October 25th, 2016 | Tin Foil Hat Time | No Comments Yet
I first signed up on Facebook to make it easier to share travel photos with friends. I found that everyone on my email list was also a Facebook user, so I decided that would be the place to share those travel photos. Facebook was a small company then. Advertising did not yet occur on the Facebook platform and Zuckerberg was still making the party cool, but that was about to change.
For a period of time Facebook was a great place to share information, but once Facebook started to sell advertising they realized that the data people willingly share is a valuable asset. Thus a price was attached to personal information. If the personal information was merely compiled voluntarily by adding posts, communicating with friends, and in general using the service, I would not have a problem. Obviously if I want to use an online service I can assume that anything I post in a form to share with people in some capacity has a good chance of being sold, either because the company openly discloses that in the privacy statement, or possibly a group of hackers gets in there and steals the data for black market sales. Great services that are free are often paid for by the collection and use of our personal data.
Facebook owns over 50 different companies including app developers, facial recognition technology, ad services, and more. To look at the list, the company looks like it is buying up everything in the data collection and data analysis fields. Truly they are seeking to know everything. What if one day they simply merged all of the data from all of the data collection services and ran them through all of the services of the data analysis companies. How much would a company pay for that level of data?
The real spark that ignited this article was the introduction of conversation starters on the Facebook messenger app. The company removed the messaging function from the phone apps about two years ago. At that time, the messenger app was the most popular download but had the worst reviews ever! But this serves a purpose of selling more ad space while collecting more data about the users, not to mention the bonus of one company publishing one more highly successful app. Recently, however, Facebook introduced a new feature in the app where your friends profile history are suggested as conversation starters. I think this means that they are trying to increase the conversations being conducted on the platform so that more data can be collected. We know that Facebook combs through the information used on their services and I think the new conversation starter service is there to start more conversations with an end to have more data based on those conversations.
It turns out that was an interesting bait to research the article, but was the least frightening fact I found. Nearing the top of the list is how Facebook was collecting data on non-Facebook users. This was an older article, but a careful search of newer documents reveal evidence that Facebook is still tracking people in the EU. In February 2016, France demanded Facebook stop tracking non-users. France is not alone. Even in the US, Facebook is collecting not just personal data, but also biometric data on non-Facebook users. A suit is currently pending in Illinois where companies are restricted from unconsensual biometric data collection.
It is very difficult to prevent Facebook and other related companies from gathering our data because our current legal climate would appear to allow it, at least by silence. I can see two major legal changes we could discuss in this country to prevent the abuse of personal data.
Until laws about personal data change in this country we can take a few steps to minimize the collection. The major reason it is impossible is that even if we do everything right to prevent data collection on ourselves, we all know at least one person that approves every app, plays every game, and fully engages on the network. If you are connected with such a person, every time they use the apps, play the games, and interact, they are providing permission to view all of their contacts, including your contact information. So what can we do:
I hope these tips have been a help. It is one thing to agree to Facebook tracking, but these will hopefully help you avoid detection. Let me know your tips!