Facebook already knows too much

It might be just me, but I thought we had enough outlets for our town of­ficials without having to resort to Facebook or, to broaden the concept, social media. There are various committee meet­ings, the Op-Ed pages in this paper and three channels on cable. If you look closely over time you can see the need for volunteers and alternates on the town’s committees advertised on TV and on the town website. I’ll volunteer when there are openings on the meaty boards like planning and zoning. Of course there’s the danger of getting too close to the process where all you can see is the trees, so you miss the forest, but that’s another rant.

So there are three out­lets for town officers to express and field views from and to the citizenry, but Facebook is close to the top of the list. Because it’s alleged to be free. It is free of charge. Do you know what we internet geeks say about free things on the web? "When something online is free, you’re not the customer, you’re the product." This is true of Facebook which gener­ates loads of targeted advertising to users based on who and what they "like" and to people they "friend" and to the friends of friend and so on into populations and subscriber limits. Never send to know from where email spam comes from, it comes from you; to paraphrase John Donne. Most folks know this already. My Facebook gauge hit FULL when I began to read some of the "information" being shared with me. I got pic­tures and a story about what went on at the end of my brother-in-law’s sister’s dock at their winter home in Florida. A connection broke at that point. I asked myself if I cared about, a) what went on at a dock in Florida while I was here enjoying the cooling winter breezes and b) the feeling that, on some level, I was having my nose rubbed in it. No to a) and yes to b). I think it was the flamingo on the dock that did it.

The big issue I have with Facebook is that Mr. Zuckerberg has provided those agencies empow­ered by the "Patriot" Act with a back door to the the information we provide on it while pro­tecting us from whoever. We’re being protected by being watched. This has been going on since October 2010. Mr. Zuck­erberg has expressed his disappointment in a let­ter to President Obama, so don’t worry. When I speak to people about us being watched, I get the answer that, "Well I’m not doing anything so they can watch all they want." They forget that it isn’t them who get to say what they’re doing wrong, it’s the person at the other end of the line who have the final say. Let’s say that your friend’s friend’s friend’s friend writes or calls a "person of interest" to the invisible watchers. Let’s also say you have 35 Friends and each of your friends have 35 friends. If you continue this for four levels of friends that’s over 1.5 million people. All of them can be traced back to you. All my friends are good people, but what about their friends etc.?

My opinion is that our town officials should be responsive and share with all of their con­stituents, not just people they’ve "friended" or have "friended" them.

And what I said about Facebook is also true of your email and your phone’s "metadata" (at least until a third party who can safely hold this data is found and equi­ped). 1984 came late, but it did come.

Finally, there’s this cartoon of a big robot marked "Facebook" pushing aside a robot half it’s size marked "Big Brother" for a place look­ing over the shoulder of a human at a computer. There’s a balloon over the Facebook robot’s head. Inside it’s saying, "Ama­teur!". Hmm, funny.

I’ve canceled my real Facebook account in fa­vor of a spoof one going to an email address that just collects junk and mail from Facebook asking me if I know the people whose pages I visit, but never answer or "friend". I just delete all those questions. Of course I can’t have cyber friends on Facebook, but that’s OK, they’re already real life friends and if our protectors what to know what’s going on with them there’s always email. And the phone.

Russ Brady