We always underestimate what we have until we lose it. My location tracking according to Google started in 2016. It is scary to know how much data is collected about you, how your personal information that you once thought nobody knew is all stored somewhere. Data privacy is an issue people are starting to be aware of. A survey conducted in 2016 (see graph ) showed that, globally, over 50% of Internet users were somewhat more concerned or much more concerned about their privacy than in 2015. This is understandable as more companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon are using and selling our information without our full awareness. Data privacy is a problem that has been recently identified and actions should be implemented to solve this issue before it escalates thus making it even harder to find a feasible solution. I think at this point we should focus on pushing for transparency as it is unlikely that social media companies will stop collecting our data. If users are at least informed about where their data is going, they can be a bit more in control of it by deciding whether to join the website or share their information with them or not.
The Internet is not what it used to be. In the beginning, we would use it to send and receive information. Privacy was a small concern. Now, Zeynep Tufecki describes the Internet as a surveillance machine. Facebook, one of the main companies that own a lot of user data, collects user data to create a platform for advertisers that will generate billions of dollars. Facebook is not open about this aspect of its business and only discusses its intention to connect people around the world. Does this make us as users angry? Yes! Why? For a lot of us, it is not because Facebook has our data. Let’s be honest, we have been suspicious of Facebook for a long time. The problem here is transparency; how does Facebook use our data? Facebook has been selling our data to other organizations like Cambridge Analytica, who were using the data for things like the American presidential election without our consent. This made users concerned about what truly happens behind closed doors in companies with access to so much valuable personal information.
Data is a fairly new term that business and people have been recently using but not everyone fully understands it. Those in charge of making laws should be people who are fully aware of how data is collected, how social media platforms work, and how privacy can be breached. A recent example of how politicians are not informed on the topics they should can be seen in Mark Zuckerberg’s hearing in the U.S. When he was questioned by the US Congress, it was obvious by the kinds of questions some members asked that they did not understand how Facebook worked.
One of the business models I personally admire is Everlane, a clothing brand. They simply focus on being transparent in every step they take in their business where they provide the actual cost and the markup compared to other stores. People appreciated it, loved it and bought their product. Although the Facebook business model cannot be easily changed, maybe transparency can be seen as the first step towards a bigger solution. If users are fully aware of how social media companies process their data and the benefits it has for them, there would not be as much anger and they might be more appreciative. Giving users the opportunity to agree or opt out of having their data collected and sold in exchange for a benefit (for example, it lets Facebook show you relevant content and the service remains free) would allow people to make informed decisions. If someone did not want to have their data collected, Facebook could provide the option of paying a small monthly fee instead. It is important to remember that when a service is free, it is because the user is the product.
Facebook will not stop collecting data; data is now considered as the main reason for business growth. Therefore, instead of being against it, we should appreciate where we are at now and companies should use it to benefit the users. Laws should be implemented not to get rid of companies’ ability to store our data but so that companies are transparent and users are aware of what is being collected and for what purpose. That way, everyone can provide informed consent rather than being in the dark.