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    San Jose Mercury News: How Facebook has changed our idea of ‘too much information’

    The San Jose Mercury News discusses privacy and the effects of social-networking services such as Facebook:

    With Facebook at the forefront, social networking companies with business models hungry for personal data and a youthful generation raised on the Internet seem to be pulling the 21st century toward a more “transparent” culture, in the approving words of Mark Zuckerberg, the social networking giant’s 26-year-old founder. Facebook’s stated mission: “Giving people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.” In other words, letting more people know more about each other.

    This comes as long-standing social mores and sensibilities are being shaken by the convergence of Silicon Valley technologies. Besides Facebook, which is based in Palo Alto, sites such as Twitter and YouTube are encouraging hundreds of millions of people to share information and images. Gadgets developed here, from the PC to the iPad, have made it simple for users to create, communicate and access that vast amount of digital data. And Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and others have made it easier to find all of that information. […]

    The defining acronym of our time may be TMI, the text-message shorthand for “too much information.” In the six years that Facebook has turned its “sharing” service into a global phenomenon approaching a half-billion users, a Nexis search of major newspapers found a 2,000 percent increase in the use of the term “oversharing.”

    The hazards of TMI can range from embarrassment and job dismissals to fraud. PleaseRobMe.com, a website that uses Twitter’s search capability, was set up to highlight how people’s willingness to disclose their whereabouts makes their homes vulnerable to burglars. […]

    Laws to strengthen personal rights on the Internet, some argue, must also anticipate the unintended consequences of advancing technologies. Improvements in facial recognition, for instance, could result in identifying the individuals in the vast numbers of photos and videos on the Web — whether they want to be or not. As it is, individuals have no control over whether their images are posted by others, or comments made about them.

    But the companies driving the TMI trend argue that users post information voluntarily. And a close examination of Internet use, scholars say, reveals a disconnect between individuals’ expressed attitudes about privacy and their behavior. […]

    The conclusion many researchers and advocates draw is not that actions speak louder than words, but that the economic interests of many Internet companies are served by users’ ignorance.

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