Changing our online habits: a start

In considering the Cambridge Analytica breach of Facebook’s data, digital tracking and online privacy has been brought to the top of the public’s concern. I am relieved that this is not news that mainstream news sources is ignoring and is being properly covered across the board. Since the news came out, it has been a very eye-opening revelation that the “Big Brother” dystopian landscape has already happened and is our reality. What can we do before it is too late?

While deleting Facebook may seem like the easiest solution, I do not think there are any simple steps that I could suggest changing our behaviour about digital tracking. Also, not everyone has the luxury of deleting their Facebook profiles and still retain the same amount of follower reach or brand awareness for their businesses. High-profile companies like Tesla, SpaceX, all associated with Elon Musk have made the choice to delete all of their Facebook pages. These companies are popular enough that they do not need to depend on Facebook anymore. There is also the #deletefacebook movement occurring too. However, the solution is not as simple as deleting Facebook but rather making meaningful changes to your online habits and the traces you leave behind.

Everyone has their own relationship with technology and social media, and the levels at which they depend and use it. While one person may jokingly (but with a grain of truth) say they cannot live without their smartphone in their hand, there are some people who still completely embrace the analog and all the levels in-between. Where you fall on that scale depends on the person. That is why it is so crazy to believe how much of an influence of the curation of online advertisements and articles by Cambridge Analytica had a role in the U.S. election.

To understand Cambridge Analytica’s strategy, they used psychographic information. Psychographics is not a term that is unfamiliar to our classes either. Cambridge Analytica optimized their data analysis process to micro-target specific groups of people based on their personalities. Similarly, for publishers this data would be immensely valuable to their marketing strategy too, just applied in a different context. We have already tried to narrow down exactly where our audience lies with resources like Vividata for our media projects.

It is almost like this double-identity/awkward place to be in as both a stakeholder in these data companies optimizing their analytics for publishers, and also treading the lines of being the potential target for other brands and know exactly what is happening to you but “don’t mind.” When Cambridge Analytica spreads fake news, and “alternative facts”, I think here is where it is important to balance which courses are credible or not, doing a careful reading, and to triangulate the information from what the source is telling you. Then, it is also about being a skeptical reader and having the self-control to pause for a moment and think before spreading an article. At the other end, checking the credibility of the source, who the author is, the publisher will help too. For publishers, I believe this is where it is important to build a genuine relationship between readers, the authors, and the publisher itself so that readers know that what they are reading is from not only from a credible source, but wants to inspire a genuine connection with its audience. I think that leveraging social media as a platform for that interaction is a way that can be done. Overall, these are just a few of my suggestions!


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