Social issues

Facebook and Your Data

– by Sophia Joyce

Have you ever wondered what Facebook does with the information you put online? You might have noticed if you like a page, suddenly all your adverts are about that or you find old messages and pictures from a deleted account.

Facebook has been around since 2004 and since then it has been expanding itself, as well as it’s terms and conditions and privacy policy. It is now 2015 and this social network has over 1.49 billion users that have agreed to let Facebook study their data.

There are a few things that Facebook does with your information and this starts with targeted advertisements, experiments and data retention.

Say you give permission for Facebook to use your GPS, bluetooth and wifi to track your location, they will create localised adverts tailored for you, this would theoretically affect your shopping habits and attract more companies to advertise with Facebook.

These adverts target your personality and they are created through the information you give them. Facebook knows where you travel, where you eat, where you shop and who you are with, so why wouldn’t they use it to their advantage?

albert palacci

Facebook spokespeople says that they always ask permission for Facebook to study a user’s information. But do you remember being asked this? No, because who reads those pesky terms and conditions?

Facebook says “we use this information to provide and enhance the services we offer.”

Their objective is to change the way we spend our money by using subtle psychological manipulation. So we must take responsibility for our information.

Users should take some time to set restrictions and customise their privacy settings, even though this does not change how Facebook shares your information it does change how other users see your data.

If that’s not bad enough, Facebook sometimes does experiments on you without telling you. Ever heard of the 2012 ‘emotional contagion’ scientific study? This study was designed to see how users emotions changed with the manipulation of ‘happy’ or ‘sad’ news feed posts.

The results found that manipulation of ‘happy’ or ‘sad’ posts did indeed alter people’s moods, which reinforces the idea that targeted advertising does in fact alter people’s buying habits.

Researcher Max Masonic says that this was breaking ethical guidelines of informed consent.

“Researchers don’t get an ethical free pass by saying a user checked a box nest to a websites terms of use, a researcher is responsible for making sure all participants give proper consent.”

Facebook did not do this.

Facebook Securerr

There are a few other experiments Facebook conducts on you ranging from simple surveys to which ads users prefer to click on.

Facebook does not have many research restrictions other than the research must stay internal to the company. If it is sold to other companies, it must be anonymous and de-identified.

Although this does not always work out, on the 28th July 2015 Facebook has been urged to tighten it’s own privacy settings after a software engineer was able to collect data on thousands of users.

The developer was able to guess a user’s mobile number and search them up obtaining names, profile pictures and locations of users who left their numbers on public.

Security experts say that the loophole would allow hackers to build large databases of personal information and sell it on the blackmarket.

So if you’re not paying for a product, then you probably are the product.

After reading this and you want to leave Facebook, there are two options. Deactivating your account is a temporary solution, which involves hiding your timeline from others and concealing your information. But Facebook does creates copies of this information just in case you want to come back.

Deleting your account is a more permanent option that deletes all personally identifiable information such as your name, email address or phone numbers. But materials such as photos, messages and statuses may remain on databases, as it takes up to 90 days to delete everything.

Photo Credit: Featured Image by Securerr; Advertisement Image by Albert Palacci; Facebook Being Watched Image by Reuters.   

Disclaimer: Opinion Piece 

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