The recent scandal involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica is once again a reminder of how your personal information is never personal.
Facebook has recently been under heavy fire after it was revealed that it has essentially allowed the personal information of around 87 million of its users to be collected by Cambridge Analytica. According to their website, “Cambridge Analytica is a British political consulting firm which combines data mining, data brokerage and data analysis with strategic communication for the electoral process.”
Cambridge Analytica essentially takes the data of people online and sells it to other entities for money. What it does is controversial but it isn’t the only one out there doing this. It is a very profitable business at the expense of those who use the internet and its services.
Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, recently testified in front of a U.S Committee in regards to this data breach. During this two hours of questioning, it was clear that although it was known that the data leak occurred, Facebook did little to solve the problem.
During an exchange in this two hour testimony, it was clear that Zuckerberg could not even confirm that Facebook does not track user’s internet activity after logging out of the social media site. This means that not only does Facebook know what users do on their site, but they could also be aware of your searching habits outside of their social media network.
It was clear that Facebook knew about the data leak to Cambridge Analytica but did not reveal this to the Federal Trade Committee. About nine percent of all Facebook user’s personal information is out in the world right now and those affected people will never be able to get it back.
There seems to be too much trust in the online world when it comes to security, privacy and safety. Anyone who uses the internet and social media should never believe that their information is truly private. Everywhere you go, everything you do and everything that makes you who you are is tracked and used.
According to Manoush Zomorodi at Time Magazine, “Your emails are mined for money-making chits. Elsewhere, your background, politics and even “ethnic affinity” are tracked. Meanwhile, retailers are notified, via Bluetooth and GPS, when you enter their store what your income is and how much time you’ll probably spend shopping.”
It is as if you are constantly being watched by something in order for companies to make money off of you. People just walking around living their daily lives are basically walking profit opportunities for larger entities.
Is there anything you can do to fight this? Well sort of. There is bad news and good news. The bad news is, according to Kim Komando at USA Today, “You can’t erase yourself completely from the digital universe. Courts and government agencies have been posting public records online since the mid-1990s. Your motor vehicle records, voter files, property tax assessments, professional licenses and court files are all on the digital books, and they’re not going anywhere.”
However, the good news is that you can remove a lot of online information greatly reducing your digital footprint. Deleting social media, removing yourself from online retail deals through phone and email and ending services such as Netflix, Amazon and other online services takes your name off of a lot in the digital world.
This is just one more reminder of why it is important to remember that the internet knows a lot about you. Having access to so many goods, services and information through the internet comes at a price. Being aware of the fact that your private information is never truly private on the internet is important to living a safe life online.