The real cost of using social media platforms

Photo of Mark Zuckerberg via Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Mark Zuckerberg via Wikimedia Commons

Selling your info to make some fast cash

By Katie Czenczek, Staff Writer


If you use any popular social media platform, you’ve probably already noticed the eerie way in that, just when you’ve finished looking up a clothing brand or watching a video, you notice that now all of the ads are somehow tailored to your online activity. I’m sorry to tell you this, but it isn’t just a coincidence, and there are more sinister implications than catering ads to personal users.

According to a press release from Facebook, the information of approximately 76 million users was leaked to Cambridge Analytica, with 622,161 Canadians being affected. However, most news sites reportedly ballpark the leak to be at least 10 million more people targeted than what Facebook has admitted to. Users who completed an independent personality test called “This is your digital life…” that was available on the site put their friends and friends of friends at risk of sharing data without their consent. As a result, Mark Zuckerberg has been called to testify for his company’s huge oversight in not having any safety nets in place to verify the legitimacy of an app or program before it is granted access to Facebook’s enormous user base.

Zuckerberg’s testimony has been read two ways. The first is that he was blatantly deflecting questions that needed to be answered about internet security—and the second was that he is a man of the digital age attempting to explain the Internet to people who don’t fully comprehend how it functions. Either way, Zuckerberg’s abrasive demeanor certainly didn’t help.

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell commented on Zuckerberg’s general lack of awareness during the testimony.

“As CEO, you didn’t know some key facts. You didn’t know about major court cases about privacy policy against your company. You didn’t know that the Federal Trade Commission doesn’t have fining authority, and that Facebook couldn’t have been fined for the 2011 consent order. You didn’t know what a shadow profile is. You didn’t know how many other firms have been sold data by [Dr. Alexsandr] Kogan [the creator of the independent phishing app that collected the compromised data], other than Cambridge Analytica and Eunoia Technologies, even though you were asked that question yesterday. You don’t even know all the kinds of information Facebook is collecting from its own users,” said Dingell.

So, you might be wondering, why doesn’t he know? First off, all of those likes, shares, and visits to websites off of Facebook’s accounts are monitored and sold to third-parties. Your age, religion, relationship status, health information, and phone number are all accessed through the website by signing up in the first place, and through the data it collects on your personal web activity

Even if you tried to delete your account, Facebook still has access to your info through your friends. On certain apps, it asks you for permission to access your phone’s contact list. In this case, Facebook doesn’t need to ask for your permission because your friend has given it for you.

With all of this data, major players in the political sphere have the ability to target users and help politicians gain votes. The concept of this is similar to a two-way mirror; political parties have access to your personal information, but you are not aware that they do. Another huge problem with this is that it isn’t just Cambridge Analytica and Eunoia Technologies that access this information. As Dingell stated, Facebook does not currently know how many companies out there have the same kind of access, let alone all of the other sites that use data tracking to make a profit.

It truly begs the question: Is your personal information worth the cost of using your favourite social media platform?

The Other Press

The Other Press, Douglas College's student newspaper since 1976. Articles, insight and updates from the New West and Coquitlam campuses.

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