We’re Watching You

In 2011, one of the biggest names in U.S. history has been killed. But instead of grieving over his death, Americans rejoiced and celebrated as they heard the news. Osama Bin Laden, a mass criminal who was responsible for the attack on 9/11 was finally found and killed by the brave men and women serving overseas. But interestingly enough, the news of his assassination was not spread through the television nor the radio. In fact, President Barack Obama did not make an announcement until hours after the news have spread. So where did the information come from and how did the public gain this knowledge so fast? Simple answer is social media.

In our day and age, social media has consumed most of our lives. Many positives include being able to virtually talk to a person or a group of people without having to leave the room. Being able to virtually see a person who you either cannot due to circumstances or have not seen in a long time. Being able to share your experiences with the world. Being able to work together on a school project despite having conflicting schedules. The list goes on and on. With all these good aspects of social media, you might say “is there a negative side?” Well the answer to that question is hidden in the terms and conditions of these sites.

First of all, nobody that I personally know reads the whole entire terms and conditions. When they see the “agree” icon, we all immediately hit it thinking “what could go wrong?” During our lecture, we watched a documentary called Terms and Conditions May Apply (2004). We learned what exactly these terms and conditions say and are able to do. As I was watching this documentary, I recalled a Family Guy episode when the Quagmire is asking Peter how to use the Internet.

In the segment, Quagmire mentions that “an agreement just popped up” and that he needs to “read the whole thing”. Peter, representing the majority tells Quagmire to “Just hit accept”. Towards the end of the clip, it is revealed what exactly could happen when you don’t read the terms and conditions and just hit “accept”. Obviously this is an cartoon filled with satirical comedy, but it sheds a little truth to the whole situation. What can really happen to us if we don’t read it?

I am graduating at the end of August and I was searching on Google for apartments in the Orange County. As I was casually searching for cheap apartments in a safe neighborhood, I was also looking at Facebook and Instagram. As I was scrolling down my feed on my Facebook wall, I started to notice some advertisements on the side of my news feed. It read, “Looking for apartments in the OC?” I casually brushed it off thinking it was maybe a coincidence but then I went on Instagram. I noticed a sponsored advertisements for Walmart suggesting me furniture, cooking pots and pans, hampers and other moving essentials.

In Christian Fuchs’s text Social Media: A Critical Introduction, he talks about the existence of a “Big Data” where all information is stored. According to Google, Facebook and Instagram’s terms and conditions, by clicking agree they have the right to sell my information to third-party businesses. According to an article post on the Washington Post, nothing you post on these sites and applications belongs to you any more and that “Someone else can sell them for $90,000”. Jessica Contrera, the author of the article, gives an example called “New Portraits”.

The collection, “New Portraits,” is primarily made up of pictures of women, many in sexually charged poses. They are not paintings, but screenshots that have been enlarged to 6-foot-tall inkjet prints. According to Vulture, nearly every piece sold for $90,000 each.

So the next time you come across the terms and conditions, be warned before hit “Accept”.

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