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Too much information

by Brian Clarey

editorial

TMI is an internet acronym created in the same vein as LOL (laughing out loud), LMFAO (a stronger version of the same sentiment. TMI stands for “too much information,” usually applied to awkward online confessions or inadvertent overshares. But this week the concept is being debated and defined by one of the ’net’s biggest players.

Facebook is a behemoth of a website. The social network boasts more than 400 million users, though the site itself has only been available to the general public since 2006, and an additional million sign on each day.

Facebook obliterated its rival, MySpace, in large part by setting boundaries and privacy walls for its users, limiting exposure to those outside their friend circles and geographical networks.

MySpace, since it was purchased by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. in 2005 for $580 million, has degraded into a domain peopled largely by creepers, frauds and wannabes that lost 15 percent of its advertising revenue last year. But Facebook gained 10 percent in 2009, and the company is looking at ways to wrangle even more dollars from its virtual social monopoly.

In 2005, when Facebook essentially “went public,” most of a user’s profile could only be seen by her friend list, and none of it could be accessed by anyone not on Facebook. Now, the only things behind the shrinking privacy wall — available not only to advertisers but also the internet at large — are birthdate and contact information.

The entire Facebook population is now a segmented, highly targeted consumer base sorted according to the personal information, online habits and friend lists of all users.

The situation has prompted some outrage amongst pundits and citizenry, and rightly so. By altering its privacy policy — which has happened six times since 2005 — Facebook essentially changes the rules of participation, the terms of the contract between the site and its users. But here’s the deal: Users don’t pay a dime for Facebook, in much the same way YES! Weekly is free for our readers. The revenue has got to come from somewhere. In many ways, Facebook has stumbled onto a near-perfect business model in which users supply the content in return for connectivity, and the company reaps the financial rewards.

The rub is that Facebook loses users with each layer of privacy it strips away. Facebook is valuable to its users only as long as everybody is on it. Ask yourself: Would you stay on Facebook if half your friends dropped out?

But in this stage of the internet age, the privacy issue may be a moot one. Most if us have plugged so much of our personal information into the matrix that we already have demographic profiles posted online. Don’t believe us? Go to spokeo.com and type in your name. Things have progressed way beyond Google.

YES! Weekly chooses to exercise its right to express editorial opinion in our publication. In fact we cherish it, considering opinion to be a vital component of any publication. The viewpoints expressed represent a consensus of the YES! Weekly editorial staff, achieved through much deliberation and consideration

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