FaceBook: Do we really have to "Like" everything?

FaceBook: Do we really have to "Like" everything?

Summary: The seemingly ubiquitous FaceBook "Like" button is penetrating every web site and on the surface, appears harmless. But should we really be exposing so much of our identity and privacy, even a little bit at a time?

SHARE:

The seemingly ubiquitous FaceBook "Like" button is penetrating every web site and on the surface, appears harmless. But should we really be exposing so much of our identity and privacy, even a little bit at a time?

It's you, I like, it's not the things you wear.  It's not the way you do your hair. But it's you, I like. (Fred Rogers/PBS, copyright 1970)

The FaceBook generation, Generation Y, didn't grow up watching first-run episodes of Mister Rogers and listening to his ever-present philosophy of self-affirmation, the power of positive thinking and tolerance. It was mine, Generation X, that did.

While one can easily parody his soothing voice and super-casual comfy exterior, I have only good things to think and say about Fred Rogers, as does anyone who grew up in my generation.

Fred Rogers is part of the inextricable DNA which makes up part of the collective consciousness and Gemütlichkeit of Generation X. After a really tough day and when I'm feeling really crappy about myself, the musings of my inner Fred Rogers come out of that dusty 1970's closet and knock me back on my feet again.

But the self-reliance, tolerance and cooperation of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood eventually paved the way towards more "groupthink" types of programs, such as Barney & Friends, which although inclusive of Fred Rogers' legacy of love of self and an increased importance towards strong parental relationships, was much more oriented towards sharing and participation.

It is this same Barney-esque groupthink that forged the fundamental principles of the generation which built FaceBook. And FaceBook wants you to share everything with everyone, because the more you share, the more of a profile it can build on you on which it is able to then monetize.

Fortunately, there are controls which you can put on your FaceBook profile which can limit how many personal details FaceBook can actually share with other people.

But now there's more than just sharing of personal status messages, links and photos that you have to be concerned about and potentially could be a much larger intrusion on your privacy and identity.

Enter the "Like" Button, which has gone beyond the borders of FaceBook itself and on to every website and Internet property that you can possibly think of, including ZDNet, the site that you are reading now. The Like button is one of the many Social Plugins that FaceBook has provided to web developers which allows you to extend the power and groupthink of FaceBook to literally everywhere.

I can see why developers and websites want to use the Social Plugins because they drive traffic. I myself implemented the Like Button on a friend's restaurant website just this last weekend, so that she could network with her customers and provide FaceBook status updates right on the restaurant's home page.

But how far should one really go with this, though? And should we really be "Liking" everything we read or watch?

The controversial European rapper and hip-hop artist Orelsan ("The French Eminem") and music producer Simon Delacroi recently released a music video which demonstrates just how pervasive FaceBook has become in our normal lives.

In the Matrix-inspired, augmented reality fantasy world of "N'importe Comment", Orelsan and his buddy Delacroi, the "The Toxic Avenger" gather friends and "Likes" by passers-by as they stroll down the boardwalk of Venice Beach in California, by simply touching people and objects.

Orelsan's "Like" count keeps increasing as the video progresses, as does the size of his posse. It's definitely a cool video, but some of the concepts behind it concern me greatly.

While it may be our natural human inclination to tell people what we like and to want to be liked, I'm not so sure it's a good idea for FaceBook to start building large collections of datapoints on every single thing that suits our fancy or if our valuation by others should be judged by how many people "Like" us.

Sure, I can see how me "liking" the latest model Mercedes-Benz sedan or the New York Yankees might be harmless. But once FaceBook starts collecting hundreds of "Like" datapoints per user, it may be possible to build a very sophisticated demographic or even a psychological and or ideological/sociological profile for each person which may point towards a pattern of political/religious leanings and/or lifestyle choices. And then it's not so harmless.

And who should be the recipient of that "Like" data? Should FaceBook be able to sell that to potential employers, or even my current one? Should insurance companies be able to know that perhaps you "Like" Hang Gliding, Rock Climbing and Base Jumping, or any other dangerous activities that would indicate a premium risk?

Should your town government or anyone really be aware you "Like" Sarah Palin or the Tea Party? Or "Like" Supporting Israel? Or "Like" Gay Marriage or a woman's right to abort their child? Or "Like" Intelligent Design? And should your valuation as a human being have any bearing on whether or not how many people "Like" you? The list goes on and on.

Is the FaceBook "Like" button a beneficial technology for extending Social Networking to the web, or is there just too much potential for abuse? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Browser, Software Development

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

16 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • ZDNet...Do we really only get to vote thumbs-up?

    Until a reliable "dis-like" or "thumbs-down" vote is made available, any data collected is skewed.
    wizard57m-cnet
    • RE: FaceBook: Do we really have to

      @wizard57m@...

      Yes, we need a "Dislike" button, which is obviously different than "Un-Like".

      Suppose your friend's pet died. So sad, but you end up clicking "LIKE". Are you some kind of sick creep? And if you don't click Like, does it make them think you don't care? Catch 22.
      ZStoner
    • RE: FaceBook: Do we really have to

      @wizard57m@...

      I absolutely agree. Nothing against the dinosaur, or this article. But there's a particular writer or two on ZDNet that I really don't care to hear from - and nowadays you can't even tell anymore until you look at the article, because the recent redesigns have increasingly removed identity from the headlines (first it was in your face, then there was at least a blog tag, now you can inspect the URL at best). There've been plenty of post lately where I'd have loved to be able to say, "this was a waste of time." Get us some honest ratings!
      dunraven
    • Nobody marketing on Facebook wants a "dislike" or "hate" button ...

      @wizard57m@

      That's why there will never be one. It would piss off too many people who are spending money on advertising.
      RationalGuy
  • RE: FaceBook: Do we really have to

    I don't understand tech authors.. Most people don't give a damn about their privacy! They regret misuse of their data rather than learning the legal ramifications of such creepiness. Most people are reactive to such things than proactive..<br><br>And if tech Journos don't like Facebook ( pun intended ), they should stop using it. It's free to use and there are no free lunches in this world.. Someone has to pay the server costs, development costs et all.<br><br>Sites like ZDnet would do better if they told how people can safeguard their privacy ( and of their children/relatives/friends too).<br><br>The Irony of this article is that it has a "Facebook Like" button at the end. Charity begins at home doesn't it? <br><br>Cut the double standards..
    Rahul Mulchandani
    • RE: FaceBook: Do we really have to

      @Rahul Mulchandani [b][i]"Sites like ZDnet would do better if they told how people can safeguard their privacy ( and of their children/relatives/friends too)."[/i][/b]<br><br>And in fact, we have.<br><br><a href="http://www.zdnet.com/blog/perlow/lock-down-your-facebook-profile-in-20-minutes-video-updated/12957" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.zdnet.com/blog/perlow/lock-down-your-facebook-profile-in-20-minutes-video-updated/12957</a>
      jperlow
      • RE: FaceBook: Do we really have to

        @jperlow Truth, and the above article's just one of the more recent ones. A lot of us probably don't need to be told by now, thanks to you and other websites pointing out privacy risks and ways to avoid them for more years than I can count offhand.
        KOS-MOS
    • RE: FaceBook: Do we really have to

      @Rahul Mulchandani
      "Most people don't give a damn about their privacy! They regret misuse of their data rather than learning the legal ramifications of such creepiness. Most people are reactive to such things than proactive.."

      Please state your statistics to back up this statement. I would suggest it is your opinion, and not based on any scientific fact. In science, we call that "BS".
      myles@...
      • RE: FaceBook: Do we really have to

        @myles@... I'm part of that group.
        tehpea
  • RE: FaceBook: Do we really have to

    WTF? The next time you even remotely make a reference to the toxic avenger if better be related to the old school 80's movie.
    Loverock Davidson
  • Awesome video

    To anybody who is watching it - watch it all the way to the end for a funny twist.
    Ed Burnette
    • RE: FaceBook: Do we really have to

      @Ed Burnette it's his recognition of just desserts, apparently after he caused a major stir from the lyrics in one of his videos in 2009 that was perceived as threatening towards women and was banned:

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2009/mar/30/orelsan-rapper-french-women-misogynist
      jperlow
  • RE: FaceBook: Do we really have to

    When you consider that the person who said they LIKED something, may have nothing in common with you - then why should their preference matter ?

    Many users prefer to limit who can see their preferences and messages on Facebook - and protect their privacy in the process.

    You still use Facebook as normal but protect your privacy, by CLOAKing those parts of your messages you want to keep private. Neither Facebook nor its advertising partners know what you're writing about.

    Pick a keyword, select the message you want to keep private, and CLOAK it and send. Only people you've shared your keyword with can then read your CLOAKed Facebook messages.

    Try the free CloakGuard plugin or online tool to CLOAK your message.
    Free Download -- https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/194385/
    Free Online tool -- http://cloakguard.com/tryitfree.php
    Demo -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4qN3TBqx08
    DavidPrentice
  • You only press the button if you want to

    nt
    tehpea
  • And the Like button ruined YouTube

    Personally, I rarely click on a Like button or link. For one thing, as others have said, there is no dislike button... which is stupid. And YouTube has switched from the star rating system to a "Like/Disklike" button. However, when looking at a list of videos, you can no longer tell which videos are popular. You instead get to spend time bringing up videos that are utterly worthless.
    shawkins
  • good idea about facebook

    A good post. Do you know tattoo? It is quite amazing. We supply kinds of tattoo kits, tattoo machines, tattoo needles, tattoo ink and so on. Please buy<a href="http://www.dealingway.com/Wholesale-tattoos-and-body-art_c80">tattoo machines</a>at wholesale price from us.jYu9q
    gavin.chan