With more than 1 billion users, social media giant Facebook is using personal information for business gain.
What we think:
Social media platforms should be open about what information is collected and should do a better job at policing organizations that use private information to influence politics and inflame public opinion.
Tell us what you think:
Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More than 1 billion people use Facebook. We use it for personal reasons, to stay in touch with faraway family and friends. We use it for business — to get referrals, for name recognition, for branding, promotion and advertising. And we believe that it’s free for all of us.
But all that connection, activity and promotion come at a cost. And for many, it’s a high price to pay.
Facebook knows every file you’ve sent, all the contacts in your phone, your email address and cell phone number, hometown, maiden name, schools, employment, photos, videos, search and browser history. It tracks all your likes, your friends, your status changes, your searches for other people. Its algorithms can determine your call history, your games, your music, every IP address you’ve logged in from and every third-party app you’ve used.
And they’ve done it by burying disclosures about selling your information to businesses, political organizations and anyone else with the money to purchase data from Facebook.
Big Brother is indeed watching — tracking, storing and selling information you believed was private.
It raises questions about the responsibility these huge, multinational companies have to disclose what’s being tracked and what they are doing with the vast amounts of data they are collecting. It’s not enough to bury disclosure in the terms-of-use contracts. No one reads them, and Facebook and Google know it.
The companies took advantage of people wanting to connect their personal lives and their businesses to their family, friends and customers. They are making millions from people’s trust.
The repercussions are vast. We already know the Russians used social media platforms to inflame emotions through fake news websites and sneaky marketing techniques during the 2016 elections. We know they are still at it today — under the guise of memes, news that seems legitimate but isn’t, and through carefully placed sponsored content on several platforms. Facebook isn’t alone in using data to make money, but it is the largest social media platform, and the one widely targeted by those who seek to interfere in and influence our democratic processes.
The lack of transparency has created a lack of trust, and #deletefacebook is gaining ground.
But … there’s even a catch to deleting your profile. It never goes away. All your information — your photos, your friends, your apps, your log-in sites, all of it — is still safely stored at Facebook, awaiting your return. Whether it’s days or weeks or years, the social media giant keeps your data and uses it.
The European Union recently took steps to further protect privacy, and companies doing business in Europe have to follow those guidelines. Facebook will have to follow strict privacy restrictions overseas — they can easily implement those same requirements in the United States.
Protecting privacy isn’t how these businesses make money — but the people using them should be fully informed of what information they are gathering AND what they are doing with it.
Instead of being sneaky, just let people know their personal information is being collected and sold. Also, the apps that look fun and the quizzes that everyone participates in could be covers for data collection as well. Tell people that — and then let them decide to participate or not.
Facebook has a big trust deficit to overcome, and it’s time it took privacy seriously. The rest of us do.