Social Media Privacy
Imagine a world where our government monitors everything you do. Scary huh? Though we might not be there just yet, Facebook could be a close contender. Hasn’t it ever creeped you out in the past when you were, let’s say, scrolling through one of your favorite shoe store online- just checking out what’s new, and you log into Facebook and there’s an ad for the exact pair of shoes you clicked right smack center of your newsfeed?
I found myself asking numerous time, “how the hell is that ad so specific?” not knowing that Facebook was collecting data to the extent of my viewing browser. How do they even have permission to collect such a thing from me? What allows them to even get that information or even create ads that was so user specific? My friends do not see the same ads I do whatsoever, so what’s up? Are they watching me? What are they doing with my personal information and how are they using it? As Facebook is one of the largest social media platform that reaches across the globe, my main concern with all of this are people’s lack of awareness of how much information about ourselves that we are actually giving Facebook.
In Facebook’s Data Policy- which was last updated on September 29, 2016, opens up with the statement,
“We give you the power to share as part of our mission to make the world more open and connected. This policy describes what information we collect and how it is used and shared.” (Facebook.com)
It sounds like a load of mumbo jumbo to me to be honest. It then goes off listing what information they collect and let me tell you- it is a lot. Information ranging from what we provide about ourselves on our profiles all the way to the literal device we use to access their site- they can see it all. That means our phones, laptops, tablets- they can access all of our data and browsing histories on that one device and basically exploit us.
“We collect information from or about the computers, phones, or other devices where you install or access our Services, depending on the permissions you’ve granted. We may associate the information we collect from your different devices, which helps us provide consistent Services across your devices. Here are some examples of the information we collect:
- Attributes such as the operating system, hardware version, device settings, file and software names and types, battery and signal strength, and device identifiers.
- Device locations, including specific geographic locations, such as through GPS, Bluetooth, or WiFi signals.
- Connection information such as the name of your mobile operator or ISP, browser type, language and time zone, mobile phone number and IP address.” (Facebook.com)”
You know what the sad part about all of this is too? No one seems to care or are even aware that we are giving Facebook all of this information about us. After people have agreed to the terms and conditions, Facebook is free to do all the data research that they desire. There is no telling what Facebook can a will do to change your interaction with their platform. They already control your News Feed, which means that they can basically make changes to it when it wants to such as rearranging statues on your News Feeds with ones that you agree with or “like” because they are catering those to your preference- ultimately putting you in a filter bubble for you.
Whenever it comes to conducting research, research institutions has a highly formal internal review process put into place called Institutional Review Boards- which Facebook lacks. Some may even call Facebook’s review process as an ad hoc and incredibility informal. Where most research did not require a formal review, Andy Ledvina, a data scientist and software engineer at Facebook states that,
“While I was at Facebook, there was no intuitional review board that scrutinized the decision to run an experiment for internal purposes.” (Time.com)
What worries a lot of privacy activists is the intimacy of users’ content and the amount of data in actuality is being exposed and who knows if it is actually being kept within company walls.
When data leaves those walls, the data is anonymized and identified- there is no way for outside researchers to link individuals to the information provided by Facebook. They believe that they are not violating our privacy by doing so when working with outside scientists and researchers. With the currently rules implemented, experts say that they discourage Facebook from collaborating with outside researchers. In the world of science, research that is gathered is to be regulated by federal rules- which Facebook does not abide by inside their walls. They have a lot less constraints and do what they want without having to disclose their research. This further encourages Facebook to do these things in secret. Facebook is ultimately just crowdsourcing their little lab rats-which is us, and oh so casually conducting and documenting research as they go about their daily routines.
So what can we deduct from all of this information now? That the government is watching us? Is privacy even a basic human right anymore? Is there even way to stop this without having to making major life changes and pack your bags up to live on an isolated island- possibility. But with the rate that technology is growing and being created, there really does not seem to be a stop at this rate. With more and more service being offered to us, the more information they are going to require on us. All I can advise to you at this point is that I hope you have a tin foil hat ready in hand because that may be your only hope to really combat this. In the meantime, maybe you should brush up on some of Facebook’s privacy laws or any services at that manner- maybe actually read over the Terms and Policy that you’ve agreed to and make any major changes from there. Maybe even reflecting on the stuff you post online verses the things you do want people (Facebook) to know. All I want from this is to raise awareness that your privacy is important and not everybody deserves to be in your bubble- especially Facebook.
Thanks for reading!