The news that Bing was integrating public Facebook information into its search results was interesting to me on one point: privacy. I know, I know, Facebook and privacy, blah blah blah. (I will avoid discussion about the complexity of FB’s privacy settings, as it has been done to death elsewhere).
Now Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook stated that any information pulled up by Bing would only be that marked by Facebook users to be public. But what tweaked my interest was something that data mining expert Robert Grossman, head of the National Center for Data Mining, told NPR reporter Stacey Vanek Smith: “The likes of friends is one of the most predictive variables of your own likes.” By making public ‘likes’ searchable, Facebook and Bing take a step toward building a consumer profile of you, even if you impose the tightest of restrictions on the sharing of your Facebook data. Whether you like it or not, you are going to become one of the data mined consumer clusters Vanek Smith reported about in her story.
What intrigues me about all of this is how very ‘Red Scare’ it is in execution. You as a consumer are being targeted not only for who you are, but the company you keep. Apologies to my Facebook friends, but while they are all good people, I find a lot of what they ‘like’ to be inane. (But then, I also think the Like button itself is pretty inane. It’s used far too indiscriminately.) Do I want to be tarred with their brush? Or marketed their bad movies or uninteresting books?