Lis­ten to USF pro­fes­sor: Be wary of so­cial me­dia

Tampa Bay Times - - Local -

The lat­est news re­volv­ing around Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica and the use of per­sonal data gath­ered through Face­book may have shocked some, but hav­ing shared a panel with Univer­sity of South Florida pro­fes­sor Kelli Burns last fall, I knew so­cial me­dia isn’t about help­ing us con­nect with friends.

It’s about com­pa­nies prof­it­ing from our data. Burns, who has writ­ten two books on so­cial me­dia, said ev­ery­one should care about data pri­vacy.

“We are see­ing ads by Rus­sian pro­pa­gan­dists that are threat­en­ing our democ­racy, con­tent in news feeds that uses a so­phis­ti­cated al­go­rithm to keep us scrolling and checked out of real life, and ads for prod­ucts ad­ver­tis­ers think we need, pos­si­bly con­vinc­ing us that we ac­tu­ally do need those prod­ucts,” Burns said.

She notes that fu­ture leg­is­la­tion may force on­line data bro­kers to pro­vide more in­for­ma­tion about the data they col­lect and how they use it. For now, how­ever, we need to man­age the “dig­i­tal shad­ows” we’re leav­ing be­hind. No longer can we treat so­cial me­dia as a pass­ing fancy . . . .

Teenage speak­ers de­liv­ered poignant com­ments at Satur­day’s March for Our Lives, in­clud­ing Stein­bren­ner High School se­nior Is­abella Cruz-O’Grady.

“When a whole bunch of snowflakes get to­gether and start fight­ing back, it’s called a bl­iz­zard,” Cruz-O’Grady said.

The teem­ing mo­men­tum gen­er­ated by the March for Our Lives move­ment comes not only from in­spir­ing teens, it’s fu­eled by my gen­er­a­tion watch­ing these kids suc­ceed where we’ve failed.

Our role now is to not only lend sup­port to those en­gag­ing po­lit­i­cally, but to get more young peo­ple, re­gard­less of per­spec­tive, to wake up and be­lieve in the process. We need them to care.

That’s all I’m say­ing.

ERNEST HOOPER ehooper@tam­

Ter­rika Young

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