What Does A Facebook ‘Like’ Really Say About You? Why Fragmented Data Is Wrong

The significance associated with ‘Liking’ something on Facebook can vary greatly depending on who sees what you Like, and what they already know about you.

First of all, you may ‘Like’ a page purely for the purposes of staying up to speed on a brand or public individual’s activity, even if they were a competitor or your ideological polar opposite. Think about a Greenpeace activist ‘Liking’ Shell, Chevron or BP, just so that they know what they are up against. They don’t necessarily ‘like’ (with a small ‘l’) what the company is doing, but Liking (big ‘L’) on Facebook gives pseudo-endorsement thanks to the arbitrary name given to consciously opting in to see updates from that company, politician, brand etc.

Then there’s the issue of whether or not you actually ever clicked Like in the first place…

Just over a year ago an article on ReadWrite highlighted many instances in which people were seeing promoted posts, suggested pages and news stories indicating that their friends ‘Like’ certain products, brands of pubic figures. The author followed this up with some of his friends who – according to Facebook – had given their tacit endorsement to some very unlikely pages, and they were left scratching their heads. Most of them had no recollection or staunchly denied having ever clicked Like in the first place.

When asked about this, Facebook fell back on human error, with a spokesman saying that people can “Like” things by accident, perhaps by inadvertently pressing a button on the mobile app. The author of the article, remained skeptical however, saying that the frequency with which so many of his friends could make the same ‘mistake’ was just too suspicious, although it could be the work of third-parties selling Likes to pages.

Whatever the reasoning behind the Likes, this story demonstrates that if someone is supposedly showing their support or endorsing particular brands on Facebook, it might not necessarily be an accurate picture of them. Singular aspects of an individual’s different online profiles – when viewed in isolation – may paint them in a certain light, but it’s only when all of the component parts of their online self are brought together that the picture become clear and complete.

These days people use a variety of services to engage in lots of activities, creating data about themselves that is fragmented and stored by a multitude of different networks and companies. At SocialSafe we believe that that the individual should be the biggest single owner of their own data, which is why – starting with social networks – we are enabling our users to created their own aggregated personal data store.

Some of the most successful sports teams, bands and other groups have been described as ‘greater than the sum of their parts’.  The power of several otherwise unremarkable or average members combining into something that performs at a level far higher than simply adding up the achievements or skills of all the individuals when operating separately. Surely the same could be true if you brought together all of your fragmented personal data?