You creep, I creep, we all creep! But the biggest creep of all could be Facebook. I always knew this, however I didn’t realize the extent of Facebook’s watchful eye until last November. My sister and I brilliantly decided to annoy my mother by putting up our Christmas tree two months early. Unfortunately being stuck in the cupboard under our stairs killed the twinkle and shine of half of the lights. I suggested we go Canadian Tire. My sister stopped obnoxiously clicking on her iPhone with her ludicrously long painted fingernails and looked up at me with an empty expression. “What’s that?” she asked.
Eventually, we got into the car drove to Canadian Tire blissfully unaware that Facebook joined us for the ride. The moment my sister opened up her Facebook when we got back home she asked me, “How does it know?!”. On her notifications page there was an ad for Canadian Tire. A place my sister had been gleefully ignorant of 15 minutes earlier.
Since then I keep asking myself. How does it know? And worse, what does it know?
“…It can indeed access your entire address book, send SMS messages, record photos or videos using your camera, know your location at all times, access the Internet when it wants, and a slew of other pretty creeptastic things.” According to the Huffington Post. When Facebook forced us to download the Messenger app last year, it also forced us to hand over a lot of data about ourselves. Including our phone calls, our text messages and location.
If that isn’t creepy enough, they can now take photos through your camera (on both ends of your phone) and record audio through your microphone. They may never exercise their capabilities but they have the potential to use it if they see fit.
Apart from the friends you know you have, Facebook can also suggest new friends by doing some math. According to the Toronto Star, “Facebook can run analyses against the structure of the network, using a long and entirely above-our-pay-grade list of coefficients and indices. Those coefficients account for a huge number of things: How many unusual commonalities do two people share, for instance? How many friends do they have in common? Which people in the network serve as rallying points, the people who know everyone? How many ‘degrees of separation’ exist between them, how many friends of friends?”
Facebook is not the only perpetrator of this creepy misdemeanor. Most of your apps follow you around all day. They know where you are at all times. If this doesn’t bother you, you can now turn on Nearby Friends and see whose hanging around your area. But if it does bother you, you can prevent it.
When you agree to the terms and conditions on Facebook, you allow it to access your email contacts as well as all your phone contacts. This means it has all the numbers in your address book as well as email contacts. Even included are those contacts who don’t have Facebook.
Even if you are of the rare few that don’t have an account, Facebook still tracks your online movements. If you see the famous “Like” button on a website, that means Facebook is allowed to put something called a “cookie” into your computer. It’s not a delicious, tangible thing filled with chocolate chips. This “cookie”, unless deleted, can follow you around for two years. It doesn’t matter if you have an account or if you’re logged out.
I have Facebook, I can’t live without it and that worries me. We all use Facebook. It is presented to us like a choice, as if we could live our lives normally without it. But it isn’t a choice. Not having a profile on Facebook excludes you from your social circle. Society is now molded around the use of Facebook and social media. Employers skim over your resume if you lack the skills to use these online mediums. Friends and strangers look at you suspiciously if you lack a Facebook account. Good luck dating online when you can’t refer potential partners to a Facebook page to prove you are a real person.
“But I’m not doing anything wrong, why should I care?” I’ve heard this argument over and over again. You, as a member of society should care because it is impeding on your basic human rights. And one day, in the near future, when your privacy seems a bit more important in your career and life, it will be too late. Facebook will already know, who you are, where you go, what you do and who you do it with.
Written by Sarine Gulerian
Photo credit: Poster boy