Our so-called privacy may as well be considered piracy and it seems like no one is fighting it. There are well over 800 million Facebook users and 100 percent of those users are making themselves vulnerable to data aggregation.
Social media sites are getting smarter. Facebook made $3.2 billion in revenue last year from advertising alone. And Google topped that with $36.5 billion in advertisement revenue, by analyzing what you searched on the web and sent over Gmail, and using that information to sell ads. Most people do not pay attention to the advertisements on the side of their page, but every now and then, one does manage to catch your eye. And it isn’t just some coincidence that what catches your eye happens to be something you are especially interested in. Advertisers use keywords in status updates, relationship statuses and places of employment to direct specific ads to you.
Data aggregation is a term we should all be familiar with. You will certainly be affected by it at some point if you aren’t already.
Your Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and Gmail accounts are not as secure as you may think. LexisNexis is a company who has a product they call, Accruint for Law Enforcement. This product provides the government with information about you and nearly everyone else, and what they do on social networking sites. The IRS can gain information about tax evaders’ location and spending. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services use photos and posts to debunk phony marriages. And we have all surely heard of lost job opportunities due to inappropriate junk on our social media profiles.
Data aggregation isn’t just for the government. Something as simple as “liking” a certain brand of shoe, or joining the Bikers of America group on Facebook can prevent you from getting a new line of credit. Sounds ridiculous, but this is the frightening truth. The “New York Times” disclosed a story about an Atlanta man who returned home from his honeymoon to find that his credit line had been lowered nearly $7,000. It had nothing to do with spending habits or missed payments. A letter from the company told him, “Other customers who have used their card at establishments where you recently shopped have a poor repayment history with American Express.”
A 2008 Consumer Reports poll, found that out of 2,000 social media users, 93 percent of them thought Internet companies should always ask for permission before using personal information. Also, 72 percent wanted the right to opt out of online data aggregating. A different study, conducted by The Princeton Survey Research Associates, found in their polls, that 69 percent of people thought the United States should make a law giving them the right to learn everything a websitknows about them. What was once the irritation of telemarketers calling us during dinner, is now the fear that our future will be broken and swept away due to some old photos and a couple status updates.
You really thought your privacy was protected? Sure, they say they want to protect you, but what else are they suppose to say? These are businesses that profit from our naivety. We are the product, we generate the goods, and it is all of us that provide them with the information they need to sell us the products we are interested in. And believe me they are relentless. You post on Facebook, “I have never been so stressed in my life!” or you email your mother about the depression you are experiencing over a tough breakup, companies like Healthline will use this to advertise certain prescription drugs that might benefit you. They cannot use information about H.I.V. or eating disorders, but they will use information about your bipolar disorder or your overactive bladder, equally blistering.
And I can tell you this, you can delete anything you want off your preferred social networking site, deactivate your account and try to forget about it all, but it is still there. These companies have your information and are going to continue to use it. You can ask these companies for copies of the data and they will give it to you, all 800 plus pages of junk that has accumulated over the years, but you are not going to like what you see. Deleted messages, deleted photos, records of every computer you have logged in from, even locations you never thought would be recorded. All of this will be forever on your social media permanent record.
So what do we do now? What are our choices, really? I was able to find one company, which claims they can remove all of this data from the web. Company MYPRIVACY, at reputation.com, will remove all the data you didn’t want or know was being collected for just $99 a year. But how safe is that, really? Just one more website you are feeding private info into, except you are paying for this one.
There has to be more we can do.
This nation was founded on freedom. One major component in the idea of being free is the right to go about your business without being constantly observed by predatory eyes – be it for personal, federal or mercantile motives. As the generation of technology and social media, it is up to us to take this right and clear our names. Our freedom of speech is being exploited for the profit of others. Perhaps we should use that same freedom to call out these practices and fight back. What are you going to do about it?