Facebook has been in the news lately, causing its stock value to fluctuate since the 3/16 announcement that it was suspending Cambridge Analytica because of unauthorized access and use of Facebook’s user data. Due to this revelation, the CEO of the company, Mark Zuckerberg, spent two grueling days testifying before Congress to defend his company’s processes, technology and actions. When he was asked, “would you be comfortable sharing the name of your hotel?” he said “no” – ironic given that Facebook tracks its users’ locations. One of the many events that prompted the testimony is the investigation of Cambridge Analytica and how they used Facebook data in political campaign mining.
The question of privacy is a big one, however most consumers and even businesses don’t give it enough thought.
Growing up, I was always taught that there is no such thing as free lunch. It seems many of us don’t realize that when you get a free service, such as many social media apps, that the service provider has to find a way to monetize their user base in order to survive. Early on, for Facebook, that monetization was about advertising, but like any growing business with duties to the shareholders, Facebook had to diversify its revenue streams. Therefore, additional monetization of personal data was inevitable. Further, one cannot forget that this is a very large company. I am certain that many parts of it at times do not necessarily communicate with each other, so it is not surprising that the API team, as an example, may not have taken the latest privacy settings into account. It may not have been intentional.
On the heels of the Facebook scandal, the following are key areas concerning your privacy that should be thought through as a business or individual:
- Social media and intent of data
- Email communication and data collection
- Devices and data collection
It is a bit different with email, although free email services also index our content and serve up advertising accordingly. Email is a significant target for bad actors simply due to the amount of private information shared within correspondence and left unsecure. Consider what you send through email and just as important, what you leave in email.
Finally, don’t forget that your devices are now constantly pinging information about you – reporting back to various services and applications. So carefully consider what to have on, such as location finder, bluetooth etc., and carefully select which apps to install – as all of the old school apps collect data.