“My Data is My Data:” Putting Choice Back into Social Media

my-data-is-my-data.jpgMy Data is My Data.org is a plug-in for those of us who are not so wild about social media hubs tracking our every move for data-mining purposes like the infamous Facebook Beacon controversy I wrote about in those two posts.

Believe me, the irony doesn’t escape me that the development of this useful plug-in to bring ‘choice’ back to the internet from vested interests and corporate coffers is being sponsored by a MySpace meets CraigsList style-ad community called FlugPo. (as a name generation gal, I have to ask myself, where DO they get these names?!)

I love it when technologists and advertisers trump their own kind, offering solutions-based freebies that kids and parents can ALL benefit from in open-source good-guy style…

I’ve officially joined the My Data is My Data Facebook group to see where this is headed in the privacy/preferences arena. We’ll see. Created by Chris Abraham of Abraham Harrison (who also started ‘Facecrook’ to warn folks about the Beacon balderdash) the FB group is promoting customization of preferences to suit YOUR agenda, not the advertisers’.

Hmn. Sounds good to me…

facebook-beacon.gifYou’d think Facebook would ‘get it’ that we want to control our own data…

Especially after they got a strong bracer from 50,000 of us in 8 days using their own mobilization tools to tell them we were ticked about being blindsided, sending our friends our purchases and preferences without our permission.

Yet…after a few (forced) ‘mea culpas’ in the press, and shifting to an ‘opt-in’ format, Facebook still snoops, spies, tracks, and harvests our info on the back end (albeit much more stealthily) saving the info for gawdonlyknows what’s next…

flugpo.pngYep. I’m hoping this new My Data is My Data plug-in has some chops.

Granted, the last freakin’ thing I need is another free ‘toolbar,’ but it sounds like a logical, user-driven way to put the control of your private information back into your own hands with all kinds of alerts, notifications, and ‘cookie’ choices, (alas not the chocolate chip kind) to customize your digital footprint beyond the ‘all or nothing’ approach.

mdimd-pop-up.pngA little pop-up box warns, “you are trying to navigate a FB collaborating website, would you like to continue?” and the user can change preferences or turn off or on cookies accordingly. Seems fair.

My first instinct is to globalize it into a ‘yeah, what about Google and all the REALLY big search engine info-collectors…how can this be applied universally?’ dialog…

google-doubleclick.jpgWhat about Double-Click? Double-Fusion? And every other integrated mega-mogul marketing play that’s out for kids’ eyeballs?

Even those of us who LOVE social media mobilization, HATE being sold out and commodified, especially without asking. And that’s not even counting the issue of kids! The arrogant gall of techno tools shipping data to ad partners on an “opt-out” or saturated eyeball/urban wallpaper basis is bound to have backlash…(if not from the parents, then from youth themselves!)

Guess THAT might fall into the policy arena on a much larger FCC and FTC privacy scale…

Or not. Those watchdogs haven’t been barking much…

ftc.jpgThough today, the Center for a Digital Democracy (CDD) and members of the Children’s Media Policy Coalition, (specifically American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Children Now, etc.) called the feds on their lax-n-loose policies…asking the the FTC ‘powers that be’ to get with the program and update themselves regarding online behavioral advertising and the sorry state of self-regulation in the youth arena. Yay.

Self-regulation is great in theory, but let’s face it, COPPA, schmoppa…

Sure, advertisers are supposed to comply with COPPA but we all know the corporate claws have been out early on, insidiously working fast and furious to blitz tweens and teens with profiling and branding sans privacy protection, before parents, media and the snail-pace of governmental bigwigs even get a whiff of what’s goin’ on. (um, Neopets, anyone?)

Many parents are still at the ‘What is social media?’ stage, much less having any hint of awareness of data-mining kids’ behavioral patterns and online fingerprints.

Talk about a tipped scale of the fairness factor…

Even the kids themselves don’t know the degree of personal data-mining going on…

eyeballs.pngJudging by our own Shaping Youth tween and teen advisors, they get ticked off when they see their eyeballs are being harvested and sold as fast as those macabre ‘urban myth, donor kidney heists’ where someone falls asleep and wakes up with their organs gone! (ooh, a tub full of ice and kids’ eyeballs, ewww…got a horrific visual there)

On the flip side, when people DO want info tailored to them, it can be perceived as a benefit and ‘value-add’ (e.g. a coupon for a store they frequent, or sale on the same block served to them via their GPS mobile).

It’s all a matter of privacy-security, how ads are handled (opt in/opt out, invasive vs. requested, etc.) who it benefits, and how to engage consumers in the dialog to advocate for themselves, and put the power back in THEIR hands.

My data is my data outlines the FAQ very succinctly and clearly on the whole info-sharing issue, at least as it applies to Facebook.

generation-digital.jpgBut again…what about a more global policy here?

I’d like to know who’s capturing MY info in all arenas…ever since I read Nowhere to Hide and Generation Digital I’ve had my awareness at “level orange.”

This news report on CNET yesterday gives a glimpse of prelim industry response in this glib comment, “if you have an agenda to push, remember this phrase, ‘protect the children.”

Hmn. C’mon, now, folks. Be fair.

I’m not a child, but I deserve the right to control MY own information.

And yes, kids ARE in a ‘most vulnerable’ category, no matter how much advertisers want to ‘pooh-pooh’ it…

Besides, the Beacon outcry on FB was an amalgamation of collegiate, adult, teens of all ages, speaking to the “surveillance aspects” applicable to us ALL. Those privacy practices need disclosure for everyone…NOT just ‘for the children.’

That said, here’s today’s (14 pp pdf) from child advocates submitted to the FTC from the Institute of Public Representation at Georgetown University. And, here’s the official FTC filing (37pp) addressed to FTC Office of the Secretary, Donald Clark…

Finally, below is late-breaking news from Congressman Edward Markey’s office with an early-stage reaction to same. Perusing his site, it looks like last week he opened a hearing on virtual worlds too, so this lawmaker could be one to watch as these digital events begin to unfold.

Meanwhile, kids, teens, youth advocates, parents…What do YOU have to say on the data-mining/privacy front?

Is mandatory transparency the way to go? Plug-ins and pop-ups when you’re visiting a site that monitors you? Age-appropriate regulation? Walled-off regions within platforms that are commercial-free and/or non-traceable?

Can the ‘my data is my data’ concept be applied to a larger scale beyond social media applicable to mobile, VoIP, virtual worlds and virtual goods via cookie-setting that puts choice into the user’s hands?

What are your solutions and ideas?

Sound off…As I wrote here, the digital frontier is ‘unwritten’…

No matter what your views are, now’s the time to tap into your own gut instincts and best practices and begin to have your say, before others do it for you!

Visual Credits: eyeballs: WPClipart

Congressman Edward Markey’s comments on the FTC filing today:


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and co-Chairman of the Bi-Partisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, released the following statement this afternoon in response to the Federal Trade Commission’s proposed principles for industry self-regulation of online behavioral advertising:

“The FTC has appropriately recognized the pressing need for updated online privacy protections for children that reflect the sophisticated data collection and behavioral targeting practices now used widely across the Internet. Without stronger protections, including a prohibition on collecting data on children’s and teens’ online activities, young Internet users may become unwitting targets of the ‘hidden persuaders’ of the digital age. The evolution of online behavioral advertising since the enactment of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act requires a commensurate rejuvenation of privacy safeguards. I look forward to monitoring the FTC’s work in this important area.”

Related Shaping Youth Posts on Internet Privacy/Kids’ Concerns:

Facebook: Can You Hear Me Now? Your Peepin’ is Creepin’ Me Out!

Dare to Share? What’s Your Beacon Story?

Related Posts Elsewhere:

Digital Natives/Harvard Law: Deleting Facebook (vs. Deactivating It )

Charlene Li’s Close Encounter with Facebook Beacon (Groundswell/Forrester Rsch)

Rough Seas Nearly Sink Facebook’s Beacon (CNET)

Lessons from the Beacon Backlash: iMediaConnection

Facebook Beacon Backlash Leads To Apology & Opt-Out Option: Laughing Squid blog



  1. Man, this guy gets around…another Chris Abraham group here on FB called: “How to Protect Your Privacy on FB”

    “When you register as a user of Facebook.com, the default settings allow the personal information you enter and photos you upload to be available to all other users to search and see. This is why it is important to change these default settings, if you care about your privacy. And, note that if you download Facebook Platform third-party applications into your profile, some of your information may be shared, despite
    the privacy protections you select.”

    Oh wait! There’s more…gosh…This is quite newsy…
    I guess I’m totally exposed at this point, so what they hey, but here are tips if you’re not:

    “Some tips to protect themselves:

    Watch your personal data. Information such as the address of his residence, phone and the cell can reach the hands of unknown Facebook and other networks. Do not include personal information in your profile, or information in order to determine their habits and routines.

    Use the tools of protection. The link ‘Privacy’, located at the top right of the homepage Facebook, you can configure all aspects of data security.
    Block people. Use ‘Block People’ (under ‘Privacy’) to block users who do not want to have any kind of contact with you.

    Limit your profile. In ‘Privacy’, the ‘Limited Profile’, may include people who do not want them to see their full profile, but apart from him. The features of this profile can be configured to give clicking ‘Edit settings’, located in this section.

    Care to join a network. If you have not registered with a network of Facebook, only their friends can see your profile. But at the time to join a network, its profile will be made public for all those who belong to it. It is therefore important to manage the privacy of your account.

    Protect your friends. For unknown users do not know your friends, click on ‘Privacy’ and looking around Search. At the bottom, where it appears the title ‘What Can People Do With My Search Results’, uncheck the check box “View your friend list’. Then click on the Save button.




    Facebook notifies you by email whenever actions are taken on Facebook that involve you, but when you have lots of friends that can be like a Spam in you Inbox.

    If you are interested in disable this notifications:

    Go to the “account” in the top right menu
    Click the “Notifications” TAB

    There you can disable all the basic FaceBook Notifications.

    Each Facebook application has its own email notification settings.”

  2. And from the FB side of things…here’s a great article on “best practices” for profile settings:

    If you’re gonna be on it…know how to use it!!! eh?


    AND…an old-ey but goody…how to prevent identity theft on FB (fr. last yr)


  3. LATimes…


    From the Los Angeles Times:

    Groups seek to shield minors’ Web data
    Child advocates seek regulatory guidelines to prevent Internet firms from gathering sensitive information.

    By Joseph Menn and Alana Semuels
    Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

    April 12, 2008

    A coalition of medical groups and child advocates called Friday for guidelines that would prevent Internet companies from tracking the behavior of minors online, contending that many adolescents are divulging more than they realize and aren’t digesting complex privacy policies.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Assn. were among those asking the Federal Trade Commission to encourage the Internet industry to stop profiling young Web surfers by monitoring the sites they visit and the interests they list on social networks such as MySpace and Facebook.

    Just as the government has restricted the amount and nature of television commercials aimed at children, the FTC should step in when interactive ad systems gather sensitive information from minors, the groups said in a filing Friday.

    It came amid a flurry of responses to an agency proposal for voluntary guidelines on a burgeoning form of online advertising known as behavioral targeting, a market expected to be worth billions in a few years.

    Other nonprofit groups expressed alarm at the rapid consolidation of the largest online ad companies and about Internet service providers beginning to share their vast amounts of data with marketers.

    “New ad networks appear to be using . . . traffic data for behavioral advertising without proper safeguards or user consent,” the Center for Democracy and Technology and two other groups wrote. “No regulation or self-regulation exists to address the privacy implications of this new model.”

    The medical groups said teens were among the most active Internet users and were the most sought-after by advertisers. But the groups said teens also were the least able to understand how to stop their personal activity from being tracked, used for marketing purposes and sold to others.

    Even most adults falsely believe that the presence of a privacy policy on a website means that their activity won’t be tracked and distributed, according to a 2003 study cited by the groups. According to another, the privacy policies of the top 50 U.S. websites on average require a college education to comprehend.

    “Is it reasonable that a 7-year-old or a 14-year-old can understand and consent to a complicated legal contract? That is essentially what a privacy policy is,” said Corie Wright, a lawyer for Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Public Representation, which filed the comments for the groups.

    A trade group representing more than 95% of the online ad-distribution industry said it was willing to ban the use of behavioral data to target children under age 13.

    The Network Advertising Initiative, whose backers include Google Inc., Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc. and AOL, said it also was considering barring use of some medical information when those data are tied to personal identifiers.

    Nothing more is needed, the group said.

    “Regulatory or legislative responses are frankly not warranted,” the group said, adding that targeting helped consumers find more-relevant ads.

    But a filing from the Center for Digital Democracy and U.S. PIRG called self-regulation a failure, saying not everyone in the industry would participate and the penalties for noncompliance were unclear.

    “Given the proposed acquisition of Yahoo by Microsoft, the consolidation of control over user data in a market influenced by the interests of the largest brand advertisers may very well shape the online and interactive content market in ways that are now unforeseen,” those groups wrote.

  4. re: Chris’ plug-in …Thrilled to hear they’ll have a Firefox plug-in rather than just IE…check out the details and how-tos here in this ComputerWorld article:


    Or if you really ‘dig it,’…’digg it’ 😉


    Mind you, this final paragraph holds some irony in it too, which was one of the first things I thought of as well…(citing a TechCrunch blog comment)—“Furthermore,” he said, “by installing the free toolbar, the users will be placing their trust in MyDataIsMyData — the same type of users who presumably would be put off by installing any sort of monitoring software on their computers.”

    Yep. Funny thing, that ‘trust’ element…

    This is where FB shot itself in the foot many times over, so I think folks are more likely to trust a FB ‘watchdog’ than FB itself! But what all do we know about MDIMD? These ARE the media literacy questions worth asking no matter who is in charge of the dialog…eh?

  5. http://publications.mediapost.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=Articles.showArticleHomePage&art_aid=80503

    Child Advocates Ask FTC To Limit Marketers Online
    by Wayne Friedman, Monday, Apr 14, 2008 5:00 AM ET

    BIG ON BEHAVIORAL MARKETING? THINK twice about using it on children. Children public interest groups have asked the Federal Trade Commission not to allow marketers to collect information online from children under 18 years old.

    The FTC already proposes self-regulatory guidelines when it comes to new behavioral marketing. This request comes as traditional electronic and print ads have given way to new digital messaging found on the Web, where marketing is focused on the behavior of people–their likes and dislikes.

    The Center for Digital Democracy, the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids’ media activists Children Now, and the United Church of Christ filed comments with the FTC, saying that kids are particularly sensitive to such marketing.

    Specifically, new digital messaging doesn’t always look like traditional marketing, and kids under 18 can’t always distinguish between ads and content, say the kids’ groups.

    A week ago, the Association of National Advertisers filed comments with the FTC asking for easier restrictions on all behavioral marketing–regardless of age–saying it could hurt a growing new media platform for marketers.

    The FTC has been pushing to curb marketers that would use non-identifiable information. It also believes that consumers should be allowed to opt-out of anonymous research tracking by marketers.

  6. Update here from the Gamine Expedition blog:

    FTC Asked to Ban Behavioural Tracking / Data Mining of Children Online

    In late December (2007), the FTC released a set of proposed principles to guide self-regulation within the realm of online behavioural advertising and its accompanying market research practices. It then invited the public to comment, receiving input from a variety of sources, including a very well articulated comment/brief submitted by a coalition of child advocacy groups. See the rest here…


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