested for a while in Big Data, I often heard about the various applications that cheap storage and real-time analytics can offer.

It’s now a known fact that the government has the ability to track your mobile phone calls. It’s now a known fact that there are enormous databases with “triggers” that track your airport travel. It’s now a known fact that every Web site you visit can be known to the authorities. And, all those data repositories are linked to try and ascertain if you are a security risk.

I’m going to assume that the DHS just periodically refreshes its database to monitor for suspicious activity. As I’ve long told friends, nothing we do online is private.

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