First, the stalking frame risks creating undue psychological associations with the more severe harms of stalking, as legally defined and prohibited. Yes, we recognize these accounts use "stalking" colloquially. But words have power, and such deliberatively evocative rhetoric unduly muddies the already murky conceptual waters.
Second, because of this, the stalker frame muddies the concept, implying that the problem is people with bad intentions getting our information. Determined stalkers certainly pose a threat to the obscurity of information because they represent an increased likelihood that obscure information will be found and understood. Stalkers seek and collect information with varying degrees of rigor. But as social search moves from an atomistic to composite form, many harms resulting from loss of obscurity will likely be accidental. Well-intentioned searches can be problematic, too.
Obscurity is a protective state that can further a number of goals, such as autonomy, self-fulfillment, socialization, and relative freedom from the abuse of power.
Consider the following hypothetical to demonstrate this point. Mark Zuckerberg mentioned that Graph is still in beta and many new features could be added down the road. It is not a stretch to assume Graph could enable searching through the content of posts a user has liked or commented on and generating categories of interests from it. For example, users could search which of their friends are interested in politics, or, perhaps, specifically, in left-wing politics. While many Facebook users are outspoken on politics, others hold these beliefs close. For various reasons, these less-outspoken users might still support the political causes of their friends through likes and comments, but refrain from posting political material themselves. In this scenario, a user who wasn't a fan of political groups or causes, didn't list political groups or causes as interests, and didn't post political stories, could still be identified as political. The Graph would wrench these scattered showings of support from the various corners of Facebook into a composite profile that presents both obscurity and accuracy concerns.
The final reason the stalker frame is not a good fit for Graph is that it implies the harm at stake is the experience of feeling "creeped out." While the term 'creepy' isn't appearing as much as with other Facebook-related stories, it is still a non-trivial aspect of the Graph narrative. As one of us has previously posited, due to its vagueness and heightened emotional resonance, 'creepy' is not a helpful term to use when identifying the harm that might result from new technologies.
Some of the chatter about Graph and privacy belies the optimistic belief that Facebook will not diminish too much obscurity in order to keep consumers happy and willing to post their lives away. Facebook regularly emphasizes the importance of users believing that posting on Facebook is safe. But is it really wise to presume Facebook's financial interests align with the user interest in maintaining obscurity? In a system that purportedly relies upon user control, it is still unclear how and if users will be able to detect when their personal information is no longer obscure. How will they be able to anticipate the numerous different queries that might expose previously obscure information? Will users even be aware of all the composite results including their information?
Accurately targeting the potential harms and interests at stake is only the first step in the debate about Graph and other similar technologies. Obscurity is a protective state that can further a number of goals, such as autonomy, self-fulfillment, socialization, and relative freedom from the abuse of power. A major task ahead is for society to determine how much obscurity citizens need to thrive.