Why are we willing to give up our privacy?

For all of us social media users out there, there is something we sacrifice everyday — our privacy. Over the last five years there has been a significant change when it comes to our privacy on the internet. Before we used to be advocates of privacy and it was so important to us to maintain it with apps like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook etc. but was has changed if we look at it today? Today most people are aware that they share most of their data with many people and it is just “out there” for companies to use because we have gotten numb to this — we are willing to ignore the consequences because it is more important for us to be a part of social media.

But what made us like this? The ever-changing terms and conditions of every social platform we use? Our dominant need to express ourselves through pictures and getting praise in the form of likes? And what is next, what can we expect from the future?

A study carried out at Carnegie Mellon University of Pittsburgh found that the openness of university students to revealing personal information is very high even if it is revealed to strangers or acquaintances. This is a phenomenon that is especially common on Facebook as university students are often quick to befriend other students they barely know and then they end up sharing their personal photos with them.

The problem with this is, that we are often unaware of that we are sharing this personal data with strangers. And we are unaware that our data gets shared with companies. Facebook has frequently been attacked for changing their terms and conditions to their own benefit and to the disadvantage of the user. For the user, it seems that these social networking sites purposes are interaction and communication of people but the actual goals are unapparent to the user. Even social networking sites that do not directly expose their users’ profile might still be able to identify the person behind the profile and their behaviour and needs.

But what can we do? Either we agree to the terms and conditions or we do not, which, in turn, means we are not using the social media platform at all. Take Instagram, for example, they recently updated their terms and conditions to now say “By displaying or publishing (“posting”) any Content on or through the Instagram Services, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid (…) worldwide, limited license to use, (….) publicly display, reproduce and translate such Content, including without limitation distributing part or all of the Site in any media formats through any media channels, except Content not shared publicly (“private”) will not be distributed outside the Instagram Services.” which means they are able to share whatever you post publicly unless you have your account on “private”.

This relates to our identity because we present ourselves in a different manner online than we do in real life. Our pictures need to be the best possible and we want to get likes, comments and recognition. This is our aim, this is why we use social media. This lack of privacy that we have on social media makes us wonder but at the same time there is no apparent way to control it apart from just not using the social media platform.

What is our takeaway from all this? Being on social media comes with a certain price and you pay with your data. Companies have different goals than they show, Facebook’s goal is not just to connect people and have them communicate, it is also about getting a hold of your data and being able to sell this data to big companies. Although this isn’t news we have to be aware of this and take this into account when thinking about how we present ourselves on the internet.

If you are interested in knowing more about data sharing and analytics on the internet listen to this podcast:

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