Once again I find myself envious for the WWW that something not actually the WWW is enjoying a social controversy the WWW itself should be.
A company seeking to mine and use psychological data in the last presidential election went to an academic who had acquired a bunch of it by writing a survey application that people blithingly activated and completed because, people. I guess that alone would be bad enough to trigger the sexy news buzz about how "personal data" is being used serritpitously but it goes one step worse in that what Facebook describes as some kind of flaw at the time the app was also able to branch out from the original downloader's profile to collect data on all their friends. So basically if you had one idiot enough friend who thought it was cool filling out random surveys in Facebook your own profile data got used by mere association.
All pretty surprising sure, particularly to people who lack the imagination, permanently or perhaps initially, to realize that "publicly posted information" also means "publicly available information". And god knows what might happen with any of it purposely or accidentally.
Yet again we see the media headlines outraged that this happened "on Facebook". As if Facebook were not just an extension of the very public world wide web where, if Facebook did not exist, the same information might be botted from personal web pages or blogs if people posted their associations and life nuances as deeply as they do on Facebook. Many once did after all.
But even as an issue exclusively on Facebook, so what? Again, the information harvested was willingly made available to anyone by the posters themselves. If we're upset that a machine culled it all and that some data geeks then attempted to extrapulate the information to influence broader campaigns of any sort, why aren't we equally upset about grocery stores or streaming online services doing the same? Even pre-digital this kind of thing went on.
No worries Chris, you do have a personal website to pontificate from right?
But I digress. The problem here, within the problem, as I see it, is the ever usual fact that perfectly valid controversy that should be leaving us perplexed over the role and potential misuse of the open web, is not, in favor of pretending it's all a "Facebook thing". In this subtle way the world wide web is diminished even more from people's conciousness.
As an aside, the guy who worked for the company who acquired the information from the academic, subsequently had his Facebook account suspended. It's not clear if this upsets him or not (he did post a Twitter capture of it) but as Dave the Web Guy I would have to ask him whether or not this is really a problem for him. I mean, he does have a personal website right?
Status quo institutions are attempting to kill the hyperlink and relegate you to social media. Resist by sharing this content's hyperlink. To share this content copy the URL below to your clipboard and paste it to the medium of your choice. Never let the world forget about the World Wide Web.