The private tech sector is playing with new marketing-driven surveillance methods that borrow from the much-reviled tactical thinking that has made the NSA an object of public outrage. If a test of Facebook’s new tracking software is successful, someone somewhere could know where your mouse is pointing anywhere on an open Facebook page – all without your knowledge.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the company is trying out technology that “would greatly expand the scope of data that it collects about its users” by following a site visitor’s passive behavior – such as how long a mouse cursor stays hovered over a link or a picture – down to a minute level of detail.
Facebook analytics chief Ken Rudin told the Journal Tuesday the company could use the additional data for myriad purposes, from ad targeting to behavioral research in the development of new offerings:
Facebook collects two kinds of data, demographic and behavioral. The demographic data—such as where a user lives or went to school—documents a user’s life beyond the network. The behavioral data—such as one’s circle of Facebook friends, or “likes”—is captured in real time on the network itself. The ongoing tests would greatly expand the behavioral data that is collected, according to Mr. Rudin. The tests are ongoing and part of a broader technology testing program, but Facebook should know within months whether it makes sense to incorporate the new data collection into the business, he said.
It’s all benign until someone gets hurt. As we’ve seen our government allows the private sector to do much of the heavy lifting in its endeavor to reap boundless information on private citizens’ Internet habits, probable cause be damned.
If Facebook and other companies deploy tracking technology that essentially watches your every move as you go about your business, it won’t only be the Facebooks of the world that know more about you than most of your buddies. Because you can guarantee the government, through subpoenas and less-legal means, will have access to that same info, too.