Thursday, 12 April 2018

Facebook, Data Privacy and You

Unless you are living under a rock, or better still, are allergic to social media, you would have atleast heard about the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook Data Scandal. As most of you like me do have a Facebook account, and while we try to play it cool, we can't help wondering how all of this affects us. I want to share my two bits about it, and also a few things you and I can do to stay safe.

First off, get over the myth, that any of your data on the Internet is private. Once you have put it online, or even shared it with 1 single person online, know that you have lost control over that data(image or otherwise). No one in the world is concerned about maintaining your privacy, no matter what they say. So you, and you alone have to set boundaries, and know how much you are happy to share. My issue with Facebook was never over data theft, but it was always about their biased censorship, and a clear focus and aim to present a biased picture to its users. I am more than glad they have been caught out on that. Watch below.

However as I watched other videos, I realised Facebook is in a precarious state right now, and unable to say that a lot of the data thefts are the fault of the users themselves, who have very carelessly allowed access to their data to third parties without a second thought! But while Facebook is being beaten up about stalking and giving out user data, so much so, that it all feels like a set up to me  at some point. The fact remains that the biggest thief of data and the greatest stalker of all is Google, and each and every app, software, OS and product that it owns.  And we pretty much cannot get rid of Google, and there isn't a stalker as high tech as it. Coming back to Facebook though, I must say from personal experience, that a lot of what Mark Zuckerberg claimed in his testimony is false. A few that I have personally experienced are as follows -
1. Deleted profiles, don't really get deleted, and can be brought back to life as if you never left the site.
2. Hate speech is not always deleted, the judgment is very biased, and always supportive of a particular brand of thinking.
3. Their aim is not to protect the client data, but to share it as much as possible, as evidenced from their default settings which is Public.

Facebook, though as Mr. Zuckerberg says, has provided us controls to keep our data private, atleast from other users. (But the Facebook employees still have complete open access to everything we put on there. Never forget that!) I am quite a private person, not secretive, just private, so I have always been iffy about oversharing on Facebook. And I am glad that I have been so. So here are a few things that I do, to keep myself relatively safe, and you can do the same, if you are concerned.

  • You can take your profile off a Google search, so that it does not show up when someone googles you. Infact you can set up who can contact you even on Facebook itself, often that automatically makes life easier.
  • You can  control who can see your posts. I am often left with an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach, when I find a friend suggestion for someone, go onto check the profile, and see that nearly each and every post on the profile is public, meaning even without being on their friend list, I can see all their posts. At the bare minimum, set the privacy of your posts to 'Friends', and you can do that for most of your profile information as well. Further to this, you can even create lists within your friends, and that might help share specific posts with the group of friends its most relevant to. For example, when you post about the great weather or terrible traffic in your city, you can share it with friends who live in the same city, and not with those who live on a different continent altogether.
  • Turn off facial recognition for your photos, this means your(or your kids') face will not have a digital footprint.
  • I cannot stress this enough, and I have spoken about it a mile a minute often, keep personal photos, pictures of your children and the like off  Facebook. Trust me, you have no idea who is looking at them, and just how much more a person with an ulterior motive and average hacking skills will find out. Better Safe Than Sorry.
  • When you add an app on Facebook, it often opens up with a declaration of the data from your profile that it will access, and you have to physically press a button to say 'Yes' to get on the app. Once you have given it permission, there is VERY LITTLE you can do, to stop the app from looking into everything you have ever shared on your profile. So please do not add app after app for a little fun of answering silly questions, while it steals all your personal information and data. There are no free lunches in the world, and no one is creating apps for people to enjoy while they get nothing in return.
 Just be sensible, be careful. If you are not keen for the world to know something about you, I suggest you don't put it up on social media. If you do, then know the ins and outs, make your settings as private as you possibly can. I have admitted to myself, I cannot go without Facebok, but I do try my best to keep my privacy settings as tight as Facebook would allow, and always think twice before posting, especially photos.

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