There are almost two billion people worldwide who are on Facebook. So odds are, you’re one of them. Your profile houses a ton of information about you: stuff like your relationship status, where you live and work, and all of the different stuff you like.
Sue Halpern is a writer at the New York Review of Books, and fellow at Middlebury College. Her most recent article is “They Have, Right Now, Another You.” She spoke to Marketplace about just what our data can say about us.
How the data algorithms work:
We think, ‘Oh, they’re looking at what we like, and who we are, and who our friends are and they’re using that to sell us stuff that we want’ – which in some sense is probably true – but really what they’re doing is compiling some kind of profile of you that they’re selling to advertisers and making a bundle of money. I think last year it was something like $4 billion. So, it’s in their best interest to make you look really interesting to their advertisers.
What you can do to protect your data:
I think that one thing that we can all do is be really, really vigilant and careful about what information we hand over. That starts with very simple things, even on your Facebook profile. You don’t have to say that you’re in a relationship, you don’t have to tell them where you live. All those things may seem really minimal and throwaway, but when they’re taken in with lots of other pieces of data, it means that you can be identified very easily and as a consequence, give up your privacy without ever really thinking you’ve done anything.
Click the audio player above to hear the full interview.