With personal data being so valued, will social platforms be enforced with the same regulation regime as banks are?

Building products that allow bad behaviour just as good one has to see a form of regulation — and proportionate response for misuse

The online world of social media is a dazzling spectacle: rising and blossoming out of the intrinsically human desire to belong to a group and transcend into the virtual realm while keeping all the qualities and attributes to a relationship in real world. With one caveat: it may be a vocational drift for positive outreach, or a maligned effort to control (forming distorted world-view), maime (trolling, vilification) and hurt people.

Where personal responsibilty is already in place for the perpetrators, the questions is on wherther to allow platforms self-govern their processes as far as the communication of users is concerned or whether to make these processes report to a form of standard (and GDPR is probably the best yet in terms of underlining the true owner of data and his inalienable rights) — and a form of oversight and enforcement.

And seeing how personal data can turn into money, there is no better place for analogy to go than banks. They have been hear for eaons for us and the entire business is built on sustaining personal relationships, compensating for trust issues due to parties being out of one social circle, distant locations etc. The ethos of banking was to facilitate exchange between two parties. As the industry developed and became more complex, a number of ways to manipulate the system to prey on the weak appeared: PPIs, overdrafts fees, hidden fees, general legal gobbledygook, the hoi poloi of the black belt of a banking professional.

Also, seeing banking as a network where one malign party could siphon through their ill gotten gains or get an advantage from an unsuspected party, criminal organisations started to infiltrate the perimeter. Where from an unsuspected positive thinking product creator, all banking products are for the good of commerce, the overall progress of trade and the happyness of end customers, the negative cost of misuse is big as it distorts balances, robs people of their funds — and often it’s the retail end that suffer more.

So we have the regulation in a form of checks, processes and ratios that try to promote transparent and responsible use of the financial network. Why in analagous virtual world such criteria cannot be formed for the social media? We all witness of numerous high-scale cases of information being distorted and pushed as ads and positioned as facts. The overall speed of life leaves less and less time and desire to make sense of the graphic detail, leaving emotions to take control over what to look at and what to ignore. This is a dangerous development.

Banks may be castigated for how they develop product yet they do while responsibly checking for any eventuality of misuse. Whether one should apply all checklists for a small development vs. testing a product in a sandbox is a different story but banks have never compromised on privacy (unless again, we are talking about bad behaviour of tax evasion that they have been forced to initiate a clamp-down on).

So, in a world of coloured fast decisions, emotional thinking and willingness to belong through social platforms — the way that data is handled by the online platforms is critical to shaping current and future world-views of all: failing on how products formed on the back of this funnel manage data and what output they produce will lead to a more antagonised society, pilloried by fake politicians with little sense to objectivity.