Your Facebook Is a One-Way Mirror

Mark Zuckerberg is credited with saying something wonderfully poetic:

“By giving people the power to share, we’re making the world more transparent.”

It’s a nice hypothesis: give people the ability to exchange thoughts and experiences and wisdom and they’ll be able to see the world more clearly.

Ironic, then, that the company he runs will probably never go public with its capital.

Is the world better if Facebook’s investors are private?

Would the public benefit if Facebook’s shares were traded on open exchanges?

Goldman Sachs recently injected $450 Million of private equity into Facebook for parcelling up to its wealthiest clients. The valuation workup for Facebook? $50 Billion.


Facebook sees you when you gaze down your wall. Everyday, Facebook knows more and more about your data – perhaps more than you do. For Facebook tracks and remembers the trails of links you share and the people you friend – activity which you likely forget.

Is that kind of world, which Facebook is “making”, a healthy place to live?

Facebook is a one-way mirror. It’s becoming an all-seeing eye. And you? You are becoming the observed.

Is Facebook a Huxlian version of 1984? Perhaps. Zuckerberg, interestingly, was born in 1984.

Mark Zuckerberg has created the single largest gathering of human beings in the history of our species.

It’s a gathering he claims will share itself into freedom from the shackles of a murky world.

Here’s the problem with the capital arrangement Zuckerberg is hungry for: Capital is Trust, Trust is Capital.

Credit: Creditum – Credere – Credo – Belief in your promise. Trust.

Capital: Capitus – Cap – Capitol. Head. People.

Whatever your feelings about regulatory processes, one of the reasons the SEC was founded was to grant the public an accounting of financial and operational activities.

Private equity is an important part of the healthy operating system we call Democracy.

At some point, however, the public’s right to transparency outweighs the rights of companies to protect their public-affecting operations.

Unless Facebook is forced to go public, it’s unlikely that it will – not anytime soon.

Facebook doesn’t need more than 499 investors, which is the SEC’s trigger for an IPO.

Goldman Sachs is now Facebook’s private treasure chest.

And you? You are powerful. Sharing. Making the world more transparent one photo, one status update, one Like, one comment at a time.

No matter how brightly clear the world gleams from all of this transparency – this one-way mirror – you will never know nor see the seeing knower.

The one eye has fixed his gaze on thee / and thy world is held in the hands of his privacy.

@PhilBaumann@HealthIsSocial – Private Transparencies


Facebook: The Spy Who Liked Me

Getting people to like each other is one of the best ways to know what they’re saying, doing and planning. They open up. They trust. They share.

All great spies know this.

So does Facebook.

According to an article by social network researcher Arnold Roosendaal, Facebook’s Like button is more than just a sharing tool. In his paper, tittled Facebook Tracks and Traces Everyone: Like This!, Roosendaal states:

…[the Like button] is also used to place cookies on the user’s computer, regardless whether a user actually uses the button when visiting a website. As an alternative business model this allows Facebook to track and trace users and to process their data. It appears that non-Facebook members can also be traced via the Like button. [emphasis mine]

(I urge readers to download the paper, especially if you want to know more about the work Facebook does behind the scenes with its Like button and other Social plugins and Facebook Connect. Go ahead.)

What’s key here is that even if you don’t have a Facebook account or aren’t logged in to Facebook, the company is likely going to track what you do on the Web.

Since Facebook knows so much about you – your email, your birthday, your contacts, etc. – the Like button could be one of the tastiest cookies a spy could ever eat. Well done, Facebook. Well done indeed!


Think of the potential Healthcare privacy implications here.

What will Facebook know, or make, of your health data?

Would Facebook offer you something useful for your health in return?

For example, Facebook could suggest Friends or Groups with similar health concerns and conditions based on the data it collects. Or it could suggest healthcare games or other applications?

Alternatively, Facebook could enable advertisers or data miners to use the data however they wished.  As far as I can tell, Facebook has no obligation to HIPAA rules – and neither do application developers or other third parties.

The healthcare ramifications of Facebook’s presence on the Web and its ever-growing knowledge of user data and behavior are bigger than I think we’ve realized.

It’s unlikely that you will see much by way of governmental regulation over Facebook in this regard to privacy. Why? Well, what government would want to impede an endless and continuous flow of personal data into a central repository that it couldn’t have dreamed of creating on its own? None. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Some people may not care about their privacy. Or: they might not know that they care because they don’t realize just how much data they are revealing as they browse and otherwise use the Internet.

So users and non-users of Facebook should know how their data is being used. How – or if – that kind of awareness is raised is up for question.

Regardless, one thing is becoming clear: Facebook is on its way to virtual omniscience.


Do you see the picture emerging with the rise of Facebook?

Do you still see Facebook as a social network or social platform? Or do you see it’s potential to become a vast intelligence agency that knows more about your behaviors than you do?

There are other players who also spy on us. They don’t call it that, but that’s what it is. Google and Facebook, for instance, are trying to catch up with each other’s going concern so they can rule all. A big war is shaping up. Spy versus spy.

Facebook is the spy who likes me.

Facebook is the spy who likes you.

Not sure if that’s a good thing. But there’s probably not much we can do about it. I guess you could watch this then share it on Facebook and see who Likes it:

BTW: more on mirrors.

@PhilBaumann @HealthIsSocial

Fully Informed Awareness in Healthcare Social Media

We may live in a digital age, but our personal preferences for how we publicly or privately share our data are analogical. That is to say: between Private and Public, there is a spectrum of choices we can make in selecting what parts of ourselves we want to be private or public.

One patient may willingly choose to put all of her health data completely in public social platforms; another may choose to share only selected data; and another may choose to publish no data online.

But there’s another aspect to the choices we make about our online behaviors: our level of awareness of what truly happens to our data and ourselves as we share data and stories online. The more aware and informed we are, the more likely we are to make choices we won’t regret.

The Web rarely forgets, while we may forget what data we once shared or where we shared it; as a consequence, the decisions we make about our revelations may not fully take account of the full story.

So we have two variables to consider with respect to our online behavior. Here’s a visual:

Different people have different levels of willingness to share and of awareness of what happens as they share.

Just as we have fully informed consent or refusal for procedures, entities which choose to get involved with consumers will need to consider what responsibility they have in ensuring that participants are as fully informed and aware as possible of the consequences of their online behavior.

But the public social media we have today are not ideal. They were not designed, nor intended, to handle the subtle nuances of Healthcare information exchange, patient-provider collaboration or therapeutic communication.

That doesn’t mean that they can’t be re-purposed and used for public interactions in a healthcare context.

It does mean that healthcare providers need to fully understand the challenges of “doing” health care online.

It means we need a new generation of software that makes it much easier to assess consumers’ levels of willingness to share data and their awareness of the consequences of their public (or private) sharing.

Knowledge, not fear, should guide how Healthcare faces the fact of today’s communication realities – no matter how hard or frightening or unchartered.

So what do you think? What kinds of responsibilities do providers and entities have to fully inform consumers about the nature of a Web that never forgets?

In our upcoming Webinar, we will be joined by empowered patient advocate David deBronkart to give us a one of four perspectives on the relationship between Social Media and Healthcare. Sign up!