It was Jeremy Bentham who invented the Panopticon, a circular building with a tower in its center that allows “an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) inmates of an institution without them being able to tell whether or not they are being watched.” (wiki)

Although no true Panopticon has ever been built, examples in the online world are eerily close.

The Underclass Of Sharing

In a brilliant Guardian piece, Adrian Short argues that the masses using “free” web services are third class-citizens without any real rights or freedoms.

They are turning into a new under-class, not only because users of sites like Facebook  have no say in the way things are done, they are in fact selling their lives as grease for the big advertisement machines.

Sounds crass?

Every relationship change, every status about food, every baby photo keeps the colossus humming along.

Remember: If You’re Not Paying for It; You’re the Product

And, as we all know, due to the mapping of our real-world relationships, it’s almost impossible to quit or not to use Facebook.

Sure, you can deactivate and/or ignore the Facebook world but also you will be the only one who hasn’t received that invitation to that special event, who hasn’t seen the important photos of business-meetings and therefore is no longer in the loop.

As Short put it: “Once you’ve signed up the cost of leaving increases with every ‘friend’ you make”

Privacy Wars, New World Language & Data Krakens

Facebook tries to collect as much data about a person as possible. A lot of this we do willingly. We like and comment and soon we will be able to “walk” and “eat” as well. Facebook keeps this data and uses it to tweak its advertising revenues.

If you want to see what kind of data Facebook stores on each and every person, here’s a blacked-out example  [PDF] via europe-v-facebook.org

With Facebooks’s new features, we can share every tiny detail of our lives, filling in the blanks in pre-fabricated sentence slots. As Ben Zimmer writes in his article The Rise of the Zuckerverb: The New Language of Facebook: 

language is being recast in a more profound way, turned into a utilitarian tool for “expressing” relationships to objects in the world in a remarkably unexpressive fashion. Verbs are for doing things, things that are then announced in uncomplicated declarations. Sentences become mere instruments for sharing easy-to-digest morsels of personal information.

And much of this sharing will even happen without us doing anything. Watch a video on Youtube and Facebook will tell the world. Read an article and it shares itself automatically in the “Timeline Of Your Life”. For now, Facebook claims that you’ll be able to opt out of this “frictionless sharing”.

But apart from this, there’s another way in which we constantly submit information to Facebook without even being able to deactivate it: The Like Button.

Even if you don’t click it or aren’t even registered on Facebook, it follows your every move.

Already earlier this year, Facebook was sued for this practice. And in response Facebook has formed a lobby against privacy laws.

But to be quite honest, it’s not only Facebook doing it. It’s just that their particular kind of cookies are very nasty.

Also Google, LinkedIn and others are doing the same.

What To Do?

Considering all of the above, using Facebook can have quite an unsettling aftertaste.

With ever increasing and ever-changing privacy settings, you never know exactly who else sees your family photos and private information – and even if you aren’t on the Facebook homepage – you can never know for sure who is storing and collecting your browsing history – website after website.

Here’s three things you can do, apart from permanently deleting your Facebook account.

1. Obvious: Be very careful as to what kind of information you submit to Facebook in the first place. They have your real name, they know where you work, where you live, your telephone number, email address, previous work history, your family reunion photos, colleagues, former classmates….. Do you really want that?

2. Tweak your Privacy settings

3. Block Tracking-Cookies by using a browser extension such as Priv3 or Ghostery

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