In our Dynamic Identity pilots researchers from the University of Leiden and the CWI created modules on profiling online for youngsters aged 11 to 18. One central thesis is that Facebook reveals information one “gives off” – one generates without wanting to share it – to one’s friends. The example given in the pilot is of a student whose mother has a depression. The student does not communicate this to her friends but projects an image of a happy, careless student. Facebook though keeps track of what we are searching for and what we are acting upon and shares that with others by showing the interpretation of these searches and actions as an additional kind of like. Because information based on likes can be used in social advertising the student might be shown in Facebook ads related to depression – and thus breaking the private facade that the student tries to keep up.
Currently “Facebook must face a class action lawsuit accusing it of violating its users’ privacy by scanning the content of messages they send to other users for advertising purposes, a U.S. judge has ruled”. The mechanism addressed is in line with the description above: “The lawsuit, filed in 2013, alleged that Facebook scanned the content of private messages sent between users for links to websites and would then count any links in a tally of “likes” of the pages. Those “likes” were then used to compile user profiles, which were then used for delivering targeted advertising to its users, the lawsuit said. The complaint alleged that the scanning of the private messages violated the federal and California state law. According to Tuesday’s ruling, Facebook ceased the practice at issue in October 2012. But the company said it still does some analysis of messages to protect against viruses and spam, the ruling said.”

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