Or at least that’s the Santa-esque (not to mention, Orwellian) direction in which things appear to be heading.
One would hope that after a year in which privacy has been at the forefront of our national conversation, most people are now smart enough to realize that there’s no such thing as “deleting” one’s identity from the Internet. The simple (if inconvenient) truth, that whatever you share, email, post, search, blog or tweet, is almost certainly being stored, analyzed or even read, should obviously make anyone stop and think before pressing “send” (or God forbid, “reply all”…)
A frightening piece in this week’s Slate, however, points out that – at least with regard to Facebook – what you decide NOT TO POST is also being collected for “analysis.” That’s right. Imagine you’re a little intoxicated, convince yourself that sharing some extremely unflattering comments about your ex is a really good idea, type up the post and then – AT THE VERY LAST SECOND – you slap yourself in the face, delete the text and never actually put it online. Disaster averted, right? Not so fast…
“Unfortunately, the code in your browser that powers Facebook still knows what you typed—even if you decide not to publish it. It turns out that the things you explicitly choose NOT to share aren’t entirely private. Facebook calls these un-posted thoughts “self-censorship,” and insights into how it collects these non-posts can be found in a recent paper written by two Facebookers. Sauvik Das, a Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon and summer software engineer intern at Facebook, and Adam Kramer, a Facebook data scientist, have put online an article presenting their study of the self-censorship behavior collected from 5 million English-speaking Facebook users. (The paper was also published at the International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media.) It reveals a lot about how Facebook monitors our unshared thoughts and what it thinks about them. The study examined aborted status updates, posts on other people’s timelines, and comments on others’ posts. To collect the text you type, Facebook sends code to your browser. That code automatically analyzes what you type into any text box and reports metadata back to Facebook.” (emphasis added)
So consider being a little extra careful out there this Christmas. You never know – perhaps I’m watching you read this right now . . . (You’re looking good, by the way – keep up those work-outs!)