Change Your Facebook Settings and Post Less Personal Graphic Data

“We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you” is Mark Zuckerberg’s response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. If you have not heard about it or don’t know what concerns you with it since it is another drama about Donald Trump, then you need to hear this:

Post less stuff on Facebook, for your safety and for democracy.

Get it: Facebook’s business relies on you posting stuff. The more stuff – in quantity, quality and variety – the better for the company. Information technology writer Zeynep Tufekci has described the company as a giant “surveillance machine” whose business model invites advertisers to play with the data in its possession, following certain rules that are not always difficult to go around. This is not the first time Cambridge Analytica is not the first time Facebook is serving as a hub for data to manipulate voters but the changes put in place after Barrack Obama’s 2012 campaign used the platform to target its voters as well as undecided ones have been insufficient.

Facebook actively enjoins users to post pictures and videos, and there are new features that ask random questions in form of a personal trivia aimed at “helping people get to know you”. The sell is that you get to have a very interesting profile and friends will find you more exciting. But, for the company, it is really about having more data for its prospective clients than it is about users’ connections. Facebook and Google own 70% of all ad dollars online, but Google owns more than 50% of that share. Ads run on data and being Facebook’s biggest source of revenue, understanding the company’s drive for more data is not rocket science.

And about democracy, Adrian Chen in the New Yorker put it well: “you don’t need to believe Cambridge Analytica’s own hype about the persuasive power of its methods to worry about how data-obsessed political marketing can undermine democracy”. The danger is that with every unnecessary update you make on facebook, some digital marketer or political consultant is probably farming something from your timeline that could undercut your freedom of speech or pension in the future. Big data will become the oil over which people fight to gain political authority and we are all accomplices to the degree that our updates make the data “big”.

This advisory does not require a long exposition. Safety is a factor of privacy and control. A regular personal graphic presence online described with specific details must not harmful and may never be to a user. But when you have little controls what other users can do with your harmless details, we could have a situation where our society becomes, in the truest sense, out of control.

Remember, nothing you post online is ever lost. And…

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