Fooled by Facebook: Who's eying your info up?
Never mind the future of Facebook or what you can do with it, why does it exist and where did its $13m in funding come from?
Uploading photos and poking your friends or throwing virtual food at them is all good fun, but for what underlying reason does Facebook exist and how did it manage to secure its funding?
So was Facebook’s primary reason for purpose to gather information from its users in a ‘fun’ environment that everyone can benefit from?
Take a look at Facebook’s investor, a guy called Peter Thiel who came up with $500,000. He is also the founder and former CEO of PayPal. Thiel is also on the board of the radical conservative group VanguardPAC.
Further funding then came from venture capital firm Accel Partners that totalled $12.7m. Accel's manager James Breyer was former chair of the National Venture Capital Association (NVAC) and served its board with Gilman Louie, CEO of In-Q-Tel.
In-Q-Tel is a venture capital firm established by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1999. The firm works in various aspects of information technology and intelligence, including most notably "nurturing data mining technologies."
Breyer has also served on the board of BBN Technologies, a research and development firm known for spearheading the ARPANET, or what is popularly known as the internet.
In October of 2004, Dr Anita Jones climbed on board, becoming a part of a firm packed with leaders from the venture capital community.
However, prior to joining BBN, Jones served on the Board of Directors for In-Q-Tel, and was previously the Director of Defense Research and Engineering for the US Department of Defense. Her responsibilities included serving as an advisor to the Secretary of Defense and overseeing the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
DARPA shot to national fame in 2002 when the New York Times announced the existence of the Information Awareness Office (IAO), an organisation set up to gather information about everyone in a centralised location including internet activity, credit card purchase histories, airline ticket purchases, car rentals, medical records, educational transcripts, driver's licenses, utility bills, tax returns, and any other available data.
The relationship between Facebook, the Pentagon, the CIA, the IOA is undeniably a little scary but this is how the social network justifies it:
“When you visit Facebook you provide us with two types of information: personal information you knowingly choose to disclose that is collected by us and Website use information collected by us as you interact with our website.
“When you register with Facebook, you provide us with certain personal information, such as your name, your email address, your telephone number, your address, your gender, schools attended and any other personal or preference information that you provide to us.”
How they use this information is up to them and most of it ends up at third party companies who then turn it into marketing reports by using the Pulse application on the network, which graphs information about you and your networks and groups.
Further attempts by Facebook to gather yet more information about you is the added Rebtel feature which recently launched on the site. It requires your and you friends’ mobile telephone numbers and offers a Skype-like service.
So is Facebook really a service that allows us to keep in contact with friends, reunite with long lost pals and find out the truth about our Saturday night dates, or is it the best-planned modern marketing and data capture tool that ever existed