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Whack A Mole In The Age of Facebook

Facebook is “testing” me

2 min read
Whack A Mole In The Age of Facebook

Amid all the talk about Facebook's IPO, it's important to remember the reason the company might be worth US $100 billion—the hundreds of millions of us who look at it every day.

I like Facebook. It’s part of my morning routine; I read the front pages of the local papers and the first section of the New York Times, including the editorials. Then I check Facebook, because if I missed any important news or thought-provoking story, it's likely been shared by a Facebook friend who got up earlier than I did.

I also hate Facebook. I hate the constant tweaking that disrupts my routine; I’m used to looking in one spot for something, next day it’s not there. I think I’m seeing recent updates, but all of a sudden I’m not. And don’t get me started on Timeline.

But what really drives me crazy is the tendency of things that I really really don’t want in my news feed, that I’ve zapped into oblivion, supposedly permanently, to keep popping back up again. And then I have to click a button, or a click a couple of buttons, to send them back into oblivion. Things like game updates. I thought I managed to hide all game updates, but this week, it seems, they’re back, and I have to whack them back down one at a time. (People, you’re playing too many games!)

Worse, I think Facebook is testing local ads, because in my news feed I’m getting updates from local businesses I never liked, subscribed to, or friended.  I’m sure of that; I went to one of the offenders' Facebook pages and, indeed, I don’t “like” that business. Well, it’s not that I don’t really like it, I don’t get there often, but once in a while I buy something, it’s just that I don’t like like it, that is, Facebook like it, that is… Oh, never mind.

The point is, these "updates" are not flagged as ads, which is extremely annoying. Anyway, I’m whacking them down as fast as I can (reporting them as spam), in case the powers that be over at Facebook want to know how I'm feeling about news about sausage on sale (I kid you not) being slipped into my feed (no pun intended). Please let's just let ads be ads. (And indeed, the next day an update from the same business showed up on the left as a sponsored post.)

This is not what I’m looking for in my morning routine—read the papers, yes; check pointers to interesting articles on Facebook, yes; exercise my right to ignore clearly marked ads, yes; play a little Whack-A-Mole—NO! 

Photo credit: Jencu

Follow me on Twitter @TeklaPerry.

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How Police Exploited the Capitol Riot’s Digital Records

Forensic technology is powerful, but is it worth the privacy trade-offs?

11 min read
 Illustration of the silhouette of a person with upraised arm holding a cellphone in front of the U.S. Capitol building. Superimposed on the head is a green matrix, which represents data points used for facial recognition
Gabriel Zimmer

The group of well-dressed young men who gathered on the outskirts of Baltimore on the night of 5 January 2021 hardly looked like extremists. But the next day, prosecutors allege, they would all breach the United States Capitol during the deadly insurrection. Several would loot and destroy media equipment, and one would assault a policeman.

No strangers to protest, the men, members of the America First movement, diligently donned masks to obscure their faces. None boasted of their exploits on social media, and none of their friends or family would come forward to denounce them. But on 5 January, they made one piping hot, family-size mistake: They shared a pizza.

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