It’s Not A Secret: Facebook Watches What You Type

Category: Technology / Jan 03, 2014 4:30PM EDT

So...Facebook’s being sued. Again. This time, it’s under the pretense of violating user privacy.

Anyone else feel like we’ve been down this road before? I feel like it was just yesterday we were talking about the invasion of privacy in digital life! We were? Hm.

Apparently, Facebook has been monitoring your “private” messages - though I guess that’s a misnomer, really - and mining the data to sell to advertisers. Basically, what you say and what you talk about are compiled in such a way that lets companies figure out how to sell stuff to you better. In case you’ve missed the ads on Facebook - yeah, they’re targeted. But that’s been obvious for a while; the uproar is that users’ supposedly private messages have been watched.

Well, at least this time Facebook didn’t do anything wrong! No, seriously. You agreed to let them use whatever information they wanted for pretty much any purpose when you signed up.

From their privacy page: “For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings. You grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License).”

What that means is, yeah, they pretty much own you. And you consented; it was all right there in the “Terms of Agreement” letter that no one ever reads.

So, you have to decide - is the appropriation of your messages and thoughts too high of a price to pay for Facebook? “Why should Zuckerberg make money off me?” you say?

Consider that you don’t pay to be a member. Advertising is the main generator of revenue for Facebook and sites like it - yeah, Google does the same thing with your Gmail account by the way, it’s another part of Google Analytics - and since the attitude of the Internet boils down to “We don’t want to pay for anything!” is it a shock that Internet companies make money off us in subversive ways?

Sure, you could say that reading emails and private messages are “morally” wrong - but they’re not legally protected like physical mail. Although snail mail isn’t,

Maybe this is the price we have to pay for the instant gratification we’ve come to expect.