File this under creepy. Where to begin? We all know the world is getting smaller, and privacy is harder and harder to control, especially on the internet. It doesn’t help that every time Facebook makes some site change they seem to erase all your carefully setup controls and start sharing everything with everyone. And oftentimes, our conception of privacy is not about certain information being public, it is more about the ease of accessing that information. It would definitely have been possible in a previous age to gather a bunch of personal information about someone with a trip to the county courthouse, but who other than some rich asshole going to the expense of hiring a private detective would have bothered?
So I guess just file this under one more chip in the wall: With the recent release of ios6 and Mountain Lion, one can now easily link one’s Facebook account to one’s contacts, and pull all info from Facebook into these contacts. While at first glance this doesn’t seem like a big deal, I have discovered a few areas where it is a little disturbing. Case in point: people in my contacts for whom I only have phone numbers, many times without a last name. Why would I have such numbers littering my contacts? These might be people I met randomly at a party or professional function, or online and exchanged just the minimal amount of information necessary. They might have been to call later about a website or other work, or more likely to set up a coffee or dinner date. And my contacts list (and most people’s I would wager) are littered with these past partial contacts that we rarely if ever get around to cleaning out.
Here is where it gets interesting. I noticed after linking my contacts, that a bunch of extra information was pulled down for these contacts. Info that I never had before, based on nothing other than the phone number. So suddenly I had profile pics and last names and some other info for these people. I hadn’t realized this before, but according to one’s privacy settings (those again!) on Facebook if your phone number is in there, you can actually be found right on the Facebook website, just by entering that number as a search. No name or email even required. So I spent part of the morning revisiting my past dating life, learning things about these people that was not shared with me previously, and in most cases deleting these entries from my contacts.
If I were you, I would go into your Facebook privacy settings right now (and perhaps once a week given the capriciousness of Facebook tweaking) and make sure what is shared is what you want to be shared. Or just let it be. We are clearly headed for a Borg-like future anyway.