By Dan Cornell
Before you tell me to take off my tinfoil hat humor me for a minute. I recently got a Facebook account to see what all the fuss was about. I put in some basic information about myself but nothing too sensitive because I don't really trust these Facebook characters and all the maniacs on their system.
Since then I've been tracked down by a bunch of people I have met before in personal and professional capacities. People I went to school with I can understand - that is a simple match. The scarier matches have been those where people who worked for clients of mine years ago have tracked me down. Perhaps those people sought me out. After all - I'm a pretty engaging guy. I'm fun to be around. Good looking... After I beat my ego back into its cage I'm forced to realize that there is probably another explanation which is that Facebook is really good at mining their data and finding connections to suggest. Fine - LinkedIn has been good at this for a while.
But then I started surfing around the profiles of folks that tracked me down. They have photo albums, favorite movies and books, etc. All the social networking stuff you would expect. Possibly some privacy issues arising out of this but that certainly isn't news. As I was looking around this weekend I had a bit of an epiphany - there are some people that are really into these sites. They update their profile picture all the time. They update their status of what their doing a couple times a day. They are constantly adding new gadgets to their accounts that collect even more information. It is true that I am a bit behind the times - I just got a Facebook account, after all - but if I were Facebook watching all of this data change over time I could put together a decent picture of the lives of some of these folks.
Thus the seed of my conspiracy theory - if the government owned Facebook they could collect a heck a lot of information about people and their movements and watch that over time. The only problem with that theory is that it isn't wild enough to be taken seriously. Therefore the government doesn't just own Facebook. They must also be in control of MySpace. And Friendster. And LinkedIn. And Twitter. And that new thing that Google rolled out. And probably all of Google! Is there nothing they won't do?
dan _at_ denimgroup.com