The topic of digital information privacy has (unfortunately) never been more in our nation’s collective conscience than it is today. It seems like new data leaks are announced every day by companies large and small. From the credit card breaches of Target, Home Depot and Equifax to the latest Facebook debacle, the point is clear: your data is valuable and protecting it is important. Sadly, many everyday citizens are learning this lesson the hard way.
The recent scandal which landed Facebook CEO Mark Zukerberg in in public testimony before a national Senate committee centers around the company’s alleged misuse of user data. In summary, Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm, was given access to private information on more than 50 million Facebook users. They then offered tools to their clients that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior. Currently, The Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether Facebook violated a 2011 consent agreement to keep users’ data private.
Did Facebook do anything wrong? Should users be held accountable for exposing their data? These questions will not be answered here. With endless ways to shape a conversation about online privacy, this post is by no means a comprehensive discussion. As I write this, technology journalists are out performing quality research and bringing important topics to the attention of the public. You should read their work and follow this topic closely as it will have ongoing affects for the foreseeable future. For now, you should take the small step of examining where you may be vulnerable to leaks of your personal information. A great way to start is by reviewing your privacy settings on Facebook.
By an informal poll of my social circle, I’ve come to learn that many of my friends were unaware of the depth of information online services store about their users. Those who have dug deeper into their online data have discovered that Facebook alone, to say nothing of Google, Amazon or ISPs (internet service providers) collects information from messages they’ve sent, phone calls they’ve made, their physical location and movements throughout the day and much more. Perhaps more disturbing is the fact that Facebook has also collected information about friends who are connected online. That means that while I may not have engaged in data leaking activity on Facebook, any friend of mine who did could expose not only their data but mine as well. Since learning this, I can’t help but wonder if a Facebook friend who “just found out which Game of Thrones character they are” unintentionally weakened my online privacy.
Oh wow my deleted Facebook Zip file contains info on every single phone cellphone call and text I made for about a year- cool totally not creepy.
— Mat Johnson (@mat_johnson) March 23, 2018
If you’d like to take control over your privacy while using Facebook, the follow articles provide detailed, step-by-step instructions for: