The prospect of a corporate-state apparatus that knows exactly what you’re doing at every moment is the stuff of science fiction. Books like 1984 and We imagine a surveillance that has successfully penetrated every aspect of our lives. But what about the surveillance that has unsuccessfully penetrated our lives? We imagine the dangers of everyone else knowing what we’re doing, but we should probably be worried about the scenarios where total information awareness is mistaken. What happens when the security state confuses you with the previous tenant of your apartment? In our culture of surveillance, whither the Charles Monsons and Khalid Steve Mohammeds? Today is Friday, and the danger is not so much that the government will know everything about you as that it will think it does. Won’t you overlap with me?
Before you freak out, that 29% figure is not scientific. It’s from research conducted by the Washington Post’s Tom Herrera, who last summer counted all the posts his Facebook friends produced in a 24-hour period and cross-referenced them with what appeared in his News Feed. No one outside Facebook knows how the News Feed algorithm actually works, since gaming it is a multimillion-dollar industry. But the old Facebook, where you friended people and then saw everything they shared on a homepage, has been defunct since 2008. The new Facebook tracks your behavior on the site and customizes your News Feed to show you only what you really care about—in my case, baby pictures and articles about catcalling.