Privacy – Damned if you do(n’t)

As expected, Facebook lays out a nicely designed, easy to navigate page regarding their data privacy policy. It covers everything from what kind of data they collect on you, to how they distribute and use it into a sectioned page made up of bullet points. For most people, they will probably never even visit this section of the site, which Facebook is probably hoping for because as Kovac’s stated during his TED Talk, gathering data on people is happening because it’s a huge business (Kovac 2012). As I went through each section of the policy, a few major points came to mind.

First off, a quick scroll through my Facebook feed reveals that those who I am friends with tend to share achievements and high-points of their life. I believe that this is because on an individual level, people want to have the personal satisfaction/internal warm-fuzzy feeling of being recognized by their peers for something that they are proud of. This coincides with Taddicken’s point that “Social Web users tend to self-disclose more personal and sensitive information when their friends and acquaintances also use it” (Taddicken 2014). Meaning, people are more willing to divulge information if they know that they are broadcasting it to their friends. In regards to myself, Taddicken describes my activity to some degree. I try to avoid the cliche humble-brag tendencies that fill my feed, however, I am definitely more willing to share personal happenings on Facebook because it is more socially relevant to me than other sites.

Additionally, a major section that Facebook’s privacy policy focuses on is in regards to how they share information with third parties they are affiliated with. Their policy stresses that “We do not share information that personally identifies you…unless you give us permission” (Facebook 2017). Permission is tricky, often times users (myself included) frantically click through user agreements with applications that ‘talk’ to Facebook in order to start using as fast as possible, with little or no regard to whether permission was granted to allow information that personally identifies me to be distributed. Fuchs asserts that, “Facebook should reveal what data the platform stores about its users, and users should be protected from Facebook’s economic exploitation of their data” (Fuchs 2012) – I do not find the latter part of his point feasible at this point in time. Protecting users from ‘economic exploitation of data’ is a grey area, and so long as Facebook includes loopholes in vague policy agreements, the only way to guarantee Facebook and its partners will not exploit your data is to simply not use it.

Finally, believing that Mark Zuckerberg does not care about profit is naive. We live in a free market economy, and in 2016, Facebook generated $10 billion in profit, which is a whole lot for someone that supposedly does not care. While his intentions may be pure in attempting to create an open society, one must not forget that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Unless the card table that users are playing on is flipped, the house (Facebook) will continue to win – regardless of what game users are playing.

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4 thoughts on “Privacy – Damned if you do(n’t)

  1. I totally get what you’re saying about the sharing of humble brags on Facebook. I’m really curious about whether there has been a cultural shift around this. I used to post more accomplishments, but over time that number has significantly decreased. I think I just started realizing the way I felt when I saw people brag on Facebook and finally internalized that’s probably how others felt about me. So unless it’s a life-changing event, you’re probably not going to hear about it from me!

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  2. Wechat privacy policy also mentions that they will ask for our permission before sharing info. I believe it might be a little bit safer before I read your blog. The permission conceals in a secret place in a long boring agreement.
    Mark said that facebook does not care about the profit and they earned 10 billion dollars a year. It is hypocritical of him to say that. We learned some methods to reduce the disclosing. Besides that, I also decide to use fake information in unnecessary place.

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  3. I also think that Fuchs view about aggregated vs. individual data is unfeasible. Fuchs’s approach doesn’t take into account how autonomous decisions play an important role in sharing personal data. Sharing personal –rather than aggregated– information is a widely recognized standard for privacy protection, but we’re allowed to change it as long as we explicitly consent. While I accept that for many (or most) users the lack of information and media literacy plays in favor of the House (as you say), Fuchs’s argument shouldn’t prevail if we still believe in personal autonomy as the most important element in privacy.

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