The ongoing debate about data collection and our right to privacy is long overdue and it is time for all technology companies to be held to account, by both politicians and the users themselves. Our complacency has led to the erosion of our right to privacy. When I closed my Google account last year I was shocked at the level of detailed geographical data collected, and I began to realise the extent of the personal information these companies hold about us.[pullquote]
Nothing to hide, nothing to fear? Not anymore[/pullquote]
Ultimately, we have the right to our data. But the current situation provides no way to prove that companies truly delete user data when asked. An account can always be ‘suspended’ or ‘deactivated’ but what does that really mean? The misplaced trust in companies like Google and Facebook needs to end, but until we stop using their products and services, nothing will change. Our right to privacy protects us from tyranny, and sadly its importance has been forgotten.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal has brought to light something we have all pretended doesn’t exist. The reality of the relationship between us and the online world we all take for granted. Facebook denies knowledge of any wrongdoing. For the first time in its decade long dominance of humanity, Zuckerberg’s monolith has come under the microscope for its practices and, let us say, ambivalence towards the lives of its users. This mass collection of data is not new knowledge. Just ask Edward Snowden. What is new to most of us is Facebook’s intimidation tactics, targeting journalists and academics who dare to question its practices. Data harvesting has not suddenly gone too far, as some suggest, it is as it has always been; an intrinsic part of what social media is.[pullquote]
The mass collection of our data is not new[/pullquote]
If there is anything good to come out of the bollocking Facebook has received in the last few months, it is that many more people are now aware of some of the counter-measures available to them. Here are some basic tips that have worked for me: Firstly, never use Microsoft created web-browsing software, such as Internet Explorer, if you can help it. I recommend Firefox, a piece of software that works just as well as anything Microsoft has, and was founded to combat the warrantless mass harvesting of our data. You could also disable cookies. Easy enough to do and a great help. If you don’t want to go all out and delete your social media accounts, then just examine the security settings and ensure they are all set at the highest level.
Some say that Facebook is facing a crisis point, but it will survive so long as apathy and convenience out-weigh the self-preservation aspect of the privacy debate. The next time you post something online, just ask yourself; ‘Would I entrust this information to a random person in the street?’ The choice might not be yours.
We all know that when we sign up to any social media platform such as Facebook or Twitter, our data doesn’t just sit in a database. Instead, it’s used to target us with adverts. While I don’t have a problem with this (as I said, it’s what we agree to), I do have a problem with them not looking after it.
When it emerged a few weeks ago that Facebook had unknowingly shared eighty million user’s data with Cambridge Analytica, I was annoyed because of how careless Facebook was. Data is perhaps one of the most valuable possessions a company can have, and to mistreat it in the way they did seems a little insulting.
In that sense, I don’t think the data collection has gone too far, but I do think the way Mark Zuckerberg didn’t even know that his company had shared 80 million user’s data with a British firm illegally shows that we can’t really trust these companies. Not only that, we never really could trust them.
We upload our data with the knowledge that our data will be used to benefit Facebook, and when we sign any Terms of Service, we agree to this, but we don’t agree to them indiscriminately sharing it with third parties.
So in that sense, I’d say data collection hasn’t gone too far, but for goodness sake look after our data if you’re given the privilege to use it.
Last modified: 3rd May 2018