Picture a huge warehouse full of naked people. They have black bags over their heads, their hands are bound and they’re being sprayed with fire hoses. This, of course, is because the ambiguously foreign evil Internet people are about to harvest their organs and sell them on the black market. And all because those ignorant fools posted personal data on Facebook.
This is my understanding of the argument for Internet privacy. After all, if we just give marketers that much personal data, they’re going to do evil things to us. Right? Because the marketers are evil and information is power and if we give the evil people power, then they’ll unleash unspeakable horrors. We might as well rip our own limbs off now to get it over with, right?
Fear of the unknown is the best kind of fear because you have an infinite number of things to be afraid of.
As usual, paranoia is a whole lot more exciting than reality. As an advertiser, the amount of harm I can do to anyone based on their personal Facebook data is limited to pretty much zero. And to be perfectly honest with you, those pictures of your cat are just as uninteresting to me as they are to the rest of your friends.
So what happens when the 1984esuqe cabal of evil finds out that you like to watch Everybody Loves Raymond? In the case of Facebook, the only answer is to attempt to serve up more relevant advertising. (No black bags and organ removal, I promise.)
According to Facebook, the people that liked Everybody Loves Raymond for some reason also like King of Queens and Just Shoot Me. That means that instead of seeing completely random ads, you’d be more likely to see this:
It’s an ad better suited to your (admittedly questionable) tastes. Advertisers will get more clicks by targeting their ads better and you the Facebook user will see fewer irrelevant ads. In other words, less spam.
And the best part is, I don’t even have to read through 10 million Facebook profiles full of people’s boring personal crap to figure out whether the stuff I’m trying to sell might be of interest to them. So please, if you must be afraid of something about the Internet, be afraid of the fact that this guy regularly gets millions of views.