Flashmob privacy protests target Facebook tomorrow: New York, San Francisco

Privacy activists target pre-IPO Facebook for flash mob protests tomorrow in New York and San Francisco.

Facebook is the target of a bicoastal "flash mob" protest tomorrow as privacy activists take a stand for user privacy protections - right as Facebook readies to go public.

Activists from online privacy company Abine are organizing the simultaneous protests this Tuesday, May 15.

The flash mobs will form two conga lines at 11am (PST/EDT), one each in New York (City Eventions) and San Francisco (Prescott Hotel).

Online supporters are encouraged to tweet with the hashtag #GoPrivate.

The in-person conga line is intended as a visual play on the idea of Facebook closely following its users every move online.

Lawyer and privacy analyst Sarah Downey of Abine - featured here previously in How To Remove Yourself from People Search Websites - tells me,

Our message is that Facebook's going public, but you don't have to.

We're intentionally doing the event a few days before Facebook's IPO, which is expected on the 18th, as a quirky way to draw people's attention to the fact that Facebook is following all of us online.

We get to use the many great things that Facebook offers, but only in exchange for Facebook collecting, storing, and selling our private data for advertising.

The protest also intends to raise money for a good cause while attracting participants.

Downey explained,

Everyone who shows up gets an awesome free t-shirt and a $1 donation from us to the National Network to End Domestic Violence for each person who shows up.

A lot of our customers have survived domestic violence, and staying private online is a really important part of their continued safety.

Abine will donate up to $1000 for each city. Tomorrow's online participants will see $1 donated for every online share of Abine's Facebook page poll and tweet of the #GoPrivate hashtag (up to $1,500).

Abine: Facebook is trading off your personal data

Abine may be a privacy company that stands to gain positive press from the pro-privacy flash mobs, but some readers will find that the points this protest raises are sobering.

As of March 31, Facebook has over 901 million monthly active users, 488 million monthly active mobile users, and sees over 3.2 billion Likes and comments made every day.

Current rumor is that Facebook will be worth between $85 - $95-billion.

How much are YOU worth to Facebook?

To make a direct statement about user worth prior to Facebook's IPO, Abine created an interactive calculator where users can see an estimate of their yearly worth to Facebook.

Abine's flash mob coordinators will also be giving out t-shirts to flash mob participants in both cities; the back of each Facebook-blue shirt reads, "You're being followed (online)."

Abine sees the protest as a fun way to raise awareness for users, hoping to drive home the message that Facebook isn't free - users are paying for Facebook with their data (a combination of personal data and online habits).

According to Poynter, advertising comprised 85% of Facebook’s revenues last year. Ad revenue is key to Facebook's valuation, and its ad revenue is closely tied to collecting personal info and online activities from users.

Facebook's most recent privacy controversy showed the company's support for widely-opposed "cybersecurity bill" CISPA (Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act).

The bill is considered harmful by free speech and privacy rights groups such as the EFF and ACLU for not including adequate consumer or citizen protections.


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