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Facebook nation : total information awareness
Lee N., Springer Publishing Company, Incorporated, New York, NY, 2012. 248 pp. Type: Book (978-1-461453-07-9)
Date Reviewed: Mar 20 2013

People that use social networks like Facebook are now collectively called the “Facebook nation.” These networks are changing our lives, including how we meet new friends, shop, and stay in touch with friends, relatives, and acquaintances. When people interact with the Facebook nation, they assume freedom of association and freedom of expression, but personal information is usually not protected. Citizens of the Facebook nation do not understand that they are the products that the companies are selling. The underlying economic goal of social networks, to monetize personal data, is invisible to the citizens, and most of them don’t understand or support it. In spite of this, most do not wish to go back to the time before such networks.

This book has three parts, in addition to a prologue (Part 1) and epilogue (Part 5): Part 2, “Privacy in the Age of Big Data”; Part 3, “The Rise of Facebook Nation”; and Part 4, “Total Information Awareness in Facebook Nation.” Each chapter--there are 14--contains its own comprehensive list of references.

Part 2 has three chapters that introduce privacy issues with social networks, smartphones, and big data. The author illustrates the pervasiveness of Facebook with stories of people addicted to using it. Third-party apps and the privacy problems created by them are discussed briefly. The author notes that most Facebook users are not vigilant about their Facebook privacy.

Many young users are stressed out because they compare their own photos on Facebook with those of others. It is also suggested that the younger citizens of the Facebook nation seem less informed, less literate, and more self-absorbed. Apps that invade personal privacy continue to be developed. Facebook is the biggest depository of photos in the world.

Facebook has recently developed an app called Photo Finder that scans photos available publicly. Smartphones and Facebook apps collect large amounts of personal information from their users, which is becoming an increasingly lucrative commodity. It can be analyzed, repackaged, and sold. Although most of us would like to keep our personal information private, it appears that it is no longer possible without suitable privacy protection laws enacted by governments.

Part 3 begins with a discussion of Twitter, an app that creates a world of immediacy. These technologies--Facebook posts and Twitter messages--combined with Google searches are even impacting world politics, demonstrated amply by the Arab Spring. The author notes that for Facebook, no activity is too big or too small. Algorithms examine all data to determine what each user is passionate about.

While huge amounts of data are being collected by enterprises like Google, Apple, and Carrier IQ, some companies have admitted that some of the data should not have been collected. The trustworthiness of information in the Facebook nation is discussed, with examples showing how Google Search may be sabotaged and how advertisements can propagate misinformation. The author gives a number of examples of misinformation on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Part 4 has three chapters. “Living in Facebook Nation” explores digital personalities and identities. The author suggests a number of steps to prevent identity theft and improve privacy on Facebook and Google, and notes that the Facebook nation is progressing toward “total information awareness” whether we like it or not.

The book is peppered with interesting tidbits that make it easy to read. It is not a technical book, and it is not clear who the book is aimed at, but any reader, technical or nontechnical, will benefit from reading it.

Reviewer:  G. K. Gupta Review #: CR141041 (1306-0473)
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