The revelation regarding Facebook, reported here and elsewhere, and a collection of bad actors consisting of Cambridge Analytica, Strategic Communication Laboratories aka SCL Elections and third party apps that use Facebook’s own API developed to collect and use your personal data has, hopefully, brought to light that you are the product that is being sold for their profit. Ad revenue alone for mostly Facebook and Twitter was estimated at $41 billion worldwide in 2017 and this does not include the lucrative repeated sales of your personal data through the so-called dark web, as reported here. The ad revenue alone amounts to some $6 per year for each of the 7 billion people on this planet.
Yes, you read that correctly. You and your personal data are the product and for the most part you have inflicted this upon yourself.
How? You may ask.
First, by being either naive or through willful ignorance and voluntarily providing the social media sites with your personal data. Perhaps you are like millions of others who feel that this is the price we must pay in exchange for the free content. But there is no such thing as free when not only our personal data but posted content can be harvested the result being to inundate you with targeted ads for not only products and services but also to serve someone’s political agenda which are often amplified through the malicious use of bots and trolls.
Secondly, by blindly agreeing to the social media site’s terms of service. Yes, we all do it. But what choice do we have if we want the service? These terms of service agreements are long and chock full of legalese and loopholes in the companies’ favor. They also usually list a number of options which you have no choice but to accept. Among these are terms specifying how the company collects and uses your personal data.
Unfortunately sometimes there is not much that you can do, as reported here, regarding the unwanted collection of calls and texts by Facebook made on connected Android smartphones ostensibly to improve its friend recommendation algorithm to create a better experience for everyone.
We have to stop and ask is this aggravation really what I want? Are all those likes, followers and friends, most of whom you really don’t know and may not even exist all that important?
We are being manipulated to serve the agenda of others and we all know who these elites are. Face it folks, we are being used. I don’t know about you but I don’t like being manipulated and used.
So how can we at least separate or insulate ourselves from the scourge of unauthorized personal data collection and the associated abuse perpetrated by social media sites?
Here are a few suggestions:
- Contact your elected representatives and urge them to pass legislation to require social media and internet advertising to comply with the same laws that apply to print and broadcast advertising.
- Urge your elected representatives to craft legislation requiring social media sites to provide an opt-in check for every option listed as part of the terms of service.
- Do not use the convenience of using your social media site’s login data to access third party or affiliated sites. This will mean setting up separate login credentials for each site you want to access.
- Set the privacy setting in your social media profile to private. This usually means that users of the site can’t see your personal data but the company still has your data in their database and can make use of it any way want if it means making a buck.
- Limit the personal data you provide to perhaps just a name, not even your real name, a password and usually an email address. Social media and other services like to collect as much personal data from you as they can under the guise that the data is used to “enhance your user experience.” Don’t fall for it. This usually translates into the targeting of ads that their algorithms determine will be of interest to you.
- Turn off the location tracking feature of your smart phone. Your current location along with a trace of where you have been is yet more personal data that is available to companies like Google to, among other things, serve up targeted ads to you when you pass stores.
- Install a good ad blocker for your browser like Ghostery.
- The next time you want to post a photo or schedule or even post a comment ask yourself if there is another way to do this on a site that is less risky and not capitalizing on your personal data then using it against you.