In addition to the blood of your firstborn, a retinal scan, and other biometric methods. Do you trust Facebook to be the issuer of your “Internet Driver’s License”?
Sometimes I feel like I’m Charlton Heston’s character in Soylent Green, running around screaming “it’s made of people!” while the masses around me munch away muttering through full mouths “but it’s so yummy“. Recently I asked the opinion of friends on Facebook about which e-mail client I might switch to after having a nightmarish experience “upgrading” to Thunderbird 3 (an experience that many have shared, by the way). One thing that surprised me a little was that a few tech-savvy friends said “why not G-Mail?” to which I replied “because it’s a web service not an e-mail client” and added “besides, I don’t like all my messages eternally remaining in the hands of a company whose CEO has so much contempt for personal privacy“, to which one of these friends said “privacy is an illusion”. Which let me use one of my favorite ironic quotes, i.e., Obama’s Cynicism Is A Sorry Kind Of Wisdom. Because while it’s true that certain lifestyle choices insure that most of your life is an open book, that doesn’t mean we all have to roll over, shave our heads, get our citizen ID tattoo, and start living like we’re in the movie THX 1138 or something. Call me a Luddite, but in spite of the fact that I have nothing to hide, I’m not going to give all my trust to Google and Facebook when it comes to my personal communications, and I’m certainly not going to start “checking in” with services like Foursquare or Facebook Places. I feel like there are degrees of privacy, and that we’re all entitled to maintain as much as we like or are able. I was a little annoyed that Google captured me sitting on my porch a few years ago, but I’ve since moved, and clearly, I blew my own cover in that instance out of amusement. But how would you feel about Facebook being your Internet Driver’s License? That idea doesn’t appeal to me too much, for a few reasons. First, on top of the fact that Mark Zuckerberg has already declared privacy dead, ex-Googler and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg agrees, and is probably more eager to sell your data than Zuckerberg is. And since that’s a Gawker Media article I just linked to, let’s just take a moment to remember what can happen to millions of us at once when we entrust our personal information to a site that thrives on verified users but doesn’t care about their privacy. Facebook has done little to improve the security of your information as they’ve grown; anyone can still easily download this Firefox plugin and start hacking nearby users’ accounts with a method called sidejacking, and Facebook’s one time password solution for mobile users has a profound intrinsic flaw that I’m surprised hasn’t gotten more attention. My recent favorite was when I went to log in and Facebook put on a little Security Theater (see nice overview of the process here if you haven’t experinced it yet ) for me by asking for another e-mail, my mobile number, and then asked me to identify my friends in a lineup. Something that apparently has created real problems when people have been asked to identify friend’s dogs and Gummy Bears to get into their account. Becoming the sole single sign-on service provider so far remains the holy grail of huge tech companies like Google and Microsoft, but now it looks like Facebook has a chance of pulling it off. How would you feel about Facebook being the primary issuer of your internet traveling papers?