I joined facebook today, motivated by considerations raised by this class. My friends and family had been razzing me for a long time about joining, but I was reluctant to put my personal network “on the grid.” I had strong privacy concerns about that, but two things happened in the last week to turn me:
1. I was absolutely shocked to learn in an article a classmate had twittered about that facebook has 250 million active users. A week before, I had read in “Always On” that as of Dec. 2007 there were 35 million users, and that the user base was growing at a 71% clip. Those numbers seemed huge, but to see it explode in usage like it has made me think that it had reached a point of acceptance where I was risking my own relevance to not join.
2. Listening to the privacy seminar made me realize that I couldn’t control my own privacy without completely disengaging from society. Technological advancements will continue to reduce costs associated with data collection and analysis. This is unavoidable and, just like how I have to accept a lack of privacy to live where I want to (in New York City, we are subject to random searches when using public transportation) and work where I do (bank where my every keystroke and phone conversation is recorded), the only way to reject this is to disconnect from society entirely. Who am I kidding, my privacy is already deeply compromised and improving that can only be addressed in the same civic activities I use to try to effect change on other important issues outside of my control.
Besides, I’m already being targeted by online advertisers based on my web usage – if anything, I just wish these marketers would be doing a better job of it (I already went to Las Vegas and stayed at the Palazzo 2 months ago – don’t you know that, or can’t you guess that I’m no longer interested in looking for a hotel in Vegas? Stop jamming me with Palazzo banner ads already!). So, I gave in, with the hope that I’ll be able to reconnect with my friends and family and maybe be marketed to more appropriately.