SHAME ON FACEBOOK
Yet again, Facebook is revealed as a "very sorry" social media platform for anyone - as we should all be - concerned about privacy
Facebook now estimates that 87 million of its users' personal data was accessed by Cambridge Analytica
This includes more than a million UK members
And is said to have been at least partly responsible for Donald Trump's election
And the UK BRexit vote
And what else...........?
Privacy needs to be as “cool” as a healthy lifestyle
Societies have embraced the facilities of modern technology with little regard for the possible consequences. Just as people have now learnt the importance of a healthy lifestyle – diet, exercise etc. – so they are learning that responsible privacy is essential for social networking.
Most of us would be annoyed to find anyone showing interest in our private conversations and would be incensed to learn the conversation was being recorded but so many carelessly conduct private mobile phone conversations in public places, often to the inconvenience of fellow travellers etc.
Similarly Facebook answered a desire to stay in regular contact with friends and it was universally adopted for that purpose without thought or regard for its origins.
Facebook was developed by and for college students who had no thoughts of privacy because their sole interest was promoting the widest circle of acquaintances and competing for the biggest count of accumulated "friends".
No surprise that it quickly went viral across the globe. But no surprise that it quickly ran into privacy issues as it became recognised as an incredible source of personal information of use to all sorts of state and private agencies as well as those of illegal or malicious intent.
How leaky is Facebook?
As stated earlier, this is by no means the first serious privacy concern about the social media giant and Facebook are now - yet again - "closing the stable door" by banning the likes of Cambridge Analytica and certain "questionable" Russian accounts.
Facebook somewhat belatedly provided add-on privacy features after early risks and abuse were publicised but social media is by definition a network with associated risks.
In 2013, fewer than 200k Facebook users downloaded the Cambridge Analytica quiz app. which then secretly harvested data about all of their friends - an average of over 400 'innocent' accounts being accessed through the careless action of one common friend and unscrupulously exploited by Cambridge Analytica.
Any unguarded access point is clearly a security risk and Facebook’s encouragement of add-on apps will remain another area of vulnerability.
Information is power
Computer technology facilitates social media but it also gives the providers and anyone with enough access the ability to create an intimate and revealing profile by combining all the various and seemingly harmless snippets of information shared.
If you lost a spare copy of your house key then that would be relatively harmless because nobody would know which address it fitted. But suppose you also lost a diary with your home address… and details of your planned foreign holiday. Information builds rapidly.
Information is money
It’s no secret that Google use your search history to create a profile that then allows them to charge advertisers a premium for placing well-targeted and relevant adverts. You remain anonymous but are categorised in terms of your shopping and/or interests and Google can fairly claim that they are providing an enhanced user service by helping you find the things you’re searching for.
Before the current crisis, Facebook was worth around $400 BILLION
That’s over $200 for your account alone!
Because they use your private information to extract characteristics that they can sell to advertisers who want to reach people just like you.
Unlike Google usage, when you use social media you are not looking or shopping for anything so Facebook cannot claim to be enhancing your online experience by allowing advertisers to reach you but make no mistake, YOUR INFORMATION IS BEING SOLD FOR ENORMOUS PROFIT.
And that’s just the ‘legitimate’ Facebook usage of your data but Facebook is no different from other social media sites that sell targeted advertising – YOU are the target and YOUR data is what puts you in their cross-hairs.
How leaky is Facebook?
Facebook is inherently “leaky” in design due to its origins, the fact that privacy was an add-on and their acceptance of add-on apps to interface with you, your data and your online habits.
Add-on apps may provide entertaining games and diversions and Facebook has proved a great place for sharing anonymous jokes and funny photos or videos but your social data is no joking matter and needs better protection than it has received to date.
What can you do?
- Pay closer attention to privacy
Use the facilities provided and be very cautious about what you share openly.
Remember that information snippets quickly build and become very revealing.
- Deal with existing history
- Change the privacy of historic posts
- Remove historic posts from the website – download them to local media e.g. “How can I download a copy of my Facebook data?” https://www.facebook.com/help/302796099745838. You may need to close the account to ensure data gets removed
- Use an anonymous login
You can easily inform your family and true friends of a new username by comments you share privately on invitations and elsewhere but unless you’re a professional celebrity others have no reason to know your real identity.
If your existing username reveals your real-world identity then you should close that account and start a new one with anonymised login.
- Join TellTrail.com
- No advertising, therefore no exploitation of your data
- Built-in Privacy so that privacy is mainstream, not just an add-on. Everything you post has privacy that’s inescapable but easily controlled and understood.
- No bolt-on Apps, therefore no “Cambridge” risk or data exploitation
If this sounds like self-promotion then maybe it is but rest assured that the owners of TellTrail will surely never match Mark Zuckerberg’s wealth of over $60 Billion because TellTrail is designed to put its members’ interests – privacy and integrity - first and to pursue more responsible capitalisation.