It’s not like we all expected Facebook to be a paragon of privacy, but a new paper shows the social media king is keeping track of every time you write something - and then not post it.
Studying the habits of 3.9 million English speaking Facebook users, the paper shows that 71% will leave part of their post on the cutting room floor, or just not post at all. People with more “boundaries”, and males, are the more likely groups to have a last-minute retraction.
“Self-censorship” is the term used in the paper, written by Facebook software engineer intern Sauvik Das and Facebook data scientist Adam Kramer. It’s odd to see the release coming from internally, as it seems like the type of info Facebook might not want to share. A bit of their own medicine?
The paper stops short of saying Facebook records *what* you type, but confirms that when self-censorship takes place, it is recorded into a system of metrics as metadata.
It’s not too hard to imagine Facebook actually recording what’s been typed and discarded, keeping that info for whoever might want the potentially valuable information within. Be that just trying to understand why people don’t post, selling it on to advertisers, or complying with NSA demands for metadata. It's something to think about when you're about to post something the internet will hunt you down for...
Facebook has always had a philosophy of increasing the amount of sharing, though all above scenarios seem plausible. Perhaps no one would enter sensitive information into a comment thread or status update anyway, but what about a message? It's the type of thing that many won't care about, but it does raise questions about the legality and ethicality of collecting data which someone consciously chose to not share.
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