We don’t want privacy

Privacy+options+are+becoming+limited+as+time+progresses.%0A%0APhoto+courtesy+of+Creative+Commons

Privacy options are becoming limited as time progresses. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Laura Lothrop

 

Privacy has become virtually nonexistent, especially in the realm of social media. When it comes to our lives online, there are very few things that are not shared.

What is arguably most disturbing about this fact is that much of the sharing occurs without our direct knowledge.

While there are many articles and conversations that comment on these data selling practices, there is very little action taken toward change. This is because nobody feels strongly enough about protecting their online privacy to demand different behavior from the companies that give them access to the internet.

When you download Facebook onto your phone, you agree to let Facebook have access to your camera, microphone, address book, read your text messages (SMS or MMS), take pictures and videos, record audio, change network connectivity, download files without notification and read calendar events and confidential information.

In an article by Money.com in April 2018, a Facebook spokesperson was asked about the app’s usage of the phone’s microphone, and said: “We only access your microphone if you have given our app permission and if you are actively using a specific feature that requires audio.”

But why should Facebook require so many invasive forms of control over one’s phone anyway? Stating these controls in the terms of service does not mean that this activity should be considered permissible. If we feel strongly about any of these policies, why do we continue to use social networking platforms like these?

Facebook doesn’t have to rethink its policy because its users would rather maintain an online persona than hold the platform accountable.

Social media is an especially significant factor in the conversation surrounding privacy. It is one of the most common platforms for people to gather online, and one of the most attractive platforms for businesses to hire paid influencers to present products and grow their market share.   

Instagram’s privacy policy states, “We may share User Content and your information (including but not limited to, information from cookies, log files, device identifiers, location data, and usage data) with businesses that are legally part of the same group of companies that Instagram is part of, or that become part of that group (“Affiliates”).”

Companies own the contents of user profiles, and by way of this, their privacy. They then use this content as commodity, and users’ personal information is commercialized through a network of marketed ads and products.

Yet, users are willing to take on this commercialization, even if it means exposing their own thoughts, relationships, and desires to later be sold back to them. Users have access to these social media services for free, and gradually assimilate themselves into the language of the online culture, whose goal is to make the individual crave the experience and feel compelled to participate at all times.

At no cost, networks allow us the chance to sculpt our own personas online through a sense of masked control, and in exchange, we offer them layers of our real identity that we assume is safeguarded.

Though it is legal, and written in the terms of service, this ploy to track and obtain personal information about users is plainly dishonorable because it turns the voices of people into observable trends for companies to extort and profit from.

We expect the government to take care of crooked corporations online, pedophiles, hackers and the unwarranted exposure that occurs to individuals, yet we willingly participate in the data selling frenzy and sign away our rights.

In April of 2017, President Donald Trump signed legislation that killed privacy laws which previously required internet service providers to obtain explicit consent before they shared or sold the web browsing history or personal information of its customers, says NBC news.

This action proves that we cannot depend on the government to regulate laws of privacy; we cannot afford to accept an administration that does not advocate for a preference of profit and attention over long term security.

With markets flourishing from consumerist activity online, there is even more incentive for social media platforms to look at our information, sell the results to companies and orchestrate advertisements specifically made for us, based off of the things we view online, which are being tracked and tallied.

But how far will they go to sell us something? What comes next if they decide that the data we consent to isn’t enough?  

Is the convenience of having an online presence worth the cost of the entire world knowing us intimately?

Whether our involvement online is career centered or personalized for friends and family, there is no denying that a larger audience, than the original one we intended, is also viewing information about us.

Signing away control is to trust companies with an unknown about of power and influence, with no safeguards in place to protect our own interests over theirs.

This behavior is frankly irresponsible and sets dangerous precedents for the future. If we are to be responsible citizens online, it is time to understand who owns our content and make intentional choices about how we are represented.