CFPB Begins Supervision Of Credit Reporting Industry
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I’ve Got The Facebook Social Plug-In Blues…

[Editor's Note: today's post is by guest author R. Michelle Green, the Principal for her company, Client Solutions. She is a combination geek girl, personal organizer, and career coach. Michelle helps others improve their use of technology in their personal or professional life. Today, she discusses what happens when a user clicks the social networking service's Like button.]

By R. Michelle Green

What happens when I like something on Facebook? What is triggered by expressing an ostensibly innocuous opinion about something, or expressing interest in a movement or event?

Liking a comment just provides a labeled count. Liking a site like Huff Post or Newsweek (rather than a particular article on the site) means I am permitting that entity not only the count, but also delivery, along with their content, my face, name and any information I’ve made public. You wouldn’t necessarily know what content your face is presented with, just that it’s content from that site. The Like button is one of Facebook’s social plug-ins. Facebook provides a nice two minute video describing how FB plug-ins work: instead of having your social experience in one place and your specialized information experience all the way over there in a separate browser tab (oh the effort), social plug-ins bring your social experience to your personal experience, wherever you are on the web. Your information resides at FB and is simply transmitted to the other page. (Can haz UR info, says an LOL cat in the video. No, says the cartoon representing FB.) It saves you from laboriously looking for what you want to read by learning instead what your friends’ read (and, FB implies, what you want to read). This is what Facebook tells users.

What do they tell developers? Enough to get paid $3.2B in 2011 ad revenues.

Many developers want everything, not just public info. Any desktop or mobile app gets basic info from you: id, name, picture, gender and locale (i.e., English speaking in the US), and anything else you’ve made public. If they want more, their authentication request to you must ask you for permission – and for many users it’s routine to give it (how are you going to know where the pizza places near you are if you don’t give up your 9 digit Zip Code, for example). But if you want to play the game / get the coupons / preview the video / win a prize bad enough, will you worry about providing access to any photo you’re tagged in? Or your actual location? Or the contents of your lists of friends (or their lists of their friends)? Or the location of your child’s school? (it could be in that photo’s metadata...)

Extended permissions could include the ability to access your inbox, read your notifications, or create/modify on your behalf events posted on your page. The range of possible permissions is quite scary. And before you say hey I’d never agree to that, tell me the last time you fully read some site’s Terms of Use. Even cooler (for the developer) is their continued access to you, whether you are on or offline. (FB now times out offline access, but the developer can still get expiring offline access renewed...) A developer’s stories can become a, “... persistent ‘brand billboard’ of ongoing updates, which tell the story of the relationship between the consumer and the brand.” Except that most owners of billboards get paid for the use of that space...

And FB continues to busy itself adding still more info to the curation of your life. Now they plan to tell others what messages you did and didn’t read from within a Group’s posts. Will seeing get misinterpreted as liking, or supporting? Can you really believe it won’t? And this capability cannot be disabled as currently configured.

Oooh, I sound paranoid. Ok, hypothetical. Say there’s a politician I don’t like (just one!?!) He finally said something rational, and I wanted to reinforce it. Maybe I just ‘liked’ the comment; maybe I inadvertently ‘liked’ the individual. When I next sign on (days? weeks?), my timeline might be filled with events and comments, ostensibly from me (implicitly, if not explicitly), with which I disagree.

I’ll readily admit there are hurdles or checkpoints where the user, FB or the developer could intervene, but the framework is clearly there.

Not sure I’d ‘like’ that.


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trish wills

This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work !

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