Monday, April 21, 2014

Facebook and the NSA (May Not) Like Me

Facebook and those friendly, cuddly domestic spies at the NSA like to use social media to "profile" people -- in the case of the NSA, your connections to potential terrorists (ie, anyone you know who doesn't live in the US); in the case of FB, your interests in material goods so they can sell your information to marketers.

If they track my posts, as I assume they do, they may be a bit perplexed by the eclectic mix of my supposed "likes."

I have connections with people all around the world, including the Middle East, Russia, China, and that hotbed of radicalism, Switzerland! Not a single connection, to my knowledge, is a terrorist, though I'm sure with the "six degrees of Kevin Bacon" method I'm probably linked somehow with the ayatollah of Kazakhstan (if there is such a person ... I don't really know).

Some connections are relatives, some are friends, some are friends of friends or relatives, some I've only ever known through FB or LinkedIn and wouldn't recognize if we were in a lineup together.

I get posts from a wide spectrum of political interests, anything from anarchist to liberal to ultraconservative. Do any of them represent my specific views? Once in a while, and only narrowly on an occasional topic. Their opinions do not represent mine, and my opinions do not represent them, nor anyone else in my connections. Why do I "like" such a diverse group of feeds? I like to understand what's out there in the world in terms of political thought and passion - I don't want to be spoon-fed from one point of view. (And I recognize that all organizations and media have a built-in bias, so I observe with a huge grain of sea salt.)

My FB feeds include a range of golf publications and bloggers, a few aviation, places I love such as Argeles and Geneva, the Blues Brothers, Il Divo, Roger Federer, Occupy Wall Street, Max Keiser, The Economist, Lego, FC Barcelona, the Ryder Cup, the Princess Bride (movie), Apollo 13, the Tom & Jerry Show, and books by Brad Thor, Dr. Seuss, and D-L Nelson.

What launched this blog were a pair of posts that showed up on my timeline today, back-to-back. The subjects could not have been more different, nor better illustrate the societal gaps of the world we live in today. One was about a guy who was 'exhausted' from 60 hours with the family at theme parks in Florida; the other post was about the (largely unreported) slaughter of 200 schoolchildren by thug/terrorists in Nigeria.

I'm not judging the theme park family; they have a right to enjoy the fruits of their labors in any way they wish and can afford. (Though I might suggest they try a vacation in Europe next, which would be far more educational for the kids.)

I do wish that people around the world would become more aware of other people around the world, not just those in their own backyard. Facebook, other social media, and the internet give us the opportunity to learn about places we will never visit, cultures we will never experience, but which we can understand a little better for the knowledge sharing.

However, Facebook will not necessarily provide much insight for the NSA or Zuck's minions into who I truly am or what I truly think. Give it you best algorithm, guys.

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