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Fact or Fiction: An Anonymous Facebook Employee Speaks
By: Jeff Louis
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anonymousI came across a recent interview with an anonymous Facebook employee and felt to ignore it would be a mistake. The interview, "Conversations About the Internet #5: Anonymous Facebook Employee," was published on Jan. 1 on The Rumpus.

While it seems questionable at times due to the fact that clues left by the anonymous employee would surely doom her, the interview doesn't touch on areas one might consider top secret, though it could be willful misguidedness on the part of the interviewer.

In any event, the information, if true, is quite interesting. 

For instance, the woman (so stated in the interview) divulges of the 350 million Facebook accounts, 220 million are active users, having logged on to their account within the past 30 days. This leaves an astounding 130 million unused accounts or roughly the same size as the population of Japan.

Here's another interesting fact: Facebook logs every single thing you've ever done while on the site since you joined. This includes every picture you've posted, wall you've written on, and profile you've viewed.

It also tracks your groups, interests, relationship status, and age, which is why Facebook makes for a good advertising platform. If you're engaged, you'll likely see localized ads for photographers, honeymoon packages, wedding ideas, and the like. Likewise, you'll see guitar or music ads if you note you play an instrument. The information users provide becomes a fantastic method for targeting.

The interviewee also allows us to see an inside view of what it takes to run a site like Facebook. They operate four data centers with 5,000 to 8,000 servers in Santa Clara, San Francisco, New York, and London, and each location serves as a mirror of the other locations, essentially carrying the same information.

She also states the social-networking site is the largest photo host in the world, storing over one trillion photos and 6 copies of each photo (for your wall, profile, albums, and enlargements). 

As far as some of the homegrown controversy ingrained in Facebook's past, the anonymous employee basically states their original method of making changes to the site was to put the change in effect and see if any users complained. She cites the terms of service change in early 2009 (all of your data is ours, even if you close your account) as being one such example and the controversial Facebook Beacon advertising program as another.

Now, Facebook uses eye-tracking studies to determine some of the features that will increase the time users spend on the site, integrating features that will make the user's experience better and thereby increase page views. 

Regarding privacy, it seems most non-employees are aware of the fact their profile can be accessed by most Facebook employees. What wasn't made clear was whether or not profiles could be accessed for any reason. The interviewee states Facebook actually tracks employee profile access, and if there isn't a work-related reason for accessing a profile, the result is termination.

She further states the company instituted a position for chief privacy officer, filled by Chris Kelly. (Kelly is currently on leave, pursuing the office of the California Attorney General.) At least Zuckerberg and crew are watching their own employees, hopefully ensuring our personal data isn't (further) compromised.

However, one statement from the interview hit home, troubling me to the point I nearly closed my account: "We track everything. Every photo you view, every person you’re tagged with, every wall-post you make, and so forth." 

I realize my privacy is the cost of admission, and I decided to keep my account, though a bit warily.  


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About the Author

Jeff Louis: Media Planner, Brand Project Manager, blogger, and aspiring writer. Please leave a comment or get in touch with Jeff on Twitter. As always, thank you for reading!

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