You Are Being Sold
Preface: Twitter is lit🔥
Facebook is shit💩😎
(In case you were not aware, it recently came to light that Facebook let slip through third party apps within their site the sensitive data of over 50 million users, which was then sold to a UK based political consulting and communication firm called 'Cambridge Analytica' which they appear to have then used to heavily influence the presidential election by targeting ads at key demographics and users whom they had a wealth of information about)
There was a time, not so long ago, when I absolutely revelled in the act of talking politics. I would see or hear of a political idea or social event that had permeated the mainstream, and up my engine would rev. Popping on my "I'M A LIBERAL" hat and cracking my knuckles as I prepared to dive headlong into a game of keyboard warrior in which I would not really care for the opinions of anyone whose ideas differed from my own, much more interested was I in shutting them down for the right winged bigot that they were and proudly asserting my moral superiority over them.
Suffice to say that, thankfully, those days are behind me. And for a whole bunch of reasons that would take an entire post to explain, I do not really enjoy discussing politics anymore, and as such refrain from tossing my hat in the ring over every single social and political issue. But in light of the Zuckerberg hearings in front of congress over the last couple of days, I have decided that this is an issue that needs to be discussed by as many people as possible. Not because there are two sides fighting to be victorious, but because there is one group of people fighting for a fundamental expectation. The group of people being us; the general public. The expectation being privacy.
I'll start this off lightheartedly. There are many things we misuse. The most obvious being words. There are a lot of them, and as language evolves we create more, lose some, use quite a few informally, and relax definitions. My favourite example of this being the word 'literally'.
Just take a moment to read and wrap your head around that...
A word that we have collectively used colloquially for such an extended period of time that they have added a new definition which is directly juxtaposed and contradictory to the actual meaning of the word. You can't use the word you are defining in the definition of said word, surely?🤔
I've used another one right there^ Colloquially. For the longest time I thought the word meant the use of something incorrectly but in a way that was familiar to most. Turns out I was only half right. It does mean to use speech in an informal or familiar way, but it is not a synonym for incorrect
"You alright, mate"
"I'm not your mate, I've never met you"
"I know, I was using the term collaquially"
That is the correct usage of the word👍
Another fan favourite is the oh so loosely thrown around term of theory. Often bolstered onto the word 'conspiracy' (Implying some things aren't actually conspired *scoffs*). What a theory actually is is a scientific term for a set of statements or principles that can be used to explain phenomena and can be repeated multiple times. So even though we know gravity exists, and can prove it, it is still a theory. A theory can also expand and evolve when we learn more about the concept it is explaining.
Symbols too can be misused and tainted, the most notably of course being the swastika 卐. For at least 3,000 years it has been an Indian, notably Hindu, religious icon. The word 'swastika' being Sanskrit for sun, prosperity, and good luck. Unfortunately all most people see when they look at it is a symbol of hate perpetuated by the Nazi party over the course of just 6 years.
Free speech is something also misused rather frequently. Misused to spread hatred and incite violence, but also misused in attempts to stifle the free speech of others over differing opinions and hurt feelings.
In the midst of such obvious and visible social ideologies and political agendas which we find ourselves enthralled in today, it is easy to overlook something not visible and, frankly, incredibly boring that is misused consistently. Data. Few of us deign to engage with the privacy settings on social media, and I suspect significantly fewer have ever read terms and conditions, let alone understand them, before accepting them willingly. Had any of us bothered to go through them with a fine toothed comb, we would discover that they collect EVERYTHING.
The basics, such as your name, age, gender, hometown, interests. That much is obvious, and probably the most that most of us would be comfortable with them keeping. But they also scoop up all other metadata, constantly. Your location, in real time. Your messages. Your browser history outside of the social media site you are on *AHEM* FACEBOOK *AHEM*. Have you given the messenger app access to your SMS services for the convenience of messaging your contacts straight from the app? Well then they have also trawled through your private text messages from before you even installed the app and kept those too. They then use algorithms to search these private conversations for keywords to build up an advertising portfolio dedicated specifically to you, but also to gather information on your viewpoints, your political standings, your very thoughts! All to sell advertising space to companies seeking to exploit you.
"That's okay" you might be thinking. "I'll change my privacy settings and delete my messages". But that won't do anything I'm afraid. Messages you delete, simply get marked as deleted, but then kept regardless, and your privacy settings really don't have anything to do with the information they collect, and the misuse of said information.
"That's okay too" you may also be thinking. "It doesn't really bother me what information they collect on me nor what they do with it". But that is a dangerous precedent to set. Facebook has been conducting social experiments as far back as 2012, in which they hijacked the newsfeeds of users and chose what content they did and did not get to see, with a few basic algorithms, and to what end?... To influence people's emotions and psychological responses. And they succeeded. Technology improves with each passing day at an unfathomable rate. Artificial Intelligence is on the cusp of exponential growth. There is no telling what sophisticated systems designed to influence your thinking could achieve in 10, 20, 30 years time.
Here is something else you may be interested to know. Facebook has recently taken out a patent for a piece of software that will track where exactly on the page you are looking, by using infrared sensors in your devices in order to "give you a more relevant social experience".
Yeah. Of course. That does not at all scream Big Brother or Orwellian nightmare.
Just throw caution to the wind and think: If the service is free, then you are the product. And you might very well be okay with that, and that is fine. But will you be okay with your children being that, a commodity?
I literally watched Mark Zuckerberg dance around giving an answer before stating "I don't think we need a law..." when asked by a congressman if he would support a law that prevents children's data being collected and used without them giving explicit, truly informed consent to have that data be used for 'x' reason. It made me incredibly sad and momentarily hopeless😞
I will leave you with a quote from Edward Snowden that really sums it up perfectly:
"Businesses that make money by collecting and selling detailed records of private lives were once plainly described as "surveillance companies." Their rebranding as "social media" is the most successful deception since the Department of War became the Department of Defense."
(This is well worth a read if anyone has 5 minutes and is interested in a much more in-depth and user friendly explanation of exactly the sorts of things these companies collect: https://twitter.com/iamdylancurran/status/977559925680467968)