How pri­vate is our on­line data?


The Daily News Egypt - - News - By Reem Hosam El-dein

So­cial net­work­ing web­sites have been used for many years now, be­com­ing more pop­u­lar than ever and a norm in peo­ple’s ev­ery­day lives. Whether they are used for shar­ing up­dates, re­cent events, and pictures with fam­ily and friends,or for keep­ing up with the lat­est hap­pen­ings and events across the globe, so­cial me­dia plat­forms re­main very pop­u­lar and heav­ily used by many age groups and so­cial classes, with the most pop­u­lar web­sites right now be­ing Face­book, Twit­ter, In­sta­gram, MyS­pace, and Snapchat. How­ever, con­cerns about the pri­vacy of those web­sites’ users were raised in re­cent years, es­pe­cially with the many in­ci­dents of pri­vate in­for­ma­tion leaks from Face­book and other web­sites. Per­sonal in­for­ma­tion seems to be eas­ily sus­cep­ti­ble to ex­ploita­tion and use by the own­ning com­pa­nies, which leaves users sus­pi­cious and dis­sat­is­fied.

Many ask the ques­tion, though: who should be held ac­count­able for the col­lec­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion of the per­sonal in­for­ma­tion of the plat­forms’ users? Some peo­ple say that so­cial net­work­ing web­sites are the ones to blame for any dis­tri­bu­tion or mis­use of per­sonal in­for­ma­tion as they are the ones re­spon­si­ble for stor­ing such large amounts of in­for­ma­tion and data. Oth­ers, mean­while, say that users are ac­tu­ally the ones to blame, since they them­selves pro­vide these web­sites with their in­for­ma­tion in the first place, es­pe­cially when on An­droid and Ap­ple de­vices, for ex­am­ple, ap­pli­ca­tions al­ways ask users for per­mis­sions to store cer­tain data and gain ac­cess to spe­cific in­for­ma­tion on the user’s de­vice be­fore they are down­loaded, and users will­ingly ac­cept that.

Only very re­cently has po­lit­i­cal con­sult­ing firm Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica used the raw data of 50 mil­lion Face­book pro­files as Face­book ex­posed the data to a re­searcher, Alek­sandr Ko­gan, for a per­son­al­ity quiz ap­pli­ca­tion he built on the web­site. Ko­gan then sold the data to Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica, which worked for now-US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. “Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica was cre­ated when Steve Ban­non ap­proached con­ser­va­tive megadonors Re­bekah and Robert Mercer to fund a po­lit­i­cal con­sult­ing firm. Ban­non be­came vice pres­i­dent of Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica, and dur­ing the 2016 elec­tion, he reached out to the Trump cam­paign to in­tro­duce the two sides. Ban­non, of course,


even­tu­ally be­came a se­nior ad­viser toTrump be­fore he was fired in Au­gust 2017,” Vox re­ported.

“I’ve been work­ing to un­der­stand ex­actly what hap­pened and how to make sure this doesn’t hap­pen again. The good news is that the most im­por­tant ac­tions to pre­vent this from hap­pen­ing again to­day we have al­ready taken years ago. But we also made mis­takes, there’s more to do, and we need to step up and do it,” said Face­book Founder and CEO Mark Zucker­berg, in re­sponse to the scan­dal.

Some Face­book users de­cided to delete their Face­book ac­counts in the wake of the Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica scan­dal as they con­tinue to dis­cover that so­cial net­works have much more data about them than they were aware, in­clud­ing com­plete logs of their in­com­ing and out­go­ing calls and SMS mes­sages, ac­cord­ing to The Guardian. One user claimed that for the pe­riod from Oc­to­ber 2016 to July 2017, his log con­tained the meta­data of ev­ery cel­lu­lar call he has ever made,in­clud­ing time, du­ra­tion, and “meta­data about ev­ery text mes­sage” he has ever re­ceived or sent,The Guardian re­ported. Many other users have also re­ported un­ease at the data they have dis­cov­ered be­ing logged, in­clud­ing the con­tacts on their de­vices, their cal­en­dars, and their friends’ birth­days. The re­sponse to this was launch­ing the #Delete­Face­book hash­tag to en­cour­age users of the web­site to delete their Face­book ac­counts and boy­cott the plat­form en­tirely in or­der to ex­press their dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the leak­ing of their pri­vate in­for­ma­tion.

In re­sponse to this, Face­book’s ad­min­is­tra­tion has de­nied log­ging An­droid users’ calls and text his­tory with­out their per­mis­sion. The com­pany said that the op­tion of in­for­ma­tion log­ging on so­cial me­dia sites has al­ways been through peo­ple opt­ing into it, which means that when the fea­ture is en­abled, it al­lows Face­book to see when a call or text was sent or re­ceived, ac­cord­ing to CNET. On the other hand, Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica has de­nied us­ing the in­for­ma­tion it re­ceived from Face­book for the ben­e­fit of Trump’s cam­paign.

Over the past few years, there have been sev­eral leaks of per­sonal pho­tos and data of Snapchat and In­sta­gram users, par­tic­u­larly tar­get­ing celebri­ties and fa­mous fig­ures, leav­ing many won­der­ing if their pri­vate lives are ever safe in the age of so­cial me­dia, es­pe­cially if peo­ple will­ingly ac­cept be­ing part of these web­sites and shar­ing their in­for­ma­tion with them and the en­tire world. Ad­di­tion­ally, the way these com­pa­nies mis­use the in­for­ma­tion they have of their users will con­tinue to raise even more con­cerns un­less ef­fec­tive and clear pri­vacy op­tions are made avail­able to en­sure that, af­ter all, this is not an era of chaos and zero cy­ber safety.

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