The Voice

View from the Voice: Mark Zuckerberg is watching you…We want our private information to stay that way

~ The, Voice

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     Facebook users concerned about their privacy were shocked to discover that their information had been used by Cambridge Analytica, a research group who used Facebook users’ information to send out targeted political advertisements for the Donald Trump Presidential Campaign.

     While this was not technically a breach of privacy, since all Facebook users had agreed to their data being shared by using the social media giant, we at The Voice believe that Facebook needs to be more respectful of how they handle their users’ content. We also believe that the social media giant should allow for more neutral uses of their users’ information. Allowing political campaigns to send out targeted advertisements based upon data gathered without full disclosure by the users of Facebook is both unfair and generally bothersome to the users of that platform. One question that can be asked is how this happened and how users might be able to avoid being a target for advertisers in the future.

    Facebook privacy settings can be hard for some users to understand and often do not completely protect one’s private data from being used by advertising companies for the purpose of targeted advertisements. While the intricacies of the privacy settings might be hard to understand, what all users will agree on is being startled by the number of ads that appear on their profile even if they rarely or ever use a certain site. This is where the sharing of information to companies comes in.

     When someone gets a Facebook profile, they often hit ‘I agree’ to the terms of use and other policies without really reading them. By doing so, users inadvertently allow companies who advertise online through social media, such as Facebook, to collect information on the sites you use, the apps or games you play, or even your search history. This is not a phenomenon relegated to Facebook either. If we at The Voice would go onto Google and search for puppies, then it is feasible that dog breeder website ads would then begin to pop up in future searches.

     It is a simple way to look a complex system, but if you visit a politically-minded group or read a political article posted on Facebook, that information, similar to the puppy example, is collected and distributed to advertising groups that would then target you for their “product”–in this case, a political campaign.
Is there any way to really prevent this? First, many confuse privacy settings with the app privacy settings. Simply changing one’s privacy settings will not affect how a user’s data is distributed. In fact, mostly it will only prevent other users from seeing certain information that you do not want them to see.

 

     One of the best ways to avoid advertisements is not to click on any links posted on Facebook, and to not play games on the platform. When one uses/plays apps and games on Facebook, their public profile and email address become available to companies the user may not be aware of. People often don’t even think about this, but it is rare that such a game or app will not have a pop up alerting potential users to the dissemination of their profile information. Since it’s pretty hard not to click on links on social media or not play games, users can also download ad blockers on their computers which will work on almost all of the sites they use. However, this doesn’t put a full stop to the advertising, and regular use of Facebook proves that one isn’t free from ads.

     While one can have genuine legal claims against companies that improperly use their data, Facebook has made sure through their terms that they remain untouchable. The answer for more privacy isn’t simple. While many consumers are leaning towards deleting Facebook they soon realize that this means losing all Facebook products, including Instagram and losing access to any apps they sign into using Facebook. Beyond this, advertising is so deeply attached to the use of the internet in the age of technology that it would be virtually impossible to avoid such targeted ads without going off the grid. Instead, we at The Voice would present a solution in the form of full disclosure combined with eliminating targeted political advertising.
Political campaigns have multiple outlets from which to disseminate ads–radio, TV, newspapers, journals. The list goes on and reaches millions. Targeted ads are an useless expenditure, and should be eliminated, allowing grassroots campaigns to compete and further our democracy as opposed to bowing to the monetary will of larger campaigns. In addition, disclosing that companies, not just Facebook or an app, will receive profile information will allow people to understand where their information is going.

     Mark Zuckerberg will soon be testifying in front of Congress about how Facebook has possibly misused its users’ data. We at The Voice think that Facebook should be used as an example so that internet data privacy laws have a solid basis for how to balance protecting Americans with allowing companies to advertise in the digital age. Discussions of the place of politics in advertising and the complex nature of privacy settings will be paramount to the nature of security in this new era.

~ The Voice

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View from the Voice: Mark Zuckerberg is watching you…We want our private information to stay that way