You’re always being watched
So you were just talking about wedding dresses and suddenly lacy, white gowns have popped up all over your feed. Coincidence? No. Creepy? Definitely!
Every photo you ‘like’ and every word you search is information harvested by social media apps in order to curate content that would be more relevant to you No, Facebook cannot read your mind (yet), but they are watching your every move. Although, in many cases, this kind of data mining may optimise the user experience, but when it ends up in the wrong hands, it can have very dire consequences, as was reflected with the case below.
It was only a few months ago when Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg found himself in the centre of a PR nightmare. What was it all about? “Basically, Facebook was implicated in a practise that involved large-scale social engineering through data mining,” says Emma. “Cambridge Analytica (a British political consulting firm) acquired Facebook user information and used it to influence the outcome of the 2016
US election.” Yes, they are the ones largely responsible for Donald Trump.
With the personal data of around 87 million users, this company was able to target specific adverts at particular people based on what they knew about them, in order to sway their political views, without the user’s awareness. “It was basically one big propaganda machine,” Sarah adds.
Although there is still an ongoing legal battle in this regard, data mining, on it’s own, is not illegal “We may not be paying for many of these social media apps with our money, but we do pay with our personal information,” Sarah says. “Many people don’t read the terms and conditions, they just click ‘agree and continue’ and then want to be upset when things of this nature occur when, in fact, they agreed to it – whether they were aware or not. Unfortunately, you can try as much as you can to protect your privacy on these platforms, but by just signing up, you’re already giving some of it up.”