Facebook Self-Censorship: They’re Still Listening

We’ve all stopped typing during a status update, and thought better of sharing that particular piece of information. But Facebook has been keeping an eye on it.

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We’ve all stopped typing during a status update, and thought better of sharing that particular piece of information. Facebook has still been keeping an eye on it. Sauvik Das a PhD student at Carnegie Mellon University and Adam Kramer, a Facebook data scientist, have written a paper about those updates you thought were long gone.

As you type, Facebook holds the text until you post. To do that it has to receive metadata about what you’re typing. Facebook’s privacy policy states that it can collect info on what you share as well as when you “view or otherwise interact with things.” A Facebook representative confirmed to Slate that deleted status updates is indeed one of the tracked interactions.

While it’s possible to do so, Facebook says it isn’t collecting the text itself. Based on the study, it’s unclear how aware the social network is about what we don’t post. What’s more clear to Das and Kramer is that “[Facebook] loses value from the lack of content generation.”

For each thing you don’t post to Facebook, it loses the ability to advertise against that update. The better the company understands our reasons for self-censorship the more it can attempt to mitigate it, through better design or other means.

But do you want that information known, or scrutinized this way? Clearly you thought it was a bad idea to broadcast it in the first place. As advertising and revenue generation becomes more important to social networks — perhaps more important than users — every penny and every post counts.

While it isn’t terribly surprising that Facebook has access to this kind of information, it’s still pretty creepy that the company would use it to tweak our experience. It seems that if you want it left unsaid, you had better left it unthought too.

Image credit: dullhunk