January 2, 2012

Facebook never forgets you

Regular followers of this blog can maybe remember that in May 2010 I gave up my Facebook account and till today very proud to belong to the minority without an account to THE Social Network. However from the social media marketing researcher's perspective this proved to be not very handy! I occasionally am refused to look to marketing actions of known and less known brands in their Facebook pages because I have no account in it. So today I took the big decision to open a new account but strictly for scientific purposes! That means no friends and contacts online and a name that would conceal my identity. I gave the right gender and date of birth but no other information whatsoever. To avoid the flux of invitations for Facebook" friendships" I made the content of my page invisible to everyone except myself. You can imagine my surprise when in a few milliseconds after the account was made my screen was full with pictures and names of people all known to me inviting me to become friends!!! The system knew exactly who I was despite the new name and the lack of any information about me.

So what's the snag? Nothing more than "browser fingerprinting" I read about some time ago in combination I think with information stored in the Facebook data mines from my previous account (closed in 2010 as I mentioned earlier). It must be a piece of cake for the Facebook algorithms to recognize me and find instantly about one hundred potential "friends" and "likes".

Conclusion: once in Facebook forever in Facebook. Despite all talk and legislation protecting our privacy the simple truth is that there is no way to erase personal information once it is stored in the memory boards of Facebook's (and for sure many other social networks). The other question of course here is how much personal information is stored there and what exactly happens with it. If you want to find out you must follow the example of the Austrian law student Max Scherms