From 17 March 2009:

I have taken a lot of mostly good natured ribbing from my friends about my reluctance to fill out the Facebook “25 Random Facts” forms that circulated a month or so ago.The spike has seemed to have quieted down and in its wake perhaps I discovered why I was pushing them to the side.

The answer is quite simple, I don’t trust people.

When I look at the people who I have chosen to be friends with on Facebook, I see all the various aspects of my life. There’s a good portion dedicated to a dead segment of my life—high school. I haven’t talked to anyone from high school until the flood gates opened up and names that had been buried in the back of my mind triggered dusty memories. But all that high school stuff was then and Facebook is not the hallways of Northeast High. This is something completely different.

When I look at the number of the surveys/questionnaires that have circulated a few months ago, I’m made nervous by the thought about how much information is out there. Sometimes a little lack of privacy is not such a bad thing like when my credit card company called me because of a questionable transaction to Cracker Barrel. If you get flagged because someone used your card at Cracker Barrel, you know they have you pegged.

Kroger knows I have a sweet tooth, like Lean Cuisine sandwiches for lunch (maybe not that far), and now knows that I have a child judging by the coupons I am handed at the end of my transaction.

In this case, trading a little privacy can be somewhat beneficial—save a little money, have your transactions protected, or even making sure the store stocks items you like (or they think you’ll like). The most disturbing list I saw was the Name List. The one that involves the stripper name? Look over that list again and tell me: Aren’t the answers to many of those questions the answers to your credit card security questions?

On many of the surveys I was not tagged, meaning they were not necessarily for me, but I was able to see them anyway, and of course I read them. In many cases, I know about your wife/girlfriend/husband, your first born child, your house, random tidbits of facts about your life, not to mention the answers to a lot of security questions.

That’s a lot of information to have at your fingertips. It’s all information that one can usually get in the course of a relationship, but now it’s just sitting on my web browser.

It’s easy enough to find information on a person. I did criminal background research for years before going into communications. If you want a nugget of information, it’s easily accessible. It’s ridiculously easy. If I find your address, I go to Google Maps. I know what’s around your house. I know how much you paid for your house. I know you don’t have a dog, because you told me you’re allergic. I know your husband’s favorite Christmas present was his big screen television. I know about that necklace you bought your wife for her birthday.

Now I ask you, how well do you know the people who can see your Facebook page? Not the people who you have friended, but the people who have access to your page?


Speaking of too much information, check out Crowdsourcing the Genome in the latest issue of Seed magazine. A couple foundations have partnered with a company in order to conduct surveys to try and better understand which polymorphisms (the genetic coding that usually provides distinct personal traits) are tied to Parkinson’s.