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Privacy Asea

January 16, 2010

Because it is merely part of the continuing saga of privacy elapsed, this interview with a Facebook engineer didn’t surprise me at all, but I’m guessing a few of my readers may not realize the extent of what we’ve handed over:

The Rumpus: On your servers, do you save everything ever entered into Facebook at any time, whether or not it’s been deleted, untagged, and so forth?

Facebook Employee: That is essentially correct at this moment. The only reason we’re changing that is for performance reasons. When you make any sort of interaction on Facebook — upload a photo, click on somebody’s profile, update your status, change your profile information. . .also messages, file posts, photos you’re tagged in with them, as well as your viewing of their profile and all of that. Essentially, we judge how good of a friend they are to you. . . .

I’m not sure when exactly it was deprecated, but we did have a master password at one point where you could type in any user’s user ID, and then the password. I’m not going to give you the exact password, but with upper and lower case, symbols, numbers, all of the above, it spelled out ‘Chuck Norris,’ more or less. It was pretty fantastic.

Underlying all of this is the fact that we gave them our lives in return for the ability to share pictures; it wasn’t taken from us.  We chose not to use technologies that we could control, and instead gave it all to Facebook and Google so we could poke and chat.  We marveled at how quickly these companies were getting rich off the manipulation of every piece of data about our lives, and we never demanded a cut.

This is just the newest, more subtle version of the trend that Americans are actually aware of in the battle to save what’s left of our liberties.  We’ve been fighting the Hobbesian impulse to give them away in exchange for the security blanket since 9/11, but now a majority of Americans believe that giving away liberties is warranted for the sake of safety.  We are continually losing touch with our American principles: accepting an added degree of danger or difficulty for the sake of freedom, as embodied in the tidbit of Benjamin Franklin’s wisdom that “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”  And of course these snapshot polls of the factious, frothing mobs–in their current frenzy due to the Christmas would-be bomber–are all the ammunition any state or business really needs to legitimate taking more of those liberties away.

Disgusting, right?  Makes me feel kinda sick anyway.


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