Larry Flynt on the Internet: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

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screamADOTAS – I’ve been told I’ve fallen on the wrong side of the latest Facebook privacy foul-up, but the company over here ain’t too shabby. For starters, TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington, “Facebook Effect” author David Kirkpartrick and SafetyConnect.org Codirector and Daily News columnist Larry Magid all think The Wall Street Journal’s latest paranoid screed in its “What They Know” series is a lot of smoke over a tiny fire.

Interestingly, on the same day The Wall Street Journal was hollering that the sky is falling about a Facebook privacy “breach” with apps such as FarmVille, Magid posted a story about the privacy concerns inherent in the revamped Facebook Groups feature.

It seems all of us going against the powerful media tide think the hysteria here is over the browsing public’s ignorance over what happens with their browsing data. Arrington lays it out straight: “If you do stuff online, people are tracking it and putting it into a database and trying to sell you stuff based on that. There’s not much you can do about it except not be online.”

The Daily Beast, on the other hand, invites Hustler publisher Larry Flynt to stroke the paranoia:

“The minute you sign onto the Internet you are being watched, not just by our government, but also by our major corporations. They know where you go, what you buy, what your interests are and what illnesses you have. This is powerful information that can be used in any number of ways, not all of them to your benefit.”

It’s always these traditional media outlet people suggesting Internet advertising is some nefarious plot. Look, data collectors want to build profiles — preferably anonymous ones, so they gather less unflattering media attention — to sell to ad tech firms that use it to offer targeting that lures in advertisers seeking greater efficiencies.

The wonderful things you can do on the Internet are not free — to frame it in a way traditional media people might understand, an alternative weekly paper may not cost consumers anything, but it does provide advertisers a forum to reach a certain audience. It’s a primitive form of targeting — the tattoo parlors and goth clothing shops are more likely to reach prospective clientele via The Village Voice than The New York Post.

It just so happens there’s a ton of data flying about on the Internet that can be used to make advertising more efficient — better ROI, smarter reach, etc. And that’s the price of the Internet — when you visit a site, the publisher can tell other people that your IP address stopped by. It can sell that information.

Facebook is guilty of hasty programming and cutting corners. They should have used a proxy system that gave apps placeholder IDs instead of real user IDs. But the hysteria surrounding this privacy snafu is simply fear, confusion and lack of knowledge, all things the WSJ seems to be fueling to sell papers  — and get pageviews, of course.

And what do you expect when the “esteemed” media outlet calls a legitimate Internet business, third-party online data collecting and selling, the practice of “spying on Internet users“?

4 COMMENTS

  1. Okay, the issued got hyped!

    However, the problem is not the hype. The public has had plenty of years and enough opportunity to understand the pitfalls of the internet, but here we are in 2010 and phishing emails are still lucrative. It’s as though the more internet we consume, the more unresponsive we become. I have no problem at all with a little hype to shake things up. Besides, after they installed their paywall, WSJ can use all the help with traffic they can get.

  2. Yes, please, more hype. I agree with J Lyles.

    See my response to your earlier post. People are simply giving to something that they really want to refuse. If this was government run, or if it didn’t host Farmville, people would be taking a different stance. Time to wake up.

    Yes, everything is tracked AND stored AND indexed on the Internet. But, only up until recently has this data become so personal and so consolidated. And it’s Facebook that’s leading this charge.

    They are trying to create, not adapt, to the ‘new social norm’ as Zuckerberg puts it. Facebook wants this. People don’t. And hype is the only way to get them to wake up.

  3. One more thing- one of the worst things about this is that the majority of these big Internet companies have ZERO customer service. Try to call them and ask them something. You’ll get nowhere- they’ll point you to a community forum.

    Try to call them and have something personal removed. It won’t happen.

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