Something funny is going on over at Facebook. A couple days ago, this article hit the internet and has raised some questions about the site’s “like” feature. The author started getting curious about it when he started noticing unusual behavior from some of his Facebook friends, such as anarchists “liking” major corporations and vegetarians “liking” meaty McDonalds meals. What stood out the most was that some of his dead friends had been liking various (usually corporate) pages.
The author contacted Facebook about it, and they (of course) just said that the likes from living users are probably accidental and that the “likes” people make can resurface in their timelines long after they make them, explaining the dead peoples’ Facebook activity. Maybe that’s possible, but it’s not very convincing, especially since this isn’t the first time Facebook has had a problem with fake likes. What’s actually going on (if their story is just a cover) is hard to say. It’s possible that third parties who have access to users’ accounts are selling likes to big companies. Or it could be a problem with the site. Whatever it is, Facebook needs to get it under control. Users don’t like having their accounts manipulated, and shareholders don’t like false information being spread. The only reason Facebook is worth so much money is because they have a mountain of user data that advertisers are interested in, and the less reliable that data becomes, the less Facebook will be worth. However, Facebook has been allowing third parties to run wild on the site since day one. All kinds of apps and games demand full access to users’ profiles in exchange for the service. Now that it has the potential to hurt Facebook, will the company finally crack down on the permissions that third parties can demand?
The internet isn’t well known for being private. Major companies like Google and Facebook have been tracking users all over the place for years, as well as mining data from all corners of the internet to sell to advertisers. But even Google and Facebook don’t know everything about your web activity. It’s still kind of private-ish. However, thanks to AT&T and a number
of other internet service providers, the last bits of privacy we currently enjoy are about to be dissolved.
Earlier this year, all of the major ISPs in the United States (AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Cablevision, and Time Warner Cable) announced that they will be rolling out a “six strikes” plan to crackdown on copyright infringement. Basically, the ISPs will penalize anyone they catch pirating stuff online, and the penalties will become more severe with each strike. But what is disconcerting about the initiative is how they plan on catching pirates. Reports from earlier this year have revealed that they will be utilizing deep packet inspections on a massive scale, which means that they will be keeping track of absolutely everything that you do online. (A real-life corollary to a DPI would pretty much be someone following you around 24/7 and filming everything you do, everywhere you go.) It appears that they also have databases to store the information they collect; however, no information has been released on how much of the data they will store or for how long.
They may catch a few pirates this way and deter a lot of future ones. On the other hand, most serious infringers (at least the ones with brains) will probably just start using VPNs and keep pirating away. If the people they’re trying to catch are just going to find a way around it, the result of the ISPs’ program will still be massive-scale surveillance, but only of their innocent, law-abiding customers who aren’t doing anything wrong. So what do you think? Will this initiative be effective? If so, is it worth sacrificing what’s left of our privacy for?