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Privacy: Understanding the Fine Print

Views 107 | Time to read: 3 minutes | Uploaded: 9 - 16 - 2014 | By: Melody Hession


Social networking websites are using peoples personal information to manipulate them and conduct social experiments. Are you reading the fine print?
In American society, reactions to privacy notices given by companies like Facebook usually goes one of two directions. One is: that legal jargon that explicates the company’s inability to share personal information, thinking in terms of being comforted that email won’t be spammed. Another is the mess that needs to be scrolled through before clicking “Accept” and moving on to stalking profiles. Unfortunately, even if the legal notice is read, the regrettable implications will probably be over-looked.
Companies are being attacked all the time for violations of trust and personal privacy. Currently, Google is facing threats to change their coveted search-engine algorithm. Eric E. Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, claims that his company’s control over internet searches has been exaggerated. Where to draw the line for use of personal information the customize the product to the consumer is constantly debated.
Facebook’s privacy policy is typical of social networking web-sites. Included in their definition of “Your Information” is anything you share or choose to make public, everything that you enter, such as email or name, when you sign up, and other manually entered details by the consumer. However, quite shockingly, this is not all that Facebook has access to.
When you post photos or videos, Facebook learns the metadata that comes with the posted item, which could have the time, date, and even location that you took the photo or video. They also receive information about the computer from which you are accessing Facebook. They can find out if the computer has multiple users, its location, and can request device information “to improve how our apps work on your device.” All these details can be found on Facebook’s Privacy Policy page.
Have you ever clicked on a link someone posted as it shows up on your newsfeed? Facebook can see all the following actions and they gain any information that accompanies, regarding activity. Based on all this new information they gain, they can pick and choose what shows up on a person’s news feed. This is where privacy policies get a little more hands-on. This is also where consumer manipulation gets a little more interesting and potentially outrageous.
In June of this year, Facebook announced that they had been conducting tests in order to see if emotions were contagious. Their actions were perfectly legal because their users accept their policy that they use personal information for “...trouble-shooting, data-analysis, testing, research...” Facebook deliberately manipulated the emotional content of the news feeds for 700,000 people.
A popular online dating website titled OKCupid ran tests even more intrusive. They obscured profile pictures, hid profile text, and suggested software-generated matches for users, then watched the individuals’ personality ratings for effects.
In 2004, Mark Zucherberg, the founder of Facebook, was quoted saying that privacy is no longer a “social norm.” But in years since, this has shown to be false. The current young-adult generation is embracing creations like SnapChat, which helps guarantee the impermanence of photos the user might not want to stick around. All kinds of filters are used on InstaGram pictures, manipulating the identity in the photo to contain more specifically what the world sees.
Privacy is not a thing of the past, and people should not have to be concerned that passive use of social networking means being a subject of some twisted social science experiment.


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