Comment – Facebook and My Information

Is there an advantage in letting Facebook know who I like and where I am?

My cautiousness with what information I give to web sites is not limited to Facebook. Ever since I started using the internet I have filtered things, making every effort to keep my personal information hidden.

Until recently I thought this was working in my favour: one spam text message in ten years of having the same mobile phone number; no ID theft; only the occasional advert that follows me across the web. A conversation with a friend started me wondering if I had got it wrong.

“I want Facebook to know which restaurants and bands I like,” she told me. “That way they can tell me when offers are available or music I might enjoy is released.”

I do spend a lot of time flicking through newly released tunes in an attempt to find ones that suit my musical tastes. A friend created a group on Facebook where we all post new tracks we have found; I have purchased a number of albums based on these recommendations. Whilst the group is a decent size it is never going to be able to cover every new release or reissue. An international company such as Facebook will have access to a lot more, and if they know all the things I already like they would be able to easily point out similar tracks.

Take this one step further with the restaurants. If Facebook knew which were my favourite eateries and if it knew where I lived it could tell me when those places make special offers available in the same way that my friends tell me about things they think I will be interested in.

Now imagine if Facebook could quickly take into account where I had travelled to. Then it could compare what I like against what other people in that area with similar tastes have given high ratings to and tell me where I should go for dinner.

What stops me from disclosing more to Facebook, Twitter and Google? Quite simply the fear that something bad will come of it. Would you really trust a large, international company with all that information? What if they decide to use it in ways that are not beneficial to you?

There have been enough people up in arms about the privacy of their information to suggest that I am not the only one who is concerned about this. For the time being I will keep most of my comings and goings, my likes and dislikes, to myself, but I am starting to wonder if I am missing out on things.