The recent news about data harvesting from Facebook by Cambridge Analytica astounds me. I have personally indulged in the ephemeral quizzes that were referred to in this case but it does not bother me too much as I made a conscious choice to participate and I accept full responsibility for my choices. Going forward I may think twice before taking part in these quizzes and if I do take part then I will be fine with my choices knowing my data may be forwarded and used by a commercial enterprise in some manner. I say this because I believe I understand what is happening.
Let’s not beat about the bush though – you do not often get anything for free in this life. This is a fact. Facebook started as a Mark Zuckerberg’s dream to connect the world and once it caught the imagination of the general public it gained a momentum that nobody could have envisaged. The beast that is Facebook offers both negative and positive benefits to the world but it seems we forget it is a business and has bills to pay to keep it going. Developing and maintaining a monster like Facebook takes countless hours, just as developing and maintaining Google takes countless hours. That is countless hours of time from numerous talented (and expensive) people. Manpower drives the whole machine and it must be paid for somehow.
If we want the convenience and the positives offered by Facebook – or any other platform, app or tool we use – then we must remember there is a price somewhere. If we remember that the price for using Facebook is that our privacy is being poached – and the logical way to deal with this is to envisage Facebook as the 10 o’clock news rather than the sacrosanct confessional – then users should not have a problem.
The #deleteFacebook campaign in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal is interesting to observe but how many will follow suit? Will they even stick to it? The general public have come to rely on communicating using this very clever tool and it is now buried in the psyche of so many. What would the world look like without Facebook? Put simply it would be replaced with another popular platform of choice but the data issue will still be there. What lies behind this issue is:
- accepting that you (the user) are responsible for what you reveal and say on an open online platform in the first place – nobody else. Just as you convey a “secret” to a friend you cannot control what that friend will do with your “secret” if you choose to share somewhere you did not intend it to be shared; and
- education – the onus is on you (the user) to learn to manage your privacy and to not blindly treat anywhere on the internet as if you were in the safety of the confessional.
Having said that, the creators of platforms like Facebook should still have some responsibility to help their users to be respectful of others online and in teaching them how to be responsible for what they post and how they engage in general. Undoubtedly over time, as upcoming generations emerge, the education gap will close and the whole problem will be reduced but that still does not account for the element that involves human emotions, those in poor mental health and those who engage on public platforms under the influence of alchohol. Reasonable steps can be put in place to defuse these elements but I am not sure they can ever be fully solved. The final word on the subject is in the hands at the end of the keyboard – YOU, your very own worst enemy.
If you would like to see what data Facebook has stored about you then read this: Accessing Your Facebook Data
Otherwise go to your Facebook Settings then click “Download a copy of your data”. Facebook will email this to you once all your data has downloaded. You can then open it to extract all the files out. Finally, open the “index.htm” file and go to the “Contact Info” tab.
PS: Since publishing this blog some very interesting discussion took place right from the off and resulted in inspiration from a fellow blogger, Chris Bagnall: