Facebook had the biggest scandal in its history last year. The sheer magnitude of the privacy breach was astounding. Naturally, the news spread like wildfire and the issue went as far as the US Senate floor.
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Facebook Remembers More About Your Life than You Do
While we’ve always known social media compromises our privacy a bit, no one anticipated the sheer degree of it. In the aftermath of this case, people have begun to question if they should let Facebook have some much info on them.
Facebook’s Data Recording Types for All Kinds of Users
This is a worry for everyone irrespective of whether they are on Facebook or not. If you are not sure what kind of info Facebook has on you, here are some of the most common types.
Official Facebook servers are filled to the brim with all kinds of generalized information you can find on anyone. While that does make you feel like something special, it also compromises your personal safety in many ways. You can argue that any job portal you are using will also have the same information, social media info is more important. The reason for this is simple – demographics. Your demographical representation allows companies to read user preferences and provide a customized shopping experience. So, they are basically using your personal data to sell things to you without any consent.
Personal Communications Library
Buried somewhere deep within the digital archive for your personal account communication is all the data you’ve ever typed. From your private messages to individuals along with any and all posts you have ever made – everything will be in there. This means that Facebook can backtrack to individual posts at any time. Now, you might think this is great but there are some drawbacks here as well. For example, a person whose political views have changed drastically may not want others to know their previous views.
All Uploaded Digital Media
Facebook is probably not the most popular photo-centric of social media platforms but people do upload pictures on it a lot. And all these pictures become part of an ever-growing library. So, if you ever wanted to go back in time and see when you uploaded any picture, that’s relatively easy. However, what is not so easily accomplished is your own privacy and control over these pictures.
Once you upload any pictures to Facebook, you are practically handing over your rights on them. They can and will store your photos probably even if and when your account is shut down by you. So, unless you are comfortable giving photographic evidence of you and your loved ones to whoever has data access, sharing them is a bad idea.
All Advertising Preferences
If you use social media then you know that every click matters. Just as you are browsing through your wall, countless online markets are bidding for aggregated information on your choices. They will then use this data to market targetted ads to you. Further, Facebook provides the option of opting out of all kinds of ads. This also allows marketers to create a more accurate picture of who you are and what you like.
In fact, the scandals we spoke of at the beginning was based on this very idea of personal preferences. And this shows just how easily marketers can develop fairly accurate online profiles for you. While finding some online product you wish-listed a while back can feel serendipitous, you sacrifice a lot for that prompt. Also, most people are not careful enough with their Facebook permissions and are often leaking personal information like a sieve. All of this makes you vulnerable to profiling and even potential exploitation.
Yes, Facebook Collects my Data for Profiling, So What?
Having a fair and open market is the essence of maintaining democratic values. Letting big businesses like Facebook, Google and even Apple access to your personal data is just asking for trouble. While some third-party hacking into their servers and stealing your information is unlikely, you don’t need to even entertain that possibility.
Realizing this and the potential damages of handing over data freely to internet companies, consumers are being more conscious. Nowadays, it is quite common for social media users to carefully control what information they provide to companies as well as any private individuals. For example, if your phone is connected with your Facebook account, then your number can be visible to a lot of people. Not only can your friends see it but also anyone who is friends with your friends but not you.
Further, if you keep the Facebook mobile app then it will use tracking features for live user status feeding. These are the same features which are used by Google on Android and Apple on iOS. They use things like light sensors, body heat sensors, device state and architecture, and many other technical things. And it is rather scarily easy to track users by combining all of this.
Is 24×7 Surveillance and Tracking The New World Order?
The internet has enhanced our lives in many ways. Sadly, it doesn’t take long for people to use a great idea and twist it to their own purposes. While we don’t want to play the good guys vs. bad guys card, but we do believe that being a conscious consumer counts.
Just as you would not want to be using products whose research involved animal cruelty, you should be cautious about the online services as well. Facebook is a free-for-all platform like YouTube or Instagram, but the revenue they generate from ads is staggering. Obviously, they need to fund their growing services and your private data is a core part of that revenue resource.
This does not mean that you need to go off-the-grid from social media entirely. However, it does mean that you should be aware of how to protect your online privacy. It would also be wise to stay up-to-speed with the latest cybersecurity and privacy news in the market. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the paid VPN market spaces are two prime places for sound internet user-friendly insight. Stay informed and secure!