Somehow, Facebook’s most recent data leak has both shocked and failed to surprise large swaths of social media users in a range of emotions that seem to fall on the side of disinterest. The idea of customers becoming the product when using free services that serve up targeted ads feels older than the internet itself and the history of data abuse among major companies seems to be a topic that is endlessly regurgitated before being lost to the daily outpouring of new and exciting things to be upset about for a grand total of five minutes.
From a distance it seems very strange to watch the CEO of a company like Facebook discuss the privacy practises of a company that practically invites its users to unload all of their available personal data while also sharing every minute detail of their daily lives with friends and strangers alike. Facebook doesn’t exist in a realm where privacy is their biggest concern, but they’re not the only ones to blame for their attitude towards data security. After all, Facebook users have nearly given them free reign to take their data and run with it.
In fact, breaking down the history of oversharing online could fill its own article and then some. The speed at which technology advanced and allowed us to closely intermingle our daily lives with social media platforms, smart devices and the internet itself led us to a very strange place where the promises of tech startups have been taken at face value for a disturbingly long time. Those who innovated ways to allow anyone to have a voice that could truly be heard by anyone have been elevated to a status that is inseparably tied to the companies that gave us that freedom in the first place.
Now that we live in a time where there are plenty of adults who were born after the invention of the internet we have entered a stage where a constant online presence is both expected and encouraged, be it the simple sharing of family photos over Facebook or teenagers keeping up with their friends through Instagram and Snapchat in ways that just wouldn’t be feasible fifteen years ago.
It’s almost as if we’ve been quietly groomed to accept that our lives are no longer a private matter. At this point it’s hard to say if our lives will ever be as private as they were before the internet evolved to what it is today, but that doesn’t necessarily demonise it as a platform. The Cambridge Analytica leaks and everything it has exposed us to should act as a reminder of what we’ve been allowing our lives to become rather than a reason to throw a few companies under the bus while ignoring other glaring issues in our digital lives.
For every downside that our eroding private lives may encounter, the invention of social media and a focus it can shine on the world around us has unveiled social problems and outright crimes faster than any private investigation could ever hope to. Disasters both big and small are reported on by those who lived through it, offering perspectives that a news team may not feel motivated to cover. YouTube vlogs can be absolutely substance-free or a teaching experience that enlightens us in a field that might otherwise take expensive courses and months of practice to discover, let alone master.
Technology is just as much a tool now as it was before and what we use it for determines its future growth. Who we trust with our data shapes the course of the technology industry itself and can backfire spectacularly, as Facebook’s leak shows us now. Just because a company has a friendly face at its helm doesn’t mean they will always be in the business of doing what is best for you unless you become a shareholder. It’s that simple.
Businesses exist to make as much money as possible by whatever legal means they have at their disposal. If you choose to share your entire life with a platform that bundles you up as a product to offer to advertisers and analytics firms, you are essentially handing yourself over to the whims of companies who have proven time and time again their own inability to keep data secure. If they can’t be trusted to keep your data safe, don’t voluntarily give it to them. You’re worth more than what they’re giving you in return.