After their helpful reminders to register to vote became a success, Facebook decided to branch out into other helpful reminders for their users. Their new algorithm analyzes the lifestyle of a user and gives custom reminders such as paying bills, buying presents for birthdays and even cleaning rooms or doing the dishes.
Most users found the reminders very helpful. Marcy Mack, a Farmville pro and avid poker, said, “This is like, so great! I used to just get reminders to harvest my crops and stuff, but now my Facebook will tell me “don’t forget to take your meds’ or ‘you should call your mother today, Marcy’ and ‘please go to sleep, Marcy, the farm will still be there in the morning.’ Y’know, helpful things like that.”
Some users have become concerned with how specific the messages can get. John Harvey, a college student, told us, “The reminders started out pretty innocent, like ‘hey, you should go vote’ and then became stuff like ‘you should call Amy again, she seemed nice’ but it got really creepy later.”
He then pulled up some of the messages from his reminders. “John, you shouldn’t watch those movies so late at night, they give you nightmares” one read. Others included “Why can’t you commit to a relationship, John?”, “You shouldn’t eat three cheeseburgers and a large fry in one sitting, John” and “John, what do you think you’re doing trying out for the play, you know you aren’t an actor. Don’t lie to yourself, John. Just become the marketing advisor like your mother says, John. You wouldn’t want to disappoint her, John.”
Marcy Mack summarized the issue for us. “Well,” she said, “I know it’s data mining for all this information on me and my hobbies, but at least it’s data mining that cares!”