Overthinking Data Privacy on Social Media

Everyone complains they steal our data. Is it a big deal?

Shalitha Suranga
Jan 13 · 3 min read
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Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash

Whenever a giant tech company acquires another popular platform — or a particular platform updates its privacy policy, people start finding alternatives. Most of the people chose those alternatives based on the current trend rather than analyzing them in-depth. The recent activity regarding WhatsApp’s privacy policy amendment is very popular these days. Many people share a lot of posts about alternatives for WhatsApp: Telegram and Signal. Are you worried about these privacy-related myths than appreciating the quality of the existing popular apps?

Why they need your data?

Data is indeed fuel for modern machine learning algorithms. Machine learning algorithms on these social media platforms are doing two tasks: displaying advertisements based on the user’s behavior and saving the user’s time by automatically doing what the user expects to do. They can enhance the quality of these two tasks when they collect more data. Also, when the quality of these two tasks is improved, they can make more money.

Nobody likes paid social media platforms. Therefore, they need a way to be profitable as a company.

They are not thieves.

Stealing data is the most misunderstood fact about big tech companies and data privacy. First of all, they mention which data they collect and why in the privacy policy statements. However, the majority of the users will never spend a minute reading their privacy policy. But they will spend hours arguing about data privacy later. If you don’t agree with their policies, you can avoid using them. On the other hand, if you don’t like to share such information but still like to enjoy it — use a separate email or phone number, avoid sharing personal data, and enter some fake data — Nobody cares.

They do not steal your data and reveal you to outside individuals. Instead, they will feed your data to machine learning algorithms to offer you a good service and also to display personalized advertisements on linked platforms. Sometimes, I get the use of personalized advertisements. For example, I found pretty good cloud service providers thanks to Facebook advertising.

They are not spying on you!

An individual data set of a person is not bringing so much value for them. But the entire data set of all users of the platform is priceless. Because, without them, they can’t make money. Therefore, they may try to track your activities. In other words, social media platforms may study your behavior. It’s not to blackmail you but for personalized advertising.

These platforms may ask for your mobile number for 2FA. Have you ever got a call or SMS from an unknown company after sharing your mobile number?

Also, If you feel something should be private, avoid posting on social media. The point is that we should not expect strict data privacy from free social media platforms because you are not paying for them for their service (including strict data privacy).

Never expect strict data privacy from free social media. Expect a good platform and some personalized ads instead.

If you stress on thinking trustworthiness about popular social media platforms, can you trust your web browser, mobile phone, operating system, or even firmware? Stop overthinking data privacy.

CodeZri

Innovations, experiments and curiosity

Thanks to Athif Shaffy

Shalitha Suranga

Written by

Software Engineer at 99x | Apache PMC member | Open Source Contributor (Author of Neutralinojs) | Technical Writer

CodeZri

CodeZri

CodeZri blog publishes articles about computer technology and programming.

Shalitha Suranga

Written by

Software Engineer at 99x | Apache PMC member | Open Source Contributor (Author of Neutralinojs) | Technical Writer

CodeZri

CodeZri

CodeZri blog publishes articles about computer technology and programming.

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