Created by WS-71, 2015

Facebook's impact on the world's privacy

Nowadays, Facebook is the most demanded social network platform worldwide.[1] In fall 2014 there were 1,35 billion people around the globe that were active on Facebook.[2] When you sign up for Facebook, you might assume that your data goes only as far as the company you've signed an agreement with. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Rainey Reitman, activism director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation said: «…a simple FOIA request revealed that government agencies like DEA and even IRS regularly collect, store, and request information from companies like Facebook…».[3] So the government uses the information they collect on social media to hunt and catch criminals, and to control every person in the web.

Obviously, the question occurs how such an internet platform can actually make money without charging their users a fee. The response eventually seems easy : Facebook earns money through placing other firm's advertising in people's news feed. They make their profit through selling self-analyst information about their users' tendencies to other firms that need such data for market research and can so better place advertising in the right places on Facebook.[4] Ads are run based on demographics, relationship types, genders, ages, titles, and keywords. The information about you your demographics, your behaviors and habits - all information you may think has little no value - is valuable to the people looking for it. It is important for advertisers, game creators and others who use Facebook to garner an audience.[5] It can be misused, lost or stolen and that’s the concern.

Your reputation and future endeavors depend on it. Facebook collects private data to create your profile. Once you enter your personal data, who owns it? Where does your privacy stop? the things that we post on Facebook aren’t really erased even when we ‘delete’ them from our profile or wall; they are still somewhere in the cyberspace, perhaps available to be traded. Yet we continue to make our most personal posts, as if to repress such knowledge of privacy violation into our subconscious in a Freudian sense of things. Or maybe some of us think it’s a great idea after all, since we get information that is of interest and relevant to us, and not just random advertising junks.

Apparently, this somehow happens without the user's knowledge. Once registered on Facebook the user agrees to the business' general terms and conditions and therefore also to the interference of their privacy. Being honest, most of the people who are active on Facebook do not even have a clue of what is actually written in these mysterious terms and conditions since the majority is lazy about reading it. Survey reveals that students in class somehow worry about their online privacy but only few really much care about it, in fact. How come ? Now, would those change their minds knowing what Facebook actually does with their private data, earning millions of dollars without the user's profit from it? I guess so since the survey also shows that 62.1 % out of all respondents actually do not want to share any information with advertisers. Although Facebook provide us with privacy settings, such that we can configure our account to only allow our friends to view our posts, I don’t think it’s sufficient to guarantee that your data only visible by people whom you want to. The problem occurring here seems to be Facebook's terms and conditions that somehow do whatever they want, letting their users noticing new updates through emails no one ever reads or is able to read since it is only written in the english language.[6] Well, even if they'd notice most would probably stay since all their friends are on Facebook, too. An indication for that undoubtedly is Facebook's user rate which has constantly risen and has not fallen since 2010.[7] Of course, it is also possible that most users actually know about every detail of these terms and conditions and still want to keep their membership alive but this sounds fairly unlikely.

It is funny how we all know that Facebook collects data about us and possibly share that information to third parties organizations without our consent, and yet a lot of students and people still do not really let that bother us much. It is shocking how much a social network like Facebook is able to blind billions of people worldwide and also how much those are actually willing to accept for a bit of staying in contact with friends. Prior explanations make the assumption undoubtedly clear that most people have not read Facebook's terms and conditions yet. Yet, digital privacy is important and people should keep a skeptical eye to Facebook that makes promises of «free» services in exchange for tidbits of personal information. So while the government and businesses are both scrambling to collect as much information as they can, you should have serious reservations about whether the data is being kept securely, what rights you have after the fact to remove personally identifiable information should be it collected, and how that information is being used by other groups you didn't sign an agreement with once you give it up to the one you did.

References

Jain, Sorav : 40 most popular social networking sites of the world (october 6th 2012) http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/40-most-popular-social-networking-sites-world?page=1 (date accessed: january 19th 2015)

Djordjevic, Valie and Wragge, Alexander : Datenschutz auf Facebook – Wem gehören meine Daten ? (may 6th 2013) http://irights.info/artikel/wem-gehoren-meine-daten/14308 (date accessed : janaury 19th 2015)

Verbraucherzentrale Nordrhein-Westfalen : Facebook : Missbrauch persönlicher Daten (september 9th 2014) http://www.vz-nrw.de/facebook-daten (date accessed : janaury 19th 2015)

Statista : Anzahl der monatlich aktiven Facebook-Nutzer weltweit von 2008 bis zum 3. Quartal 2014 (in Millionen), 2015, http://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/37545/umfrage/anzahl-der-aktiven-nutzer-von-facebook/ (date accessed : janaury 19th 2015)

Lifehacker: why you should carry about and defend your privacy http://lifehacker.com/5904966/why-you-should-care-about-and-defend-your-privacy accessed January 23th 2015

Michael Poh: Facebook&your privacy: why it matters http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/facebook-privacy-matters/ accessed January 23th 2015