Wednesday, July 26, 2017

More Fun with Facebook Analytics

A few years ago, I wrote this post about how much Facebook infiltrates our daily lives, even when we aren't accessing it.

The issue back then was a rather odd "friend suggestion" of some random guy that I had just run into at the Ft. Myers, Florida airport.  I noted at the time how much information we voluntarily give away about ourselves while at the same time, adamantly defend our right to privacy.  I wasn't judging anyone.  I'm just as guilty (if not more so) as anyone else about oversharing on Facebook.

Most of you have probably seen some of the little, cutesy things Facebook has been offering lately.  For example, they offer to post little video bits that they've created which celebrate your years of friendship with somebody else.   That seems like fair game.  They show pictures and comments you've made on each other's pages and repost them.  It's silly, but I see a new one almost every day.  I'm sure you do too.

On things like that, they are just regurgitating stuff Facebook users posted on Facebook.

A month or so ago, they did another gimmicky type of presentation, where they did some sort of video montage showcasing my profile and all of my closest friends.  It was pretty accurate.  It showed around five or six people that I do consider to be closest to me.  That wouldn't be too hard to figure out.  Friends tend to hit that Like button more often on their Friends' pages, right?

But, I had to pause for a second, because also in my "closest friends" montage was my friend, Luci.

Now, don't get me wrong.  Luci is one of my closest friends and she has been for years.  Quite frankly, she's like family.

But she's never on Facebook.  She's got a profile so that she can spy on share moments in her children's lives, but she doesn't post.  She doesn't hit the Like button on anything.  She never uses Facebook.  Like ever.  Our friendship is one of those old-fashioned ones where you actually interact and communicate directly with each other.

I'm kind of curious how Facebook knew that we were such good friends without mining some data which was definitely not on Facebook.

This morning, I had yet another reminder of how much Facebook infiltrates our lives.

As I mentioned last week, my 3-year-old son had been through a pretty significant medical scare recently.  Although he continues to be on the upswing (knock on wood), we are still closely monitoring his bruising.  Seeing as how he is three and is (as the doctor noted in her report) "very energetic," there are new bumps, bruises and scrapes every day.  In an attempt to keep track of which ones are new, old, healing, or lingering, my wife and I take pictures of him with our phones.

And here is where it gets interesting.  Last night, he had a bruise on his butt, so I took a picture of it.  This morning, Facebook was offering to post yet another "very special montage" of the past few days.  In typical Facebook style, it offered me a preview (that only I could see) of a slideshow of the past 24 hours.

Included in the "preview" was a picture of my kid's bare ass.   As the picture appeared in the preview, a digital circle kept flashing around said butt cheeks for some reason.

So, let's break this down for a second.

Obviously, I didn't take that picture for public consumption.  I didn't take it to share with anyone and certainly not to post on social media.  Yet, somehow Facebook had gotten ahold of it, and (I presume) was letting me know that it was not appropriate for posting by drawing a little circle around it.

Now, I know that I signed up for this the second I clicked that little button that approved giving Facebook access to my personal camera roll.  I also know that they have some sort of software that analyzes pictures that are actually posted.  My ex-wife once tried to post a picture of our son with her dad in her backyard on Facebook.  Something glitched and this was the result:

All of this has begged a lot of questions for me:

-Does Facebook literally go through every picture on every camera roll made accessible by a user?
-Do they see things that need to be reported to the police?
-If they do, do they ever do so?
-How has Chris Carlson not gotten a lifetime ban yet?

And so on.

I'm not really complaining here, because, as I've mentioned before, I signed up for Facebook and I continue to use it.  If I were truly concerned about it, I'd pull the plug and deactivate everything.  I probably won't even click that button that stops sharing my camera roll with the app.

And even though I don't have anything to hide, I still know that oversharing on Facebook is stupid.

I guess for me, this just boils down to the immortal words of Ron White:
I had the right to remain silent . . . but I didn't have the ability.


Anonymous said...

Even more scary: have a conversation within earshot of your phone concerning some topic for which a consumer product exists (say, heartburn) and all of a sudden antacid med ads start popping up everywhere. The mic is always on and somewhere in the fine print you agreed to stream it to their computers for whatever purpose.

Anonymous said...

Agreed 11:34! I was recently sitting at a table discussing with my SO how it might be fun to vacation in a particular place. My FB and phone were immediately blasted with advertisements for resorts in that place - which we'd never even thought of or mentioned before. I remember us looking at each other and saying in a creepy, conspiratorial tone "is someone listening to us?" It makes me yearn for the days of the old flip phones, or, gulp, landlines!

Anonymous said...

Nerd comment here, but there's an incredibly interesting Radiolab podcast episode on Facebook called "The Truth Engineers." I wish they'd do an entire series.