Wednesday, April 09, 2008

facebook is watching you.

[Here's a kind of amazing addition to the Facebook fact sheet—the opt-in permits Blockbuster to notify friends and family of the videos you rent. Zoinks, glad I use Netflix.]

I blog. This is narcissism. No denying. I can defend myself and say my reviews and articles continue to travel farther—with more forthcoming in the Monthly, the Chronicle, and elsewhere around the webforest—and that this will serve as the single Kennedy depot, the ranger station.

But then there is the "proof of life" aspect, the indulgent stuff that has nothing to do with news you can use. It's instinct: we hang these shingles to advertise our well-lived, purposeful lives, posting pretty pix and declaring for all the world, "Look! My life is so great! My friends all have white teeth and every one of us has read Ulysses! We are very good on mountain bikes, we play instruments, and we cook better than your Nana."

So I thought for a moment that the solution to this staged self might be committing to posting unflattering pix, making a point of writing about the nights spent at home eating chips in my PJs instead of at the Ani D concert, at supper club, at comrades' art openings, and just generally resisting the egotistical temptation to inflate the illusion of my social network through dubious and vapid devices like Myspace and Facebook. But I don't think you care that I stay home and eat chips. Do you?

So instead, we will just keep doing what we're doing. And millions more of you will continue doing what you're doing, even if it's chatting on Myspace about the sexy beasts at the hellafierce beer bust you recently attended, pix with wagging tongues and rude gestures to boot. That's fine. Our lies and glorifications constitute our wabi-sabi and what matters is that we're honest with our inner circle and putting something, anything good out in the world aside from self-aggrandizing hot shots. We can all do that, right? Deal.

But one thing: before you tab over to a new window and update your profile with the pic that caught your good side, let me just share an interesting Guardian article that NT forwarded on the type of user data collection carried out by the upstanding folks over at Facebook. Anyone out there in legal? The last few paragraphs of this deft takedown address their privacy policy, well worth reading. If a company like Facebook states that—whether or not you opt out—they back up personal information, does this mean signing on to the user agreement necessarily discounts your right to write in and request your personal information not be sold, rented, or stored? In other words, by signing on to Facebook, are users signing away their privacy? Maybe this is an obvious "yes." Swoop in and tell if you know, legal eagles.