Facebook, currently worth over $75 billion, seems to be morphing into a more pernicious version of television, with in-your-face advertising filling the screen and disrupting social interactions such as personal chats, event planning, or the infamous habit of singles everywhere: “facebook stalking”. In fact, Facebook is now stalking us.
Our personal information is Facebook’s ultimate commodity. Facebook makes much of its profit (85 percent of its total 3.2 billion revenue last year came from advertising) by selling ad space to companies that want to reach its 845 million users. Advertisers, in quasi-invasive total-surveillance fashion, observe our keywords and details, like location, interests, employment, and even our relationships—and then run specific ads, which target each user accordingly.
In Europe, laws exist which give people the right to know what personal data specific companies have about them, but citizens of the Unites States and Canada do not have these protective laws. Many people are worried that every search, click and “like” we perform online could be used against us—and for many people this has already been the case. For example, you could get declined for a job, credit or insurance on the basis of aggregate data—not only what your online presence signifies, but what other people who share your likes and dislikes have done.
Stereotyping and typecasting are prevalent. As Lori Andrews wrote in the New York Times: “when women are shown articles about celebrities rather than stock market trends, will they be less likely to develop financial savvy? Advertisers are drawing new redlines, limiting people to the roles society expects them to play.” This disturbing situation leaves us with two choices: rigorous self-censorship, or, perhaps, the birth of a new Occupy Facebook movement!