Facebook can maybe wreck your life



Bioethicist and all-around fascinating person Lori B. Andrews
  • Saverio Truglia
  • Bioethicist and all-around fascinating person Lori B. Andrews
And even if Facebook doesn't wreck your life, it can quite possibly leak all kinds of out-of-context minutiae about you to those who might possibly want to abuse that information. Maybe.

This is according to an opinion piece in Sunday's New York Times, "Facebook Is Using You," by Lori Andrews, a bioethicist, novelist, professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law, and one of 29 fascinating Chicagoans profiled in our inaugural People Issue late last year.

Andrews, who in the People Issue likened her past work to "the cleanup person, like in Pulp Fiction," was once tasked with swooping in (tuxedo-clad, no doubt) to assist "scientists [who] have done some humongo thing, and either the White House or the scientists themselves will call me and say, 'Oh my goodness, did we violate any laws?'"

Now she wants to come to our rescue—in part because we've become the largely apathetic prey of data miners and privacy plunderers, among them the big, bad (or at least big, opportunistic) Facebook.

According to her piece in the Times:

The Internal Revenue Service searches Facebook and MySpace [MySpace? Really?] for evidence of tax evaders’ income and whereabouts, and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has been known to scrutinize photos and posts to confirm family relationships or weed out sham marriages.

If, after reading the People Issue profile, this blog post, and the above-mentioned piece, you want to know more about Andrews's assessment of the state of our digital privacy (I do), you might consider downloading (and then liking on Facebook) her new book, I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did: Social Networks and the Death of Privacy. It got a mostly positive review from the Times six days before her opinion piece. "[I]nformative but occasionally frustrating" was the verdict:

Some of her questions are challenging and potentially explosive. . . . [M]ost of Andrews’s concerns here are hypothetical — but, as our digital traces are collected and analyzed by for-profit intermediaries, it’s worth worrying about.

I'm worried. Are you? Let me know on Facebook.

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