I am on Facebook.  In fact, I’ve had a profile on Facebook for about 5 years now (just writing that shocks and embarrasses me a little).

At first, like any college student on Facebook, the ability to connect with high school friends and browse through my current school’s “directory” of peers simultaneously, was incredibly exciting and entertaining.  But since then, my interest in the relationships we are able to build through Facebook has shifted a bit.  Facebook is not only a tool for social extension between individuals, but between brands, too.  Not everyone is sharing my excitement though.

A sense of worry and suspicion has begun to surround Facebook and the enormous pile of consumer information they sit on.  Yesterday, in WIRED’s “Your Facebook Profile Makes Marketers’ Dreams Come True,” Eliot Van Buskirk wrote:

“Never before have we voluntarily publicized so much of our personal data and consumption preferences, especially not in very structured ways that ease the work of marketer’s data scrapers.  And most of it accurately reflects what’s going on in our actual lives.  But the individualized nature of social networking profile pages means that some of the resulting marketing campaigns target specific individuals too, which is what concerns privacy advocates.”

I understand the concern over privacy, but should we (consumers) really be afraid of being marketed to in more relevant ways?  The way I see it, it is happening now and nobody seems to mind all that much.

Take Pandora: I enter “Jose Gonzalez” into Pandora and a mix of a dozen or so different (but similar) artists–most of which I have never heard of–is instantly streamed to my iPhone.  I love most of what Pandora creates for me, but I only come away purchasing ONE song (Sean Hayes’ “Rattelsnake Charm”) that day–the only one song I wanted to be sure I had “on-demand.”

Or, take Amazon: I search for Seth Goodin’s, “Tribes” on Amazon and I’m given a list of related titles.  A few of them I find particularly intriguing and I add them to my “Wishlist,” for future consideration, but I don’t buy any of them.

Sure, these are both niche channels, but they are also microcosms of this “personality aggregation” phenomenon.  They are perfect examples of an online network using my personal information and preferences as a way of delivering the most relevant products/services to me.  Does anyone really dislike this?

As Rob Walker explains in Buying In, we all want to feel like we belong.  Whether it’s through association with other like-minded people or through participation in activities we feel define us best–we want to belong, and brands and symbols help us satisfy this basic need.  Wouldn’t it be a positive thing if our interests (music, books, movies, TV, etc.) could be delivered to us in a more efficient way?  Wouldn’t this actually empower individuality?

Maybe we’re afraid of having more and more relevant products and services tempt us–I find it hard to believe we are that submissive.