Ah, Facebook! That magical place where 1.23 billion monthly active users can debate about the world’s sociological ills, play Farm Heroes Saga, or get an exclusive sneak peek at Mimi and Nikko’s sextape. The social network is also a place where any cause, affiliation, or interest you’re into has a group or a page associated with it. But before you go and click ‘Like’, there are some things you should know about what that might mean for you and your privacy.
First and foremost, your Facebook likes could potentially hit you in the wallet, especially if you’re on the job hunt. Individual page likes can hinder you from getting a job, or could cause you to lose one, as in this case. Even if no single page ‘like’ appears all that controversial, your likes taken together can create a profile on you that tells people more than you may have intended. Seemingly unrelated likes have predicted race and gender with above-90% accuracy, sexual orientation with 75% accuracy in females and 88% accuracy in males, and substance use (or abuse) with 73% accuracy. What this means is that an employer could aggregate this data and weed people out of the selection process before they even get a chance.
But you may not just miss out on a job opportunity, now your Facebook likes can cause you to miss out on your right to due process as well. A number of companies already practice what’s being called forced arbitration, where you give up your rights to sue if you patronize that particular business, download coupons, or participate in any promotions. General Mills, maker of much more than just cereal, recently added Facebook likes to that list, meaning if you’ve liked the company’s Facebook page you forfeit your right to sue them for any reason. General Mills is one of the first, if not the only food company that has instituted this type of policy, but it most likely won’t be the last. Other companies like Verizon, Wells Fargo, and Sony already have similar policies in place.
And your soft heart may also cost you in terms of your privacy as well. ‘Like’ farming is the process by which you click like on a certain post – a child who just beat cancer, or an abused animal for example – and a company uses those likes and shares to collect your personal information. That info is then sold to advertisers for profit and to the detriment of your news feed which gets flooded with even more of the same stuff. At best, you get annoying ads popping up all over the place. Worst case scenario though, is that you download a virus that kills your hard drive and possibly those of your friends with whom you’ve shared the post.
The bottom line is, as with anything else online these days, you have to be careful when it comes to your Facebook likes. Privacy settings should be monitored and adjusted appropriately, but at the end of the day all’s fair in love and on the internet.