To Catch a Set Up

Despite Mark Zuckerberg and advertisers’ claims that all data sharing on Facebook is benign, I never really bought it. Giving companies access to members’ extensive personal data can lead to abuse. After getting two pieces of highly personal spam on Monday I’ve become much more wary of the practice.

Spam is relatively easy to pick out. It often comes in the form of private messages or friend requests from girls with scandalous modeling shots. They tend to have ten or so friends who are mostly guys with shirtless mirror pictures (It’s 2011. Stop that!). Their info is questionable. For example, I got a request a couple weeks ago from a girl claiming to have attended Portland High School (If you’re not from the area, Portland High School doesn’t exist).

Their personal messages tend to contain variations of the phrases “I’m new to Facebook”, “I think you’re cute” and “Don’t be shy”.

Thus, when I received these messages from a girl with the aforementioned characteristics, I already knew the drill:

“hey Bruce,
so we totally do not know each other, and i am kinda new to the facebook thing.. coz idk it’s really not my thing.. I prefer twitter.. or face to face interaction..but anyways i am pretty sure you are the guy who used to write articles for your college for OU… i just wanna say a job well done it always got my sisters buzzing and talking.. my sister still goes to OU but anyways I wanted to let you know job well done.. and also I think you are super cute.. and i do not know many brave black guys in eugene who speak up like u.. thats really daring, i read a lot and i just love that you get your message across.. is it true that you are taken? anyways do not be shy.. to reply, i am curious to hear what your response will be..”

“so u are the faithful type thats cool coz most men jump at the chance to get with me.. well it only makes me want to get to know u more.. i love a challenge…”

My first instinct was to click the “Spam” button and leave it at that because I love my girl and am faithful. I also find it weird when a stranger replies to her own message as if you responded.

However, the personal nature of the messages made me examine the situation further.

I asked friends from college and the Portland area whether they recognized the girl’s name and no one did.

Then I reflected on my days as a student columnist at the Oregon Daily Emerald. At no time was my writing attracting groupies. Social commentary doesn’t exactly get panties wet.

It seemed that whoever was behind these messages did their research and made a real effort in stroking my ego.

However, I couldn’t escape the coincidence that it came the day after a Facebook chat session with some friends where we joked about creating the Jailed Masons Party and being monitored, among other things.

The clincher came on Tuesday when my girlfriend’s cousin told me the mysterious girl had added him as a friend too. He said she told him about her fascination with me and how she seeks out men in relationships.

I’ve seen enough episodes of To Catch a Predator to smell a setup when I see one. In the words of KRS-One, “Don’t trust a big butt and a smile.”

I have no idea why I would be targeted for an Anthony Weiner trap. Perhaps it’s for a hidden camera show or it could be the setup for a robbery. It might just be the newest method for putting viruses in computers.

Whatever the case may be, it exposes the vulnerability of the data we make available through Facebook. We have no idea who is poring over it nor do we know their intentions.

Considering that groups like Anonymous (Who I support, just in case any members are reading this) have mentioned plans to hack into Facebook and expose these vulnerabilities, it’s important to understand the implications of our data being shared with whoever Zuckerberg chooses.

Besides companies, who are constantly looking for ways to raise profits, there are authorities and other shady characters watching you at all times. The Obama Administration has even pushed for wiretapping to be a feature of the social network.

These mysterious entities know your tendencies better than many of the people you see on a daily basis. Don’t we have a right to know who they are and what they’re looking at?

It’s not everyday that people make it known they’re watching you. I’d like to keep it that way.

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