Why I can’t muster any rage over the Face­book data scan­dal

South Wales Echo - - NEWS -

THE whole Face­book data thing has left me feel­ing like an ab­so­lutely filthy hyp­ocrite.

This is mainly be­cause, as much as I want to, I just can’t bring my­self to ac­tu­ally care.

Just 10 years ago I would de­ride and ridicule my poor mum about hav­ing a Tesco Club­card.

“You know they will know ev­ery­thing about you?” I would smugly point out to her.

“What if that data fell into the wrong hands,” I chided while miss­ing the hypocrisy that I was happy for her to pay for my food shop ev­ery time she vis­ited me at univer­sity.

As a stu­dent I had just fin­ished read­ing 1984 and I was ever vig­i­lant for the creep­ing Big Brother state that I could fore­see.

And yet here was my mother, cal­lously en­cour­ag­ing the sur­veil­lance so­ci­ety for a 10p dis­count voucher on a tin of beans.

Now Face­book is hoover­ing up data like a brand new Dyson vac.

The mea­gre Tesco Club­card is a 10-year-old Henry cleaner by com­par­i­son.

And yet I can’t even stir any out­rage at all.

Just to put this into con­text – I get an­noyed by vir­tu­ally ev­ery­thing. I have lost hours of sleep in just the last week be­cause some­one was cy­cling in a pedes­tri­anised zone.

So why can I not stir my­self be­yond gen­eral ap­a­thy when it comes Face­book us­ing and sell­ing peo­ple’s (and pos­si­bly my own) data?

I have been rack­ing my brain try­ing to work out why I feel this way (maybe I should just ask Face­book). I think there are a few rea­sons. Firstly, it is be­cause I find the whole thing ut­terly un­sur­pris­ing. Of course they have been do­ing this. Ev­ery time I killed time at work by find­ing out which Dis­ney princess I was, I knew full well that this data was now out in the world.

It would have been naive to think oth­er­wise.

For those of you who are in­ter­ested, I was Belle from Beauty and the Beast.

This ac­tu­ally an­noyed me more than the per­sonal data as she is, tech­ni­cally, not a princess.

I am sure some peo­ple gen­uinely didn’t re­alise this data may have gone fur­ther, but this is not a new thing.

Sure, Face­book is a whole new dig­i­tal world to some peo­ple, but they have got store cards, have hired cars or signed a mo­bile phone con­tract.

You only have to not tick the “do not share this in­for­ma­tion” box once and it’s out in the world.

An­other rea­son I have a Cather­ine Tate-style “am I both­ered?” ap­proach to the Face­book data thing is be­cause I think there are much big­ger is­sues with so­cial me­dia.

I think the so­ci­etal im­pact of us in­ter­act­ing be­hind a screen could be far more dam­ag­ing than po­lit­i­cal par­ties ex­ploit­ing your rightlean­ing ten­den­cies.

The con­sen­sus seems to be that Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica wasn’t es­sen­tial to Trump’s vic­tory any­way.

How­ever, the idea that so­cial me­dia com­pa­nies are fi­nan­cially re­warded for how long you are on their site, and not the qual­ity of ex­pe­ri­ence on it, is a real is­sue.

This cre­ates the drive to cre­ate an ad­dic­tive plat­form not a use­ful one.

I do not have the space here to fully ar­tic­u­late the im­pact so­cial me­dia has on nor­mal so­cial in­ter­ac­tion, es­pe­cially in the young. How­ever, it is well doc­u­mented and you should Google it (what irony). An­other side of this, and a key pil­lar of my ap­a­thy, is the fact that largescale data har­vest­ing is not just in the purview of profit-mak­ing com­pa­nies. The whole Ed­ward Snow­den leak showed the astro­nom­i­cal amount of data that the UK and US gov­ern­ments were suck­ing in.

At least with a pri­vate com­pany I know the driver is mak­ing cash.

As a jour­nal­ist I feel a huge dis­trust bor­der­ing on re­vul­sion at a gov­ern­ment do­ing it with­out re­straint.

Please don’t get me wrong – I think the whole Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica thing is very dis­con­cert­ing.

Of course, it is nat­u­ral to feel un­com­fort­able that Face­book can see what I am do­ing when I scroll up and down my feed (I was only lin­ger­ing on my ex’s pro­file to check that she is happy, hon­est).

But there are so many is­sues that are so wide-rang­ing that I can’t move my­self to the rage oth­ers seem ca­pa­ble of over the is­sue.

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