Social Media: A Cautionary Tale

Amid our hectic news weeks piled on with all sorts of junk you could get angered or enraged by, did a headline flash across your screen surround Facebook? Specifically something like this:

Facebook Cambridge Analytica Scandal

Well, if you haven’t, you can start educating yourself by reading up at these links:

http://time.com/5205314/facebook-cambridge-analytica-breach/

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2018/03/cook-county-illinois-sues-facebook-and-cambridge-analytica-over-data-breach/

17-facebook-anon.nocrop.w710.h2147483647

courtesy of http://nymag.com/selectall/2017/09/the-following-me-list-on-facebook-is-a-hoax.html

To give you a very brief, run-down, small picture in my own words: Facebook had dealings with companies that ended up essentially mining data from users activity regardless of whether or not they directly permitted access to it. Cambridge Analytica is a company that had over 50 Million users data, and it is alleged that they also played a hand in Donald Trump’s election campaign.

The SCARY bit is this excerpt from the Ars Technica article sited above:

Where conventional political advertising uses crude demographic factors like age and ZIP code to target advertising, Cambridge supposedly used a technique called psychographics, which involves building a detailed psychological profile of a user that will allow a campaign to predict exactly what kind of appeal will be most likely to convince any particular voter.

Pyscho-whatnow? This all sounds pretty scary.

But fear not, according to this Fortune article, Cambridge Analytica were just real good at being players and getting saps to pay them attention or money, but really couldn’t deliver: http://fortune.com/2018/03/25/cambridge-analytica-wasnt-quite-what-it-claimed-to-be/

BUT WAIT…now that I have calmly reassured you that there aren’t big organizations out there that can build a fake you into algorithms and spin information to you a certain way, I will say this: We should probably be more cautious of what we do on the internet, we should probably demand more accountability of platforms like Facebook to safeguard privacy as they promise, and we probably should be mindful of every little thing we come across using technology.

For example, I forget the cool little things cell phones can do now, and my iPhone freaked me out a few weeks ago. The reason? My Bluetooth. At home, my bluetooth is almost always off, because I do hook up my phone to speakers all that often. If I go out to my car, however, when my car starts, my bluetooth in my phone kicks on and links up to the car.

OK, that is actually cool AND efficient, but it threw me for a loop for a day.

But you know what else my phone (or rather an app on my phone) did? It knew I was in my car, it knew where I was (at home), it knew I was going to work…because it gave me a brief report on traffic and an estimated arrival time. It will do the same thing when I leave work.

I have not set either as markers in my maps app. The phone simply has enough data to suggest that my home address is in fact home, and that my work address which I’m going to 5 days out of the week, is work.

REALLY handy feature, right? Hell, my wife for S&G’s (that is my family’s politically correct way of saying “shits and giggles,” so as not to offend, by the way) actually pinged my phone the other day and followed me on my drive home while we were talking.

These aren’t new functions, this is something that most cell phones have been capable of for at least 5 years, I just never actively thought about it or really used it, plus as the years change these things become more efficient.

But the whole experience really freaked me out, that my phone essentially knows exactly what I am doing, even if the data collection is merely time and location. When my wife was spouting off landmarks I was passing: “hehe, you just passed Wal-mart. You’re on the highway now. You just passed Arby’s.” This all SHOULDN’T surprise me considering how often I bust out the GPS, but more often than not I am surprised at just how much I am letting the technology in my life with rather unchecked power.

On the internet and social media, it is real easy to lose sight of that. When you sign up for a Twitter account or a Facebook page, Instagram, Snapchat, e-mail accounts, sure there are privacy settings you can utilize as provided by the company. You, as a user, instill trust on the organization to obey those standards they are saying they provide you, but even in those cases, anything and everything you do is out there. Yeah sure, you’ve put a padlock on it, but one good breach/hack and its sayonara info.

That does not even begin to factor in nefarious, deceptive, or lax practices on account of these social media platforms and even other websites. Read in a little deeper to the Facebook Data Breach, the Time Magazine article in the link back above:

 The company (Cambridge Analytica) is accused of buying millions of Americans’ data from a researcher who told Facebook he was collecting it strictly for academic purposes. Facebook allowed Aleksandr Kogan, a psychology professor at the University of Cambridge who owns a company called Global Science Research, to harvest data from users who downloaded his app. The problem was that Facebook users who agreed to give their information to Kogan’s app also gave up permission to harvest data on all their Facebook friends, as well, according to theGuardian.

See? It all started innocently with users consent, but quickly broke out of the agreed parameters. And this, by the way, stems back to 2014.

More reasons to be more cautious.

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