So you might have heard the news about Facebook, and how they leaked tons of sensitive personal data on 87 million people, or maybe over a billion if you believe how some people are calculating. This entire breach of privacy was done by one guy going by the name of Christopher Wylie who is a former employee at Cambridge Analytica. This company specialized in psychographics- in other words, they use data to manipulate people’s thoughts and actions.
This all started back in 2014 when Cambridge Analytica bought information from Aleksandr Kogan’s company Global Science Research Limited- so now we know that this was all one big data breach from the beginning. This information was collected from the Facebook profiles of over 50 million people. According to The Guardian, “The data was collected through an app called thisisyourdigitallife and paid for by Global Science Research.”
“Thisisyourdigitallife was a personality test app created by Aleksandr Kogan, who is also the director of Global Science Research. This application requested access to users’ own data as well as that of their friends- this is where it gets tricky because technically Facebook allowed this at the time. So in total, Kogan had access to around 50 million people’s personal info,” says David Nield on BGR .
Although Facebook claims that they have fixed the loophole that let Cambridge Analytica collect all this information, the social media company is still on the hot seat.
Facebook’s stock has fallen nearly 14% in after-hours trading as of this writing, and it isn’t looking to get any better. This whole debacle has brought up many questions regarding privacy in our digital world- and from where I’m sitting, it sure doesn’t look like Facebook is going to be able to quell all the tensions that have been stirred up by this scandal. Facebook is under fire for the way they handle their users’ information, and it’s not looking good. Facebook is taking a beating for their handling of user data.
The fact that Facebook has been able to take advantage of the information they have on their users in such an unethical manner can be attributed to a few factors: the platform’s lack of transparency when it comes to how your data is being used, and also a general lack of understanding by most people regarding what exactly happens with their information once they post it online.
In this article, I’ll go over some privacy basics that you should know about when using social media platforms like Facebook, including:
How Facebook handles your personal data How you can control who sees what How you can protect yourself from the dangers of social media
Let’s get started!
The first thing you should know about Facebook is that it’s a for-profit corporation whose main goal is to make money. I’m not saying this in an accusatory way, nor am I trying to say that Facebook is inherently evil. What I am saying, however, is that you need to be aware of how the business model of these social media companies actually works.
How does Facebook make money?
To understand how exactly Facebook makes money from your personal data, you first need to understand its basic business model. Here are some key facts:
The majority of revenue comes from advertising , which is targeted based on personal data . This means that when you see an ad on Facebook or another social media platform, there’s a good chance it ‘s there because of your personal data.
Facebook and other social media platforms make money from the sale of your personal data to advertisers . This is how Facebook makes money from your personal data. It’s not by selling ads directly, but by selling access to its user base. This model is based on a single piece of information: the unique identifier that Facebook assigns to you when you sign up for an account (your email address).
When you link your profile with another service using Facebook Connect or some other method, they will ask for permission to access certain bits of information on your profile (such as your name, age, gender, hometown and interests). When this happens, they are in fact asking for permission to get access to your unique Facebook identifier. This is why, when you connect with a service, the permission request does not ask for your name, email address or any other piece of information that would allow them to identify you.
To be clear: the only bit of information they get from Facebook when you connect to their service is your unique identifier (the thing that links your profile to all the data associated with it). That’s what allows them to access all the data related to your profile on Facebook and nothing else. The permissions dialog itself makes this abundantly clear so there is no confusion on this matter.
If we were asked by Google how they could have done things differently in order for users not to feel deceived about their intentions, I would tell them: ” You should have been more transparent about what you were really doing when asking for the permissions.”
I would also tell them: “You should have asked for access to less data, and specifically to the minimum amount of data required for your service. For example, if all you need is my email address in order to facilitate communication with me, then request only that, instead of asking for read/write access to my whole contact list.”
In other words: be honest about your intentions and limit access to as little information as possible.
Now I’ll give you an example of a way in which Google could have been more transparent about their intentions but still use only the minimum amount of information required by their service. Imagine this:
Google asks for read/write access to your contact list. You tap “OK” and Google immediately asks you if it should create a new Gmail account for you, accessible by logging in through the Google+ app. This way, all of your contacts would be stored on the web (or in the cloud) – but only linked to this one particular Gmail account that is created specifically for you as an individual user.
This way, you could still export your data from Google’s servers at any time and move it to another provider or platform if necessary – without having to worry about any of your contacts being deleted or changed along with the data in question.
In other words: Google could have made their service even more convenient for users like me – while also making it a lot more useful for people who do not use their email service as the primary means of communication – by simply replicating their contacts database on individual accounts and making it available to users independently of the data in question.
In fact, Google could have gone a step further: they could have also offered to automatically synchronize your contacts with other providers or platforms for you, if you wanted them to do so. This way, all your contacts would be available on any device that has access to them – without having to worry about duplicates or being unable to reach people when switching from one platform or provider (like Gmail) to another (like Outlook).
The bottom line is this: if I’m using an email provider like Gmail as my primary email address, I want to be able to reach people through that email address on any platform. If they don’t have a Gmail account, then they should at least be able to reach me through my primary email provider’s website or mobile app.
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