Earlier this week Facebook acquired its 500 millionth user. This means that more people are on Facebook, which got its start a mere six years ago, than live in the United States, Canada and Mexico combined. Fewer people live on Facebook than in China, but Facebook is banned in China. If it weren't, then Facebook would have even more users.Thank you, China. And then, in a related article, there is the amassed amount of data being mined by Facebook and other social media sites, and what they are doing with all this information.
Many online service providers over the past few years have been building huge dossiers with minute details of each user's online activities -- a practice that isn't usually mentioned in privacy policies. Some companies anonymize the data, while others do not. Some store detailed data for a month, while others keep it for years.
Because your account information is stored on a company's servers, on the "cloud" that is the Internet rather than on your personal laptop, the company owns the right to share it, not you. While accessing your laptop may require a difficult-to-obtain search warrant, getting certain data on Facebook, MySpace, Meetup, LinkedIn and other social-networking sites' servers may require only a simple subpoena.
Eben Moglen, a Columbia University law professor and director of Software Freedom Law Center, calls Facebook "one big database of hundreds of millions of people containing the kind of information far beyond what the secret police in 20th-century totalitarian regimes had."
The company knows which social contacts are closest to you and can guess your moods, he said. And if you're obsessively checking another person's profile at the same time he or she is doing the same with yours, Moglen claims, "Facebook can even tell you're going to have an affair before you do."
LOL. And if you throw all that in with the WaPo's "Top Secret America" series which debuted earlier this week and charts the phenomenal growth of internet spying and data collection since 9/11, it's enough to make one consider dropping out of the internets completely (bonus irony: you can follow the WaPo's "Top Secret" series on Facebook).Yeah, those are galloping hooves I hear.