Facebook users are becoming concerned about their privacy after a recently published data science study focused on mood manipulation and the study of the psyche of Facebook’s over one million users. The study caused controversy and backlash from its users, many criticized the social media website for not acquiring their permission prior to doing the research. Facebook points out that it did in fact gain permission, by changing their data policy and having their users agree to it, with the majority agreeing to the changes without reading the revised agreement first.
The internet has become an effective tool for advertisers to use to broaden their customer base. Facebook assists with this practice by selling information to marketers and advertising firms. Combining face tracking, location data from mobile devices and cookie information on the websites users browse while logged on to Facebook, marketers can create a target demographic and run ads specifically made for its users. With one of the largest collections of people database, the social media website has quite a lot of information to reference, which if requested can be handed over to government authorities and the like. Facebook has even admitted to reading private messages, after a lawsuit was filed against the website for “continuously breaching user privacy.” Facebook claims its actions are harmless and no cause for concern and that they are only scanning the messages for spam or criminal activity. However, the lawsuit claims otherwise, with accusations of the website selling personal information to advertisers.
Facebook is not the only culprit of crossing privacy boundaries, webmail giants such as Microsoft, Gmail and Yahoo have admitted to reading their user’s emails. Even when browsing the web and visiting popular websites, there are numerous trackers on that webpage collecting Facebook users personal data, IP addresses, and browsing history. Referred to as “Non-Personally Identifiable Information,” it is debatable whether or not that statement holds complete truth. Logging into websites through a Facebook profile or “liking” web pages allows these sites to get a hold of personal information, which can be shared to third-parties. One can opt-out of such trackers by downloading an anti-tracking web extension which displays all the trackers running on a website page, then manually disabling them. If interested, one can even download their entire Facebook history, which can hold extensive details of logins, photos and IP addresses.
Facebook is a widely used social media platform that allows one to connect globally with friends, family and create networking opportunities. It provides a free service, and is constantly adding new updates and plugins that help connect its users. Since it is free to use, much of Facebook’s revenue comes from advertising on its page, like many other websites. Facebook users are concerned about how much privacy they might truly have, when these websites begin to stash, collect and sell personal data, keeping many of its users out of the loop. When signing up for social media websites, it is a good idea to be consciously aware about the information one is releasing, with identity thieves and employers monitoring social media profiles. Always try to at least skim through terms and agreements before signing up for a new website. In general, it is good to be cautious about the things one posts online by practicing safe browsing.
By Obeydah Chavez