I think we’ve all seen the various news posts about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica by now and we all know that there’s a lot of stuff coming down the pipe for both of them. The $50 billion (note the “b”) nosedive that Facebook’s stock took earlier this week is a pretty significant chunk of handwriting on a very large chunk of wall, after all, and I’ve been seeing more posts about #DeleteFacebook on both Facebook and Twitter in the past few days. Even given my relative insulation from most of the online world on these platforms, I can see a lot of people are concerned.
They have every right to be, but it’s not because of Facebook directly.
Please let me be very clear when I state that it is because of Facebook. This is all Facebook’s fault, and it’s entirely due to their actions and policies. There is nothing here that cannot and should not be laid at their feet. Still, it is worth pointing out that Facebook is not the one who clicked the buttons and took the quizzes and had their account set at a level that allowed for the sharing of other people’s information.
That was done by people who either didn’t know how to avoid giving away others’ information, or didn’t care about it, and it’s ultimately due to us not knowing what belongs on social media and what doesn’t, and let me just say that I’m probably more guilty than most because I’m starting to think that the answer to that last question is a hard “nothing at all.”
What’s odd about this is that I’m not a particularly strong advocate for privacy anymore. I understand that the world has moved to a model that values targeted advertising and other services and that I have become, in very real terms, a commodity, a data point who has (x) disposable income, a part of which these advertisers would like to acquire. As such, I know that when I shop on Amazon or do a search on Google, I am sharing information about myself that other people will want to buy, and I recognize that Amazon and Google will indeed sell it to them.
That’s fine. I get it. I have a choice between a) paying for everything in cash and not using any of the amazing technology we’ve developed over the past thirty years to gain easier, better access to more information and more people, and b) letting those companies have access to certain information, being conscious of the fact that they are going to try to use it to manipulate me. It’s a push, a chess match. Although I’m not the smartest individual out there, I have enough faith in myself and my critical thinking skills to trust in my ability to avoid being manipulated, at least in the grossest terms (that said, I’m sure they’ve figured me out and make me buy stuff all the time).
What matters here is consent and trust.
See, when I sign up to use an app or a service, I get to be the one to say “yes, this transaction is worth it to me.” It’s my choice.
When Facebook lets individuals grant access to their Friends list via 3rd party apps, though, that is not my choice. The only choice I had in the matter was whether to add a friend. Now, we are learning that friends have the power to release our information to others without our consent. Thus, the real problem here is that we’re being asked to trust (and be trusted by!) our friends when no one has bothered to explain to everyone that there are real-world implications when you look at apps and agree to give them permissions to certain areas of your profile.
I’m still on the fence about #DeleteFacebook. It’s been something I’ve been considering for years now, and to be honest I’m not sure that I’ll ever be able to give it up, at least while so many people I know and care about use it. While I’m on the platform, though, I have always attempted to make sure to keep in mind the amount of information I share about others. I need more training and better tools to be sure that I’m not inadvertently giving away what’s not mine to give, but we can work on that. We all need to. We should all keep that duty in the back of our heads when we attempt to find out which Game of Thrones character we are.
Push for social media literacy for yourself and others you know. Make sure that the people on your Friends list know that you don’t want them sharing your info and that there are a lot of ways that they can do so, even without knowing it. Even if we get people to think twice, that’s at least a start.