As users, to what extent do we have rights over our privacy on Facebook?

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On: September 30, 2021
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With the rise of technology, social media is on a large scale increase of popularity. People of all ages are using platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and many others to communicate and share their thoughts/posts/photos. Although whilst creating our social media platforms, we are given a long list of terms and agreements to consent to, it is questionable how many of us read and take note of what we are signing up for. 

The division between personal information and public information has become much more fluid and slippery once Facebook was created. Whilst one may think that their private information is protected, the key of one’s control over what they are willing to share is not always in our hands after the creation of a Facebook profile. In spite of this, can this be used to the users advantage? According to the text by Venturi, Bounegru, Gray and Rogers, this data collection and sharing can be a positive thing. 

“Media companies collect information from us and redistribute it in various configurations and products as part of their business strategy (see, for example, Bodle, 2011). Google, Facebook, Twitter and the likes may strive to collect and monetise our messages, clicks and hyperlinks, but in doing so, they also provide us with insights from the data that they collect. This is not simply a compensatory move: it is part of the strategies for platform to present themselves as providers of valuable analytics and partners to established and emerging data industries.” (Venturi et al, 2018)

In the text “A reality check(list) for digital methods” it is described as the way that the analytics that are used from one’s profile can often be beneficial to their own algorithm and more personalised feeds. This redistribution of data increases peoples interest in turn. It can also be a means of great research investigation for those social scientists who would need particular data for behaviour analysis. This is called a “scientific inscription”, when information as such through the use of technology is used for research purposes. It is also relevant to note that although a lot of our information is made shareable to Facebook, similar to most social media platforms, Facebook does makes use of an API agreement. API’s (Application Programming Interface) are responsible for the structures which give accessibility to provided data along side its limitations. Important parts of digital traces are sometimes left out of APIs – the Facebook API, for example, recently removed all information on personal profiles due to privacy concerns, despite the fact that such profiles make up the majority of Facebook’s data (Rieder, 2013). This has been a relief for many who refrain from using Facebook so much because of this exact reason. (Venturi et al, 2018)

The majority of the time however, this is not the case for Facebook users to feel comfortable with their privacy breach, especially after one of the most recent synonymous scandalous case that  Facebook was involved in; Cambridge Analytica.

In 2016, during the American elections, Facebook was accused of false political advertisements to corrupt the population’s knowledge into voting for Trump. Facebook was also keeping track of and surveilling those clicking and following up on these adverts. His political campaign was therefore predicted to be doing well. 50 million facebook profiles had been targeted in order to accumulate data on voters and advertise to the advantage of Trump’s campaign. This brought about the concern in many, as it shows how easy it is to lose control of information we share online or simply, even things we have searched. (Alexandra Ma, 2018)

Such attacks have posed issues till this day and are on the increase. It is a clear depiction of the threat to privacy. Data Mining has been helping such big companies and organisations to categorise and use information obtained from comments or posts to piece together one’s habits and characteristics, bringing along the loss of ones privacy.  Giving out your email address and birthday to create an account may seem like a harmless collection of data, however many cases of identity theft have been possible with the simple basic information asked about ourselves which is shown on social media. It also allows you to be put in a certain criteria for targeted algorithms, and often pestering adverts. 

Whilst it is a personal choice to make use of Facebook and conform to such practices of the digital world, choosing to not be a part of the digital citizenship or being deprived of being a part of the resources that make up our digital self, ironically, tend to be isolated socially. Not being a part of an online community in our day and age means that you are disconnecting yourself from a virtually social setting. It has now become a social expectation to conform and have both internet access and social media as part of your day to day use. The process of globalisation has almost not given the user a choice but to share their private data in order to create a Facebook profile and conform.

Privacy in the 21st Century has become a questionable phenomenon, especially in such a context of social media (in particular, Facebook). One can argue that our Facebook posts and activities are not as important to us, however, the evolution of technology is leading us into an increased dependency on it. There are a lot of benefits for using it, however, it is to come with great caution within the digital community, as the concept of privacy is becoming rare.

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