I Have Sold Your Facebook Data

I suppose you’ll call this a confession. But that would imply some kind of remorse, and I have to say, I feel pretty good. Probably the money helps.

No, it’s because we’re friends — Facebook friends, and you’ll agree with me that’s a pretty elastic term — that I feel I owe you full disclosure. So here goes: I have sold your personal data to a variety of extremely interested and apparently deep-pocketed marketing firms.

Look, it’s a trend. And all my life, I’ve gotten into these things too late. The dot-com frenzy, remember that? I invested in my first startup in late 2001. Cautious, I guess. Well not this time. There are lots of people out there who want to know about you, my Facebook friends. How many Twilight books you’ve read, or about the interesting fact that you’re Jewish but also a Tea Partier, or that you recently joined a drum circle. And let’s just be honest. If I don’t tell them, someone else is going to do it and cash in bigtime.

Some of you are much younger than me. I see that you have over a thousand friends, and it makes me shake my head. Here’s one thing I’ve learned: in this life, you’re lucky if you can count the people who really love you on one hand. There might be a few dozen others who find you quirky, or pleasant company, or whatever. Then there’s your family and your in-laws, who are such an important part of your life, whether you like it or not.

These are the people who are really valuable, who really mean something. Why? Because you know so much more about them. What they like to eat, and read, and watch. Where they like to go out for drinks, or take vacations. Who they hang out with, do business with, vote for. Maybe even who they sleep with. These people are a goldmine… literally.

But of course now thanks to Facebook, everyone has a value. Some less than others, of course. I’m finding that there isn’t so much demand for the personal information of my better-known friends, like Apolo Ohno and the Dalai Lama. Tapped out, I guess. But you, Cute High School Girl Who Wouldn’t Give Me the Time of Day 30 Years Ago, But Now Wants to Flirt Online… bring it on, baby. Because I see you like to collect Hummels and you’re knitting another sweater. And I find that means a lot to me.

But Eddie, what about my privacy, you’re probably thinking. Well, snap out of it, because there’s no such thing anymore. Computers are recording every transaction you make and every online conversation you have, the phone company is recording your every call and text, cameras are recording every move you make outside your house. Take comfort in the fact that amid all those huge reams of data, you’re actually kind of anonymous unless you do something unusual or interesting. And again, addressing my younger friends, you’ll find yourself doing fewer and fewer of those as time goes by anyway.

One last thing. I guess it’s only fair that you should be able to market my information too. I’ve adjusted my “privacy settings” accordingly, but if you want a quick summary, I’m in my early 50s, have a college degree, purchase top-shelf liquor, collect classic movies on DVD and donate to film preservation, enjoy yoga and meditation, have recently gotten into gardening — and after a few slow years, my personal income is rising again. But then you already knew that last part.

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