I don't like those ads that follow you around the Internet.  I think they're creepy.  So I turned off ads based on data from partners, Ads based on your activity on Facebook Company Products that you see elsewhere, and Ads that include your social actions in my Facebook account.

So how come the moment I started watching a particular show on Hulu I was deluged with ads for the new season of that show?  And how come I get multiple ads per day for a genre of books I often read?  You don't need an expert to explain it.  Just read the explanations in your Facebook settings.  Then read them again, carefully.  Weasel words.

It may be true that Facebook doesn't share my data with their partners or based on my Facebook activity.  But data sharing is happening with advertisers.  Because an advertiser isn't a partner.  Here is how it works (quoting from Facebook settings):

  • These businesses have uploaded a list containing your information, typically an email address or a phone number.
  • Facebook matched the uploaded information to your profile, without revealing your identity to the business, through a hashing process. This hashing process ensures that Facebook doesn't see the actual contact information that a business uploads and a business can't see the contact information of Facebook users. Learn more about hashing at the Facebook Privacy Basics.
  • These businesses can share the ability to advertise to the list with advertisers on Facebook. When advertising access is shared, the recipient cannot see who is in the list and cannot further share it.
  • We don't sell personal information, including information like your name, Facebook posts, email address, or phone number to anyone. Protecting people's privacy is central to how we've designed our ad system.
So Facebook isn't doing the sharing.  Advertisers are.  Except sharing means having a portion of something jointly with others.  So if someone shares with you, you are sharing with them.  Otherwise you're not sharing.  So it's not all the fault of advertisers, despite those weasel words.  Just saying it's so doesn't make it so.

Hulu shared my account information with Facebook, not, according to Facebook, the other way around.  That is creepy, Hulu.  When I signed up for Hulu I thought I was subscribing to a service, not pimping my personal and behavioral information.  You can't see the shows Hulu offers without giving them your contact information.  That is reasonable.  Hulu sharing that information is not reasonable.  OK, say it is, if I agree to it.  Shouldn't sharing my data be 'opt-in'?

It's not. It's opt-out.  Read Hulu's privacy policy, and then -- pop quiz -- how do you opt out?  Extra points for successfully opting out.

Do you know a single person who reads fine print?

And sharing down to the level of what someone in my house is watching... well, that is pursuing or approaching stealthily.  In other words, stalking (look it up - the definition of staling is to pursue or approach stealthily).  An argument could be made that it is also stealing.

I now know this is absolutely not the case in our day and age, but when I buy something I believe that is the end of the transaction.  No I am not interested in filling out a survey to help you make me and other people buy more stuff from you.  I decided I wanted your thing, I bought it,   I got your thing.  You got my money.  That was the transaction.

It's not just Hulu.  Do you use Parkmobile to pay for parking in the City of Ithaca?  Yup, they are sharing your information with Facebook.  That free week of HBO I tried, during which I decided 'Game of Thrones' was not worth yet another subscription service?  Looks like it was worth it for HBO.  They got my info to share.

Now here is where it gets funny.  Of the 24 businesses Facebook tells me have uploaded my data so I will see their ads, I have only actually either done business with, or explored doing business with 13 of them.  Some of the remaining 11 are companies or organizations I have never heard of.  That's nearly half Facebook's advertisers that got it wrong, which does give me a modicum of childish pleasure.

How did Jay Hughes get my information so he could share it with Facebook?  He wants me to vote for him for Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi.  I live in New York State,  Sorry, Jay, you're not getting my vote.

Same goes for you, Jon Bramnick.  I'm not voting for you for New Jersey Assembly.  And I don't think I am going to 'Discover Southern California Living' any time before global warming turns Arizona into beachfront property.

If these strangers are sharing my information with Facebook, who shared my information with them?  I'll probably never know.  It goes to show that despite all the fine print attorneys devise, privacy no longer exists.  It simply isn't a real thing any more.

That line in Facebook settings that says, "Protecting people's privacy is central to how we've designed our ad system."

No it's not.  Whether Facebook is sharing my information (which I am not convinced it is not) or using information that has been shared with it for its own benefit (which the quoted explanation above tells us it is), my information is being shared, and, thus, my privacy is not being protected.  At best Facebook is an accomplice to companies that are stalking me.  That's not a good 'best'.

Facebook was designed to share people's information.  If you don't believe me sign up for a new account and check the default settings.  Or just look at Facebook.  You post.  Everyone reads.  Even if you have restricted your account to just "friends" as I have, Facebook has encouraged us to think large volumes of 'friends' is something to aspire to.  I just checked my 'friends' list.  I have a modest 218 friends.  If I were to cull the list, ending up with only those people I really want to share with, I probably have at least 188 too many friends.  The idea of Facebook is sharing.  If you don't want to share, don't join Facebook.  That's not rocket science.

Still, the idea they are selling is that we get to share the stuff we want to share with the people we want to share it with. That's different from the companies we do business with sharing our personal information among themselves for the purpose of getting us to do more business with them.  That is stalking.  Stalking is a crime in all 50 states and Washington, DC.