We know everything about you, so what?
Blog post for journalism 100
Column A: Privacy
Column B: Facebook
In 2015, Henry McCracken of Fast Company wrote an article about Mark Zuckerberg’s “Bold Plan for the Future of Facebook”
McCracken writes about how Facebook is expanding saying that “The Facebook of today — and tomorrow — is far more expansive than it was just a few years ago”. It now has 1.7 billion users and that number is rising. But with this ubiquity comes the question of privacy.
The social media juggernaut owns Instagram, Whatsapp, and Messenger alongside its central hub of Facebook. In order to process the massive amount of information flowing through these services Facebook has begun to develop AI in order to “help emphasize the stuff that’s truly relevant to you, keeping you on the service longer and boosting your attractiveness as a subject for targeted advertising”. While this seems like a commendable goal, is it right for Facebook to use your personal information to use advertisements on you?
On average, 18–34 year olds spend 25.4 hours per month on Facebook, and 7 more on Instagram. It is a part of the modern lifestyle but privacy is not guaranteed. Reading the US constitution, there is no right to privacy, other than the 4th amendment in regard to unlawful searches by police. Does this make it morally acceptable for a company to analyze the daily lives of billions of people?
While McCrakens story is informative, it only covers the business success of Zuckerberg and Facebook’s latest achievements. However impressive this is, a business must be held accountable for its actions. If wiretapping a phone is illegal, how is it any different to analyze millions, if not billions of messages, posts, and pictures?
New media has created a society where privacy will become an archaic idea. Starting now, someone could have their entire life chronicled by Facebook. One company, has the power to analyze the likes, dislikes, wants, and dreams of almost two billion people. By analyzing what you look at and what you say, Facebook knows, or has the ability to find out, everything about you.
The Facebook policy on data collection reads like something out of a dystopian novel:
“We collect information about the people and groups you are connected to and how you interact with them”
“We also collect content and information that other people provide when they use our Services, including information about you”
“We collect information from or about the computers, phones, or other devices where you install or access our Services”
But before you think about using anything other than Facebook.
“We receive information about you and your activities on and off Facebook from third-party partners”
Don’t worry, their website has a whole section called Privacy Basics. When you go to it you get a colorful, aesthetically pleasing page that gives you no relevant information. Albeit they let you download your own data, but all that achieves is showing what information they have stored.
Facebook is a privately owned service, so as a consumer you are making the choice to give them your information. Does this consent make it acceptable for them to monitor your behavior?
New media has slowly eroded the concept of privacy. To continue in this cultural direction means to give it up completely.
But hey, my ads sure are relevant…