If you’re on Facebook and plan on talking about the election this year, beware. Here is their plan for the 2012 election:
Facebook announced yesterday that “every post and comment — both public and private — by a U.S. user that mentions a presidential candidate’s name will be fed through a sentiment analysis tool that spits out anonymized measures of the general U.S. Facebook population.” This analysis, along with reader polls and other information, will in turn be shared with politico.com.
This of course isn’t the first time Facebook has played fast and loose with your private information, and it won’t be the last. And it does pose some interesting question/problems:
This raises at least three concerns. The first is that many users may not want to be part of any “sentiment analysis” or poll. For example, they may be a firm supporter of Mitt Romney but find Ron Paul’s ideas interesting. Are they now going to feel hesitant to talk about Paul’s ideas out of awareness that it might be registered as support or boost a candidate they don’t like? Second, we don’t see any mention of user consent anywhere in Facebook’s announcement. How has Facebook decided that users agreed that their personal communications can and should be used in this way?
Finally, what other uses might this information be put to in the future? Will it be used to serve users ads from politicians or manipulate voting preferences in some way? We can see the marketing materials from Facebook now: “Candidates, serve ads to secret supporters! No one knows about their preferences except their closest friends and us.”
I’m also concerned about the prospect of Politico, known for their obvious support of Democrats and attacks on Republicans of every stripe, using the information to help/hurt candidates in some way. I don’t support Politico and as long as they play the partisan games they do (see Herman Cain), I won’t. BUT! There is a way around this. We’re discussing it on the P&L Facebook fan page, and having some fun doing it. I suggested we come up with nicknames, but another user had a better idea. Per the commenter:
I’m just going to respond by calling every candidate RON PAUL.
And that’s just what we’ve been doing, to hilarious effect. Per another commenter:
I can’t wait for the State of the Union to see how Michelle matches the girls colors with hers and RON PAUL’S tie.
I gotta go get me some RON PAUL at the grocery store and while I am at it, I should get some RON PAUL when I am at the hardware store. All I want for Christmas is RON PAUL.
We even got creative with Sarah Palin:
I’ll help. SARAH RON PAUL PALIN SARAH RON PAUL PALIN LOL
If enough people do this, or something similar, it will throw a monkey wrench in Facebook’s and Politico’s plans. They’ll have to sift endlessly through misleading data, if they are even able to. I encourage you to adopt a similar strategy while on FB this year, and by all means, drop by our page to keep informed and to laugh!
*For Tribal Dufuses: This is not an endorsement of Ron Paul.