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Facebook... Again
email this pageprint this pageemail usGuillermo Ramón Adames y Suari - PVNN
October 20, 2010

Well it looks like I am against facebook or that I work for them. Three articles on facebook in a month: “What’s New 'Between' the Social Networks?” and “What’s New in Facebook? The Film,” that summarize warnings to our readers who enter a social network. They don’t know what implications they have and the potential consequences.

The problem now is all that has been written recently in the media about facebook. It is very well summarized in a Mexican saying: "If the river is noisy, it's because it carries stones..." It all comes down to the partition of the facebook files and the access that facebook servers allow to some companies.

On October 18 2010, the Wall Street Journal indicated that the facebook’s privacy policy has been violated. Segments of files have been transmitted or accessed by 25 publishers. Particularly six of the applications that filter and extract data, belong to Zynga: Farm Ville (59.4) Texas Hold Em (36.3 million) Frontier Ville (30.6 million) Café World (21.9) Mafia Wars (21.9) Treasure Isle (15.3); the others are: Phrases (43.4) Causes (26.7) Quiz Planet(16.5) and iHeart (14). The figures expressed in parentheses are millions of users worldwide. Associated Press published an article “Facebook Fails to Guard Information?” Also, The News, Mexico, repeats that heading in its October 19, 2010 edition.

Just think for a moment: All these figures add up to more than the whole of Europe’s adult population, (or the US population) to more than 286 million accounts (in all sorts of “classifications”). It must be stressed that these are “only” the companies we know about and those are not the 25 that were originally indicated. What does it mean? If we push our example, the whole of Europe is being investigated as a result of the social networks’ computer files. Investigated in an uncontrolled way and without the people’s consent. Push even further, add MySpace (which has also been accused of the very same problems) and you have the whole of Europe and the whole of Latin America (or the whole of Africa) being “investigated” through the social network system. There are others, Sonico etc. Please note that twitter is not particularly mentioned…. which would add some 500 million people.

We have seen very few reactions to the problematics of what can be done with the info contained in the social networks. Yes, they carry tons of information and they are selling that information. Nobody seems to react. Usually, reacting takes a lot of time. Just realize how long it took to stop forwarding mails "as is". Cut and paste the contents and erase all the previous addresses. It took years and few people still do not understand that this is the procedure of generating spam and selling huge files with millions of recipients: Winning the lottery, religious chains, mercy chains and winning Microsoft’s top products for free, Viagra and you name it.

How does facebook operate to circulate “your” info? When you click any of the publicities in facebook, though simple programming installed (also installed without your authorization in your computer) the company picks up your address. They claim these “non malicious” programming, does not pick your “private” info but then what is it when your email address and your name are picked up at the click at a given publicity?

What is the next step? They will certainly get into the “legal” definition of access whether they entered facebook in the US or in Bermuda. You should know that Bermuda is the highest internet impact country in the world (accounts and internet interaction per capita): offshore businesses??? So according to the “host” definition… in the legal context of the host country…. and the legal battle will take forever. Meanwhile, facebook will increase in value (good time to buy facebook stock when available) and your account and mine will be investigated again and again. Corruption and legal processes… you will all scream.

But now let’s think again for a little while: We are seeing only the beginning of research “in your file” or in mine or your cousins’. Just imagine what will come up next: they (whoever “they” might mean, even the IRS or the Defense department or the CIA) will create metafiles containing in our example above the whole behavioral pattern of Europe or the US. Consumptionwise to start with. Then it will be political then it will be… Sometimes you get some very valuable information and get to very good results but this is something personal, about each person who trusted a company to include your info and they are selling it for a profit.

I am not guessing: My Ph.D. dissertation was done using the educational files of the world while I was working at the Office of Statistics in UNESCO. Trillions of data registries for some 40 years of all countries in the world concerning educational policies at all levels and all else that was available throughout the world. I was officially authorized to do this study for UNESCO and I was granted the required computer time. On top of that, for a period of time, I was the liaison officer of metafiles between UNESCO, the World Bank, the IMF, the OCDE and the UN: All of this at the OCDE headquarters in Paris. Imagine all of those files and all that data. Just put them together (which at the time was not an easy task and is not even an easy task today) get some classification programming and you can grasp the world’s direction in education, science and technology and research: In the world, or by region, or by type of economy, or by level of education, or by income and by size of population. Or all of them together.

Please note that I specifically avoided the word “religion” which was also envisaged but gave no results at the time. Religion in some context is another “region”. Now, if I was able to do this in 1982, on my own with much of my own programming, just imagine what can be done almost 30 yrs later. Just using the “simple” Microsoft Excel’s operations. At the time I used a super-computer and it took ages just to collect the data from tapes. Today, almost any big high speed desktop (with at some 16/24GB of RAM) can do it. You just need a lot of storage space which is available in most of today’s servers (or shall I say facebook’s or google’s servers?) and even external HDs, a very broad band internet connection and you’ve made it. What is the difference between my dissertation and facebook? Or Google? None (well, a lot of money). I should have stayed in that field and become one of facebook’s principal investors. Trust me: I did it. The files can be analyzed, processed compared and they have simply no limit. And the worse: you can do nothing: we will become predictable.

Guillermo Ramón Adames y Suari is a former electoral officer of the United Nations Organization. Contact him at

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