Everything you type is recorded. Even if you don’t post.
We collected data from 3.9 million users over 17 days and associate self-censorship behavior with features describing users, their social graph, and the interactions between them. Our results indicate that 71% of users exhibited some level of last-minute self-censorship…
The above is an excerpt from a paper titled “Self Censorship on Facebook” written by Sauvik Das from Carnegie Mellon University and Adam Kramer from Facebook. It shows that everything you type in Facebook’s post text box is being recorded and stored regardless of whether you post it or not. I am generally pretty relaxed about online privacy, but the fact that this type of data is stored is rather disturbing. It feels as if someone managed to read your thoughts and save them in a database.
The technology behind form field recording is simple, you use it every day if you work with Google Drive which automatically saves your work. Speaking of Google, it would be interesting to know if they mine this extra information on Google+.
I have used tools such as Click Tale to record user sessions in order to improve user experience on various websites. During some of those sessions I’ve seen people fill out an online form, delete their statement and write again. It felt wrong, but at the same time I suddenly had access to valuable meta data that nicely accompanied the stored enquiry record. After some consideration I decided that the creepy line has been crossed and abandoned the idea altogether.
How could this information be used?
Social networks could use cancelled posts for data mining of course, in particular sentiment analysis and demographic research. Self-censored posts could also contribute to enriching semantic databases in order to understand concepts and keywords which may be classified as controversial or sensitive. Finally, this type of data could be used for social network training and better advertising to users.