Facebook’s Mining Digital Gold

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In the last few weeks, people have started to realise that sites like Facebook have something of a darker side. Indeed it’s now much easier to see that these social sites are not nearly as friendly and inconsequential as we first imagined.

I’ve just read a few reports on Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance before the US Senate and it’s great to see this mist rising.  Indeed one commentator mentioned that it appeared that data is the new oil and sites like Facebook were simply mining it for their own benefit.

There seems to be a plan that Facebook is deflecting their role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal by making out their an injured party too.  Let’s not be fooled by this, Facebook know that their entire business model is built on making money out of their customer’s data. They didn’t directly sell the data but they sold the right for apps developers to make profit from their users.

It’s understandable that a few will always quickly seize the chance to make a fast buck out of new technology. There has always been a problem with laws and legislation keeping up with these revolution.  Just like the industrial revolutions of the 19th century, there will be losers and winners and legislation will trail behind ironing out the flaws and inequalities.

Facebook is right to be worried though, these revelations about user’s data and political manipulation will upset many, many people. When you login to your Facebook account to see the banal updates from friends and distant acquaintances most of us are not expecting our profiles to end up being stored in some dodgy firm’s database.  Worst still we don’t expect our privacy to be simply ignored in the pursuit of profits and political gains.

We may think that those who post their lives up on social networking sites can expect little privacy. However even those who only use conservatively are actually revealing a huge amount of our digital and real lives. You might not post huge numbers of status updates, but you’ll click on ads and ‘like’ posts without thinking about it.  Even these are building up an extremely accurate profile about who you are and what you believe in. If you’ve ever been followed around by adverts for something you searched for weeks ago, you’ll know how pervasive this stuff can become.

Many people think that they have a level of anonymity when they’re online but that’s a myth.  Even the most paranoid have digital footprints which are mined and analysed by such companies. You can take efforts to extend your privacy but it’s not simple. For example to hide your location and identity from a website you visit then you have to take significant precautions.  You can use things like VPNs to encrypt your data and invest in  a false IP address from a residential IP provider to keep some level of privacy but how many do this.

Mind you as soon as you start posting anything for sharing with your friends on sites like Facebook that goes straight out of the window. This stuff is big business, there are companies making millions behind the scene.  The parent company of Google is called Alphabet – it’s 20 years old and is now valued at about $500 billion (it was worth 50% a week or so ago!).

This is the value of our data, and the reason that these companies are worth so much.  Their justifications and rights are all hidden in the terms and conditions which likely none of us have read when we created our accounts.   It’s important that we gain some control back on our data, we’ve had a glimpse of what it can do and what it’s worth. When you consider that huge political decisions can be manipulated by people who have access to this data then we can see how high the stakes really are.

Source and Further Reading – http://residentialip.net/ 

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