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Are You Sure You Want to Friend Facebook?

The media business (and yes, since Facebook and Google put content on screens, they are part of it) is entering a Brave New World where marketers are learning with extraordinary specificity your occupation, state of health, social status, hobbies, favorite movies and music, sexual proclivities and practically every other piece of meaningful information about you. We are told that this will improve the rate of return on advertising by orders of magnitude, and I believe it.

But the downsides are potentially enormous, and haven’t been thought through. If information is power, we are handing power on an unprecedented scale to the people who control what we see and hear on those broadband pipes. When Barack Obama joked at Facebook last week that “I’m the guy who got Mark Zuckerberg to put on a coat and tie”, he was a lot closer to the truth of his position in the scheme of things than he realized. Continue reading

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